What a PGA Pro Can Teach You About Marketing

I’m one of those guys that can watch six hours of a PGA tournament on a Sunday and be disappointed when it’s over.  There is nothing more fascinating than watching the best golfers in the world duke it out against each other and against the course.  They’ve spent years and years mastering their craft to put their skills to work in hopes that all that hard work leads to a win on Sunday.  So how does golf have anything to do with marketing?  Bear with me for a moment.


Let me start off by stating that I am not even close to a PGA Professional Golfer.  I’m average at best.  Golf has been a big part of my life ever since I started caddying at the age of 14.  I immediately fell in love with the game.  The peacefulness of teeing off at dawn with the morning dew still on the ground… the etiquette of the game which is like no other… the strategy of playing a hole around well-placed obstacle… the camaraderie and respect created with those you played with.  In the summer before my freshman year of high school, my friend Todd asked me to play with him at a local golf course that allowed anyone trying out for the golf team free greens fees.  I was terrible and had no interest in trying out as I had plans to play football.  He persuaded me to tell the course I was trying out for the team so I would play with him.  Our Moms would take turns dropping us off in the morning and picking us up at dusk.  Rounds and rounds later, I started to score better.  I was hooked and never looked back.

What it takes to be a good golfer

Golf is hard.  Even the most athletic people can find it frustration to get their game to the point where they feel they are decent.  I’ve had several friends try to play golf and get so upset when they see someone that is not as fast, muscular or in shape as they are mop them up on the course.  Getting good requires continual practice to develop consistent results.  The more shots you take from different lies and situations leads to better results as time goes on.  When they are not playing in tournaments, PGA Professional Golfers spend hours and hours practicing, measuring and analyzing every aspect of their game to find where they can improve and need to make adjustments.

“The more I practice, the luckier I get.”
~ Gary Player

Marketing is no different.  So many business owners approach marketing the same way as first-time golfers.  They buy the best equipment, rush off to the course and try smacking the ball as far as the pros only to get frustrated when they don’t see instant results.  To get the best results from your marketing, you need to take the same approach a PGA Professional Golfer takes in preparation for each tournament.

Set time aside to practice

Just as more trips to the driving range will lead to better ball striking, the more effort you put into your marketing will yield better results.  It will take time but hard work, discipline and the understanding that improvement is made in small strides will lead to continual growth in your marketing efforts.  Develop a game plan for how you are going to approach your marketing.  You must set time aside in your schedule to make this happen.  Block off several time slots in your calendar each week where you concentrate on nothing but marketing.  A handful of hours a week quickly turns into hundreds of hours spent implementing your marketing strategy.

Learn from your bad shots

The second hole of a course I played in a high school match was a par 4 that wrapped around a huge pond.  From tee to green it was only 250 yards.  I knew that I could drive the ball that far.  I sank six shots in the water before I wised up and played around the water.  The rest of the round I played at even par but the 22 that I took on that hole ruined my score.  That taught me that long shots do not always pay off and smart play, even though you can hit the ball that far, is the often the best route to go.  You are going to fail at the shots you take while marketing.  It could be a carefully crafted email that no one in your list opened or an AdWords campaign that lead to a horrible conversion rate.  Learning why you failed and making adjustments will increase those conversions and lead to results.  Analyze and measure everything possible like your call-to-action, traffic, conversions,  audience… and figure out what works and what doesn’t.  Fine tune for the best results.

Never get rusty

Living in Michigan means I get to golf from about April until October.  During the winter months, my clubs sit in the basement until the warm weather hits.  Every spring I have to knock the rust off my game and get back the feel / finesse before I begin scoring they way I did at the end of the previous season.  Those five months of winter kill my game for a month or two as I get back up to speed.

All too often, we can get complacent in with our marketing.  Especially when we get busy due to the new opportunities created from the growing efficiencies in our marketing strategy.  Don’ t let off the gas.  When you are winning, work harder.  This will help you avoid the cycles that so many businesses face when they pull back their marketing when they get really busy.

Keep playing!

Even a bad day on the course can be worthwhile if you make it a learning experience.  It’s a sure thing that if you don’t come back to play, you’ll never improve.  Small gains are still gains and the surest way to not succeed is by not stepping onto that tee box.

Hello World! My Name is Ken.

I’ve been wanting to start this blog for awhile… longer than I’d like to admit.  My name is Ken and I own a digital agency called Neon Goldfish in Toledo, Ohio.   While Neon Goldfish has a fantastic blog that covers topics of all sorts ranging from search engine marketing to web design, this blog in particular is going to be a composition of my thoughts on marketing along with some discussion about latest trends that will hopefully answer some of the questions that many of my clients have. I hope you enjoy it.

A little background on me

Eastern Michigan University was the start of my marketing interest.  During my first year at the business school, I quickly found an attraction to all things related to marketing and took as many marketing related classes as the curriculum would allow and still keep me on track for graduating.  Back when I graduated, we were fortunate to have tons of jobs opportunities to choose from… I feel horrible for college graduates today.

My first job was an account rep for a company IKON Office Solutions which sold copy machines to businesses.  While sales was probably my least favorite area of marketing, the potential to make money was the highest.  Naturally that made me choose sales.  After a couple different sales positions at different companies, I landed a great job as a yellow page sales rep with AT&T (then SBC).  Now this was something that I really liked… helping business owners generate new customers to their business.  I wanted to learn more so I bought books on marketing and became a sponge soaking in as much as I could.  As I read more and learned more, I began to see the future in marketing was online and traditional means of advertising would soon be scrambling to adapt.

On a random Tuesday, I quit my job and started a marketing company.  Ill prepared, I struggled through the first six months hustling to find clients and get my feet under me.  Then I began to feel the pains of a one-man-show.  I’d spend normal business hours meeting with clients and the evening hours implementing what I sold.  Exciting at first but I knew there had to be a better way.

In the spring of 2007, I was at a going away party for a co-worker of my wife’s and ran into Justin Johnson whose wife also worked with my wife.  We’ve hung out a couple times before on incentive trips the girls won to Vegas or Miami.  They would be entertaining and we would be finding trouble.  Justin also had a web design company (much more established) that he ran solo.   We talked and decided to collaborate on a couple jobs.  He was good at the design and code, I was good at the marketing and client relationships… we had a good thing so we started Neon Goldfish.  Fast forward eight years (to now) and we’ve built a pretty solid digital agency that helps companies all over the country with their online marketing needs.

What gets me up everyday

Besides one of my kids screaming to announce they’re awake an hour before anyone else should consider getting out of bed, the challenge of engaging with consumers gets me going everyday.  What can we do to grab attention and make conversions?  How can we help / teach our clients to stand out from the crowd?  These are things that I find fascinating and fuel my drive.  Of course, I have to mention all the cliche things like my wife and family and provide them with a great life with puppies and white picket fences and all that crap too.  That too gets be going but it is so much more rewarding doing something that I enjoy.

Why write this blog?

I haven’t quite figured that out exactly.  Everyday I get to hear stories from clients and prospects about what they are doing, what is working, what they want, what other people are telling them to do… and then I get to tell them my stories.  I’ve started to see there is value in both sides of these stories and think this platform could be a great place to share some of those thoughts that could help others along the way.  Additionally, I aim to take a stab at some tutorials and how to’s (related to marketing) that might have a glimmer of value to someone somewhere.  We will have to wait and see.

See you around!