What are your marketing conditioning exercises?

Last night as I was wrapping up one of the green belt classes at the dojo, I shared two conditioning exercises for the students to try that help build basic flexibility and core body motion for the three foot staff. The exercises are elegantly simple – one involves turning the stick with one hand in a figure 8 fashion, and the other involves doing the exercise with a thick rope and not moving the arm. Neither of these exercises are intended for use as anything other than flexibility and agility builders, but they’re still vitally important. Get proficient at the exercise and your ability to use the three foot stick in a self-protection situation will increase commensurately.

Almost every physical discipline has something similar. Bowling, golf, running, boxing, you name it – every participant who’s got some experience and time under their belts has conditioning exercises that help them become better at their chosen sport or practice. The exercises are designed to either teach a repetitive tactic or simulate important motions in a safe, repeatable fashion to build skill. Even World of Warcraft has conditioning exercises, in the form of training dummies in capital cities for players to test their skills on:

Training dummy in Stormwind

Why, then, do we not have any conditioning exercises for the thing that earns us our incomes as digital marketers? Why don’t we have practices that let us build up skill in safe, nearly consequence-free ways?

The truth is, most people – managers included – are so busy keeping their heads above water that they never step back to figure out what those practices would even be. It’s just assumed that the work is the practice – but a high stakes practice. Consider what it takes to become good at email marketing – screwups like sending to the wrong list or linking to the wrong offer are part of the territory. Now consider that in the context of someone new managing your 4 million person database and it gets scary.

Let’s then take a look at what some conditioning exercises might be for digital marketers:

Blogging. This one’s simple and easy: encourage employees who are writing for the company to have, maintain, and grow a personal blog. Make sure that you allocate some time for them to blog personally during their work time, maybe an hour a week or every other week so that they get their practice time in, and actively review it with them, helping them become better bloggers and writers.

Email marketing. Hey, if they’ve got a blog, why not help them get set up with their own mailing list? Frankly, there’s no better way to learn an email marketing system than, well, to send a lot of email. At the same time, you don’t want to burn down your corporate house list, but by having a personal email list, you can effectively practice sending twice as much email, and an employee’s personal list is a great opportunity for them to hone each of the skills needed in building, growing, and reaping the benefits of an email list.

Analytics: I shared this the other day, but it’s worth looking at again. Look at how Cynwise analyzed the state of warlocks in the most recent World of Warcraft expansion. It’s a terrific analysis that uses all of the skills that you would want of any market analyst. It’s also totally risk-free – he gets to practice creating and analyzing data, but if he gets it wrong, it’s not like he’s going to cause a company to make a wrong investment. At most his warlock’s DPS will suffer.

Management: Want to teach someone how to manage and lead to a clear objective? Have them practice by leading a raid in World of Warcraft. You have everything you need for actual management – a clear objective, a path to progress with a known outcome, subordinates at varying levels of performance and interest in their duties, and “employees” who you have to use a variety of different motivational tactics on in order to achieve your potential. Again, this is a risk-free environment to practice and condition the skills you need in business. No one will file a lawsuit or fire you from your day job if your raid fails to down Ultraxion.

What are some of your personal conditioning exercises as a digital marketer? What things do you practice regularly outside of the 9-to-5 in order to become a better marketer? Share your conditioning exercises in the comments!


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  • http://twitter.com/Kmarketing Nigel Kay

    Haha, great post @cspenn – My Job is focused on Lead Generation for Local Busines owners so I’ve been honing my skills through this marketing exercise: I build a mini local site every second weekend. It combines the skills of setting up a blog using WordPress, Setting up Analytics to track traffic, an Email Auto responder for a follow-up sequence and sales funnel. Management skills are learned by coordinating the team of designers, writers, and link builders to support the Local Site. Cheers!

    • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

      That’s a terrific example!

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  • http://twitter.com/AaronGerry Aaron Gerry

    Hi Christopher,

      Hope all is well! I enjoyed the article and am particularly interested in feedback loops and measurement as a means towards improvement. 

      A while back, I read a study that looked at how skill proficiency evolved for both physicians and surgeons over the course of their career. Interestingly, physicians required a continual upkeep in studying in order to *maintain* their skills, while surgeons continually *advanced* their skills as they aged. 

      The main difference was that surgeons go through a debrief after every surgery, discussing what went well, what could be improved, etc. Physicians have reviews, but they are not nearly as consistent. Therefore, the surgeons were able to obtain immediate feedback, see what was working and take corrective action for areas that required improvement.

      In marketing myself, I have seen how many of these exercises are valuable. For example, blogging consistently certainly has helped improve my own writing. 

      Regarding analytics and online marketing, you could give a young marketer a small budget (under $200 is probably fine) to spend towards ad spends on Twitter, Facebook or Google Ads. Make sure they set up a campaign and have clear hypotheses to test and there will be a lot of learning to be had!

    Cheers!

    - Aaron
    Community Manager, Argyle Social

    • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

      That’s really fascinating on the differences between physicians and surgeons – thanks!