The Olympics are an inspiring display of what humans can achieve given the right combination of natural talent, determination and hard work. Bodies and spirits are pushed to the limit in pursuit of gold medals and world records. I am always intrigued by the relationship between these athletes’ natural talents and the years of training that have led them to this moment. What first sparked an interest in an athlete’s given sport? What sacrifices have they made to make it to the Olympics?
Those questions have some bearing on the business world as well. Think about it. Your business is like an athlete. Every day it competes for customers and for growth. So what can we learn from these Olympians?
Talent is born, not made.
During Michael Phelps’ quest to win eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, NBC aired a segment that analyzed how his physique contributes to his success in the water. It was fascinating to see how his unique mix of physical characteristics – traits he was born with – have played such a significant role in making him the greatest Olympian of all time.
That kind of inborn talent also plays out in the marketing world. Some products and services are inherently more “talented.” They appeal to large audience segments. They are easy to understand, and even easier to build demand for. They have few competitors. They have the benefit of almost selling themselves.
Good for them. But where does that leave the rest of us?
Success is made, not born.
Michael Phelps may have been born with talent, but it is the years of hard work that have made him a champion. Hours upon hours in the pool have shaped his talent into something truly amazing. No matter how perfectly suited to swimming he is by nature, he still had to put in the work to be successful.
That’s good news if you’re marketing a product or service that wasn’t born a winner. Your hard work and savvy will play a major role in determining how successful you are. Find your “talent” and build on it. Differentiate yourself from your competitors. Build a brand that people want to connect with. Find out what your customers want and give it to them. Sometimes it’s just that simple.
There’s also a word of warning here for those of you whose product or service is inherently “talented.” Talent is no guarantee of success. If you don’t continue to improve and innovate, you’ll be left on the trash heap, no matter how successful you are right now – just ask Kodak. You may become a commodity that your customers buy based solely on price, leading to ever diminishing profit margins. Or your hard-working competitor may win your customers’ loyalty with smart branding and top-notch customer service. You’ve got to work hard every day to achieve – and hold – success.
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