March Madness: Would Warren Buffet Give You $1 Billion?

March 22, 2016

March madness is upon us. If you’re a college basketball fan rooting for the sure thing or the underdog, this is nirvana. If you couldn’t care less about any sport on the planet, it’s still hard to hide from the frenzy.

Every year there’s a team that goes in as the top seed. Are they a sure thing? Never. There’s nothing about the rankings that can predict outcomes. In fact, the likelihood of successfully picking the winners of all 63 games is so far-fetched that two years ago Warren Buffett offered anyone who could do this a cool $1 billion. The numbers were on his side. The chances of picking all 63 winners is one in a quadrillion or 1:9,000,000,000,000,000,000.

What’s our measure of success?
While St. Paddy’s Day didn’t bring luck for my hometown Buffs, it did lead me to high-school basketball coach Tim Notke’s quote…

The same is true for content marketing. I see all sorts of posts and guides on guaranteed recipes for success. But the truth is, there isn’t such a thing. Even for top performers.

Why is that?

To coach Notke’s point, both talent and hard work matter.

We not only need talented people, we need greater respect for what talented people bring to the table. Even the best of strategies will crumble if you don’t have skilled people executing the plan. That means people who know what they’re doing and are self-motivated learner. They’re constantly curious about how they can keep getting better every day.

Then there’s hard work. Any content marketer who has their head around the magnitude of our job knows there’s an incredible amount of hard work to be done. Every. Single. Day. It’s called hard work for a reason.

But there’s also smart work. Athlete’s know that talent and pure hours of hard work in practice won’t bring you success. Most likely it will cause you burnout and injury. It’s what Peter Drucker meant when he talked about the difference between doing things right and doing the right things.

In our book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, Robert Rose and I talk about the Content Creation Management framework. The goal of this framework is to help content marketers identify those ‘right’ things. That way, everyone’s hard work has purpose and talent has a clear focus.  This is the key to delivering content-driven experiences that are truly differentiated and create value for audiences. It’s how we, as marketers, can make content a valuable function of the business rather than something marketing is tasked with creating.

Content Creation Management Framework

Stop the madness!
In this year’s basketball March Madness, no. 2 seed Michigan has already lost to No. 15 Middle Tennessee State in one of the most memorable upsets ever in the NCAA Tournament. It wasn’t just an upset this year, it was an upset of a team that has one of the best post-season records in college basketball. If Warren Buffet’s challenge was still in place, a lot of people lost out on that billion-dollar opportunity much sooner than they could’ve imagined.

What can content marketers learn from this loss? Two things.

First, is that you can never, ever do anything than your best. I’m not saying Michigan gave less than that or that you as a content marketer ever do either. But we all know people and brands who believe what they read about themselves and get complacent. When that happens, creativity, innovation and quality begin slip. That’s when we’re most vulnerable for an upset.

Second is that that whoever our biggest competitor is, the one who never loses, there’s always a chance that they will. And when they do, the one that takes its place will be not only talented and hard-working, but also working smart. When your biggest competitor stumbles and their customers look around for someone better, what will the creativity, innovation and quality of your work say about you?

There’s no magic formula to guarantee success during March Madness or the madness of marketing any time of the year. But if we want to increase our chances of doing better wok, we need to look at how our teams can get smarter about the work that we do. Because that’s how we add value to the business rather than throwing hours at projects.

Unlike winning Warrant Buffett’s challenge, we don’t have to win every single time. But to get smarter with content marketing, we do have to look at how we can become smarter at driving the growth of our companies through the content that we create.

And that’s something you can bank on.

Photo credit: Flickr User Chilli Head

About Carla Johnson

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Carla Johnson is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author.

Over the last two decades, Carla has helped architects and actuaries, executives and volunteers, innovators and visionaries leverage the art of storytelling to inspire action. Her work with Fortune 500 brands has served as the foundation for many of her books.

In her latest project, Fast Forward Files, she contributes to a larger collection of thoughts by some of the world’s greatest minds -  Shazam co-founder Dhiraj Mukherjee, activist and entrepreneur Heather Mills and behavioral designer, technologist and mental-health champion Peter Trainor. Consistently named one of the top influencers in B2B, digital and content marketing, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking. 

Today, she travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.