A few weeks ago, Major League Baseball enjoyed a historic moment with its Field of Dreams Game, played at the cornfield-surrounded site in Iowa where the legendary movie was based.
Naturally, this event brought on waves of nostalgia among those who cherish the 1989 classic and its many memorable quotes.
“If you build it, he will come.”
“Hey dad, you wanna have a catch?”
“This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again.”
Baseball is a complex and strategically sophisticated game that has evoked many wise and thought-provoking words over the years — often with applicability beyond the ballpark. I’ve noted in the past baseball’s parallels to marketing: methodical and rhythmic pursuits driven by patience, sequencing, and learning from failure.
As the MLB season enters its stretch run and the summer fades away, I thought it might be fun to run through some of my all-time favorite baseball quotes and extract insights about the current world of B2B marketing.
7 Baseball Quotes that Offer Sage B2B Marketing Insight
“The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three-run homers.” — Earl Weaver
This is one of my favorite baseball quotes, courtesy of an iconic manager and Hall of Famer. Weaver is essentially speaking to the underlying randomness of baseball — the juxtaposition of controllable and uncontrollable factors.
You can develop good pitching. You can teach good fundamentals. You can even build a lineup full of sluggers. But that game-changing three-run homer (or better yet, grand slam) is ultimately a matter of chance and timely circumstance. Which is not to say you can’t improve your odds by taking good at-bats, getting on base consistently, and doing the little things well.
In our world, a fitting corollary for Weaver’s quote might be, “The key to winning in B2B marketing is engagement, trust, and landing a multi-million deal.”
“There may be people that have more talent than you, but there is no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.” — Derek Jeter
Swap out “talent” for “budget” and you’ve got a good guiding mantra for any small business or lean marketing team. It is a plain reality that certain organizations and teams are equipped with fewer resources than the big fish, but that doesn’t mean they can’t compete on the same field. They just need to work hard, think outside the box, and create their own advantages.
“You can observe a lot by watching.” — Yogi Berra
Yogi was the king of quintessential quotes, so it was difficult to pick just one from him. This selection, like many from Mr. Berra, is a seemingly benign and obvious remark that is actually rather insightful.
Baseball fans and players alike know how much more can be perceived and understood with a keenly attentive eye: the outfielder playing too shallow, the pitcher tipping his changeup, or flags in the stadium indicating a favorable wind channel.
The same could be said for tracking marketing activities or gathering customer insight. Marketers can observe a lot by closely watching their campaign metrics, their audience behaviors, and the many other data points pertaining to their activities.
“No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are, you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.” — Tommy Lasorda
This quote from another Hall of Fame manager in Lasorda, who sadly just passed earlier this year, offers great perspective on the big-picture mentality needed for a marathon baseball season. No team is ever going to go 162-0 and no marketer is ever going to convert 100% of potential prospects. Some will find their own way to your product or service, others will never even seriously consider it. It’s what we do with that third bucket — the customers who might be interested but haven’t discovered your brand, or the ones who are weighing options but undecided — where marketing makes an impact and shows its indispensable value.
“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” — Babe Ruth
To be successful in baseball, one needs to accept and even embrace failure, as the Bambino exemplifies here. You can record an out in seven of every 10 at-bats and still be a great hitter. Ruth himself made more than 5,000 outs over the course of his career. But he didn’t let that get him down, or stop him from achieving incredible feats that easily overshadowed the negative outcomes.
Marketers are wise to adopt a similar mindset. The average clickthrough rate for a Google Ad is less than 2%. Even the highest-performing landing pages have conversion rates around 10%. Not every piece of content is going to hit home or drive direct revenue. But if you’re taking the right approach, and optimizing continually as you go, every failure will bring you closer to your next big success.
“To not look at the data is foolish, but to look at the data as having all the answers is even more foolish. It is a collision of new-school statistics and statisticians against old-school managers, coaches, and instructors. Neither side is right, neither is wrong; there is so much to be gained from listening to both sides.” — Tim Kurkjian
An analytical revolution is taking place in baseball, and as the seasoned ESPN baseball analyst Kurkjian alludes to here, it can be divisive.
No one can deny that completely ignoring data capable of informing and improving your performance is irresponsible, especially with the abundance of insight now at our fingertips. At the same time, there’s still a place for intuition, instinct, and experience to play an important role.
Compared to our B2C counterparts, B2B marketers can be especially susceptible to getting caught up in the cold, calculated, rational dimensions of decision making and strategy. But at the end of the day, we’re humans, and so are our customers. Data should always support our efforts but creativity, emotion, and empathy must lead the way.
“It’s unbelievable how much you don’t know about the game you’ve been playing your whole life.” — Mickey Mantle
In my mind, the greatest marketers are defined by their endless curiosity, and ability to challenge what they think they know. Even if they’ve been in the game for decades.
In fact, that’s more or less a requisite for success in this field. There’s always something new to learn, or a false assumption to dismantle. What works today might not work tomorrow. The changing sentiments of customers and the ever-shifting mechanisms of commerce keep us on our toes. It’s one of the foremost challenges of our discipline, and also one of the biggest thrills.
Cover Your B2B Marketing Bases
Unlike baseball, B2B marketing has no offseason. Our learning and growth takes place year-round. Along this journey, it’s always helpful to absorb nuggets of wisdom and enlightenment wherever we can find them — be it a respected influencer, an inspiring colleague, or a Hall of Fame baseball player.
Looking for more quotes that can alter your perspective and energize your marketing efforts? Check out Lane Ellis’ post from last year highlighting 10 wise quotes to inspire your influencer marketing.