Coaches are a lot like entrepreneurs: both are in the business of talent acquisition, performance is measured on a scoreboard every quarter and job security is contingent on the ability to deliver great results.
Coaching and entrepreneurship are the same as every other industry in that there’s the 1 percent changing the game and then there’s the other 99 percent who are just staying the same. Blake Anderson, the most entrepreneurial coach in America is one of those game changers. He’s the architect of the U.S.'s most creative football program, the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
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He’s one of the few in his profession who is keenly aware that the game has changed. College sports, like business, has entered an era where getting great results isn’t who you know or what you know. It’s about who knows you. To get “known” you’ve got to be different or you’ll be invisible.
At a program such as Arkansas State, located in a small town and without the benefit of being the state’s flagship university or being a member of a major conference, great results are contingent on the ability to market better, faster and with less resources. How do you beat the big dogs at their own game with a smaller brand, in a smaller market and/or with a smaller budget? By changing the game.
Call it disruptive or guerilla marketing, but creativity has been at the foundation of the team's strategy. Anderson asks his staff the same question each day: What is no one else doing right now that we can pull off?
You should be asking yourself and your team that same question daily.
Success leaves clues and the following examples are a compilation of “greatest hits” that Anderson has produced. You should try to pull off your own version of them.
1. Trick plays
ASU runs a number of trick plays with regularity. The players have fun with them, they are hard for the competition to prepare for and they entertain fans. Arkansas State recently ran a trick play that captured the national media spotlight and went viral with more than 10 million YouTube views.
What can you execute that’s totally outside the box in your market to generate media attention? Remember: It’s not who you know but who knows you.
2. EBay auctions
For the past two years, Anderson has auctioned off being a guest coach of the spring game on eBay. This was so unique it made national news and subsequently the NCAA investigated its legality and found nothing wrong. In addition to becoming a new revenue stream, it created new fans for life and has become an ASU tradition.
What experiences can you give your customers they wouldn’t normally have access to? For example, you can interview them for your blog or podcast, allow them to be boss for a day or give behind the scenes tours of your manufacturing facilities.
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3. “Traffic tickets”
The day before the team's homecoming game, Anderson handed out tickets to folks sitting in traffic while wearing a GoPro camera on his head. The giveaway was picked up by national media outlets such as Sports Illustrated.
Lots of business owners want to attract new fans but flounder because they use traditional means with limited returns on investment. You need to stand out. For example, a local cellular provider in my hometown frequently runs a tab for a couple hours for Starbucks customers in its local market. No selling or advertising, just surprising and delighting folks.
Consider giving out free samples, letting prospects test drive your service or grant temporary use of your product. Give them a reason to come back.
4. Free ice cream
Anderson bought ice cream for the student section on game day. These are ASU’s most rabid fans. Ticket sales, revenue, donations and attendance are all up at Arkansas State as a result of Anderson’s culture of creativity.
What can you do to surprise and delight your fans? Create a VIP client appreciation event or provide a special bonus.
People pay attention because they wonder what Anderson is going to do next. You want to leave your audience wanting more as well. Human beings love little unexpected moments and experiences. The emotions that result from these positive moments are what make the experience memorable and make us want to share the story with others. Our brains are actually hardwired to derive pleasure from unexpected surprises.
Trust in brands is at an all-time low so you need to change the conversation about yours. People take to social media to share their emotions. Look no further than Trip Advisor and Yelp reviews, where customers vent and complain about bad experiences. Spreading unexpected goodwill is like taking out an insurance policy to make the conversations about your brand positive.
Taking chances comes with the risk of embarrassment, but without the risk you’re not going to be noticed. You've got to be willing to take chances to win like Anderson.
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