Marketing is like Baseball

My colleague and mentor, Robert Middleton talks about how marketing is like baseball.

It’s like baseball in a few ways . . .

First of all, you can have all the right baseball equipment and just be terrible at the game – if no one has ever taught you how to play, the rules of the game and how to throw a ball or swing a bat.

Translated to marketing, you can have a website, fancy brochures and business cards with pretty logos and still not market effectively. It’s not just about the right ‘equipment’.

Secondly, home runs and grand slams are rare. The baseball greats only hit homeruns occasionally. Translated to marketing – it’s actually very rare to meet someone and have them book a session with you on the spot. It happens from time to time but it’s really rare.

In his (brilliant) model each base represents an important phase we have to get to in our relationships with people before they’re ready to buy. This is my paraphrasing of it . . .

Home Base: Stranger. At home base, marketing is a bit like the old TV show Cheers. Except nobody knows your name and nobodies glad you came. You’re approaching people totally cold. They don’t know what you do. They don’t trust you. The idea of working with you hasn’t even crossed the horizon of their mind.

First Base: Clarity. They get what it is that you do. They understand how you might be able to help them. There’s no fuzziness. They could explain what you do to a seven year old and have them get it.

Second Base: Trust. They like you. ‘You’re my people!’ they think. And they trust that you can help them get from where they are to where they want to be. They trust not only your character, but your competence. Crucial to this is Pink Spoon Theory.

Third Base: Excitement. You start hearing them say, ‘I should hire you! I should come to your workshop. Why haven’t I worked with you yet?’ They’re intending to – but maybe the timing isn’t right, or they haven’t been asked in the right way.

Home Base: They pay you the money and sign the contract.

Most entrepreneurs want to go straight from being a stranger to having the person pay them. That’s how the fantasy works. You meet someone, tell them what you do and BAM! they pay you money. Again – this happens incredibly rarely. But, it happens enough that people get hooked on the ‘hopeium’ of it happening again.

Let me be clear: hope is not a marketing strategy.

Looked at another way: when you try to skip bases – bad things happen.

Imagine trying to skip from home base (being a stranger) to second base (trust) without them being clear about what you do. Madness.

Or trying to go from first base (clarity) to third base (excitement) without building any trust. That’s most business nextworking meetings I’ve had the misfortune to go to. This is going up to someone, asking what they do and then immediately saying, “hey . . . we should work together sometime . . .” What? Too much too soon.

(Also good dating advice)

Or trying to go from second base (trust) to homebase (they pay!) without honouring the best timing for them. Pushing it faster and harder than is a fit. You will not only lose trust – you’ll violate it. Going for the hard close never works long term. I’ve seen it happen.

People go to a presentation – the presenter is warm and wonderful – the content is great. And then? The hard close. The push. The manipulative tactics. And it’s gross. People leave feeling awful. Or maybe having signed up for something they didn’t really want to.

What do you think? Does this make sense? Do you have any stories of this in action being upheld or violated?


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  • Laura Botsford

    One aspect that should be added to this model (which is great!) is patience. A colleague of mine once went (race-walked, I think) through two multi-storey art museums in Germany in an afternoon and was satisfied that he had “seen” them. You can race around the bases too, and think that you have hit a home run, but most of the time you will have been tagged “out” before you even hit first base. I think my first move, were I to attend networking meetings, would be to invite anyone who was interested in trees to visit our website. One of the advantages of a good website is that it can take the relationship to second, or even third base before any other contact is made. We have had more than one person call us about trees *because* they found the website, read it, liked the information and the way it is presented. If you are quirky people (which we are) then attracting similarly quirky people can increase sales. There are probably also people who are put off by the website, and therefore never call. And that’s fine. We almost certainly wouldn’t have got past First Base (if that far) with them anyway.

  • patience. yes. totally.

    and agreed about the website. i think it’s the #1 advantage – it’s safe for people. they can check you out without any risk and make their OWN way around the bases with no pushing from you.

  • All good and all true, and so well written. Hmmm, a similar analogy that would make a woman click…

    You’re very respectful in your treatment of it, but the baseball thing has been cliched to death about how to get someone in bed. Unfortunate connotations, not your fault….

    I like Christine and Brendon Lumgair’s pyramid, because each layer depends on the other for architectural integrity.

    If I can think of a woman friendly analogy I’ll let you know…

    Thanks for this!

  • ha. i think that’s what i like about the baseball analogy so much – the hilarious and true connections to dating. i think that’s very funny :-P