Could you swim 2.4 miles? How about bike 112 miles? Or run 26.2 miles? What about doing all three, one right after the other?
Now, if you can imagine doing this in temperatures well in excess of 100 degrees, you’ll understand what truly makes an Ironman, as well as what defines the Ironman.
Every year a few thousand athletes compete in an endurance event called the Ironman World Championship which is held in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. This isn’t for the faint of heart, and quite honestly, I classify these people as borderline insane.
But that’s what makes them so appealing and — to put it simply — awesome.
How does the Ironman race relate to marketing your business, product, or idea online?
In order to clearly grasp the points I want to make here, I’m going to do something we don’t do much at Copyblogger. I’m going to ask you to click play on the video below and watch it until the 1:05:00 mark (don’t worry, it’ll start playing at 1:01:18) …
Click here if you can’t see the video.
I came across this video eight months ago, and was inspired so greatly that I started training for a 1/2 Ironman event myself.
The 1/2 Ironman consists of 70.3 miles (1.2 swimming, 56 on the bike and 13.1 running), but after four months of training I decided to put that dream on hold.
Up until that point I’d been mostly just a runner, so I decided to push my limits there first. In April of next year I’ll be running my first marathon, then get back into Ironman training.
Training vs. trying
It’s pretty safe to say that most folks (talented and freakish ones notwithstanding) are incapable of waking up one day and running — even finishing — an Ironman event.
Sure they can try to do it, but unless they dedicate themselves to train for it, they’ll probably end up being unsuccessful.
It’s much the same with marketing, and running a business. You can try to run one. But unless you make it a priority and put in the necessary hours learning, applying, testing, and repeating that process, you’ll probably fail.
Below are six connections I’ve found between serious Ironman training and achieving success in your marketing campaigns …
1. Respect the race
It’s a big, bad world out there, and life won’t make it easy on you.
In Hawaii, that might mean temperatures and heat indices in excess of 120 degrees with a 40 mile per hour head wind.
For you, that simply might be the competition that exists within your niche. Maybe they’re cutthroat opponents, or they have a much larger social media following.
Whatever the case, it’s vital that you take your business, your niche and your marketing efforts very seriously.
There’s a reason that Ironman bears that name, and why the white seashell markers of failed attempts litter the side of the road.
2. Share a sponge
You might be wondering why Chris McCormack shared a sponge with Andreas Raelert in the final moments of their battle.
It’s a concept called frenemies, also known as co-opetition.
The respect between the Ironman competitors in the video is quite evident, and nearing the end of the race, they embraced and helped each other.
Even though Raelert might not have won that particular race, what we saw was an act of sportsmanship that is often times unmatched in the business world.
Once in a while, or maybe even more than that, it’s ok to share a nugget of wisdom with other leaders in your niche. Share a sponge with them.
Copyblogger befriends many who are considered competitors. It’s a big race, and there’s a lot of room for co-opetition.
Good sportsmanship is good business.
3. Stay in front
As the narrator of the video pointed out, it seemed as though there was a part of Chris McCormack that wanted to be a step ahead of Andreas Raelert.
In the marketing space, this is simply known as good strategy.
What that means is that you should be putting your efforts into being a leader, and not a follower. Set trends, rather than copy them.
When you’re out in front of your race, you get to set the pace. You get to dictate how fast you are going, which ultimately means you’re in total control.
You’re never on top, and if you do find yourself there, you should be just getting started.
4. Just go
Once in a while, you need to take the initiative and just go.
No matter what your competition might be doing (or what direction they might be heading), there are times where it makes sense to push the limits.
As Mark Allen did in the “Iron War,” he found the right opportunity to kick things into gear and captured a lead that he never lost.
In your case, that might be while your competitors are busy building a product, or taking some time away.
If you see that happening, it’s the perfect time to step it up and do your thing.
5. Look back, strategically
So we’ve encouraged you to “just go” with your business and marketing campaigns, but it would be foolish to do that without looking in the rear view mirror once in a while.
A successful business should always have an awareness of where their competitors are, or what they might be doing.
As you see in the video, after Chris McCormack pulled away he continually looked back to see where Andreas Raelert was. In other words, he didn’t want to assume he’d won the race.
If you’ve managed to put some innovative space between yourself and your competitors, check up on them, keep track of what they’re up to.
You don’t want to be in cruise control when they hit the NOS and blow right past you.
6. Finish strong
Like every good Ironman competitor, you should reserve enough energy to finish strong. Nobody wants to limp to the finish line, and certainly, nobody wants to completely collapse just short of it.
That means that training and discipline are essential along the way, and more importantly, being fully prepared for the unexpected.
I recently read a book from the 4-time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington that talked about the things she would do to mentally prepare herself for a race.
It’s mind boggling to comprehend all of the angles in which she trained, and this is something I’m personally trying to do more when it comes to my job and our business.
Are you an Ironman?
You might think that participating in an Ironman event is easier than it looks. If you’re in that camp, then I’d suggest you give it a try.
Unless you’ve put in countless hours training and preparing for said event, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll fall flat on your face.
I’m not trying to be mean, because the fact of the matter is that I would, too.
Running a business and developing a marketing plan are no different. If you think you can just jump off the couch and deliver a successful, full-blown product or service, you’re setting yourself up for a lot pain and disappointment.
Take a look around at those who are at the top of the business marketing game. They didn’t get there overnight, and they certainly weren’t handed their current audiences and revenues on a silver platter.
My guess is that — like Chris McCormack — they’ve killed themselves with preparation.
And, like an Ironman champion, the success they’re tasting right now is pretty sweet.
Do you have it in you to become an Ironman? Are you one today? Let me know in the comments …
About the Author: Brian Gardner is a founding partner and Chief Product Officer of Copyblogger Media. Starbucks Addict. Sarah McLachlan Fan. Nomad Theorist. Future Ironman. Aspiring Blogger. Get more from Brian on Twitter and Google+.