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3 Things Marketers Can Learn From Picking a March Madness Bracket

It’s that time of the year again. You’ve watched all of the games (maybe), studied all of the matchups (possibly) and dove into the statistics (probably not), and filled out an NCAA March Madness bracket that will put your friends and co-workers to shame.

Whether you picked Michigan State or UMass, or chose your winners based on matchups or uniform color, there’s likely some strategy that you used to try to gain an edge. Every blog, newspaper, and website has been giving its opinion on Final Four predictions and you’ve only got to take to Twitter to get guidance from anybody with a keyboard.

That said, is there anything we marketers can learn from this “billion dollar business“? Sure. Here are three things marketers can learn from picking their March Madness bracket:

Trends come, and trends go.

Two weeks ago, teams like Wichita St. and Arizona were the buzz of the basketball world, and rightfully so – they each earned #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Somehow, though over the past few days, the National Champion buzz has shifted to the likes of Florida, Michigan St. and Louisville. Whichita St. and Arizona could still very easily win, but they’re not being talked about nearly as much.

As digital marketers, we see trends like this come and go all the time. Google might release a new algorithm update one week, sending SEO specialists into frenzy, while the next week Google Analytics might get an overhaul, causing a whole new set of issues. The bottom line is that while riding marketing trends certainly works, a solid fundamental strategy is a much better indicator of success. Take into account new ideas and adjust for big changes, but don’t be sucked into swaying from your big picture plan.

If you take advice from the experts, pick the right ones.

The most highly publicized brackets over the past few years have not come from ESPN, but from the White House. I don’t doubt that the President is a fan of the game, and even follows it to some extent, but looking to him for expert guidance here is akin to getting paid search strategy recommendations from your Starbucks barista. Hint: the same goes for your co-worker who talks loudly about how many games he’s watched.

While picking a bad bracket might not be the end of the world, taking bad SEO advice, on the other hand, can have severely negative side-effects (i.e. penalties, etc.). With all of the bloggers trying to make names for themselves, wading through so-so recommendations to find good ones can take some effort. To make sure you’re playing by the rules, try to frequent reputable blogs like Search Engine Land and Search Engine Roundtable, or follow well known experts like Matt Cutts.

Statistical analysis only works with the right KPI’s.

In recent years, statistics gurus like Nate Silver and basketball stats experts like Dean Oliver and Ken Pomeroy have gained the reputation of having cracked the code to what makes college basketball teams successful. They look at composite stats like Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (AdjOE), Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (AdjDE) and Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%), and provide seemingly foolproof algorithms to predict how a team will fare. And while their insights may be valuable, they can only take you so far, because basketball isn’t as black and white as statistics, and a few KPI’s that don’t show the whole picture can’t predict the outcome of a game.

The same goes for digital marketing. In an industry dominated by CPC, CTR, CVR and ROAS, if you’re combing through spreadsheets full of data but you aren’t evaluating performance based on the right performance indicators, then how are you going to measure whether you’re being successful or not? More importantly, how will you be able to make strategic decisions and recommendations moving forward? While it might be more difficult to do from a sports perspective, looking at the right stats as a marketer is essential to making predictions and evaluations in our day to day work.

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