The smell of chlorine, the emotion when you are on the starting block before the start, the dark line at the bottom of the pool that you chase back and forth, the water that hold you up and makes you fly, the moments with teammates during training and races. These are just some of the flashes that come to my mind thinking about swimming. I have missed these feelings at a time when, due to the health emergency, I have’t been able to train in the pool.
If you have read the other articles of my blog, you will wonder what swimming has to do with marketing and communication. In this period I am making some reflections on my professional development and I realize that swimming has played a fundamental role for my growth even outside the water. To learn how to do a keyword search or how to write Google-optimized content I had to study and experiment; thanks to swimming I have instead developed soft skills that make my work more productive and effective.
Water is able to shape people’s bodies and minds. Sport teaches values anddiscipline, but also allows to develop very important skills for the achievement of goals and for teamwork. My professional experience is split between journalism, digital marketing strategies, e-commerce and content marketing(here my complete bio) and for all these years swimming has been the refuge after working days, but also an environment where to improve side skills. Each person will develop different soft skills based on the mix of professional experience, sports and other activities. In this article I want to tell what swimming has given me. This is the celebration of one of my greatest passions, but also a reflection about myself and my work.
KPIs, goals and results
Marketing is based on concrete and measurable numbers and objectives. A strategy should generate profit, so we need to have KPIs in mind that allow us to measure its performance, determine whether it was a success or a failure, and figure out how we can improve it. Without these elements it’s not marketing, but it’s just a style exercise.
If we talk about results in swimming, the first image that comes to mind is that of Mark Spitz with the seven medals won at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Then I think about the Sport Illustrated cover with Michael Phelps and his 8 medals won at Beijing 2008. Medal is the ultimate symbol fot the achievement of the goal by a sportsman.
In fact in many performance sports such as swimming the main KPI is time: a stopwatch that for a single hundredth of a second determines victory or defeat, a new world record or, more modestly, the personal best of a master swimmer. I want to improve my time in the 100 backstroke and I know that to do that I will have to correct the turn or increase my breath. Every workout will be aimed at the goal I carved into my head.
Also at work I apply this focus on the result that derives from a performance sport where nothing is left to chance. Google Analytics or conversion metrics take the place of the stopwatch. I try to measure everything and do everything possible to achieve the goals and to experience the same emotion that a medal on the podium at the edge of the pool gives me.
Analysis and improvement
A good marketing campaign starts from a precise analysis of market and available resources. But it doesn’t end there: every activity can be improved and optimized during the working by interpreting data correctly (let’s think for example of the AdWords campaign offer adjustment) and aligning with the novelties that in contexts such as digital are very frequent.
In swimming, the same happens. We move in an environment, the water, which is completely different from the mainland because here thrust of the force of gravity, supports and the direction of movement change. Let’s think about Alexander Popov’s freestyle swimming: clean, beautiful and effective. He flies light on water. He figured out how to best move in that context.
Once the foundations are laid, a process begins that leads to the improvement of athletic gesture and performance. Since I moved to Milan, I have been forced to train alone, far away from my team. My coach have always emailed me the workouts and I followed them from distance. To improve, I bought books on the swimmer’s preparation and anatomy, studied and equipped myself with the most suitable tools. Thanks to this approach and remote driving bt my coach, the results came and, before Covid have blocked the races, my race-times improved.
I apply the same approach to my work. The analysis is the basis of every strategy and activity that I put in place: it offers me indications to achieve set results and to optimize them in the race. Without data it would only be improvisation, not marketing. I apply the concept of constant improvement also on myself: in a digital context that changes very quickly,I keep constantly updated. This allows me to anticipate the trends of digital market and keep these activities always up to date and more performing.
Attention to detail
Details determine the success of a marketing strategy. We have a general goal with a strategy that is declined in different activitiesmeasured on precise KPIs. For example, we can aim to increase online sales through ecommerce website. We need to provide for different activities that allow us to achieve it, such as advertising on Google AdWords, affiliation, social media, Seo. To make ecommerce machine work, each of these gears must work at its best.
Swimming is also made of details and each of them can lead to victory or defeat. Mirolad Cavic knows something about this. At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing he wanted to stop Michael Phelps’ triumphant ride, but he lost the 100 butterfly final by a single hundredth of a second. The Serb, ahead of the turn of 50, came long on arrival and the Baltimore Kid took advantage of it: the right choice of time and a perfect execution allowed him to touch the plate just a moment before and he was launched into legend.
The beauty of swimming is inthe harmony of movements,with the trunk that is the connector between the upper and lower parts of the body. Let’s think about the butterfly stroke where leg shot continues in the middle and transfers the movement to dorsals, shoulders and arms.
But also in race management there are very important phases: we have talked about the arrival of Phelps, but the start and the turn are also fundamental. As a backstroke swimmer, I am aware of the importance of turning at the right time because if you get too short you lose the inertia of slipping; on the contrary, if you get too far along, the turn angle changes and you lose thrust force.
I transfer this focus on detail also in my work. I am aware of what elements can increase traffic to a website and which can improve conversions. Knowing these things, producing websites and performing content is a breeze.
Sacrifice and adaptability
To achieve important goals in marketing, you have to work hard and never give up. There are no miracle formulas to increase your online customers, only dedication and expertise. On the one hand, desire to get involved even in new situations is required, and on the other hand, practical experience could help to make the right choices.
In swimming, as in any sport, training is fundamental because it allows the body to learn the correct movements and make them automatic. The training must be constant and sometimes great efforts have to be made: it is not for everyone to train with short breaks for an hour and a half chasing a dark line at the bottom of the pool. I remember when I had been swimming in Fossano, after work I came from home and left to go to the pool in the evening, 30 km from home. I had been coming home at 10.30pm and still had to have dinner. But this is the spirit of sacrifice that leads to improvement.
During lockdown, with the pools closed, I had to find new methods to train at home. I bought a treadmill for cardiovascular workout even during the cold of winter and have done some dry athletic preparation workouts (in this regard, I recommend a couple of resources that has been very useful to me: the Swimout training method and the book Swimming Anatomy by Ian McLeod). This is an example of adaptability. As soon as the pools reopen, I will measures the effectiveness for my swim.
The spirit of sacrifice of a sport like swimming allows me to work decisively even when I am sitting at a desk and to achieve results even when elements out of my control can create some problems. Thanks to adaptability, however, I manage to move from one activity to another, even very different, quickly and effectively, in fact I deal with digital marketing, ranging from commercial contexts to other more technical.
Courage and determination
In marketing and in very changing contexts such as digital, you should have the courage to dare. Data provides us with a solid basis for planning every task, but there is often a hint of uncertainty due to new situations. Only those who have the guts to dare can really make a difference. And when things don’t go well, we can always learn.
One of the most beautiful memories related to swimming is my first race in the 200 freestyle at the Riccione National Championships in 2011, during my first year among Masters. It was a disaster, but the emotions are indescribable.
After a tiring journey from Turin (an accident on the motorway had paralysed traffic), I found myself suddenly fired on the starting block, in the evening in a spectacular, illuminated swimming pool and with many people on the stands. I felt a thrill at the start. This gave me a strength that made me overcome the accumulated effort and I started very fast, in line with my personal best in 100 meters made just the week before in Saint Vincent. In the second 100 I died and the result was not beautiful, but I learned how to manage the race better and I will never forget those 4 pools.
At work I look for challenges: it’s too easy to win when everything is fine. I like to get involved, experiment and dare. I’m used to thinking outside the box and always looking for innovative solutions. I’ve also made mistakes that I’ve learned from, but I can see opportunities where others only see difficulties.
Teamwork and sharing
Teamwork is the most important element. I left it last to reward those who read this article all the way through. We are talking about marketing team because, if you need to have a generic knowledge of all aspects, there are people who for skills and experiences are specialized in specific sectors: Seo, social media, programming, sales, etc. A marketing strategy works if all these people can work in harmony towards a common goal and support each other.
Swimming is an individual sport: you are alone in one lane against 7 opponents. Actually with you are the mates who helped you during training, who are in the grandstand or on the edge of the pool and who comfort you after a defeat or compliment after a win. You fthe strength of your team with every stroke. It was even during the relays, with the teammates waiting on the block, that I did some of my best times in the 50 backstroke.
After moving to Milan I missed the team both during training and sometimes during the races since I made many of them on my own in Lombardy. However, every time I saw again my teammates, I found additional strength, the strength of the team. I have shared with them joys and disappointments, advices and suggestions, important moments in and out of water.
At work I like to build authentic relationships of collaboration with my colleagues where everyone can benefit to add value to their activities. In all these years an excellent close-knit has allowed me and my colleagues to improve performance in a serene internal context, even in the face of difficulties outside the team. Sharing resources, knowledge and experience is the key to good teamwork in a company that wants to grow. I have also fostered good collaboration relationships with other working groups (e.g. sales and development) and with external suppliers. Thanks to all of them I have improved and together we have achieved fantastic results. This is the approach of an individual sport where the team is the most important thing.