Today, I have a brief story with a very important marketing lesson.  Please bear with me a moment because I need to set the scene.

This past Saturday morning, about 3 miles into my 8 mile training run in Central Park, I passed a small group of runners chatting. I noticed one of the women was wearing the ever so trendy pink Vibram 5 Fingers minimalist shoes.  If you’ve never seen the “5 Fingers” then picture a shoe shaped like a glove with sections for each of your 5 toes.  Quite funny looking.

As I approached and passed the group, I couldn’t help but overhear one of the guys telling a story about how minimalist shoes like the 5 Fingers ruined someone’s chances of becoming an elite runner.  I didn’t catch the whole story but he was clearly “teaching” his group that no one should run without specialized running shoes.

Now it’s important to understand at this point in the story that I run in huarache sandals… So I’m passing this guy wearing the equivalent of flip flops with an extra strap to prevent the flopping sound. Here’s an old pic to see them in action.

In other words, huarache sandals are minimalistic minimalist shoes :)

An awkward moment in time, and I probably should have slowed down to correct the “teacher,” but I did not.  I kept running and decided to write this post instead.

Here’s the point of this story.  Like any other sport, consistent practice with proper technique is the path to greatness.

A baseball infielder who does not field ground balls with correct form, will never become a professional.  He can blame his glove, but that’s not the problem.  It’s his form.  Just like a golfer who does not swing the club properly.  Sure, like every other amateur, he can blame his clubs, but again that’s not the problem.  He needs to consistently practice swinging with the right technique.

So why then do runners think their sport is any different?  Shoes do not make you an elite runner.  And shoes do not prevent you from becoming an elite runner.  The only path is consistent practice with proper running form.  As long as whatever is on your feet (if anything at all) does not prevent you from running with correct form, then it’s all up to your skill level and determination.

Now you’re probably wondering what does this have to do with marketing?

A lot actually.

Runners blaming certain shoes is no different than business owners blaming certain marketing tactics.  For example, I’ve talked to dozens of business owners who think “AdWords is just a waste of money” or “SEO doesn’t work.”

That’s ridiculous.  Marketing tactics like Google AdWords or SEO are neither good nor bad.  No more than running shoes are good or bad.  It’s how you use these tools (i.e. with proper technique) that matters most.  If you do not use marketing best practices, then yes, AdWords, SEO, or any other marketing tactic is going to be a waste of money.  Just like running with improper form will inevitably lead to injury regardless of the shoes you’re wearing.

So the next time you find yourself labeling a certain marketing tactic as “bad,” I hope you’ll remember to instead assess your marketing fundamentals.  Because like sports, the path to success is consistent implementation of marketing best practices.