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Are some people born winners? Are genius marketing students coming from top MBA schools destined for greatness? Perhaps, but research shows there are additional elements, besides raw talent, to get a marketer or any other professional to "world-class" status....

Earlier in the year I wrote a MP Daily Fix post, "You Need Marketing Bootcamp", in which I described how world-class cellists and pianists descend on Meadowmount boot camp, located in Westport, N.Y., every year for a grueling summer of practice, drills and more practice. These musicians have decided they need the rigors and training of a boot camp to get better, improve their craft, and set themselves apart from their competition.

In a similar vein, a recent Fortune article, October 30, 2006, "What it Takes To Be Great", author Geoffrey Colvin concludes, "targeted natural gifts don't exist–you will achieve greatness only through an enormous amount of hard work over many years."

Colvin quotes studies from British researchers Michael J. Howe, Jane W. Davidson and John A. Sulboda in which they find "the evidence surveyed does not support the (notion that) excelling is a consequence of possessing innate gifts."

So, if natural talent isn't the sole variable to becoming "world-class", what's the secret? The Fortune article draws some interesting conclusions:

1) Nobody becomes great without hard work. Even the most accomplished people need ten years of hard work before becoming "world-class".
2) Continual practice is important. Researcher K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University notes, "Elite performers in many diverse domains have been found to practice, on the average, roughly the same amount every day, including weekends."
3) Natural talents are important, but not critical to greatness. Ericsson notes, "some international chess masters have IQ's in the 90's"

By now, you are probably thinking that hard work and practice are great, but surely that's for those repeatable tasks like doing scales, drills (if you're a musician) or hitting thousands of golf balls (if you're Tiger Woods). Can these lessons be applied to the discipline of marketing?

I've taken five "what it takes to be great" rules from the article and adapted them to our world of marketing:

1) Approach each critical task with the goal of doing it better. For example, if your role is trade show marketing, is your last show better than the previous? Did you improve upon specific tasks with your last show (found better speakers, improved your floor exhibit, hosted a more focused customer event etc?)

2) Think about process. As you are doing a task, ask yourself, is there a way to improve this specific task to make it "leaner"–saving time, money and/or achieving better results?

3) Gain feedback. You may think you did the best job in the world with your latest marketing program. What does your boss think? How about the heads of business units?

4) Continually Grow. Getting better requires reaching outside your innate talents and gifts and learning from others, perhaps those not even in field of marketing. Notice what makes others great and see if there is an application to your challenges.

5) Practice Makes Perfect. Deliberately practice those marketing tasks you do often. Refine, improve and get better at them. If one of your key tasks is writing press releases, make sure that you practice, practice, practice, so you deliver the best possible release you can.

John Horn of USC observes, "The ten year rule (of hard work to achieve world class status) represents a very rough estimate, and most researchers regard it as a minimum, not an average."

Does the ten-year rule apply to marketing? Is marketing one of those disciplines that people can "deliberately practice" and improve their performance? And how much of a factor is "dumb luck" in becoming "world-class"?

Continue reading "Does the "10-Year Rule" Apply to Marketing?" ... Read the full article

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Paul Barsch directs services marketing programs for Teradata, the world's largest data warehousing and analytics company. Previously, Paul was marketing director for HP Enterprise Services $1.3 billion healthcare industry and a senior marketing manager at global consultancy, BearingPoint. Paul is a senior contributor to MarketingProfs, a frequent columnist for MarketingProfs DailyFix, and has published over fifteen articles in marketing, management, technology and healthcare publications. Paul earned his Bachelors of Science in Business Administration from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He and his family reside in San Diego, CA.

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