The old adage “timing is everything” has been around for ages, and it’s a concept that Seth Godin (an entrepreneur-turned-blogger known for his unique ideas and novel approaches to marketing, selling and branding) tends to agree with. In a recent post on his eponymous blog, Godin talks about the famed artist from the 1600’s, El Greco. Godin argues that El Greco, though he was a genius, was too far ahead of his time, and therefore not recognized in his era to the degree that he probably should have been. Regardless of his talent, he wasn’t in a marketplace that fully accepted his work. This wasn’t necessarily El Greco’s fault, and the argument is not that El Greco should have done anything differently. However, Godin’s belief is that “if you want impact, you need to go beyond genius and work on your timing.”
What Godin means is that producers need to time their offerings to be ahead of the market. The key, though, is to be slightly ahead, but not outrageously ahead (though sometimes that does work). Being “a little bit ahead” implies that people don’t necessarily see your idea coming, but are ready for it when it gets to them. This isn’t asserting that you should never be audacious or daring (Godin actually argues to the contrary). Rather, it is proclaiming that often the best way to retain customers or capture new ones is to time it so that you are just far enough ahead to provide something new and exciting, yet also sticky.
Here are some examples of properties and brands displaying excellent timing:
- Technology: Mandatory cameras in NFL locker rooms. The clamor for more technology and more access has been building over the last few years, and the NFL took that access to the next level for in-stadium fans with its new policy.
- Social Media: Taking advantage of current events. Oreo did a superlative job of this during the Super Bowl when the lights went out. One step ahead of everybody else, and brilliant.
- Ticket strategy: Dynamic pricing. 20 years ago would have been too early for companies like Qcue. But given the emphasis on data-driven decision-making and increased secondary market activity in recent years, dynamic pricing was just enough ahead of the curve to be meaningful.
- Media Rights: Conference cable networks. The Big 10 Network was the first-ever cable channel singularly dedicated to one conference. It was ahead of its time with the decision to go all-in on a conference network, and opened the door for other conferences, and eventually other schools, to follow suit.
Given Godin’s advice, and the examples above, what are some ways that you (as a team, a league, a brand) can be ahead, but not so far ahead that your potential customers lose sight of the value of your offering? Take a look at your key in-house areas of business (CRM, Merchandise, Digital, Media Rights/Partners, Stadium Events, Corporate Partners/Sponsors, Marketing, etc.), and figure out what you can time perfectly in order to make an impact at just the right moment, with just the right message.