What do golf legend Jack Nicklaus, basketball great Michael Jordan and decorated Olympian Michael Phelps all have in common? They have all embraced creative visualization to become better athletes.
In fact, visualization is widely embraced by athletes in nearly every sport. Terry Orlick, a noted sports psychologist and high-performance coach to thousands of Olympic and professional athletes in more than 30 sports, states in his book, In Pursuit of Excellence, that most Olympic athletes and world champions practice at least 15 minutes of visualization daily.
Don’t mistake visualization for hokey, self-help speak. It is one of the most widely accepted methods in sports psychology and is supported by significant scientific evidence. And it isn’t only applicable to sports--visualization is a practice used by successful people across a broad range of professions.
We use visualization technique to drive our strategic planning and the planning of inbound campaigns for clients and ourselves. Why? We’re all busy. And many of us get sucked into tactics all too frequently – sacrificing the planning team that can bring our marketing to the next level.
What is Visualization?
Most simply put, visualization is a technique for creating a mental image of a future event. It involves focusing your mind to visualize yourself in a certain situation and succeeding in that particular situation. Through the practice of visualization, we train our brain to believe that attaining a desired goal is possible. For instance, a golfer may visualize the perfect stroke over and over again to mentally train muscle memory.
According to David Yukelson, Ph.D, sports psychologist for Penn State University, “when you vividly imagine yourself getting ready for competition, your central nervous system becomes programmed for success. It's as if the activity you visualized has already happened.”
Apply this to inbound marketing planning and it means visualizing the metrics that will yield a successful campaign – literally seeing those results in Hubspot or whatever analytics tools you use.
How Does Visualization Work?
Research done using brain imagery suggests that visualization works because the neurons in our brains interpret imagery as the equivalent to taking a real-life action. When a person visualizes an act, the brain generates an impulse that tells their neurons to “perform” the movement. So when an athlete imagines him or herself performing their sport to perfection, he or she is physiologically training their mind and thus teaching their muscles to perform exactly how he or she wants them to.
Using Visualization to Become a Better Marketer
In today’s fast-paced business environment, so many marketers are guilty of getting wrapped up in the day-to-day minutia that it becomes difficult to focus on long-term planning and strategy development that will ultimately lead to our success. Visualization techniques could help you achieve your ultimate goals by improving your planning skills.
We’re all short on time but we can easily incorporate visualization into our marketing daily routines. It's something you’ll need to do outside of the office, where you can be alone and get deep into your thoughts. Try doing it on your morning run, in your yoga or spin class, when you take the dog on a walk or even on your daily commute. If you’re in California like we are, some time at the beach for lunch is a great way to isolate your mind and your thinking.
So once you have your alone time, how do you get started?
1. Pick a specific goal: That can be anything from increasing sales by 30% to becoming the leading blogger in your field to improving your lead conversion rate.
2. Choose your mental image: Really visualize your campaigns and their specific outcomes. Imagine writing your strategy; envision the steps you took to achieve this successful marketing campaign. See the words, the content and the metrics that drove your success. Hear the call where you share your success with your team, your boss or clients. Imagine yourself celebrating your success with your colleagues and imagine how it will feel to have reached your goal.
3. Visualize daily: See that image of success you painted in your mind and make that feeling very real.
4. Write it down: When you’re done, write down the key success factors you see and build them into your daily routine. Make them part of your planning.
Once you visualize all of the steps that it took to achieve your success, and the specific outcomes of each of those steps, you have a clear plan for your activities and how to create a successful campaign. Think of each of those steps and work backwards to what has to happen and it will help you develop your marketing goals, strategy and objectives, so that you can create a plan that will help you to become incredibly successful.
Keep in mind that just visualizing your success isn’t going to get you to your final goal, but what it will do is give you an effective way to begin planning. And planning is something that a lot of us don’t do well. But if we can improve planning skills, we can stop wasting time on the little things and start spending time on the specific actions we know will help us reach success.
What ways could you use creative visualization to improve your marketing planning? Leave your comments below.
About the author: Ryan Malone is the founder of SmartBug Media, a California inbound marketing agency and Silver Hubspot Partner that help companies increase revenue and marketing ROI.