Scrappy Soccer Girls Teach a Critical Loyalty Lesson
The girls on the sideline were pacing, biting their nails and glancing at the competition warming up on the field. It had been their dream soccer season, and now it was all on the line. A handful of scrappy girls with little experience had formed a team in a local community league and had surprised all who knew them, even themselves. They were playing championship finals for two different age groups on this hot Colorado day.
With barely enough girls to field a team, they had invited three girls from the local travel soccer club to join their roster. Most spectators expected those three club girls, all starters on the top team in their community, to run circles around their less experienced teammates and dominate all of the games. But instead, they did just the opposite. They didn’t constantly hog the ball to see how many goals they could rack up, only pass to each other, or get frustrated when a teammate lost the ball or missed her mark. Instead, they cheered for their teammates, passed to the open player no matter who it was and encouraged the other girls with little focus in life to shoot, take risks and see what they could do. They celebrated every effort.
Off of the field, they chatted together about their goals, dreams and challenges. They became friends. On the field, they beat every team, except last year’s champions who had recruited three of the best players from another club team to help them win again. Now they would face them twice in one day for the two championships. They were nervous and intimidated as the reigning champions lined up. These girls wanted the title for themselves and their coach, a young minority mother who was struggling like their own parents did.
In Game 1, they started off timid, falling behind 0–1. Just after half time, they scored. Confidence came back and they played like never before. They ran, rushed, headed, blocked, stayed on their marks, talked and passed to each other, cheered each other on and won, holding the other team to only penalty points.
Game 2 was an hour later. Hot and tired but fired up from their surprise victory, they took the field, trusting and believing in each other. They were up 2–0, again holding off some of the community’s top scorers who didn’t get the power of “team.” Those other recruited girls refused to pass to their less experienced teammates, blamed them when they themselves lost the ball or got a shot blocked. When they couldn’t score, they suddenly kept falling down by the goal, “injured,” getting free kicks just to recover miraculously after the easy goals, which enabled them to tie up the game and take it to penalty kicks.
The pressure was intense. Winning this second game was just as important to this team who were also fighting for their coach’s chance to shine and get her dream job with the local club. The goalie took her spot, feeling the heat and the heart for her team. She bounced up and down with the shrewd focus of a pro. And she did it. She blocked penalty kicks with a single fist, lunging, stretching and reaching heights she never knew she could in order to give her team that second victory.
Stunned, these girls kept asking themselves if they were dreaming. They weren’t. They just learned and taught all of those who watched them some of life’s greatest lessons that apply to both our personal and business achievements. They learned what happens when groups come together — sports teams or customers and brands — and get behind common goals, treat each other with dignity and patience, celebrate each effort and, most importantly, become trusted friends.
Beyond lessons of teamwork, we marketers can embrace several other lessons from these young girls to help us win championships for brand value, sales, loyalty and more. Here are just a few:
Break Down Walls
Even without intention, many brands see customers as inferior and easy to dominate, just like the club girls on the losing team viewed their teammates. This attitude shows through in lopsided customer service policies, like no-return policies, reward programs that take years to get the prize, unexplained price hikes, or poor-quality products and dismal response times.
When you engage in these practices and other cheap tricks that destroy karma in sports and in life, you are sending the signal that “we matter and you don’t,” hurting any chances of loyalty you might have. Follow the lead of the winning team and behave in ways that build equality and team, while building trust and friendships.
Communicate and Celebrate
You hate it when rules or criteria for rewards change after the purchase. So don’t pass it forward. Let your customers know when they are at risk of losing an opportunity, or are close to achieving a goal. Cheer for them when they earn a good deal from your company or make a wise choice. Praise them for helping you with little things like surveys. Let them know you’ve got their backs and value the role they play on your team.
Set Others Up for Glory
No one wants to keep reading about your profits, happy customers and industry awards. Change the focus and start setting your customers up for success — not just yourself.
FirstBank did just this and had one of their most successful campaigns. Instead of bragging about themselves, they ran campaigns that promoted their customers with copy that said nothing more than “Math Tutor, Call Martin,” “Wedding Singer, Call Sue,” and so on. They promoted real customers. And when the phone rang, they forwarded real leads, helping them achieve their goals. It paid off big at a time when other banks were floundering.
Have a Cause
These girls had a dream for themselves and their coach. They embraced their goals together, instead of getting stuck in that all-too-common mindset of “us” and “them.” They broke down walls, celebrated their differences and similarities, and fought for the same outcome. Just like you can do with your customers and employees. Nothing creates bonds and loyalty better than fighting for something all believe in, whether it be a world cause or self-actualization.
More than anything, we marketers must learn the power of creating a team with our customers, and executing on every level — sales, service and customer support. We need to embrace each other’s goals, aspirations and differences and find ways to play together vs. succeed at each other’s expense. We see leading global brands lose ground and die off altogether when they get overconfident and put profits above service and customer satisfaction. Or engage in cheap shots to help themselves win and others lose.
Takeaway From These Inspiring, Scrappy Soccer Champs
Big and small brands, sports and business teams can all thrive and achieve their goals quickly by focusing on building teams with customers, not walls, and working together with respect, dignity, a sense of equality and trust to achieve and celebrate all of their goals.
Jeanette McMurtry is a psychology-based marketing expert providing strategy, campaign development, and sales and marketing training to brands in all industries on how to achieve psychological relevance for all aspects of a customer's experience. She is the author of the recently released edition of “Marketing for Dummies” (Fifth Edition, Wiley) and “Big Business Marketing for Small Business Budgets” (McGraw Hill). She is a popular and engaging keynote speaker and workshop instructor on marketing psychology worldwide. Her blog will share insights and tactics for engaging B2B and B2C purchasers' unconscious minds which drive 90 percent of our thoughts, attitudes and behavior, and provide actionable and affordable tips for upping sales and ROI through emotional selling propositions. Her blog will share insights and tactics for engaging consumers' unconscious minds, which drive 90 percent of our thoughts and purchasing attitudes and behavior. She'll explore how color, images and social influences like scarcity, peer pressure and even religion affect consumers' interest in engaging with your brand, your message and buying from you. Reach her at Jeanette@e4marketingco.com.