Climbing the Marketing Automation Mountain

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the SiriusDecisions May 2012 Summit in Scottsdale, AZ. It was my first time attending and I enjoyed all the connections I made and hearing case studies from truly sophisticated marketers.


With all the people, sessions, drinks, and conversations, one experience stood out above the others – hiking the Cholla Trail on Camelback Mountain. I attended the conference with my colleague, Nate Young. It was day two of the conference and we met some people at lunch who had hiked the trail that morning. They said it was strenuous but fun and we decided to do it ourselves the next morning. After all, when would we be in Scottsdale again?

As we hiked, I found many correlations between climbing this mountain and the successes and challenges that we face in our day-to-day jobs. Here are seven lessons from the Cholla Trail on Camelback Mountain that we can apply to our marketing practices:

  1. Get an early start. We were on the trail by 6 a.m. Not only did we want to be back for the sessions, we wanted to beat the 100-degree heat. In marketing automation it’s also important to plan ahead. Know your deadlines and, if you need to, plan ahead for a flurry of activity that will make your to-do list as hot as 100-degree weather.
  2. Be observant and trust your gut. While hiking, it wasn’t always clear which way the trail went. When we came to a turning point, we just talked it through and most times we chose the right way. However, there were times we realized we made a wrong choice and we just turned around and got back on the right path. Keep your eyes open to be sure you don’t miss opportunities and, if you end up making a wrong turn, it’s OK, just take the appropriate steps to course correct.
  3. Pace yourself. The terrain consisted of loose gravel and boulders with an elevation gain of 1,264 feet. The terrain and steepness made the hike challenging on the way up and down. We weren’t familiar with the trail and just how long it was going to take us so we were conscious to conserve our energy and, with the heat, water. In our marketing practices, it’s hard to predict just how long some of our initiatives will take. It’s critical to stay energized along the way to see each project through to the end.
  4. Don’t mistake plateaus for the end of the trail. Throughout the hike, there were a few times where I saw nothing but a plateau we were about to reach and I would say, “We made it!” But then we’d reach the top and I’d realize the trail continued. It’s important to set and recognize milestones along our marketing journeys but we also have to realize when they are part of a bigger goal.
  5. Don’t be afraid of getting your hands dirty. It can be tricky climbing up and down boulders. Naturally, we looked for crevasses and other places to grip to either pull ourselves up or support us on the way down. If you’re afraid to do some heavy lifting, then you may just find yourself stuck with no way out. So don’t be afraid to dig into the issues you and your team face. No one is above getting their hands dirty every once in a while.
  6. Ask for help when you need it. We asked others along the way if we were on the right path and got advice from a park employee with tips to go down smoothly. It was wonderful! It helped us stay on the right path and get down more quickly than I’m sure we would have. We all need advice at times so be sure to tap your network and the experts to get the help you need. You’ll be happy you did.
  7. Realize it’s about the guts and the glory. Hiking this trail was tough. I won’t lie, my quadriceps were sore for a couple of days. It took determination to stay with it but when we reached the top, it was exciting and rewarding. Don’t forget to give what you do your “all” and don’t forget to have fun and celebrate along the way!

If you’re not already applying these lessons to your marketing practice today, hopefully they get you back on the trail. Good luck as you climb your mountain!

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