Following the 2001 season, the Oakland A’s baseball team was bound for failure. They had just lost their three best players, Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Jason Isringhausen in free agency. Their budget of a measly $41 million could not let them compete with teams like the New York Yankees (budget of $125 million) when it came to signing big names.
At a point where other teams would have given up and resigned themselves to a losing season to rebuild, General Manager of the A’s Billy Beane had a plan. Every team had access to the same statistics and analytics, but the A’s took a different approach to these numbers.
Instead of trying to sign worse versions of the players they had lost, the A’s put together a group of misfit players that nobody else wanted based on numbers that nobody else was looking at.
These players would make up for the lost superstars and provided similar value for a fraction of the cost.
Baseball management had been fettered to convention for decades. If teams could not win now, they would invest in young talent with the hope that they would grow into stars and bring future success. Billy Beane defied convention by signing older players who specialized in getting on base, scoring runs and winning games.
Players like Scott Hatteberg, Chad Bradford and Jeremy Giambi were deemed undesirable. Hatteberg was injury prone, Bradford had an unconventional throwing motion and Giambi was a wild character prone to off the field outbursts and antics.
Billy Beane took a different approach to these types of players by looking at their stats first and not paying attention to biases that blinded other GM’s.
Because of this unique approach, the Oakland A’s won the division and made it to the second round of the playoffs in a season that everyone had written them out of from the get go.
As intriguing as this story is there many valuable lessons to be learned from a business perspective.
Convention may only serve to tie you down. Look outside of the box for ways to outmaneuver competitors
Thinking outside the box is absolutely critical when it comes to marketing strategy. If you have a lower marketing budget but are hoping to compete with bigger players in an industry, Guerrilla Marketing tactics are a great way to level the playing field.
Guerrilla Marketing’s low cost and high impact nature, if executed properly, makes it so that small businesses can gain just as much attention as larger corporations. It is a risk that is certainly worth taking since otherwise, a small budget competing with a large budget doing the same tasks will lose nine times out of ten.
Predictive analytics can allow you to see opportunities that others have never even considered
Keep an open mind when analyzing data. Look where others would never think to go and you may find things that surprise you. Billy Beane used math to find players that were worth more than their paycheck would indicate. In marketing the same principles apply. Some marketing methods are much more cost effective than others and an equal or greater impact can often be achieved for less money.
Master Change, Never be content and keep looking for a way forward
If a new strategy is working great for your business it is best that you not sit on your past success for too long. By continuing to innovate and seek different ways to improve can move forward continuously instead of taking steps one at a time.
In marketing it's important to keep the pressure on at all times. Once you have found a new way of doing things it will not take long for others to catch on and catch up. Using insights from market research to inform new strategies may be just the break you need to compete with less resources.
In the end, careful research and unbiased consideration of all options will lead to new insight and better decision making. Marketers that take risks and look outside of convention for better options often end up as pioneers setting the new convention until more open minded thinkers come around.
My name is Dan Bruwer and I am a senior at Boston University in the Questrom School of Business studying Marketing and Management Information Systems. I am currently serving as the Head of Inbound here at the Guerrilla Marketing Society. If you have any other questions about how guerrilla marketing can work for your business or want to be a student leader with GMS please reach out to myself (firstname.lastname@example.org) or any of the other talent GMS leaders.