I’ve never been a big fan of UFC, but over the past few months I’ve found myself watching the odd fight. Of particular interest (and entertainment) are the ‘best knock-out’ episodes on Netflix.

One night, after watching a few shows, my wife pretended to hit me in the chin while proclaiming, “I hit you in the button!” Apparently this was an imitation of the announcer the night before. I was amused by her impersonation and slightly disturbed by the fact that she learned how to knock me out from watching tv.

If you’ve ever watched UFC you know that just one punch, kick or submission can end a fight in seconds. One good shot to ‘the button’ or one good submission-hold can be all it takes to end the match.

Conversely, some fights seem to drag on forever. They get locked up, rolling on the ground in a physical stalemate where only the judges’ scorecards can decide the winner.

We all know marketing can be a bloodsport, so this got me thinking about what we can learn about marketing from watching UFC.

1. Train to Fight (Never stop training)

Nobody steps into a UFC ring without years of practice and training. It’d be suicide. Every fighter that steps into the octagon has provided a level of evidence that they can fight and that they stand a reasonable chance of being able to survive the match.

Good marketers educate themselves on marketing. They understand consumer behavior. They study the latest techniques. They never stop learning. Nothing bothers me more than meeting a marketer who has turned off their brain. Your brain has the exact same capacity as my brain, so get out there and read a damn book already. Or take on a pro-bono project just to do some learning. Stay sharp. Otherwise, stay out of the ring.

2. Have a Plan

No UFC fighter would step in a ring without having a basic plan. If your opponent has longer arms than you, it might be a good time to get inside and drag them to the ground? Or, if you know they are experts in submission perhaps you focus on keeping them upright in a boxing match. The point is: you don’t wait until stepping in the ring to know what your plan is going to be. By then it’s too late. You’re staring at the ceiling.

Developing a marketing plan is not rocket science. Here are a few questions to get you started: What objective are you trying to achieve? Who will help you reach your objective? How do you reach those people? What’s the schedule for making everything happen? How do we make things better over time?

3. Be Flexible

Charles Darwin once wrote, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

A good fighter starts with a plan, but knows when to adapt.

All too often the execution of the marketing plan is simply a todo list. Brochure done? Check. Radio ads playing? Check.

This is a poor approach to marketing.

Instead, you need to treat your plan as a breathing document. You need to adapt to new data and new information. This leads us to the next point…

4. Know Where you Stand

Fighters always have a good idea of how they are doing vs their opponent while the fight is happening. Every landed punch or kick should be doing damage. The desired response – your opponent showing signs of visible damage – is generally immediate and obvious.

Marketers aren’t so lucky. Often the tactics are long-term and it’s difficult to tie activity to outcome. But, for long-term success, it is necessary for good marketers to strive to understand their position (at all times). This starts by ensuring every activity in your plan should have a way of knowing whether it was successful.

Did the campaign lead to more sales? How much more awareness did you garner over the course of the campaign? How many people clicked the ad….

5. Know When to Go for the Knockout

No fighter (unless they are really overmatched) steps in the ring is looking forward to making it to the judges’ scorecards. They are all looking for the big W. However, if a fighter walks into a ring and continuously seeks the knockout at every opportunity they will tire and be quickly overrun. It’s a game of pacing and precision (and sometimes a little luck). Good fighters choose their knockout opportunities wisely.

Good marketers ensure they have the training and plan to potentially deliver knockout punches, but ensure they have the data to know when to swing.