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Pounding the Rock: Lessons from the San Antonio Spurs on running a great digital campaign

I grew up in San Antonio and like everyone from there I’m a big fan of the San Antonio Spurs. Since drafting Tim Duncan in 1997, the Spurs have gone on an unprecedented run, winning four NBA titles and more than 50 regular games each season for the last thirteen years.  Led by their cranky coach, Gregg Popovich, the Spurs are celebrated for their unselfishness and commitment to team.

The following quote from Dutch American reformer Jacob Riis hangs in the Spurs dressing room and serves the team’s unofficial motto:

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

In the context of basketball, the quote is an obvious call for players to put maximum effort into everything they do.  Winning an NBA title is the culmination of years spent taking jumpers in the gym when no one else is watching.  To be great you have to pound the rock.

The quote is also an accurate description of what it takes to build and maintain a great digital program.

There are tons of organizations that want a great, successful online campaign but don’t want to put in the work.  The truth is there really aren’t short cuts.  The truth is that building websites and running digital campaigns is hard work that requires a significant commitment.  A successful web program isn’t the result of one transcendent idea so much as it is hundreds of small ideas implemented well.

To be great you have to write compelling content every week, and preferably every day.

To be great you have to optimize your email messaging and design.

To be great you have to make sure your website works in all browsers (even IE) on all devices (desktop, tablet and smartphone).

To be great you have to experiment.

To be great you have to test and then test some more.

To be great you have to pound the rock.