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July 10, 2012

Internet Marketing – Experience vs. Degree: Lessons From Martin’s Ride

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Martin Martin Smith Martin's Ride To Cure Cancer
It was our second day riding a bicycle in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Martin’s Ride To Cure Cancer team was still in North Carolina, but only barely. We would cross into Tennessee after two more days of riding straight up, or that is how it felt. I wasn’t prepared.

Having trained in Durham and occasionally riding my favorite route on Dairyland Road in Chapel Hill, I wasn’t prepared for the Blue Ridge Mountains with their 12% grades and being at elevation (6,000 feet would be laughable in Colorado where we slept higher, but it was hard this early in the ride). I was going to die, and death was coming SLOW (lol).

I was heavy, carrying 50 more pounds than I would in a few weeks. My bottom was so sore after riding 50 and 60 miles a day for a week, there was no comfortable position on the bicycle. I wanted to quit and go home. Jeremy, the bicycle shop manager I hired to be the lifeguard of Martin’s Ride, listened to me whine before reminding me I wasn’t riding for me anymore. I rode for him and Brian. I rode for other cancer patients (Martin’s Ride left from the Duke Cancer Institute where I’ve been treated). Cancer patients were following our bleeper and my ride. I rode to realize an impossible dream. In short, Jeremy reminded me to shut up and get back on the bicycle.

Now my story moves forward about 50 days to the last days of Martin’s Ride. We’ve traveled more than 3,000 miles a bicycle (slept in an RV most nights). My bicycle’s crank has been turned millions of times. I’m 50 pounds lighter and have successfully conquered California’s Mt. Baldy’s and its 20% grades. My distance vision is honed. I don’t look at the computer on my bicycle to know distance or grade now. I feel the difference between 4% grade that will roll never getting above 6% and 4% lead-ins sure to become PAIN. I know things by instinct. On the lead-in to Mt. Baldy, I knew I was in for hours of pain. There is something about the way a lead-in rolls that, after 50 days of riding, communicated hundreds of messages, messages I was unaware of only two months ago.

After 50 days, I knew where pain started. Around 10% grade, grade being the elevation you ride against, life on a bicycle is interesting. Past 12% and continuing to turn the crank is a matter of faith, hope and belief. Climbing the highest peak of the ride, Mt. Monarch in Colorado 13,300 feet up, I learned to create a plan before attacking such an obstacle. I’d taken the day before our biggest climb to create an effective plan. Only three days after abandoning the only day of the 60 of Martin’s Ride because I couldn’t breathe as we rode above 9,000 on my first day riding in Colorado. Breathing is important and hard to do without (lol), so I spent the first day riding with my sister sitting in a chair feeling like a giant stomped my body and head. Martin's Ride To Cure Cancer Mt. Monarch CO picture

My Mt. Monarch plan (the picture to the right is the lead in to Mt. Monarch, the actual mountain isn’t in view yet) was to ride easy, alone and stop every mile once the grade exceeded 6%. I would stop,  take a picture, slow my breathing and “over fuel” by hitting my Hammer Nutrition supplements hard. I’d been in a bicycle shop in Salida, Colorado and heard a man from the shop confirm what my triathlete sister Caroline had told me. “Big guys need a lot of fuel. There is no way you can over-fuel, but you can easily under-fuel,” the man told a smaller man than me. I’d been under-fueling, but wouldn’t make that mistake again.

I would over-fuel on my climb of the tallest peak in Martin’s Ride’s 60 day adventure. That advice made the rest of the ride possible, since we rode mountains almost daily except for a stretch on the loneliest highway in America (Rt. 50 in Nevada, and lonely is the right word).

In Colorado I took a day off to gather a plan. By the time we reached California, I could create a plan in seconds in my head and without preamble or half the work. Riding a bicycle across variable terrain each day for sixty days taught me hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of tiny lessons. Each of those lessons was stored, segmented and easy to retrieve for almost any situation. Coming down Mt. Baldy, my average speed was 50 mph (read my 45 MPH story from rocketing down the Blue Ridge Mountains). Coming down Mt. Baldy, I touched the brakes twice other than 3 stops to cut speed and spare my brakes.

Internet Marketing Experience Vs. Classroom
I’d thought about doing Martin’s Ride most of my life. For more than thirty years, I thought Martin’s Ride would be something that looked like X. Having completed Martin’s Ride, now I know how few elements in study were anything like the ride’s reality.

We studied Google Maps for the best routes, and that method almost got me killed and was driving Jeremy crazy as he poured over routes at night. We corrected our bad plan by purchasing proven maps from Adventure Cycling, maps of bicycle routes across America that saved Martin’s Ride. We changed our route from a southerly route to a more mountainous course, because my teammates wanted to visit National Parks. We would visit 12 National Parks, including Arches (or as I like to call it, God’s Sculpture Garden) in Utah. We saw bears in Yosemite and giant trees in Sequoia National Park in California.

Internet marketing is like Martin’s Ride. What you THINK is important rarely is important.  What is happening NOW is what is important. There is no way to simulate what is happening, because there are too many variables happening all at once. Think about how many dimensions you compete in on the web, including but not limited to:

  • Competition (you watch them, they watch you)
  • Google (SEO and SEM)
  • Content & Offers (can you say Free Shipping?)
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Video Marketing

Simulations and visualizing the road ahead can help, but nothing matches the speed and hyper-reality of Internet marketing, nothing. Riding a bicycle in a simulator (if such a thing exists) can help practice rocketing down a mountain, but no simulator can replace the actual experience of having your life on the line as you make the next hairpin turn.

Internet Marketing Summer School
Despite these limitations, you can hone an Internet marketing process that makes the battle easier. Creating plans in California after riding a bicycle every day for 50 days was easier than at the beginning in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It was easier in California because I was more experienced AND because we’d thought about our process. We thought about the HOW of what we were doing, not just the WHAT, WHERE, WHY and WHEN of it. Read Dov Seidman’s excellent HOW: Why How You Do Anything Means Everything for more on the importance of PROCESS to Internet marketing. Use the links below if you want to practice, hone or develop Internet marketing skills:

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