7 Similarities Between Online Marketing and Downhill Skiing

April 8, 2013

Downhill skiing has similarities to online marketing

Image source: Squaw.com.


I recently spent a week skiing at Squaw Valley in Northern California. While riding the ski lift one day, it occurred to me that skiing has similarities with online marketing. Let’s consider seven similarities.

1) Start with the bunny slope, then work your way up.

As a beginner skier, you’d never do your first run on a double black diamond. Instead, you might go for a private lesson on the bunny slope and learn how to do “pizza formation” with your skis.

With online marketing, you could also go for private instruction. Or, read a lot of blogs, attend webinars and watch other online marketers in action. When you’re ready for your first “slope,” start small. Build upon your initial success and learn from your early mistakes. Pretty soon, you’ll be skiing blues, on the way to online marketing black diamonds.

2) Take advantage of downtime.

With skiing, a large percentage of your day does not involve skiing. You spend over an hour driving to the mountain and putting on ski gear. You wait for other members of your group. You stand on the lift line, then sit on a chair up the mountain.

What’s left is the time you actually ski. It’s similar with online marketing. The posting, publishing, tweeting, pinning and email blasting occur around periods of inactivity. While skiing, I use downtime to catch up with friends, take in the view and breathe in fresh air. With online marketing, use downtime to read content, curate content, build plans and review data. Your resulting marketing will be the better for it.

3) Check weather and trail conditions.

Squaw Valley conditions report

Before heading down the online marketing trail, check the relevant data: performance from past campaigns, open rates, click rates, unsubscribe rates and such. The last thing you want to do is find yourself on a double diamond (with moguls) when you’re not ready for it.

4) It’s all about the data.

Stats from the Squaw app

Pictured: the Squaw app. My statistics may be slightly skewed.

As online marketers, we have the benefit of more data than we’ve ever seen. And that’s true for skiiers, too. Online marketers have suites of analytics tools. Skiiers have smartphone apps to track descents, average speed, maximum speed and distance traveled. Both can use the data to inform their future plans.

5) Use a trail map to plan your journey.

The trail map at Squaw, as seen on their smartphone app

Pictured: Squaw’s trail map, as seen in their smartphone app.

Skiers use trail maps to identify terrain that matches their ability. They’ll also figure out how to get from the top of the mountain down to the base lodge. As online marketers, we need to build our own trail map before doing any marketing.

6) It’s good to help others.

When I see someone ahead of me fall and lose their skis, I always stop and offer to hand the skis down to them. Why? Because it’s easy for me to do that, while it’s more difficult for a skier to climb up the mountain. When I receive an email blast that has a prominent typo, I’ll reply to the sender to let them know. If a company lists a broken link in their Twitter profile, I’ll give them a heads up via a direct message. Helping others is a good thing.

7) It’s OK to bask in your success.

After a full day of carving up the mountain (mixed in with a little waiting), nothing beats the thirty minutes soaking in the hot tub. It helps sooth over-worked muscles and is quite relaxing. With online marketing, it’s fine to take pause and bask in your hot tub of success: sales leads, unaided awareness, lift in page views from organic search, etc.


Online marketing can be quite enjoyable. But remember that navigating the terrain won’t always be an easy descent. Make sure you have a trail map, check the conditions and always ski to your ability. Learn (and apply) your mistakes and you’ll be sitting pretty in that hot tub at the end of the day (campaign).

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