From Football Manager to Inbound Success: What a Life-Long Obsession Has Taught Me

One of my most long-lasting passions in life, as sad as it is to admit this, is Football Manager. The iconic football management sim has been a major staple of my life ever since first getting hooked on it as a schoolboy. However, the greatest thing about this game is how I’ve managed to take my obsession and apply it to my professional environment — namely, how to effectively market B2B brands with an inbound strategy.

I have fond memories of snapping up Kimi Kallstrom on the cheap then deploying him the hole in a foolproof 3–5–2 attacking formation back in the days of Championship Manager and, on more recent iterations, leading Boreham Wood from minnows to the best team in the world and leading Hoffenheim to 13 successive Bundesliga titles. Similarly, in a working capacity it’s rewarding to build a client’s content strategy from scratch and help them rank top for all keywords in their industry. That is the sort of hard work and persistence that pays off in both Inbound and Football Manager.

But the game is no longer just a game these days. It’s come a long way since Paul and Oliver Collyer devised the concept way back in the early 1990s, to the point it’s evolved into a deep database of the footballing world that’s actually used by football clubs as a scouting tool. Likewise, marketing is no longer just a content strategy game anymore. We need to be strategic about building out our inbound marketing flywheel and the infrastructure we put in place to be successful.

Feeling the love

All components of a successful inbound strategy should point toward the end goal of having a positive impact on people and your business. You need to attract prospects and customers to your website, blog or product page through relevant content. When they arrive there, they want to be engaged with appropriate MOFU content and conversational marketing tactics, such as live chat, and you need to keep them happy by being an empathetic advisor and expert.

Similarly, as Football Manager evolves the more it becomes about building relationships with your players. Players have to trust you and an angry outburst or throwaway comment in a press conference or a fit of rage resulting in you dishing out a two-week fine for poor performance can, and will, result in them becoming unhappy and outing you to the media.

Worse still, saying the wrong thing about a player can suddenly leave you with a revolt on your hands. For example, in my first game on FM19 I started with Liverpool. I transfer listed Georginio Wijnaldum, offered him to clubs but no-one wanted him. Eventually Lazio submitted a derisory transfer bid that I duly rejected, and I had players coming to me ranting about me not allowing the player to leave. Sound familiar? It is almost identical to having a prospect you’ve been trying to nurture for months suddenly stop engaging with any of your content.

How you then manage that situation is vital. Convince them that you’ll act in their and the club’s best interests and all will be well, but say the wrong thing and you’ll have a team of unhappy players that don’t want to play for you. In Wijnaldum’s case, I ended up having to loan him out then selling him for a meagre £300,000 the next summer. And, in the case of the unengaged prospect, we can lay low before we re-enroll them into a much lighter touch stream, which only contacts them when they have shown interest in our content again.

The key learning here is that it’s vital to think about having your prospect’s best interest at heart and ensure you’re always doing your utmost to keep them happy, just like Wijnaldum-gate.

Recruiting the right talent / Acquiring the right prospects

Being able to create content that addresses the pain points of your potential customers is crucial to inbound success. To do that in the first place you have to have built an air of trust and credibility around your business. Investing in your inbound content journey will enable you to build this trust, ensuring you are authentic and providing value all the way.

That much is true of Football Manager also. You’re free to adjust your club’s recruitment based around the style of football you play, ensuring your scouting staff only recommend players that suit your tactics, only suggest players of the right age, mentality, experience and quality that suit your managerial ethos. Furthermore, if you’re not respected — both as a manager and as a club — players will refuse to join your club or, conversely, if they respect you as a manager then it may encourage them to sign on.

Likewise, trust is fundamental to achieving inbound victories. You need to build trust in your audience to avoid scoring an own goal that sees all your emails end up in their junk folder or them blocking you on Twitter — now who wants that?

Tactical maestro

Probably the most important role you play in Football Manager is, simply put, putting the right players in the right positions. Taking that a bit deeper, to get the best out of players you need to deploy the right tactics, understand their individual strengths and weaknesses to assign the most convenient positional roles, and ensure your team gels to your system. For example, if you play two attacking wingers, two strikers and two attacking full-backs then you’re all but certainly going to come a cropper tactically.

The same can be said for your approach to inbound. It’s all about attracting, engaging and delighting people to ensure you build a business that provides value and is trusted externally. It’s about offering the human touch, understanding how people work, the information they want to receive from you, what their pain-points are — to ensure you serve your customers in the best way possible.

My Football Manager obsession may have gotten the best of me, but the way you approach in-game football managerial success can help you achieve inbound marketing glory. Cultivating a positive dressing room atmosphere is just as important as creating meaningful, long-lasting business relationships. And honing an understanding of your players and staff to create match-winning tactics corresponds to the need to focus on attracting and delighting your prospects at every touchpoint.

I’m off to fire up my computer for a little Football Manager fix. To understand how we can help you devise a game-winning inbound strategy get in touch.

Originally published at


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