1 in 9.2 QUINTILLION. Not millions, billions, or trillions – but quintillions.
Those are the odds of a perfect bracket for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, which is better known as March Madness. The odds of winning the Powerball Jackpot are about 5 times higher then creating a perfect bracket. After the Sweet 16, no perfect brackets were left.
Picking brackets can be challenging, and upsets are everywhere – they call it March Madness for a reason, after all. Narrowing down the field to your final four picks and an eventual champion is enough to make even the most experience basketball fans tear their hair out. Only 0.003% of brackets predicted this year’s Final Four – 500 brackets, out of tens of millions.
The teams that make the final four arrive their through a strange combination of factors: while talent plays a key role, some teams get lucky and find themselves on a hot streak at the right time, and great teams have one poor outing and find themselves out of the tournament.
Field service companies find themselves in a similar situation – large franchised companies and service networks are many customers first call, but smaller companies can easily pull an upset and beat their larger competitors with the right moves. What can your field service team learn from the Madness of March?
Be Consistent, but Able to Adapt
Let’s start off with the team that most bracket makers predicted to be here: the Villanova Wildcats. Villanova is the most recent team in this year’s Final Four to win the championship, taking home the honors in 2016. After a disappointing early exit last year, they came storming back; finishing second in one of college basketball’s most competitive conferences, winning their conference tournament, and consistently chopping down opponents to make it to the Final Four.
The Wildcats were predicted to do well last year as well – so what fuels the improved success this year? If we were to boil it down to one thing, it’s execution and consistency.
Villanova spent much of the year ranked as one of the two best teams in college basketball, and never really slowed down for any extended period. They never lost two games in a row.
They executed on the court. Throughout the season Villanova shot 40% from 3-point range and almost 50% overall.
The Wildcats have multiple ways to win. Despite a relatively poor shooting performance in their Elite Eight matchup with Texas Tech, they were able to walk away with a win due to a strong defensive showing.
Villanova’s consistency and adaptability are a stark contrast to their fellow #1 seed, the Virginia Cavaliers. Throughout the season, Virginia was the other team considered the best in the country alongside Villanova due to their ability to play lock-down defense and control the pace of play.
#1 Virginia played #16 seed University of Maryland – Baltimore County; a university with half the amount of students, and not nearly as notable of a basketball program. UMBC played in the relatively small America East conference, compared to Virginia playing in the elite ACC conference along with Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, and other top-tier athletic programs.
But UMBC came charging out of the gate, throwing everything they had at Virginia, forcing a higher pace of play and causing chaos on the court. Virginia could not adapt, and became the first #1 seed to be eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament – ever.
Franchise companies of the world are known for their consistency – providing an established, standardized service or product with a proven quality. Service franchises pride themselves on consistency in their execution – having patented methods, thousands of reviews, a strong reputation for fixing whatever problem that their customers face. And, in general, this consistency will lead you to success.
But while consistency is important, franchise networks also need to be able to adapt. They need to have more than one approach – not every problem can be solved with the same method. Not every marketing channel will work in every market. Not every customer experience will be the same. The ability to tweak strategies is what separates Villanova and Virginia this year – and can often be what helps one franchise outperform another.
Never Stop Battling
Facing off against Villanova on Saturday evening will be fellow #1 seed Kansas – who find themselves in the Final Four after a down-to-the-wire overtime win against #2 seed Duke.
Kansas would simply not quit, getting scoring from unlikely places – including Malik Newman, a new player on the team this year, putting up a blazing 32 points. Duke’s senior players headed to the NBA had underwhelming outings. Despite all of this, Kansas fell behind to Duke late in the game – and had to get a miracle of a jump shot to tie up the game, giving Duke the ball with plenty of time to score the winning shot.
Duke’s senior guard, Grayson Allen, had the ball with no time left in a 72-72 tie game, releasing a jump shot that looked destined for the game winner, punching Duke’s ticket to the final four and giving “Coach K” a record setting 13th Final Four appearance.
The ball hit both sides of the rim and rattled out. Kansas would proceed to take the game in overtime, celebrating while Duke packed their bags for home.
Kansas isn’t the only team who’s had to grind down to the wire to make it this far. On the other side of the bracket, the Michigan Wolverines have been the cardiac kids of this year’s tournament – getting last second wins over Houston in the Round of 32, and Florida State in the Elite Eight, to make it to this year’s Final Four. A few extra seconds or a few shots fall differently, and the Wolverines would have been at home watching with Duke.
Both teams have had to claw their way and fight until they very end to be playing next weekend – but it serves as a reminder that the game doesn’t end until it officially ends. One second can make all the difference.
It’s rare that a sale comes happens in an instant for any business – it can take 7 or more touchpoints to generate a qualified lead, and continued touchpoints to make a sale. The length of the sales process can vary dramatically based on the type of service provided – a basic cleaning service is much easier to sell then thousands of dollars in handyman repair services – but either way, continued touchpoints are required to build a foundation of trust, and ultimately win your customers.
Far too often, service companies will give up on a marketing channel before it’s had the ability to make an impact. SEO, for example, takes anywhere from 4 to 12 months to see results with. Field service firms will create an estimate, not get a response – and simply move to the next lead in their pipeline, when another call or two could easily close the deal and create revenue.
In both business and basketball – persistence is key to success, and the path of Kansas and Michigan show that battling to the end pays dividends. You may not always win a customer on the first contact – but continued follow-up, as well as being in the right place at the right time, put you in position to succeed.
Punching Above Your Weight
The most unlikely team in this year’s final four, without a doubt, is Loyola Chicago – a relatively small, catholic university from Chicago’s north side. (And who the ServiceBridge team will be cheering on this weekend). Loyola hails from the small Missouri Valley Conference, and while entering the tournament as a #11 seed, some had them picked in a first round upset – but few imagined they’d make it all the way to the Final Four.
What’s the story behind the Ramblers’ Cinderella Story run to the Final Four? It’s hard to pin down just one thing.
Just like Michigan and Kansas, they battle until the end – having won their first three games in the tournament by a combined total of four points.
Everyone contributes. Unlike Duke, there are no future NBA stars on this team – just five guys on the floor who execute. Despite a lack of star power, they’ve held their opponents under 70 points in each game, and have had almost every player in their starting 5 contribute to their scoring.
Like Villanova, they’ve been consistent – winning 32 straight games, so far, and not showing signs of slowing down. From the smallest teams in the Missouri Valley conference to blue-blood programs like Florida, they have adapted and found ways to win week in and week out.
Every year, the tournament is rife with upstarts like Loyola who pull off a stunning win in the first round, only to get bounced in the second round or Sweet Sixteen. But this team is different – consistent, flexible, determined, and passionate.
It can be depressing as a field service business to compare yourself to the largest organizations – wondering how your franchise will outperform when faced with larger competitors. For independent companies, the task can seem every more daunting – how can a small maid service beat out a massive cleaning service with thousands of locations and a marketing budget to match?
While more resources certainly increase your ability to win customers and grow your business – ultimately, everyone has a chance to win. Even the upstarts. You can outsmart, outexecute, and outperform larger competitors with the right mentality and the right approach.
There are common threads between all of this year’s Final Four – execution, consistency, the ability to adapt, and a belief that they can win it all. Each of these characteristics can help you succeed – in field service, basketball, any pursuit or business venture.
Broken brackets, buzzer beaters, upsets and more – the Madness of March is coming to an end. But the Final Four, and each team’s path to the big show, provides important takeaways for field service businesses.