What Arnold Schwarzenegger Can Teach Us About Marketing

November 24, 2015

Often, Im asked what my most influential books are. You know the sort of books that I'm talking about – books that are the cornerstone of the modern entrepreneur: Think and Grow Rich et al.

I often throw in an answer that really moves the conversation into a new place.

Total Recall“, I say, “the Arnold Schwarzenegger life story”.

Usually, this is the first time that the person asking the question has ever heard that answer and, sure, it is a bit of a curveball.

I've been passionate about small business for a long time, and consuming content related to small business or personal development is really nothing new to me. In fact, life stories of some of the people I admire most in the world are some of my favourite books – you know, with a healthy dose of Stephen King, Andy McNab and of course, DC Comics thrown in there.

I remember, right around the time that I'd finished the stunning Walt Isaacson book about the late Steve Jobs, I'd really gotten passionate about body building.

Being a skinny kid up until being about 30 years old (yeah, that's right – kid!), I'd always been told that I just didn't have the genetics or the body type to “grow”.

Regular consumers of my content will know that this, well this is like a red rag to a bull.

When I hit 30 and came back from being burnt out through business, I resolved to put this to the test and completely devote myself to training 6 – 7 times per week and adhering to clean, mass eating.

The really amazing by-product of this was that I had something outside of business to really, really focus on – something I believe is vital to success in business. You need to be able to change the channel.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a little obsessive. When I get into something I want to know every single detail about it; every piece of background and I love to consume as much content as I can about it.

The results were fantastic: I became more profitable in my businesses, reduced my working hours and bulked up from being over 6 feet tall and 159lbs, to 210lbs – losing body fat in the process.

During the time I was researching body building and more specifically, ways that I could train effectively yet efficiently, and ways that I could eat the amount of calories I needed in a “clean” way, “_Total Recall_” was released.

Now, at this point it's worth mentioning that I'm an 80s kid. My films are Back to the Future, Terminator, Rocky, Predator and Aliens & my school life was made up of a mix of one liners from Schwarzenegger, Stallone & Willis. I knew that Arnold.

I also knew that he was the governor of California.

That was it.

Walking into the book store and grabbing my copy of “Total Recall“, I was filled with glee at the thought of reading about Arnold's on set antics, his life in Austria and how he'd learned to train his body and mind into that of the greatest body builder to ever live.

What I actually read was one of the most inspiring and mindset-changing business books I've ever picked up.

Say what?

You see, not only was Arnold a millionaire before he made his acting debut, but he knew he would be.

Arnold had a plan.

Broadly speaking he had planned to be an actor in America during child hood (thanks to Reg Park's inspiring work as Hercules) and then simply worked back from that by analysing and declaring obstacles he would have to overcome to achieve it.

Two of the biggest obstacles in his way were simple: from his humble roots, he needed a way out of his native Austria, and he simply didn't have the American voice that children emulated in the playground.

His solution? Train his body. Hard.

This was his single goal for a long, long time: become the greatest bodybuilder the world has ever seen and use that to his advantage. That was his way of positioning himself.

And it worked. From becoming the only professionally paid bodybuilder in the United States, thanks to Joe Weider, and then using his stellar competition record to break into film roles that required someone of his stature, he was able to create opportunities for himself – once again identifying “gaps” that needed filling as he progressed: language transitioning, acting lessons etc.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has reached the pinnacle of three distinctly different careers using this method.

What can Arnold Schwarzenegger teach us about marketing?

Arnold didn't reach these pinnacles by accident.

Arnold reached achieved his goals by declaring them, by identifying where he needed to improve (Google the story of his calves) and by adopting a goal oriented, measurable and consistent approach to chasing down his objectives.

Being the only person to walk through the snow in winter to break into the gymnasium as a teenager is tantamount to the way we small business owners will creep out of the house at 4:20am to finish a vital pitch for that dream job. We are committed, of that I have no doubt.

But there is one big difference between many of us and Arnold.


Let's consider marketing. Our poor results are typically the biggest symptom of a lack of this consistency. Very often we skip from one golden bullet tactic to the next, believing that with the least amount of effort, we'll reap maximum rewards.

Deep down, we know this isn't true. But we're also afraid of what we don't know.

No, we're afraid of what we assume will be a disproportionate amount of effort versus the return we'll see.

It's this attitude that leads to us hopping between SEO, email marketing, social media and back again when they don't work.

But what if we adopted Arnold's approach?

What if we began with the end in mind for our marketing. Say, 10 new customers before this quarter closes.

From that simple declaration we have the beginning of a journey; of a plan. We have a reason to break in to the gym when the snow is mounting up outside.

We start to fight for it.

We can identify where our gaps are and do something small, measurable and well placed every single day to move towards that goal.

Missing a leg session for Arnold simply wasn't an option. Nor did he focus on the vanity muscles – he trained deep, he trained wholly, comprehensively and thoroughly.

And he was rewarded for that.

As small business owners, training our t-shirt muscles simply isn't good enough – it's not enough to attend networking events and patting ourselves on the back for simply attending one per month. Nor is it ok for us to “try” SEO for 3 months; a cheap “trial” social media campaign; a 7 week stint of blasting email newsletters out.

Instead we must plan with the end in mind, declaring our intent to win those clients and identifying the stepping stones we need to pass over in order to put ourselves in the position of being able to win them.

Consistent content, consistent presence and consistent interaction with those who receive our marketing are low investment, high impact ways of making sure that we're always moving forward . If we aren't creating, if we are simply reacting, then we are not marketing and a modest time investment every day, beats a concerted rush every single time.

To cross the finish line, you must run the race.

Or as Arnold would say:

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”

With that in mind, I've personally begun to really take apart my marketing efforts. Focussing on the end goal, identifying my weak points and taking steps every single day to move in the right direction means that no longer am I reacting – no longer am I “maintaining”, aka patting myself on the back for doing absolutely nothing effective.

What can you do every day to give yourself a fighting chance of achieving your goals? Where can you apply laser focused consistency to break down a barrier that has been plaguing you?

What are you going to do today, tomorrow and every day afterwards to make sure that those clients you want to work will answer their phone to you?

Don't forget, the more you expect from yourself, the more you WILL excel. Arnold would agree, I'm sure.

Mark Asquith

That British podcast guy, Mark is co-founder of Captivate.fm, the world's only growth-oriented podcast host. A Harvard, TEDx, Podcast Movement and Podfest speaker (amongst many more!), he's a wildly approachable Brit and Star Wars/DC Comics geek.

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