Do you spend much time in the garden? Is it a chore or therapy? I am an avid gardener. Sometimes I have trouble falling asleep at night, planning my gardening activities for the weekend. Or, I wake up EARLY Saturday morning and am unable to fall back asleep, anticipating the day ahead. This past weekend, I got to play in the dirt both days—Saturday and Sunday. With plenty of thinking time as I moved things around, my mind wandered to consider how some of the principles I’ve learned about gardening over the years is amazingly applicable to marketing as well.
Planning: What Does Success Look Like?
As you can see below, my pond desperately needed to be cleaned up after a long and difficult winter. Although I had the outline from last year, there was plenty of work to be done to make it ready for this summer. And I had some new ideas about things I would do differently this time around!
Would you normally go on vacation without planning for food, gas and accommodations? Do you know what success looks like for your organization? So many of the organizations we talk to want to skip the goals, objectives and strategies and get right to the tactics. This is especially true for social media.
If you haven’t done a strategic plan in awhile, that’s your first step. Your marketing plan needs to be tied to your strategic plan. Most organizations don’t have the budget for doing everything at once. The strategic plan helps give you direction in how to create a more phased approach. Research and analytics are a critical part of your marketing plan, otherwise you’re probably shooting in the dark. Jumping straight to tactics, while creating impact in the short-term, will most likely end up in wasted dollars on wasted efforts.
Location. Location. Location.
Where does your ideal client hang out? If you did your research, you would know the answer to that question. What channels you choose will have an impact on the effectiveness of your message and your marketing campaigns, your conference attendance and membership renewal. This doesn’t mean that you should be everywhere at once. Too much too soon will make your efforts scattershot and likely end in frustration rather than success. Our recommendation for social media is to pick 2-3 first and do them well for at least 6 months to a year before you add something or change things up.
Our forsythia was a mature 10 years old, planted on the corner of our property for all to see as they turned the corner. The problem was, the forsythia blocked the view of the rest of our front yard as you approached the turn. So we decided to dig it up and move it—a 4 hour process! But it was worth it. The view of the entire yard, in the lead article picture, has a much bigger wow factor now!
The Mix Matters
You know you want to get your message out in multiple ways. There’s your website, email newsletter, social media, maybe an app, website downloads, video. Which do you need and what’s the most effective? The answer to that is different for everyone. What we can do is help you put together the marketing mix that is the right strategy for you.
In the picture above, you see a mix of color, texture, height, leaf shape. What you’re also looking at, but may not recognize, is a mix of annuals and perennials. With your marketing communications, you need a mix of evergreen content and a mix of fresh and new. Analytics will help you determine what information peeps are checking regularly vs trends that are catching their eyeballs. The variety of your communications helps you identify pain points more succinctly, so you can keep mixing it up!
The Day Lilies in the first picture have been in my front garden for about 7 years. This is what was left from one of the two in front after I split some off, and replanted 11 bunches in the back. (Picture #2, and yes, 11!) This is a great example of repurposing content. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Most organizations I know have way too much information on their websites—more than anyone will ever read…on their website. So what if you moved some of the relevant stuff into other forms of communications, ie. social media, white papers, video, power points? With room to breathe, and now the focus of attention, your content will begin to naturally “fill in,” creating a more unified content picture—just like my day lilies in the back will eventually become a perennial hedge!
Good Design Creates Engagement
Your marketing communications need to be clean, congruent, strong and memorable. Design is important because for many, any one of your marketing assets could be a prospect’s first impression. And you know what they say…
Some of the design elements you need to think about are consistent branding, size, color, proportion, order, scalability, balance, variety, texture. To millennials and digital natives, design speaks volumes to the credibility of your company or organization.
Here’s some interesting statistics that I got from the Visual Teaching Alliance :
- — 65% of the population are visual learners
- — The brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text
- — 90% of information that comes to the brain is visual
I love this little corner of my garden. It has natural elements as well as man-made, annuals and perennials, cultural influences, and different colors—that will change as plants bloom and fade. There’s variation in height and texture. The brick outline compartmentalizes some features, yet they look like they belong together.
Little Tweaks Can Make the Biggest Difference
Your marketing plan should be a living, breathing document. Success rarely comes from one change. There is no magic bullet. It’s the iterative process of planning, executing, measuring and repeating that build success—one step at a time.
The first picture above shows you the size of three rhododendrons I planted in as many years, without success. They all died 🙁 The second picture shows you how the fourth rhododendron, of approximately the same starting size, looks today. Two years ago, a nearby pine tree fell in an ice storm. With the increase in sunlight, this plant just took off the following spring. Before the tree fell, the rhododendron never bloomed. Now, with the right sunlight, in the right place, you can see it’s full of blooms. Now I’d call that success, wouldn’t you?!