This is the time of year I love to get my hands dirty in the garden. And I realized how marketing has so much in common with gardening. Here’s a down-to-earth way to do both, for a successful harvest.
Make a Plan. A garden starts like any other successful project – with a plan, a vision: a set of goals and an understanding of the available resources and restrictions. Is your goal to grow vegetables, a beautiful flower garden, or just to cover some bare earth? How much sun and water do you have available? How much time do you have to establish and maintain it? How much do you know, and what do you still need to learn? What can you do yourself, and what do you want help with?
Growing your marketing garden starts in the same way. What type of business do you want to cultivate? What type of clients do you want to serve? What are your resources, in terms of time, money, talent, and knowledge? What can you do yourself, and what do you want help with?
What will You Cultivate? Knowing what you do about your garden (and your business), determine what plants (customers) will thrive. Just like we determine which plants will do best in our garden, we determine who the best prospects for our business will be. What type of person or business are you best able to serve, who is most interested and able to purchase your product or service (what seeds to buy)? Where will your messages to these people easily take root (where to plant those seeds)? When is the best time to sow the seeds for the most successful results? You’ll refine this over the years as you gain experience with various types of plants (and customers).
Lay the Groundwork. The next step will be preparing the soil. Clear the garden of weeds and unwanted plants, and nourish the soil so it will nourish your plants. Likewise, we establish our marketing foundation. This will include defining our products and services in terms that our intended customers will respond to. We develop all the details of our brand so that it, like healthy soil, will nourish our business.
Continue to Nourish. You can’t stop now! Now that the brand is established, you’ll need to feed it regularly with new content (such as articles, speeches, advertisements) that builds on your efforts. Just as soil continues to get better and better with attention, so will your marketing. At the same time, continue to grow and nourish your audience.
Edit and Weed. Gently remove the weeds. The better prepared the soil, the fewer weeds that will appear. But when they do appear, the sooner you get rid of them, the better. If something is not a good fit (a client, a product, a line of business), deal with it as soon as possible. Sometimes it’s best to refer a customer to a colleague who can better serve them, or call in some help with specialty work. On rare occasions, the only response is to sever the relationship before it poisons the whole garden.
Harvest, and save some seeds to replant. Enjoy the fruits of your labors, as you continue to sow the seeds for the future. As you serve your customers, make sure to do it in the way that lays the groundwork for future business and referrals.
A Gardener’s Work is Never Done. There’s something to do in every season. Marketers, too, need to remain diligent and active to continue to nurture the business.