Image Source: footcareexpress.com
“Marketing? Aren’t those the guys you see putting our Company’s ads on TV once a year?”
Many people say that marketing is nothing more than short bursts of big spends once a year without having a long term plan in place. In short, Marketing is nothing more than a 100 meter sprinter. Quickly, spend a lot and boost your sales. Worry about your next move only when sales slump again. If the going is good – maintain status quo and relax.
This approach is not only faulty but also life threatening to any organization. I believe, if every organization is running a marathon to stay alive, then Marketing is their sole representative. As long as a Company stays alive, Marketing needs to keep running. It is not a 100 meter sprint. It is a consistent run till the very end.
If Marketing is on track with continuous, year-long engagement, sales will remain constant. Bursts of big advertising spends will help push sales to greater heights. Of course, no one has the money to sustain this type of spending forever. Once these campaigns end, sales will fall but only to a level which is above pre-campaign levels.
Learning from a Marathon Runner
Preparing and running a marathon needs preparation. A good marketing strategy which allows you keep your customers engaged as well as attract new customers needs proper planning. For example, if you’re aiming for a 42 km full marathon, there is no way you can perform if you invest in a single, one – time speed burst till you run out of energy followed by finishing the rest of the race walking. You will be overtaken and soon be lost among the crowd, even if you’re initially ahead of the pack. You also may not be able to complete due to sheer exhaustion.
What runners normally do before and during a marathon:
1. Training for the race
Sure you can wake up in the morning and run your heart out (literally) on race day. The downside – you may or may not complete and injuries may pop up from the sudden strain. Smart runners start small and slowly build up their speed, strength and stamina for the big run. They train hard. They first determine their existing capabilities; only then can they enhance them. They also understand the course, at what speed they should run, timing, who are running alongside them and what they might require during the race (fluids, special clothing, skin protection, distance trackers, muscle relaxants, etc.)
For Marketers: Before any campaign, Marketers must
- Research the market,
- Identify new trends and opportunities
- Define strategies (both short and long-term) to make the best of those opportunities
- Mobilize the right resources (money, manpower, logistics)
It is imperative to be prepared for any success or setback which may result once the campaign has begun.
For example: If your email campaign regarding a particular communication is doing exceedingly well – do you have similar follow up emails with the same message already in place? Vice-versa, if your initial communication bombs, do you have a back message ready to use? Most important – TEST your campaigns so that you have an idea of what works and doesn’t.
2. Building energy reserves
There’s a saying ‘Pasta tonight and your run will be right!’. Runners indulge in carb loading before a race to have enough fuel once they start running. Their diet shifts towards carbohydrate heavy food just before the race. During the off-season, the diet is more protein based for strength and muscle.
For Marketers: Marketers must invest in building a good database before they begin their campaigns. The more comprehensive the base is, the better. However, just before a campaign this database must be sliced and cleaned up. Only that audience which is relevant to your campaign should be kept for communication.
3. Having a plan for Race Day
On race day, smart runners pace themselves (Except for the Kenyans who can run non-stop from the word go to the finish line without burning out). Bursts of speed are accompanied by periods of steady pace. Fluids are taken in at regular intervals to avoid dehydration. The idea is not just to win but to stay in the race and cross the finish line without burning out.
For Marketers: When the entire year is a Marketing Marathon, marketing must be a mix of both short and long term goals. As an example, your might have some big ticket above the line, advertising bursts during the year (your quick sprints) and also have a regular calendar of email, SMS, blog and Social Media communication. If you’re budgets are stretched post your big ad spends but there’s still a little left, then investing on Direct Mailers, Web Marketing and database building definitely helps.
The point is to keep doing something throughout the race and never burn out, let go or stop. Slowing down is alright only if you have a plan to pick up the pace whenever you need to. After all, you’re the only one running for the Company…