Have you ever grown a garden? If you have, close your eyes for a moment and envision what goes into growing veggies. If you haven’t, we’ll try to condense it to the high points, because the whole process of planting, watering, cultivating, and harvesting has six key lessons to teach business leaders about marketing growth.
What gardening can teach business leaders about marketing growth
Decide what you want to plant, how much you have room for, and how much time you can give to the garden. For instance, you might like sweet corn, but it might not make sense to grow it where you live. And the bigger your garden, the longer it will take each week to care for it.
Likewise, in marketing you plan who you want to reach with what message, then you look at your business’s bandwidth. What do you have the means and the people to accomplish, realistically? Does it make sense to call in some experienced help?
Plant seeds. Lots of them. Because you know not every seed will grow. Once you have some sprouts, you may have to thin them out and transplant them to bigger spaces where they can mature.
In marketing, you plant seeds, too. Lots of them. It’s called networking, prospecting, pipeline development, even cold calls. It’s wise to sow these seeds in soil that you know to be somewhat receptive at least. Some contacts produce leads, and some of these are more promising than others. You segment your list accordingly. The robust ones get a different kind of attention than the ones who aren’t quite so warm.
“Any marketing actions you are taking that don’t bear fruit are weeds. They are sucking up your resources, and they might even be obscuring the message you really want your customers to clearly receive. Evaluate what belongs and eliminate the rest.”
The garden needs water. Regular rain showers are ideal, but in Colorado we can’t rely on that, so the gardener must set up a system to irrigate. Drip is best, because the water doesn’t evaporate as quickly as it does from overhead sprinklers. Not enough water means the plants dry up. But too much water means they will rot. A wise gardener aims for just the right amount, watching for signs from the plants of either kind of distress.
In marketing, your customer relationships need watering, too, and you can’t rely on sporadic contacts to do the trick. Drip marketing campaigns systematize regular touches to keep your brand top-of-mind. Careful planning and tracking of responses ensure that your efforts are the right amount, enough to keep them interested, but not so much that they feel suffocated.
Growing plants need nutrients. Organic fertilizer is best. The gardener must be smart about it, using the appropriate supplement for the type of plant and the soil it’s growing in, and applying the right amount at the right time. Otherwise, tender plants can be literally burned by over-fertilizing.
In marketing, customers want and need content that is natural for them. When they sense it’s artificial, and they will, our relationship with them will tend toward toxic. They’ll feel manipulated. We have to respect who they are and prioritize their needs, or they will be burned.
Weeds are defined as any plants growing in a cultivated place where we don’t want them. Weeds suck up water and nutrients and the gardener’s time. They also crowd the desired plants so they don’t get the light they need to thrive. To protect the good stuff, yank up true weeds by the roots or transplant others like volunteer tomatoes to places of their own.
Any marketing actions you are taking that don’t bear fruit are weeds. They are sucking up your resources, and they might even be obscuring the message you really want your customers to clearly receive. Evaluate what belongs in your marketing growth plan and make the hard choices to eliminate the rest, or tuck them away for future use, clearing current space for the good stuff.
Mix it up
Gardens thrive best when more than one kind of vegetable has a home in it. This is called a polyculture by sustainable agriculture experts, and they often tout its advantages over a monoculture. Polyculture is more sustainable and gives higher yields for the long haul. Some plants protect others from pests and others put nutrients back into the soil that are needed by their neighbors. On the other hand, growing all one crop eventually depletes the soil, harbors disease, and if that crop fails, you have nothing.
Smart marketers know that using just one marketing tactic won’t do the job. You need a robust, diverse mix of ways to effectively get your message to your target market. Your emails let them know about your new podcast, which they can also reach from your LinkedIn profile, and your blog highlights podcast topics, with a link to your website where they can sign up for your services or order your product.
Don’t forget to nurture people — they’re also part of your garden!
John Brandon, in an article for Inc., takes the analogy to the next level, likening a master gardener to a business leader who thinks beyond marketing growth to the health of the entire enterprise. It’s all about nurturing growth in people.
- Set the conditions for growth. You set the culture. Make it safe for others to stretch and learn. Let your team know you value growth by being teachable yourself.
- Plant seeds of ideas. Asking questions is a good way to get people to think in new ways. Then listen to the answers people give you and give them a way to take on life.
- Remove barriers. Pay a living wage so your employees can focus on their work. Resolve conflicts and create procedures to lessen internal issues.
- Look for and celebrate growth. Praise consistently, says Brandon. “Forget the sandwich principle (e.g., every negative remark should be “sandwiched” with one slice of praise on top and another on the bottom). Just praise. People have enough negative markers in their life for what they are doing wrong. Be the person who tells them what they are doing right and maybe, just maybe, they will grow into something amazing.”
Looking for sustainable marketing growth?
Harvest doesn’t happen overnight, and neither does business success. It takes time, and sometimes it takes trial and error to decide which marketing tactics to tend to, or just the right amount and type of content to nourish your customer relationships.
Think of us like a master gardener, here for the long haul, with training and experience you can tap into when you want to move your marketing to the next level. Contact Lumen Marketing at 720-722-2987 or click the blue button below to request a meeting with our team.
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