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Thoughts and Insights from 2B

Marketing is like Growing Grass

I really believe that marketing (online, offline it’s all marketing) is like growing grass. It could be likened to any type of gardening, but as I have been working on my lawn I am talking about grass. If you don’t agree, then maybe you think marketing is like football.

I recently had some waterproofing done on my basement, and had water lines run all around the foundation, bringing the water from the ground and gutters from the house to the storm drains in the street. This meant that they had to dig a large trench right through the middle of the front yard. Needless to say (yet say it I will), I have had a large mound of dirt running from the house to the street, about 30 yards.

Now that the dirt had settled it was time to plant some grass. Looking back I realized that this was very much like marketing. Not like what is called ‘marketing’ on most of those other blogs, but real, proper, customer oriented marketing.

The Reason for Marketing

First, I had a reason to plant the grass. There was a bare spot that had been torn up and needed to grow again. I wasn’t just planting grass where grass was already growing healthy, but throwing seed where there was nothing.

In the same way we need a reason for a marketing plan. If we have something to sell, we should have a reason to sell it, just as consumers should have a reason to buy it. What need does it fill? What role should it play in someones life? What reason does our product have to exist? If these questions are answered, the reason for marketing becomes much clearer.

The Targets for Marketing

Before I started to plant or do anything, I needed to know what kind of grass seed I needed or wanted to grow. Should I get grass that grows well in sun? In shade? A mix of sun and shade? What about drought tolerant, or cold weather tolerant? I needed to identify what grass I wanted based on the climate, trees and soil.

It’s easy to create an Adwords campaign and start pushing yourself in front of people. But are they the right people? The problem with Adwords (really any kind of advertising) is that it reduces actual people down to numbers. It becomes extremely easy to think about numbers and segments rather than people and their wants and needs.

The people, real people, must be identified, along with how your product/idea can help or improve their life. Start small.

What specific need can be addressed, and what is the most likely person to need this? Answer this before starting any marketing campaigns.

The Conditions for Marketing

Before I even threw down a single seed of grass (now that I knew which type of grass I needed), I had to create the ideal conditions for it to grow. This meant I needed to get top soil, and some bales of straw. In some cases fertilizer may be needed as well. I had to give the seed a place in which to germinate, root and grow strong and healthy. But those conditions also needed to reflect the environment and seed type I had chosen.

We are inundated with messages every day that want us to “BUY NOW” or “HURRY BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE” but are the first time we have ever heard of the product or company. For the most part, sales come from relationships. Whether it’s with a person or with a company such as Amazon, there is a relationship and trust. When I am talking to someone about something I’d like to buy, and then see an ad to BUY NOW for that item on Facebook the next day, I have no idea who the company is, or even how they knew I wanted that item.

Many people would talk about brand marketing, and they would be correct. Brand trust is a condition for any customer relationship. But it goes beyond brand, and into understanding the needs and wants of your customers. Do they really want or need a TriceraTaco (a taco holder shaped like a Triceratops)? Maybe. But maybe not.

The Action of Marketing

Finally. Now it’s actually time to plant my grass. Well, at least spread the seed. Easy enough, but I need to make sure that it’s spread thick enough for a good growth, but not too thick that the seeds choke each other. Then I need to rake the seed into the topsoil, cover it with straw, and water it.

Just as I was careful how I threw the seed down, marketing campaigns need to be careful in how they approach the customers. Push too hard at the beginning and risk the relationship. Don’t push hard enough and the customer may never hear the call to action. Put the correct ads into the right places. Will an ad on Facebook work the same as an ad on a newspaper article? How many times should someone see the same ad?

The same message going to all places is a tone deaf message that reaches nobody.

Thought needs to be put into the actual placing of ads, fliers, blog posts, articles, press releases, etc. Each channel needs it’s own customized message that is tailored to the expectations and behaviors of the people on those channels.

The Real Work of Marketing

I watered the grass after I spread it. I’m done, right?

I hope you didn’t agree. That seed needs watered every day, then every few days, then every few weeks until it is fully grown. It takes time and work to make the seed turn into grass. It doesn’t just become grass automatically with no additional work.

In fact, this is one of the more crucial steps in the entire process. All the previous steps are for naught if the grass isn’t watered and cultivated. It would be planted, then dry out and die.

Cultivating people is just as crucial as bringing awareness of your product to them. The need to be moved along a funnel or process in order to buy. There is a reason we call them drip campaigns. Regardless of how it’s done, it’s like drops of water from a faucet, or in my case from a sprinkler. Small messages over time that help to increase the desire that is already there in a customer.

Even if they have already bought, the work is not over. Care must be taken to ensure that the new grass stays healthy and doesn’t dry out from too much heat. I grew my grass in 90+ temperatures with proper watering and care. Customers who bought may need to be taught how to use their new product to the fullest, need support if it breaks, or just to know that they made the right decision.

What if they need it again, or something to add to it? Where will they go?

With proper work after the planting, they will grow strong and healthy, and come back to you.

The Pruning of Marketing

Once my grass has grown and is healthy and tall, it’s time to start cutting it.

Just as in marketing, sometimes we need to go through the campaigns running and start cutting. Especially true in online ads, many people (in the words of the immortal Ron Popeil) “Set it and forget it.” But this can cost a lot of money in the long run. Campaign ads need to be evaluated on a regular basis to make sure they are still performing, or that they are even still relevant.

Campaigns sometimes need cut down just as the grass in your yard needs cut regularly.

How is your “grass” doing?