Work the Marketing Plan — Maintain the Garden

As with anything in life, creating a plan to achieve your goals will get you there a lot faster than just hoping you’ll end up with what you want. Consider gardening: it’s a process that requires knowledge of your specific region and climate, interim goals for specific weeks and months, and a lot of patience in order to be able to enjoy the full results. As in gardening, where you quite literally reap what you sow, marketing requires regular attention to produce hoped-for results, and timing is critical from start to finish. It’s a process that requires knowledge of your unique market as well as a strategy that will accomplish your goals. 

A well-conceived marketing strategy is a key building block to the success of any company. The most successful marketing strategies are both carefully designed and thoughtfully implemented. Most importantly, they’re differentiated by a company’s short term and long term goals.  

The Planning Process

Successful gardening begins before the soil is prepped and the seeds are planted. All sorts of seemingly small and tedious planning decisions play an important role in obtaining the desired outcome. Similarly, a successful marketing strategy will include a lot of careful planning, and as with gardening, timing is a key factor to consider. Different marketing methods should be used to accomplish both short-term and long-term goals, as a solid marketing strategy is likely to include both. 

A well-planned marketing strategy contains a variety of living, growing elements. It’s designed to fit the different needs and goals of your business, which will change over time. Integrating a short-run strategy and a long-run strategy is critical, and while they should work together hand-in-hand, they are very different and will each yield different results. A successful short-term strategy can strengthen the planning and execution of a long-term strategy, and a successful long-term strategy can help effectively meet short-term goals. 

The planning process takes time and research to put together, and must be followed by ongoing maintenance. As with gardening, paying regular attention to and being aware of possible sudden changes in your environment will cue you in to how your techniques are helping or hurting your overall strategy. It’s best to always stay current on best practices, proper techniques, and new marketing channels. When executed correctly, your planning, execution, and maintenance will pay off and your business will grow. 

The Short-Term Plan 

In the months leading up to harvest, gardeners frequently tend to the health of their garden, allocating time to pull weeds and fight off various pests and diseases. Though they may be small, these tasks are critical for a successful harvest. Consistently tending to the health of your brand and marketing strategy can be seen as “quick wins” in your short-term marketing plan, as these are tasks that keep your business growing at a steady pace. 

Other short-term goals may be to launch a particular product, run a lead generation campaign, or create a content calendar for social media and blog posts. When outlining your individual short-term goals, it’s important to keep them limited and focused on only one or two elements apiece.

Your short term goals will usually remain right on the horizon; in other words, you’ll accomplish these tasks in your daily, weekly, or monthly efforts. As you list them, pay attention to how you can connect them to your longer-term strategies so that they can also become building blocks of other parts of your marketing plan. 

Marketing tactics most suitable to achieving short-term goals include the following:

  • Trade Shows are an excellent way to quickly promote or introduce your products and services to a specific audience.
  • PPC Advertising/Google Ads offer instant visibility; effective PPC campaigns can quickly drive significant traffic to your website.
  • Newsletters are an effective way to share new content about your brand and get your customers up to date with what your company offers.
  • Events offer an unparalleled way to deeply engage and educate customers or prospects on your services, while building relationships and gaining their trust. 
  • Social Media allows you to monitor and manage your company’s online reputation in real time.

The Long-Term Plan 

Gardeners often keep track of the progress they hope to see in their gardens throughout the growing season, based on the expectations of the specific types of flora planted. Similarly, a marketing calendar should track your long-term strategies and their results, based on big-picture goals that you’ll aim to achieve in 6+ months. These may include growing your mailing list to a certain size, developing and executing a sustainable content strategy to increase awareness, or developing strategic alliances with referral partners.

Short-term strategies are often more urgent or time-sensitive, so listing these first can help develop and guide a cohesive long-term strategy. But without a well thought-out long term strategy, your short-term success will likely be short lived, as it will be opportunistic and piecemeal rather than strategic. 

Relationship marketing should be an important aspect of your long-term plan. You’ll need to start with appropriate branding, messaging, and positioning, so short-term steps might include researching and understanding your customers’ needs, and then adjusting your messaging to focus on how you address those pain points. As part of your long-term plan, maintaining those customer relationships and building a loyal fan base will keep you focused on customer engagement and retention. 

Marketing tactics most suitable to achieving long-term goals include the following:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can take months in order to get your company listed on the first page when someone Googles your products or services, but is crucial for success if you expect new customers to find you online, and is a great source of ongoing leads.
  • Content Marketing is a long-term play to position your company as a thought leader. Publishing and promoting a stream of fresh, relevant content in the form of newsletters, weekly tips, or blog posts will result in quality traffic to your website if you post on a regular basis.
  • Advertising efforts build brand awareness over the long run, either online or offline. Repetitive advertising is critical; most people need to see an ad multiple times before it catches their attention, so this strategy takes time to succeed.
  • Social Media can be used as a long-term strategy to promote thought leadership, support lead generation activities, become a key contributor to relevant online communities, or even create such a community on your own.
  • Branding and Messaging must be kept relevant in order to keep customers engaged. Your brand identity and reputation must not only be managed, but continually assessed and tweaked over the long term in response to trends or industry, environmental, and technology changes.

Time to Harvest

Marketing must be strategic in order to be successful. When developing marketing strategies, marketers sometimes lump all of their ideas into a single plan and find themselves with a disorganized, hard to maintain, and overly complicated strategy that is nearly impossible to execute all at once. Breaking the strategy into plans for the short run vs. the long term and mapping them all out on a marketing calendar is a good way to prioritize, look for economies of scale between different marketing efforts, and ensure resources and bandwidth for both types of activities.

Just like gardening, marketing initiatives require patience and tending on a consistent basis before the results can be reaped. With an intelligently planned, strategically designed, and carefully maintained marketing strategy, your yield will be abundant and fruitful. 

Stephanie Elliott, Marketing Intern