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This week Ralph and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. We’re not much of the photo album/wedding video types so we don’t curl up on the couch and relive the expensive dinner neither of us remembers eating (we were too busy taking photos to do so).
Neither do we reminisce about our first dance (someone lost the CD with “our song” and we ended up dancing to generic-love-song-#498).
But what we do enjoy is engaging in a little bit of “where are we now”, a “lessons learned” sort of thing, a “can you believe we DID that?” walk down memory lane.
Why am I telling you this? Because lessons are lessons and whether you learn them through wedding planning or some other way, chances are you can apply them to other areas of your life.
So I started thinking of all the ways that I could apply what I learned from planning a wedding (the hard way) to marketing, and maybe help you do yours (marketing, that is) the easy way.
Communication Is Good.
In the “can you believe we did that” category goes every conversation we ever had while making arrangements for the big day. We went through a phase where we committed to everything/bought everything/signed up for everything just because one of us thought the other wanted it. It usually happened like this:
Generic salesperson: This is the best wedding thingy on the market. You’re going to love the way it makes your wedding day stand out from all those other boring wedding days.
Ralph: [nods head noncommittally]
Me: We’ll take it! [followed by check-writing]
No sooner did the salesperson close the door behind us than the conversation went a little more like this:
Ralph: You really liked the wedding thingy!
Me: I thought YOU liked the wedding thingy.
Ralph: I didn’t say a word.
Me: But you nodded. It looked like you wanted the wedding thingy.
Ralph: Did YOU want the wedding thingy?
Me: I only wanted the wedding thingy because I thought YOU wanted the wedding thingy.
And so on.At any rate, the lesson learned is that communication is good. Sometimes a head nod is just a head nod. And when it comes to marketing, you’d better be sure you’re on the same page as your developers, consultants and the rest of your team.
Do you walk into meetings and nod everyone into a false sense of confidence that they’re giving you what you want, or are you just dozing, or simply processing the lingo? Does your developer tell you, “Sure we can do that” and then hit you with a huge bill for something that seemed, at least conversationally, to be so simple?
It’s important to communicate your needs and desires to your marketing team. It’s equally important to understand what they’re telling you. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions, stopping a meeting to go back to some finer point or red-inking proposals to be sure you understand what you’re getting.
Don’t be afraid to use words like, “Let me clarify…” and “I’d like to repeat what I think you just said”. Don’t feel compelled to make a snap decision or base your commitments on what you think someone else said/wants/thinks. It’s your marketing and your money, so only write checks when you’re sure you’re getting what you want.
Peer Pressure Is Bad.
We started wedding planning like dreamy kids. We picked out cute invitations and wrote clever vows. We envisioned the location, chose a date and had our hearts set on a band. It all sounded… well, dreamy… until EVERYONE ELSE got in on the act.
It seemed that EVERYONE ELSE had a lot to say about more appropriate invitations, more traditional vows, a more convenient place and time. EVERYONE ELSE had opinions on everything from the colors of the bridesmaids’ gowns to the people who should be wearing them. In the end, EVERYONE ELSE had more to say about the execution of our wedding day than we did.
This one falls into the “where are we now” category, which is a little more confident in our decisions and a little more likely to stand up for them.
Take this lesson to heart. When it comes to marketing, everyone will have an opinion on how to best promote a business and some of those opinions won’t match yours.
You may have big plans for your Facebook fan page, but your colleague just told you how pointless his is, so now you’re second-guessing yourself. One consultant insists that email marketing is where it’s at and another tries to convince you that if you’d fork over a few hundred bucks a month for SEO you really don’t need email marketing at all.
Much like wedding planning, people will throw their two cents in about your marketing and insist on how it should be done.
There isn’t necessarily a right and wrong (only what works and what doesn’t) but there will always be opinions. So as you plan your marketing strategy, listen respectfully to what everyone has to say, weigh the pros and cons, consider the consequences and outcomes, then make a decision that you’re comfortable with.
Don’t be afraid to tell your business partners, consultants and developers what you want, and unless there’s a compelling reason otherwise, make your decision count.
Only Invite The Important People To The Party.
We started out with a small-ish guest list of personal family and friends. But then someone told us that if we planned on inviting Aunt So-and-So, we had to invite cousin Other-Guy, or the family would be insulted. Someone else told us that Mr. Random-Person invited our parents to his daughter’s wedding, so it was only fair that we invite him to ours.
Before we knew it, our personal list had turned into a 200 person extravaganza. It was a unique social experience as we introduced ourselves to some of the guests and then stood beside them for the photo op.
This is not unlike a lot of marketing meetings. We’ve walked into many a conference room and squeezed in at a huge oval table surrounded by the Art Director, the Project Coordinator, the President, the VP of Sales, the IT Manager, the Regional Manager, the Account Manager, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker…
These meetings have one thing in common: chaos. Not chaos in the yelling, screaming sense of the word. Not hostile or sometimes even noticeable chaos. But chaos nonetheless. That’s because – see above – everyone has an opinion. Everyone has an idea of how the website should look, what the email should say, how often the catalogs should be mailed.
Sometimes there are many conflicting, but valid opinions. And ultimately you know how impossible it is to please everyone. That’s why it’s important to keep your marketing guest list to only those people who not only have a vested interest in your business, but who are familiar with its inner workings.
So go ahead an invite the Art Director, but let your Regional Manager stick to managing. The more people involved, the less likely anyone is to make a decision or to be happy with the result.
The Cake Is The Best Part.
Fourteen years later, I’m left with some pretty hazy memories of my wedding day. There were the faces, the photos, the dances, the introductions, the giant white dress following me everywhere and needing a wheelbarrow to propel between tables.
But the cake, that I remember. For starters, it was beautiful, so just watching it being rolled out onto the floor was an experience. And Ralph and I didn’t waste time shoving it into each other’s faces, we just opened up and took a bite. It really didn’t matter whether we missed an introduction to Great Aunt Whoever or that someone lost our CD. All the planning, stress, running around and smiling-on-command was forgotten. We sat down and ate that cake.
The lesson here is quite simple: marketing isn’t always fun or easy or immediate. Sometimes you deal with annoying prospects, deadbeat customers, setbacks and disappointments. There’s a whole lot of planning followed by some highs and lows. But you should always look forward to the cake at the end.
That may come in the form of an increase in sales, a higher volume of traffic to your website, a positive response to your email campaign or a thousand Facebook fans who shower praise upon your services. Whatever the result you want, that’s your cake.
You should know what your goal is (surely you’re not sending emails for the sake of using bandwidth) and measure your steps along the way so you recognize the result when it’s rolled out in front of you.
It’s A Commitment.
The wedding was fun. The honeymoon in Jamaica was more fun. The next 14 years? Fun and not fun. As in everything, there are highs and lows, and Ralph and I have had our share of fights over dirty socks (seriously) and Crazy Cousin Carl who’s kid once threw an entire plate of spaghetti at my kitchen wall (no, it was NOT funny!) But we knew that the wedding didn’t end with the cake and that there was a commitment involved.
We knew we couldn’t give up when things got messy or irritating. We knew we couldn’t get bored and walk away. We also knew that there would be more cake involved later, and to this day, that keeps us going (although lately we seem to have graduated to cinnamon buns).
I’m sure you can see the parallel. Marketing doesn’t end when you’ve reached some magical number of customers, fans, leads or responses. If you want your business to grow and thrive, marketing is an ongoing effort and a serious commitment. You can’t decide you’re tired of it, bored with it, too busy to deal with it. If you do, your business will suffer.
Like a good marriage it requires adapting to different situations because things will change. Products go out of style. Services become obsolete. You may rethink or reinvent yours. Even if you don’t, customers’ needs and expectations change. Gone are the days of strictly push-marketing, when a few minutes of a TV ad could sell just about anything.
Now customers want personal interaction and near real-time responses. Market saturation is up, attention span is down. It’s your job – and that of the team you choose to take the journey with you – to adapt as necessary and keep your business strong through whatever highs and lows arise.
You never know what the future holds, but if you go into it with conviction and commitment, your business will be around a whole lot longer, you’ll enjoy it a whole lot more and you’ll end up a whole lot more successful than the guy who didn’t.
That’s it folks, a walk down memory aisle and a little bit of marketing advice to boot. We’re suckers for sharing the misery, so if you’re so inclined, we challenge you to share a wedding memory with us and find a way to relate it back to marketing your business!