A miss on marketing tactics doesn’t always mean woe

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I’m doing a happy dance today because we finally saw some rain. It’s not enough to have penetrated the hard, crusted, dry surface in the garden, but it should help perk up the pastures and give at least the corn an opportunity to do some slurping.

Just hearing the sound of rain falling during the night had me waking up repeatedly in a state of glee. It seemed a shame to miss any of it. There’s no telling when moisture will fall again.

While it sure looks like it as you walk across the cracked, dusty ground, this isn’t a desert climate. It’s Upstate New York. Even the weeds are wilting and dying. Bugs seem to be the only thing enjoying this odd weather – and all that’s thriving.

Don’t assume good strategic marketing principles are fool-proof

Sometimes, it just happens. Even with good marketing concepts in play, a super plan to spread the word, tons of homework and proper preparation to ensure what you’re offering has a ready and reachable market, occasionally buyers just don’t show up. Even worse, unforeseen circumstances make it impossible for you to deliver as promised.

The good news is, this can provide a wonderful learning experience for the next time, provided you can muster the perseverance to give it another go with lessons gleaned. You can also bolster good will with clients by being honest early about anticipated challenges in delivering what you promised.

Strategic marketing isn’t an exact science (no matter how many claim it is). It’s more like horse racing. Sometimes the longshot comes in, the favorite breaks down, the outcome can be fixed or you may be excited about a morning glory sporting impressive workout times that doesn’t show up when the pressure is on. If only we could guarantee a right mix of bloodlines, nutrition and training regimen – or proven principles for strategic marketing success – to ensure a winner, everyone in the know would be wealthy. Life doesn’t quite work that way.

Good marketing concepts require flexibility – and diversification

I’m not quite ready to give up on the organic vegetable garden this year, but it’s been a frustrating season.  Unseasonable early heat caused most of the spring crops to bolt before they could be harvested. Hard frosts after 90 degree temperatures in March (unheard of in this area) killed off all the cherry and apple blossoms. An almost total lack of rain (a singular event since March during the first week of May) has stressed plants and made thorough watering with soaker hoses impossible. Then the well line went kaput and more than half the healthy plants were lost as they became stressed and the bugs moved in.

The good news is the herbs are hearty, prolific and resilient to the bugs (this is a valuable crop). We’ve discovered some unusual and tasty lettuce varieties that can tolerate the weird weather with quick plant to harvest timelines. Root vegetables are doing OK. We’re ahead of schedule with some of the hot loving plants that didn’t get devoured by the bugs. Black paper has proven to be a deterrent for the bugs, a growth accelerant for heat seeking plants, a moisture holder and a great barrier for weeds.

I’ve also discovered a slew of other possible solutions for the bug challenge after feeling compelled to ask for help. Egg shells (never would have thought of this one) are effective and a new tool I’ll apply in the future. The organic sprays suggested – not so much. The whole challenge here, though, has spurred my creativity and also provided a wonderful learning opportunity to play with possible solutions that I’ll be able to implement much earlier in the future to prevent the losses faced this year.

How does this relate to strategic marketing? Sometimes plans go awry. If you can stand back and learn from the mistakes, adjust, capitalize on what’s working and build new strategies for better future success, you can create a stronger business for the long term.

With the garden, we developed the right mix of variety and volume, marketing concepts missing from other vendors including home or business delivery, realized organic was huge but day-of picking even bigger and built up enough outreach and referral  buzz to create demand beyond capacity. It took the better part of a decade to create the perfect strategic marketing mix through trial and error. The weather, of course, is something we couldn’t control.

Fortunately, we’ve built up a base of loyal, understanding clients. We’ve discounted the price on weekly deliveries, added surprise bonuses at no cost and encouraged appeal for what we have in decent quantities. We’re trying to help clients use the food items provided by finding and supplying easy recipes. We’ve had to tap into supplies available from others (with full disclosure). Those we’ve had to turn away are offered contact information for others who may be able to give them what they want.

Admittedly, I feel a pang of jealousy when I visit farms with produce thriving. But, I’m grateful to have the product to keep clients happy and learn from what they’re doing right.

Honesty is a marketing concept few seem to highlight

Small businesses have the advantage of being able to move quickly when things aren’t working. The direct-connect with owner to clients also builds a deeper relationship, and associated understanding when things go wrong if you’re honest early. There’s also the plus of getting direct feedback with ideas on how you can do it better. If your strategic marketing plans allow for flexibility to learn, amend and grow when all doesn’t go as planned, you’re off to a good start. Sometimes you can’t control the weather – or the fickle nature of buyers. Listen, learn and love what you do to create a business that can survive the storms.

14 Responses to A miss on marketing tactics doesn’t always mean woe
  1. Jessica Crooks
    July 16, 2012 | 3:14 am

    Great information. I never got started on my vegetable garden this year…no one to prepare the soil for me. I have bug issues that killed off my tomatoes, sweet pepper and cucumbers the last time around. I’m not giving up either.

    Marketing can be a hit and miss, but I like your take that learning from the misses is important.

    • Nanette Levin
      July 16, 2012 | 12:30 pm

      Basil is a good companion plant for tomatoes to keep the bugs away, Jessica. I use a potato fork to work the soil once the season starts. Great work out and it helps get rid of most of the weeds to help later in the season. It is frustrating when those bugs move in, though, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing.

  2. Loralee Hutton
    July 16, 2012 | 4:16 am

    Love the analogy of gardening and marketing. And really great tips on how to “go with the flow” while staying highly aware of your client needs.
    Thanks. ~ Loralee

    • Nanette Levin
      July 16, 2012 | 12:31 pm

      Wonderful to have you reading and commenting Loralee. Thanks for your kind words.

  3. Lynn Baillie
    July 16, 2012 | 7:35 am

    I totally agree with your points about using our experiences, both good and bad, to learn from and improve. If we don’t step back periodically we’ll not be best placed to make decisions about the future direction of our business whether that is product offerings or services that could reach more people.

    Its also good to use analogies as you’ve done as it helps us remember points so thanks for sharing this in your blog post, much appreciated.

    Lynn

    • Nanette Levin
      July 16, 2012 | 12:33 pm

      Lynn, I know from experience, sometimes it can be hard to step back and learn from challenges. The good news is, if we’re thoughtful, we rarely make the same mistakes in business twice. Still doesn’t make the hard learning much fun, but it does present some good stories for the future, doesn’t it?

  4. Jan
    July 16, 2012 | 10:51 am

    Hi Nannette, you’re sitting in a drought and over here we’ve had the wettest quarter recorded in a century – and July isn’t looking any drier either.

    Some things we cannot control. Sometimes things do go wrong.
    What surprises me is that despite the ability to move and change things quickly, many small businesses don’t – and it’s a shame because inflexibility can mean closure, none of us want that.

    It looks like you have got to grips with what’s been thrown at you and are turning it around to work for you – great move with the recipies – simple but ingenious at the same time!

    • Nanette Levin
      July 16, 2012 | 12:35 pm

      Jan – can you get your friends together and start blowing hard to the west? I’ll put my mind on moving this heat and sun your way :-). Right – there are a lot of businesses (and people) who get paralyzed when challenged. Often that’s the best time to reinvent and discover a successful approach.

  5. Laura
    July 16, 2012 | 5:12 pm

    I like where you say:

    “If you can stand back and learn from the mistakes, adjust, capitalize on what’s working and build new strategies for better future success, you can create a stronger business for the long term.”

    Your marketing will be certain to grow and prosper if you supply the correct information and be stable when things may go awry in the future.

    AND PLEASE send some R A I N our way … we are also experienceing drought conditions!

    ~Laura

    • Nanette Levin
      July 16, 2012 | 6:13 pm

      Switching my happy dance back to a rain dance – will try to send some your way too, Laura :-).

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