Let it Rise: What Bread Baking Reminded Me About Marketing

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/// Blogger’s Note //

I’m heading out for a spontaneous white water rafting adventure Thursday and won’t be updating the blog again until Monday.  Have a blessed Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur for those of you who observe those High Holy days.

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If you’re like me, when I say bread, you think the pre-sliced loaves you buy in bulk at the local supermarket.  However, after visiting some friends in Europe, I learned there is a significant difference between what we would call bread and what bread used to be about.  So I set out to make real bread.

The first loaf I made took 18 hours for the first rise and 2 more hours for the second rise.  That’s all well and good but, dang it, I have work to do! How do I make sure I’m there after 18 hours to break down the dough? So I searched for a quicker recipe, to which I found a “5-Minute Artisan Bread” recipe.  It purported to only need 2 hours rise time and another 30 minutes for the second rise.

They both worked, but the longer 18-hour rise dough was soft and spongy on the inside and crusty on the outside while the 2-hour rise dough was very, very dense like unsweetened pound cake. Not nearly as good!

Marketing can learn something from my adventures into baking. There is this mythical thing called a ‘Marketing Plan’ which is usually at least a year-long campaign directive, but most small businesses ignore it completely.  Knee-jerk advertising with little forethought and consistency can sometimes work, but it can’t compare to a well thought out, prepared marketing plan.

The Recipe for a Great Marketing Plan

1-3 People with the vision of your company’s Why (See Start with Why)
1 Board or big pad of paper to write on
1 Designated ‘Keep us on Task-er’
1 Designated ‘Detail Guy’
Things that inspire or an idea folder (See Idea Folder post)
No distractions
Lots of Time

Instructions:

“Activate the Yeast”
If your company is bigger than just you, send out a memo to any and all in the company saying that in a few weeks your key marketing people will be getting together to prepare next year’s marketing plan and suggestions will be considered and winner ideas will be rewarded and recognized.  All the key players, regardless of how much other suggestions you get, should spend a few hours each by themselves brainstorming ideas for the marketing plan.  Allow the ideas and the thinking process of trying to come up and find ideas to ferment 1-2 weeks.  You might send more encouraging emails or mention repeatedly in meetings that you’re still requesting ideas.

“Kneading the Dough”
Take all your ideas, a big pad of paper, and have a meeting with a few key players.  Why not everyone?  The bigger the group the more nay-saying. We want a free-flow of ideas first.  We cull later.  Everyone got their important input at the beginning.  Seth Godin calls this ‘Thrashing Early’ rather than having a lot of people suddenly want input at the end of a project when you’ve already done a lot of work developing a plan.

Don’t forget to ask for someone to be the one to keep your meeting on-task when discussion goes into employee trouble or the latest football game.  Your time is important!  The goal of the meeting should be to put up all the ideas, mark up your favorites and the ones that could be useful if reworked or if the market goes a certain way and open the floor for a few new ideas that came from the talks so far.

Discuss modes of advertising (social media, mailers, business cards, letter head, faxes, newsletters, emails, billboards, newspaper ads, etc)  What worked this year, what didn’t work and what is available in the budget for the next year.  Say you have a $2,000 budget for advertising and a list of 500 clients.  You’ll probably be leaning heavily in digital marketing and possibly one or two mailers or in-paper ads.

Discuss how often you should contact regular and potential clients.  If you have a regular newsletter, try to plan a few article topics in advance, especially of your product or service has some seasonal offerings. How many times will you pick up the phone just to say hello and see if they need help? How many useful maintenance reminders will you send out?

“The Second Rise”
Now that you’ve hammered out what you want to do and how often, your designated detail person will take all that information and hammer it into a neat and precise Marketing Plan Calendar.  No doubt the resulting brainstorm left a wake that probably missed some important gaps.  It’s your detail guy’s time to shine.  I’ll cover what a good marketing plan looks like in another blog, but without question you’re going to need to have one or two more meetings after the first to finalize and fill in missing pieces to tie the whole thing together.

Have the first draft Plan sent to the entire staff to see if they have any interesting feedback.  You don’t have to implement all the feedback, but like before the staff might see something you missed.  Send out a copy to a few ‘Outsiders’, friends, family, your lawyer and mentors outside your field of business who can give you an outsider’s opinion.   You don’t have to give financial details, you’re looking for input about the impact of your marketing plan.

“Baking the Bread”
You’ve had at least two more meetings about your marketing plan.  You’ve had input from staff, friends, family and outsiders.  You’ve hammered your marketing plan into a lean machine.

It will probably change some.

However, the good news is your marketing and sales guys now have a template that lets everyone be on the same page.  When Marketing is due to put an article in the newsletter about the benefits of preparing monthly P & L statements, Sales knows they can focus on selling this particular service around that time and get double the exposure.  If you added in your marketing plan that two weeks later you’d be emailing a coupon for discounted P&L statement services, that’s three.  Repetition is key in marketing!

I hope you try out this recipe.  It can be a headache and a time-eater to get together, but the results of an organized plan for the year far outweighs the initial cost of energy.  You won’t be caught mid-summer wondering what in the world to do to generate sales because you forgot to do something in the spring.  A marketing plan can help streamline sales and keep a regular flow of business in your door.

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