Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax

Lincoln on Marketing.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. 

– Abraham Lincoln

I don’t think President Lincoln meant that at the end of sharpening your ax for four straight hours, start whacking at your tree for two.

If you budget 6 hours for marketing, 4 hours will be necessary for data management and maintenance, research, preparation, and organization, and 2 hours for deployment of your outreach, whatever that may be.’  Sharpen, Sharpen, Whack!’  Sharpen, Sharpen, Whack!’  Sharpen, Sharpen, Whack!

This means doing the little things constantly at a rate of 3:1 to the big things.  When the time comes for the big sexy stuff, the effort will be more developed, more thought out, based on a larger body of work and experience over time, and your output will have greater support at the ready.  Further, since you won’t be starting from a dead stop, you’ll take advantage of some perpetual motion and save some money and energy by having some assets at your disposal.

Anyway, I like Abe’s rate of 3 to 1 . . .

If your marketeering starts with an idea that you need a really nice brochure, or the zippy website, or a beautiful exhibit display, you’re chopping with a dull ax.  It doesn’t even mean that it starts with you need a list of good addresses to send the brochure to, but you’re getting closer.

It means that before either of those fundamental marketing elements takes place, something even more fundamental is required.  If you wish to be successful with your marketing, it is critical.  This something critical is the belief that the perpetual effort of marketing your company and its goods or services is at the root of your firm’s survival, and that the constant vigilance for good contacts, ideas, opportunities, information, and support is the foundation of the marketing effort.  Always be marketing. (Sharpen, Sharpen, Whack!)  vs. OK, time to do some marketing.  Thud.

Sharpen…  This means taking a look at your marketing budget and planning on a cycle, instead of an effort to effort basis, on where you spend those marketing dollars.  Sharpen: Advertising or Conferences?  Conferences!  Whack!

This means not just following up the leads from that seminar and conference once you get back with a nice merge letter and the fancy company brochure.  Whack!  Been working on that merge letter since before the seminar so it’s well written and ready to go? Sharpen. Is the brochure an asset built on refinements of prior versions and improvements?  Sharpen.  Did you think about and note a more direct way to convey your message for the copy in the next version of the brochure?  Sharpen. 

This means not just following up the leads from that seminar and conference with a phone call 3 months down the line just to check in.  Whack!  Got a good contact management software you like and use it?  Sharpen.  Did you enter notes in the contact’s record during the call?  Sharpen. 

This also means the review of the database containing all the above contacts you’ve diligently collected over the past 5 years and keeping that asset in tune for constant use.  Sharpen.

This means sending out a merge letter first class to your contacts on a 12-month basis.  Yes, it will help you stay in touch and hopefully remind them that you are out there, (Whack!)  but also, if the Post Office returns your letter, it indicates a contact lost, moved up, or moved on.  Sharpen.  If you really want to put a nice edge on that ax, follow up those returned contacts, investigate and update your records.  Sharpen.

This means always keeping in mind what can be done to improve your efforts.  Got a great job out there?  Representative work?  Interesting work?  Possibly a good site for getting some good Photographs? Moving lots of equipment?  Maybe the scenery’s good?  Get out there with your camera or get a professional to the site!  Sharpen.  Then you’ll be ready when its time to update that website, brochure or exhibit display, and really make a difference.  Whack!

Marketing is a creative process and sometimes the muses aren’t ready when you are.  Keep a notebook dedicated to marketing your company.  Or e-mail yourself marketing inspiration and collect in a folder.  When inspiration strikes or the competition gets you thinking, you’ll have a central location to air your insights!  When its time to swing the ax, you’ll have a nice sharp ax, and make a nice deep cut.

Sometimes the strike will be off the mark.  That’s a drag and it ticks you off because that’s energy that could have been used towards your objective.  Unavoidable.  Even the best miss sometimes, but what can the miss teach you?  What did you learn?  How do you apply the experience to the next swing to cut deeper and wider?  Even a miss can be beneficial to the overall goal.

Just as you can’t bring down a tree with one massive swing, nor can you depend on a marketing program to show any results with a chop here, and a chop there.  Sharpen, swing, sharpen.  How the cuts work together, in succession of the cuts before and what is to follow, is what will make the difference in the aggregate effort.

A lot of marketing efforts fail to live up to their expectations and therefore marketing fails because of the stress on the sexy expensive ad, the one-and-out direct mail campaign, or the tons of money spent on sending everyone to the big conference.  Unfortunately, and unwittingly, these efforts were not failures, just overstressed parts of a marketing program with priorities out of whack.

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