When I was younger, I spent many of my weekends during the summer sailing with my Dad. He had a Lighting ( for those of you unfamiliar a Lighting is a 19ft, 3 man sailboat http://bit.ly/xlcbwn ). We didn’t just go out for a leisurely sail, we raced in a circuit with the goal of sailing in the North American Championship.
The weekend long races are called regattas. The first race began early on a Saturday morning and the last race ended Sunday afternoon. My Dad loved to sail and loved the competition. On Friday night the boats would come rolling up to the yacht club that was hosting the regatta and the gear would get unpacked. This was my Dad’s favorite time because he could scope out the competition, their boats, the sails and crew. He wanted to make sure that he understood what he was up against the next morning. Like many other sports, we competed against the same boats and skippers regatta after regatta, so my Dad made sure to talk with the other skippers to understand their philosophy about the race.
The morning before the first race, he would get out on the water long before the other boats to read the wind and the lake that we were competing on. He check out the starting line and make sure he knew were our boat needed to be to position ourselves for the best possible start. He knew from past experience where the other skippers might position their boats and he wanted to find his niche. At the starting gun there were at least 15 boats vying for the best spot on the line. The gun would go off and we were racing!
For those of you who are sailors or have sailed before, you know that during the time you are on the water, the wind shifts and if you are racing, you have to be able to react to that change. You have to alter your course. So we would take a tact and then have to alter course dependent on the wind throughout the race. Sometimes we would make the right decision, when the other boats did not and we would be flying. Other times, we miss read the wind and the pack would pass us by. The best skippers looked past the immediate wind pattern to where the wind might be and steadily progressed throughout the race. There were skippers who just made the moves with the current winds and were confounded when that puff would run out and the rest of us would go sailing by.
Every weekend was a challenge to do well enough to make it to the end goal of the North American Championships. The skippers and boats that made it in the end were the ones that understood their boat, knew their competition and made the most steady, consistent choices during each regatta. They looked at each race and measured what they did right and what they did wrong and learned from it. The boats that went out without a plan went home disappointed. They might win a race or two, but most never won the regatta or made it to the championship.
Now you may ask, what’s all of this have to do with marketing, Laura? Marketing a business is exactly like sailboat racing! Before you begin a marketing activity (tactic), you have to have a strategy for your whole business. You need to understand what is unique about your business (your boat). You have to understand who you are competing against and how they market their business. You have to understand your ideal client (in sailing the wind). You have to position yourself to be first! Then you can choose your tactic or marketing activity ( the tact during the race) and continuously alter it until you are getting your desired results.
Without the strategy and the plan, you throw tons of money at marketing. You may even get some results. But to really make your tactics work, with steady growth, you have to have that plan!
If you need help with your strategy, give us a call. We can help!