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4 Critical Marketing Lessons I Learned While Raising Chickens

It’s not uncommon for my personal experiences to draw strong correlations to life as a marketer. Sometimes it’s obvious things, like how a well-timed email prompts me to purchase a service that I never imagined that I needed. Other times, the connection is much less noticeable but gleans insight that is unexpected yet extremely valuable.

Take for instance my recent endeavor in raising chickens. When I purchased property in rural Tennessee, I knew nothing about chickens, but I knew I wanted them on the farm. I make no claims to be an expert in the chicken business, but the past year has indeed taught me a few things that have improved my homesteading skills and made me a better marketer.

Now, raising chickens is not for the faint of heart. I found out first hand that chickens have a long list of predators. Coyotes, raccoons, fox, possums, snakes, owls, hawks, skunks, and even weasels are all roaming around my property just waiting for the perfect opportunity to take out a member of my flock. In fact, I no longer have any of chickens that I purchased as chicks last spring. Tragically, they all met a fate far more nefarious than I would have ever imagined.

Which begs the question – is this “chicken thing” even worth the time, effort, and financial investment?

As marketers, we often find ourselves pondering a similar question. Marketing, like raising chickens, is no easy endeavor. We don’t succeed every time. Things flop and fail. While we might not meet the gruesome fate of my hens, it still leaves us wondering – “am I cut out for all this marketing stuff?” The short answer – yes. Long answer? There are a couple of things to keep in mind when entering into the wild world of marketing.

1. Failure to plan is planning to fail.

When I decided that I wanted to raise chickens, I didn’t just run to the local feed store and buy a bunch of baby chicks. In fact, I spent months researching different breed qualities, ideal habitat structures, proper nutrition, and chicken maintenance to ensure that I had a plan for success. The tendency in marketing is to focus on tactics, rather than strategy. Launching a Facebook Ad, holding a webinar, or pushing out an email campaign without creating a plan does not yield the results that you, or your boss, want to see.

What to do: Write down the plan. What are you trying to accomplish? What resources do you need to make it a success? Furthermore, how are you defining success? Shifting your focus from the new and exciting to the practical and strategic will give you the roadmap you need to make sure that you’re not putting the cart before the horse – in my case, the chick before the coop.

2. Begin with the end in mind.

Oh, Stephen Covey, you always say the smartest things! When I told my husband that I wanted chickens, the first question he asked was, “Why?” My answer was easy – eggs! Different breeds are good for different purposes. Rhode Island Reds are egg-cellent layer hens, while Cornish Cross provide a more robust, hearty bird for meat production. The same holds true for marketing. I always ask clients to describe success in the next 6-months, year, or 5 years. Short and long-term goals not only drive your marketing strategy but also help you identify the specific tactics that will help you reach those goals.

What to do: Identify your goals. What do you need to accomplish over the next quarter or couple of years to consider your marketing efforts a success? Don’t get caught in the trap of focusing solely on your sales numbers. While that’s certainly important for your continued business success, keep in mind that marketing goals should support your sales efforts and help drive your overall business goals.

3. Building the “Dream Team.”

Steve Jobs once said, “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” Although I don’t have a full team of people helping me on the farm, I am lucky to have my husband who has an engineer’s mind and a carpenter’s hands. Similarly, there is little chance that you can do it all – run your business, make sales, market the company, etc. Putting together a team, whether in-house or contracted, that functions as a team and keeps their focus on the strategic goals of the business is imperative to successful marketing efforts.

What to do: Take an honest assessment of talent and go from there. From content writing to email designing, website developing to video producing, no one person can handle every function of marketing…at least not very well. Once you’ve made a strategic plan, you should be able to pinpoint the type of marketing abilities you need to execute. If you don’t have those roles fulfilled in-house today, consider hiring additional team members that can bring value to the team. For many, leveraging marketing agencies for contracted work helps keep costs down while providing a ton of value to your overall marketing strategy.

4. Change the sails, not the wind.

Sometimes shit happens that is completely out of our control. In the case of my first brood of hens, I simply could not prevent the natural instinct of weasels to kill my girls. Instead, I had to change my plan a bit to adjust to the natural predators that plagued my flock. In business, the winds of change can be swift and brutal. Competition, market conditions, and a host of other issues can wreak havoc on your initial plans. You need to be prepared to make adjustments to survive the storm.

What to do: Be open to change. It’s often difficult to accept defeat or abandon a plan that we worked so hard to develop, but it’s critical to achieving long-term success. By keeping a keen eye on what’s going on with your marketing, you will notice when something isn’t working and can adjust the sails to keep your marketing (and business) pointed in the right direction.

Hopefully, this advice helps you as you plan and execute in 2018. If you’re struggling to make a plan, or need some hands-on marketing help, give us a call. We’d be happy to help you navigate the wild world of marketing!