Friday, April 21, 2006

planning: the bones of your garden

Every product casts a shadow in the market; whether it is a long or a short shadow depends, to some extent, on how much light you shine on it. By light I mean not money, but time. You can't just throw money at marketing - you need to invest time in making sure you are reaching your touchpoints in the right way, at the right frequency, and in the right mix. It takes planning, and structure, and a committment to keep at it.

We had this in mind when we built our garden last summer and when we planted bulbs in the fall; now we're seeing the results of our "mix" under "real-life market conditions" - that is, spring.

In effect, we're beginning to see the "bones" of our garden - the gross structure of each element around which we can start implementing more focused plans. When you're dealing with acres and acres the superstructure of a garden is manifestly obvious, and you can make bold decisions in discrete areas with little worry of how those decisions will impact other "zones" of the garden.

In our small space, with our limited resources and unknown limitations (soil quality, rainfall, available time to prune & weed, hardiness of specimens for zone 5), planning these bones was a non-trivial exercise. Even now, we're seeing things we want to change. But we wouldn't have enjoyed spring (or summer) in our garden if we hadn't done the planning around the bones.

If I think about my market planning using the same thinking I used last fall for the garden, I find myself faced with numerous parallels; limited resources, unknown limitations, and a strong sense of urgency. The last is was/is the most dangerous.

Urgency can lead you to just "do something" - to plop in a few non-descript yews and boxwood and other evergreens along the foundation and call it a day. Our approach to dealing with the tyrrany of the clock was to carve off a piece of the garden for this year - namely our March to May segment - and commit to leaning from this and doing May through August next year.

So now we experiment - we pull up the weeds, figure out why we failed, and plant again after fixing what we can. Someone told us that only fools plant an entire garden all at once - best instead to lay down the bones of the garden first, then adapt to what nature gives them.

Becuase not all plants will thrive in a given patch of soil with a given amount of sunshine and rainfall, the same way that not all messaging/packaging/pricing will play to any given target audience.

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