Allison P. Iantosca
I am not a runner. It makes my knees hurt. And my profusion of sweat looks more like a kid caught in a rainstorm than a professional athlete in a Gatorade commercial. Being a non-runner is not a bad thing except that I live in the tiny town of Hopkinton, Mass., 26.2 miles from downtown Boston. Hopkinton is a non-town except for the third Monday in April when 20,000 of the world's best runners descend on the town square to begin the Boston Marathon. And it is on this Monday every year that I contend with the fact that I am not a person able to endure acts of massive physical stamina, like running from home to Boston — a trip I can just as easily do in a nice comfy car in about 30 minutes.
While physical stamina eludes me, I do like to think that I have a strong capacity for mental stamina. Though easier to sip cream-laden coffee while showing off mental endurance, the discipline required for execution is similar: goal setting; constant training and retraining; determination; and, when feeling unmotivated, hitting it even harder. This is the same discipline I enforce to carry my firm's marketing plan through an entire year.
Like the start of any well-intentioned plan, it's good to work backward from the ultimate goal. For some, the goal is to finish the Boston Marathon in under four hours. For me the goal is to reach a new pinnacle of brand familiarity in the marketplace for F.H. Perry Builder. Both goals are lofty. Both are attached to a vision. Both need a chain link of support built one link at a time. But unless the goals are specific and definable, one is just as liable to drive to Boston as one is to run.
So before the end of each year, I write a disciplined and actionable marketing plan. It states a clear vision for the year ahead and includes specific events, ad placements, marketing consultants and logo applications, all attached to a dollar amount. Simply said, I know what my goals are, and I know how much it is going to cost to achieve them. The plan serves as a beacon to constantly correct my direction.
And usually, the first month of the plan is brilliant. I am executing as outlined and am on budget to the penny. The ads are beautiful, I fend off a few yellow pages ad sales reps and I garner the attention of a local magazine to do a write-up about a recent project. Brilliant. I feel much like the runner I would imagine who went from one mile to five over the course of four weeks and maybe even dropped a pound or two on the way.
Then it happens: a knee injury. Not debilitating, but excruciating. Or, much less dramatic, my favorite publication sends a contract with an unexpected 25 percent rate increase — funds I had committed to a new sponsorship or to a program book for a charity auction.
I've come to expect these things. So like any real athlete, I take a time out with a chocolate covered donut. When that only provides temporary relief, I slow down, take a deep breath and start to retrain. First, I review the ultimate goal. Second, I review the budget. Third, I note other parts of the plan that will be sacrificed or compromised. Fourth, I recognize and recommit to the plan — retrain and build up again, link by link, to the ultimate goal.
There is a need for a relentless offense when doing anything worthwhile, but I like to keep things simple. When you watch the elite runners, the “front of the pack,” they keep it simple, too. It's as if they can see Boston from the starting line 26.2 miles away and nothing matters much but the steady slap of their feet on the pavement keeping pace. They don't get distracted by orange slices and water stops. They seem to trust their training and their ultimate goal and keep running.
That's how I like to think about it. Jan. 1 every year, I just start to run with my market-ing plan. Steady and focused. I like to think that this strengthens the muscles of my company. Our brand, therefore, has stamina and endurance. Injuries along the way don't deter us from our ultimate goal. Unfortunately, this does not result in killer calves for me, but I'll revisit that next April.
|Allison Perry Iantosca is vice president of marketing and sales for F.H. Perry Builder, a preeminent custom builder in the Boston market. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.|