Friday, November 4, 2011

Lightning Bug Road Maps

I met recently with the team from InvoTek to review progress of their key not-for-profit program’s first year and plan for its second. As we looked back, what we found surprised us. It was no surprise that we worked with more clients than we had planned, nor that dozens of people encouraged us through donations and other types of support. What surprised us is how we got there.

We knew going in that the path we’d laid out for the program, Be Extraordinary, would change. What we didn’t know was how radically it would change. We met people and organizations we’d never heard of twelve months ago and they in turn connected us with others. It was an amazing trajectory, almost like watching a lightning bug get from point A to point B.

Here are three imperatives I learned from this past year that are applicable for all marketers:

· Be flexible – the marketing journey is non-linear, which is a tough pill to swallow for a bunch of engineers. We like logical processes, where you complete one activity and the second one begins and each activity builds neatly on the preceding one. Life, especially life dealing with a disability, is anything but linear. The team was open to new paths and had faith those paths would get us closer to our destination, which they did.

· Be tenacious – the Be Extraordinary program is a difficult concept for some people to grasp. We have to tell our story repeatedly to various audiences and at various times to get through. A great example is with a potential product distributor. We made numerous contacts with the distributor but could not get them interested in carrying InvoTek products. One day, a customer of that distributor called and asked if he could buy through the distributor. We told him of our experience. He contacted the distributor and in days we had a verbal agreement for them to carry our products. Had we given up earlier, we never would have begun this new relationship.

· Be patient – tenacity and patience are two sides of the same coin. Tom, InvoTek’s founder, recently began meeting with staff of a major hospital to see how InvoTek could assist their patients. However, hospital procedures threatened to stop the relationship before it got going. After backing off for a few months, those problems somehow worked themselves out and now Tom and this hospital are working closely with rehab patients. Knowing when to push and when to wait is an art.

What I learned from this is what I imagine people living with a severe disability already know: while you can plan your destination, you can’t predict how you’ll get there. That’s a great lesson for all marketers to learn.

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