The Key Is In The Drip

Erosion is a pretty strange way to start a marketing column, but let’s be honest…it’s probably not as strange as potatoes! I was recently driving from the Pacific Northwest to my new home in South Texas, and my GPS decided to take me on a scenic tour of the Southwest. We went through every small town for what seemed like a year. During one leg of the journey, we drove through the red rock country of Southern Utah and into New Mexico. If you haven’t been, it is worth seeing. Spectacular red vistas contrast the blue skies and tans of the desert floor, but perhaps the most amazing features are the area’s spires, arches, and other amazing rock formations. They are magical and cause one to pause and wonder how, in the middle of that flat, arid landscape, these extraordinary structures came to be.

The other thing that seems so remarkable about these stone canyons is their seeming perfection. Every edge appears smooth and rounded. There are no seams or joints; rather, it’s as though each rock melts into the next. These incredible formations were not, however, created by machines or earthquakes, fault lines or engineers; they are the work of drops of rain.

Roughly 65 million years ago, rains began to fall in what scientists believe was a relatively featureless desert of dry seabed. But with every drop of rain, microscopic amounts of sediment began to be stripped away. As each layer eroded, the rain began to be more and more effective in its ability to shape the face of the landscape. Today, as you stand in Devil’s Garden or below the majesty of Delicate Arch, you can admire the work of billions of individual drops of rain that have carved these masterpieces from plains of solid sandstone.

These natural wonders were not created in a single rain storm; we can’t point to a solitary event that made them. There was no single drop of rain one can attribute all that beauty to, and it’s the same thing with marketing in our companies. Our marketing plans must include constant drops of activity that carve our future success from the rocks of our potential markets.

Today’s world is an instant gratification landscape. If I want a tomato, I go to the store and buy a tomato. If I want to learn how to play a song on the guitar, I can find a video on YouTube where someone will teach me that particular song, right now, sitting in my underwear on the couch on a Sunday afternoon. If I want more laundry detergent, I click a button and it’ll be on my doorstep tomorrow.

In many ways, waiting has largely become a thing of the past. While this has some pluses, it can also cause some problems. If we hire a recently-graduated liberal arts major to come and wash buses on the weekends, for example, he or she sometimes seems to think they should be the CFO by the end of the month. (Not all waiting is sunshine and roses.)

It used to be that if you wanted a tomato, you had to grow one. For most of our recorded history, that was business as usual. But let’s get real right now: if, in today’s world, the only people that ate tomatoes were those who could grow them, we’d probably find more of them in the Museum of Natural History than anywhere else.

Marketing is really no different than tomatoes or Delicate Arch in Moab, Utah. Both require a significant investment of time and repetition. No one would expect to be able to simply squirt a rock with a hose for a few minutes and end up with Delicate Arch. In the same way, no one would think it plausible to stick a seed in the ground in the morning and plan on a Caprese salad for dinner.

But here’s one of the biggest concerns I have: as I work with operators around the country on their marketing, many are figuratively spraying rocks looking for arches and planting tomato seeds with an evening harvest in mind.

In many of these organizations, marketing is more about an event than a constant drip that brings with it the power, over time, to shape the future of the company. Drip marketing, by its very name, is descriptive. Its core objective is to continually “drip out” information and content that keeps your message on the minds of the buying public via social media, emails, your website, events, and other avenues.

The council recently launched what we call our “Do It For You” marketing services. These are tools and services designed to help make marketing easier by eliminating a lot of the time constraints that come with doing marketing in a motorcoach operation. While this product has been successful, it has also made the need for more education on the importance of ongoing, consistent, drip-style marketing more apparent. Those tiny drips of marketing water can start to create, over time, the majesty you are looking for.

I often use the example of a guy who opens up a new pizza restaurant in your local neighborhood. Imagine that he went to the post office, pulled a list of all of the surrounding homes, and sent everyone a postcard with a picture of a pizza on it and a coupon for free bread sticks. Would it work? Probably, to some extent. Inevitably, some of the people that got that card in the mail would be hungry right then and wondering to themselves, “What am I going to feed the kids for dinner?” They’d pack up, get pizza, and cash in on the bread sticks. In most households, however, it’d likely get tossed in with the other 350 pieces of junk mail. Bottom line? By and large, people would not be beating down the door, jumping up and down, or running around screaming about the fact that there’s a new pizza place in the ‘hood.

Receiving a postcard once would probably not get you to run out and buy a pizza from the new guy, and if he sent you a postcard once, 6 months ago, you probably won’t even remember his name if you sit down to order a pizza today. But if you were to sit with him and talk about his marketing efforts, he’d probably tell you about his postcard experience as the last big thing he did.

Marketing is about creating additional demand for your product, and as much as we would love to say that a one-and-done strategy could work, the truth is not so simple. Building market share is about staying at the top of our consumers’ minds. We don’t know when they’ll really be craving pizza, but when they do, we want to be the first thing they think about. Of course, in the motorcoach world, we may not ultimately care when our customers want pizza, but we definitely care about when they want to book transportation.

We put a lot of stock in customer loyalty as an industry, but we forget that part of loyalty is our responsibility. We look at loyalty like it is the job of our customers to remember us, who we are, what we do, and how to get in touch with us. In actuality, studies show that companies that better communicate with and market to their customers foster more loyal consumers!

So how do we increase demand for our product, hire more drivers, and firm up our pricing? We drip market. We recognize that sending out 100 postcards a month is more effective than sending out 1200 once. We recognize that posting to our Facebook page on a daily basis is more effective than once a week. We understand that the more frequently we can be in front of the people we are marketing to, the more often they will think of us in the moment they’re going to make a purchasing decision.

When we market, we want the net result to be that when people call, they say things like, “I see you guys everywhere.” We want people calling to work with us because we are their transportation provider. We want to put brokers out of business because people are not shopping for a bus…they are shopping for our bus. This can happen, but it will only happen if we embrace the concepts of erosion marketing and learn to drip, drip, drip, drip, drip. And if you need help starting that drip, the Motorcoach Marketing Council has great tools, trainings, and resources. Visit us today at motorcoachmarketing.org.