After logging many hours on the treadmill at the gym, I've come to see a lot in common between physical fitness and marketing. If you are embarking on a marketing initiative (or an exercise plan), keep the following in mind:

Starting is the hardest part. Just like getting yourself motivated to exercise is a daunting task at first, so is planning your marketing. It's easy to become overwhelmed by all the considerations: how much to spend, where to advertise, which clients to target, how to evaluate success. But all marketing starts with that first step of getting your ideas, objectives, and mission down on paper.

Just one component won't cut it. In a fitness plan, there are several variables, including aerobic exercise, strength training, and diet. Successful marketing depends on several well-planned strategies working together. Just advertising won't do it. Just PR won't cut it. You need to pick the best strategies for your business and budget, and ensure that they're working in tandem. Your plan is only as strong as its weakest link.

You'll make mistakes, but don't abandon the plan. Just because you caved in to the pint of Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey doesn't mean you give up your diet and exercise plan. So if one part of your marketing is ill conceived (or ill received), don't throw out the entire plan. Replace the dud with a more effective strategy, and remember your mistakes. You'll make better decisions in the future because of your past goofs.

There's no quick fix. It takes a long time for the body to reflect the effects of poor diet and lack of exercise (although it may feel like overnight), and your marketing plan will suffer from disuse as well. You must pick a well-thought-out program and stay with it. Don't forgo your marketing just because you're not seeing immediate results. Like infomercials hawking diet drugs, beware of anyone promising you quick profits and overnight results in your marketing.

You will get a lot of advice: know how to sort through it. At the gym, everyone seems to have a theory on what works the best - running, weights, circuit training. In marketing, you will be offered many opinions. Getting the input of other marketers is always welcome; just keep in mind that what works for one business may be inappropriate for another. There are no cookie cutter marketing plans.

There are professionals who can help guide you. Rather than try to sort out the plethora of diet and exercise plans out there, I finally sought the advice of a personal trainer. Know that in marketing your business, you do not need to be an expert at everything. Get help for those aspects of the business you have no aptitude for, be it PR, ad design, or accounting.

Don't be cheap when it comes to using the right tools. Ever try running three miles in cheap sneakers? The pain of shin splints just isn't worth the money saved. In making your marketing investments, don't be cheap. This doesn't mean you need a huge budget -- it means that whatever you decide to do, do it well and make it look professional.

Renew your commitment daily. Sometimes it's just not fun to go to the gym, and I have to shame myself into the trek. Your marketing plan will tend to slip by the wayside if you don't keep it top of mind every day and in all your initiatives. Review your plan regularly, and jot notes throughout the year on what worked, what didn't, and opportunities for the next year.

Copyright © 2000 Kimberly L. McCall

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