Be a Farmer
By Peter Lowy
Building the right marketing program is related to the metaphor that guides your thinking. Common parlance compares business to doing battle or engaging in a hunt. Societies that prepare for battle, much as they wish to avoid it, are more likely to survive. Hunters ensure survival by finding food.
But there is another metaphor for business that goes beyond survival, and speaks about growth. It's the idea of the farmer.
More than the soldier or the hunter, the farmer has shaped society to an incalculable degree. It was the cultivation of crops and animals - not the battle nor the hunt - that freed people from nomadic ways. This in turn led to writing, calculus, antibiotics, and the microchip. Farming let mankind thrive.
Marketing, like farming, is as much about tending to the present as it is about planning for the future.
Similarly, marketing helps organizations prosper. The zero-sum model of business, where someone must lose for you to gain, no longer applies. Since rapid evolution of technology and competition is changing the way entire industries operate, the only approach to business that has a future is one that creates value - for customers, investors, employees, suppliers, and others.
Consider the vocabulary linked to the three metaphors. Soldiers fight, attack, destroy, dominate, and either win or lose. Hunters engage in stealth and cunning; they entrap and slaughter. But farmers are They are sow, fertilize, nurture, harvest, and renew.
Good marketing, like good farming, is as much about tending to the present as it is about preparing for the future. On a day-to-day basis, marketing links your business plan to tactical action. It also lets you assess and respond to opportunities, and then learn from them.
This isn't just theory. It's real. Companies like Microsoft and Wal-Mart constantly create value (and don't do too badly for themselves in the process). True, they aggressively defend and expand their turf, but why not? Smart farmers, like good soldiers and hunters, are not passive. They are tireless, imaginative creators. So, too, are marketing-aware organizations.
© Peter Lowy