Vol. XC

Dear Manager,

All industries, including private or non-profit organizations, adhere to historical marketing schedules, time lines, and strategic calendars, in the promotion of their products and services. Some are intrinsic to our industry, while others are established based on an annual event such as Christmas, the New Year, even Groundhog Day.

These events have been embedded in our culture, and we adjust our schedules around them. Many organizations plan all year for a single event. With their historical models well established over years or decades, the clients of these organizations learn to anticipate, and have even been trained to plan around, the established time lines. What if ones historic marketing agenda, now well entrenched, no longer meets the needs and objectives of the organization?

I recently became involved with an organization that found itself faced with this exact dilemma. Their marketing team worked all year for a single event, while preparing for and promoting the next year’s event throughout the balance of the year. Their historic model allowed clients to postpone commitments until the eleventh hour (the eleventh month in this case) prior to closing the door. And even then, the door seemed to remain slightly ajar.

This scenario created havoc for both marketing and production. The last month was chaotic as sales, marketing, and production tried to squeeze in last minute participants. Production was never sure of final inventory until the last possible minute, staffing requirements were in constant ebb and flow until the end, finance had little guarantee that this year’s event the degree of profit, and the organization’s stamina and morale spiraled downward.

Not only did production find itself in a sense of panic as the months wore on, but the quality of services provided held the potential to be critically diminished. This was certainly not the intent; it simply became the byproduct.

And yet, this had been the historic marketing schedule for decades. As someone looking in from the outside, I found this scenario to be truly puzzling.


It’s human nature to delay decisions relating to commitment until the very last opportunity, if allowed to do so. Particularly in these unstable times, why would you possibly want to make a commitment if you weren’t required to do so? The clients of this organization had been quite well trained over a period of years that not only was this time line acceptable, but it could also be anticipated. Effectively, this marketing strategy placed the organization in a position of waiting for leftovers and scraping the change off the table.

There was built in frustration and anxiety in this marketing schedule as pressure built to meet the organization’s annual objective. Their marketing plan showed no sense of urgency, no exclusivity and created no position of strength in the marketplace. There was no wonder that both production and finance were left holding the bag.

Because it had “always been done this way,” there was great reluctance for the marketing department to acknowledge, let alone address, this problem. When the observation was made that this scenario would only continue to create the same results, the reaction was to defend and deny.

This organization was definitely in need of a “marketing makeover!” It could only take place, however, if marketing would take full ownership of the current problem and take full ownership of the solution.


It was suggested that the organization develop a three-year plan to transform their marketing structure. After years of reinforcing the acceptability of their “former marketing plan,” this organization couldn’t simply flip the switch and announce: “This is the new deal.” Clients would need to be strategically re-educated about the advantages in making their commitments much earlier in the marketing cycle.

The strategy involved the promotion and publication of a revised time line for sales and marketing to work toward in the first year. Once clients became “retrained,” it would likely be in the second year that participation increased. By year three, it would be understood and accepted by all parties that the time line had been fully executed, and full participation could be anticipated.


To best position this new marketing model, real or perceived advantages would need to be established. If, in fact, clients’ commitments could be made months prior to the current time line, would there be reduced fixed costs and efficiencies that could be realized and quantified? If true, would there be value in passing along a portion of these cost savings, thus rewarding customers for their timely participation? Would it be possible to establish a two-tiered pricing structure in the first year, giving clients the option and the value in their decision to participate?

This organization also had the ability to reward its clients with valuable free incentives to affiliated events throughout the year. Would it be possible to institute an element of prestige for those willing to make an early commitment? This created the opportunity to offer “premiere status” to clients with the desire and ability to participate in its first phase. Everyone likes to be acknowledged and appreciated; often the cost to do so can be relatively insignificant.


While never enjoying a “sell out,” this organization had very real and quantifiable limitations in its ability to meet the needs of their potential new marketplace. This had never been addressed in any form with their clients. From the clients’ perspective there was unlimited capacity, but in reality only a limited number of clients could be “allowed” to participate in a given year. This would need to be very carefully integrated into the marketing plan. It should be anticipated that a waiting list would be likely once implementation of this new marketing plan had been fully executed.

Clearly, this was a complete reversal in strategy for this organization. This case study is not unlike those I’ve seen addressed by other organizations and industries over the years. While we might find ourselves criticizing our customers for their lack of urgency and inability to make a commitment, we need look no further than to those of us who have trained them.

Personal Regards,


INTERPERSONAL© is published by INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM, Keenan Longcor, Editor, ©2012. Duplication of this publication is permitted for both personal and business use. Excerpts may only be quoted with acknowledgment of INTERPERSONAL/INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM as the source. For re-publication rights, please contact the editor at KEENAN@INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM