28 Sep 3 Things European Hitch-Hiking Taught Me About Marketing (2 mins)
During my first year of university, I decided that the excitement of being a fresher wasn’t enough. I needed more of a thrill.
So with two friends, I went on a sponsored hitch-hike from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, to Tallinn (Estonia). We needed to traverse 1,783 miles without spending more than £15 on travel, and we had 10 days to do it.
It’s hard to describe the highs and lows of what followed our departure from Sheffield. The best times included being put up for free in a Polish hotel. The worst times included sleeping the night about 500m from a European motorway; in the pouring rain, with no tent!
Needless to say, it was an unforgettable experience. I also learned many lessons which I have been able to apply to different areas of life – not least marketing.
The good news is, you don’t have to span a continent to learn what I’m about to share with you now…
1. Have a plan, but be flexible
Before my friends and I set out on our journey, we plotted our optimal route through Europe. We identified how many miles each day we needed to cover in order to reach our destination within 10 days. We determined the best means of transport to use in each country, given the infrastructure and cultural obstacles we were likely to encounter.
This was great to do at the beginning. However, our journey ended up taking some unexpected turns. This meant adapting, and often thinking on our feet under great pressure. (E.g. what do you do when you suddenly hear about hitch hikers getting arrested for hitch-hiking near the Channel tunnel??).
Similarly, a marketing plan will help you identify your target audience, as well as the best means to communicate your products and/or services to them. It will help you set measurable, realistic goals for your business, and a means for measuring their success.
Once your plan is in motion, you will need to adapt it as your business develops and grows. Don’t just write it up, put it in the draw, and forget about it.
2. Identify the right tools to make the plan happen
If my friends and I were going to reach Tallinn, we needed to be prepared. This meant taking maps, passports, changes of clothes, and foreign currency. We also carried several letters, which explained what we were doing in French, German, Polish, Estonian …any language we anticipated coming across on our journey.
When it comes to marketing, there are several tools at your disposal for engaging your target audience, and eliciting a response from them. Blogging and content marketing, podcasts, ebooks, social media marketing, direct mail, telesales, print ads etc.
The list gets pretty long, so you will need to be smart. Especially if you’re a small team on a limited budget.
Use the most tools you think are most likely to actually get your marketing plan in motion. If it turns out that a marketing tool doesn’t work (e.g. podcasting), you can always adapt it or try something else.
3. Presentation is key
Getting people to give you a free ride is difficult in any country when you’re hitch-hiking! Many people are understandably suspicious.
However, when we did get picked up, we would ask our new driver why they did it. Almost always, they would say something along the lines of: “You looked harmless, and I felt bad that you were stuck on the side of the road.”
In other words, we probably wouldn’t have been offered a ride if we’d looked intimidating or dangerous. We also looked somewhat ‘official,’ in that all three of us wore matching green hoodies advertising our charity.
There’s a lot that can be applied here to marketing your business. Marketing partly involves “introducing” prospects to your brand, products and services. Consequently, first impressions count and so your presentation is crucial.
Attractive colours and branding, clear messaging, and attention-holding presentation will enable you to communicate credibility, competence and consistency to your target audience; giving them the desire and confidence to take action.
In case you were wondering, we actually did make it to Tallinn in one piece. We did it in 9 days 😉
As the Marketing Coordinator at Ratio7, Phil is responsible for devising tailored marketing strategies for his clients; generating engaging and informative content; and ensuring brand consistency across all of Ratio7’s communications. Phil has a passion for creating powerful corporate brands, and suffers from a borderline-unhealthy addiction to Google analytics.
In his spare time, Phil can be found training for powerlifting competitions, watching Jason Statham movies, and playing acoustic guitar at open mic nights.