Monday, August 17, 2009

from the garden

I wish I were better at gardening. I do not seem to have either the talent or some other important trait for keeping the spaces outside my house looking nice. To be a little fair to myself, we are on the road nearly all the time in summer, and so have little time for lawn and landscaping kinds of things. We have sometimes counted it a real accomplishment to get most of the grass mowed for most of the summer.

The folks who owned our house before I did were great at gardening, I think. There were multiple gardens around the house and the property, and they looked wonderful when I first saw them. But that’s been nearly 16 years ago, and many of those spots have simply returned to wild overgrown space. These days I struggle to keep the areas next to the house and drive to not be just wildlife habitat.

I keep thinking that there are great spiritual and moral lessons for me to learn while I struggle with the garden spaces. Anything that is that difficult and frustrating must be good for us, right? So I ponder the lessons I am supposed to be learning while pull at weeds, wondering why I can’t just name them “flowers” and rejoice in the verdancy around me.

Today, I took a slightly different tact, and thought about gardening as a metaphor for marketing. I hear myself say things about gardening that are similar to the things folks say to us about marketing: it seems hopeless, where do I even start, it takes so much time, I am not very good at it…

Well, I discovered a few things about garden that are also helpful reminders when it comes to marketing:

First, it does take a lot of time. There are few shortcuts. If you are working a marketing strategy that is not going to require time, it probably won’t work. If I want spaces around my house that are neat, attractive, and pleasing, I will need to put in some time. And as the summer wears on, I am reminded how it is not just a one-time thing, but takes time over and over again.

Secondly, it helps to have some good tools. This year I bought a sturdy pairs of gloves, a good pair of snipers and sharp pair of clippers. It has made a wonderful difference; I am actually accomplishing something, making progress in my gardening efforts.

Finally, it’s hard work. Yesterday, I worked at clearing away an area that has not been tended all summer. There was no other way to even approach returning it to garden space other than a great deal of work. So gloves on, clippers and snippers in hand, I went at it. Today it’s mostly cleared, though it will take some time before anyone else actually think it resembles a garden space. Still, it’s a huge improvement, and I am thinking about putting some plants in there this fall. I could not have considered that before yesterday.

So marketing, like gardening, takes time, takes some good tools, and is hard work. It won’t be otherwise. It won’t happen by itself, and it won’t happen with occasional bits of attention.
I suppose there’s one other key similarity – results. I know if I persist, that my outdoor spaces will be more like gardens and less like abandoned lots. If you persist in your marketing efforts, you will also gain results.

Like any metaphor, I don’t want to push this too far. I know far more about marketing than I do about gardening, and at some point, I am liable to stretch this comparison further than I should. And, honestly, if I don’t tend to my garden, the repercussions are somewhat minor. Certainly if I want to sell my property some day, I would need to make these spaces look really good, but for now, the only real implication for me is my discontent. But marketing must be done or the consequences are significant.

By the way, I have two small successes in gardening – one is a butterfly bush that some dear friends gave me a few years ago. It still lives, thrives, and blooms. This year it is taller than I. And, last year I bought a rosebush to be near the butterfly bush. It also seems to have survived thus far and is blooming like crazy right now. Whenever I need some motivation for tacking the gardening, I start where those two plants are; I start where I have some success. You should start there too – you probably have some successes in marketing; start there and keep going.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What are you really offering?

Perhaps the most fundamental question in marketing is what are you really offering to folks? At the most fundamental level, what service, what product, what experience will they receive?

Some time ago, we came to understand the experience of Christian camping as the opportunity to gather around the fire. But, not just any fire. It is the Easter Fire. We wrote this to express, for us, the fundamental understanding of what Christian camping offers to the world.

In marketing, the first task is to be very clear about what you offer.

More to come...


The Easter Fire

In a predawn darkness that seems impenetrable, the faithful gather. Its been only days, but seems like a lifetime, since we joined our voices with the crowds and have asked for Barabas to be set free, and the preacher from Nazareth to hang on a cross. What hope could might there be for us, for our world? The darkness is overwhelming and pervasive.

Then, a tiny spark jumps in the darkness and a flame catches. As it casts a light that is much brighter than its size, for the first time we hear the words, “Light of Christ!
Thanks be to God!” As the flame is passed and the light grows, so too does the acclamation, “Light of Christ! Thanks be to God!” and we realize that the darkness is vanquished.

For many centuries, the primary sign of the Resurrection, the central symbol of Easter was the Easter Fire. It was a bonfire lit in the tomblike cold darkness of the night, the re-kindling of the Christ candle from the celebration of the Nativity, dark since the beginning of Lent. Before lilies, eggs, and butterflies, the faithful gathered around the Fire and heard for the first time the proclamation, “Christ is Risen!” The Fire was the Light of Christ come into the world, which the darkness cannot overcome. The first Service of the Resurrection, generally held in the darkness of Saturday night, called the Easter Vigil, was and still is, for countless Christians, a service of lighting the Fire.

This service is one we rarely connect with camping ministry. Partly because of the time of year, I suppose. Most of us do not run camping programs on the weekend of Easter, leaving that time to congregational gatherings. But the central symbol is ours to claim. There is no more common symbol of camping ministry than the campfire. Few of us have realized, however, that the campfires around which we gather and sing are the Easter Fire, the Light of Christ which the darkness has not overcome. More than a sentimental, nostalgic pyre upon which to toast marshmallows, our campfires, large and small, are the Easter Fire.