A Hiker’s Guide to Marketing Strategy

Nature always has a way of inspiring me, especially when you’re on the fifth hour of a hike and you need something to distract you from your aches and pains.

During one of our adventures in Yellowstone, I started to think about the key things we rely on for hiking success. Whether it’s trying to find the trail in an overgrown area or identifying animals we need to stay away from. Turns out, these things are similar to mapping out a marketing strategy, too. Let’s explore.

Find North

Understanding how to use a compass and a topographic map is an incredibly important skill set. Just because you might be in a national park doesn’t mean you’re not in the wild. You can get turned around pretty easily and game trails are ready to trick you into thinking that’s the way to go. 

Reading topographical map
We learned how to read the scale on a map, which allowed us to know how far we needed
to go before we reach our next destination.

Finding North in a Marketing Strategy

In your marketing plan means identifying where you need to go and what is really driving you to get there – in other words, what’s your why?

For a non-profit the goal could be raising $100,000 but the real need for those funds is to provide children with sustainable educational resources. In business, it could be reaching $100,000 in sales but maybe the driving force is so that you can use that money to reinvest into research and development.  

Without a ‘why’, there’s no passion. It’s just a thing to achieve. And like being out on a hike, if you’re out for several hours without a why, it will lose its appeal pretty quick.

Map Your Trail

You could start a hike winging it, but what I like to do is map out my key milestones so that I can orient myself to know that I’m heading in the right direction and whether I’m making good time. Same is true with marketing. 

Once you have your North in sight, you have to set milestones to know that you’re making strides toward reaching your goal. A lot of organizations would relate this to developing S.M.A.R.T goals – something that is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based.  

Look for Signs

One thing we constantly looked for were signs of bears, which typically means knowing what their poop looks like and how fresh it is. I know, that’s not super professional to talk about, but there’s a point here. 

We’ll spare you scat photos. Other signs include paw prints on the trail. This was likely a dog but coyote
and wolf were possibilities.

Marketing Analytics to the Rescue

In this case, consider scat signs similar to your marketing analytics. Now that you have a goal in mind and milestones to achieve, what are the metrics that will help you understand whether things are working and the metrics you need to find future insights? 

Check the Map

Just like a good marketing strategy, you should never set the map down and forget it. As you reach new milestones on the trail, you should stop, reorient yourself and check your time. Unless you’re backpacking it, you don’t want to be caught half-way through the hike as the sun goes down.

Sometimes you’re going to find obstacles – we found several trails closed off due to natural disasters or conservation efforts, which means you have to find a different route to take. 

Again, this is true for marketing. Sometimes things don’t go as planned and you need to improvise. If you have the the metrics in place, you’ll have the insights you need to know how best to pivot without throwing things off significantly.

The End of the Trail

Nothing is more gratifying than making it back to basecamp – hurt feet and all. After any hike, my husband and I like to compare notes to see what we can improve upon.

The end of the South Rim Trail in Yellowstone National Park

Did we forget something in our pack that we needed? How’d we end up missing the junction? Did we drink enough water? Each hike brings new lessons and goals to achieve for the next one. 

Once you reach your destination in your marketing plan, where do you go from here? What did you learn along the way to help you bring more success next time? 

Marketing is more than just activating tactics. You can have all the right gear but if you don’t know where you’re heading, it’s just a wide open space that can often lead to missed opportunities – or even worse – deadly mistakes.