Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

“Let’s see who can stay quiet the longest.”

My parents often issued that challenge as a road trip strategy.

I’m fairly competitive. Those who know me can testify that I also tend to be a tad verbose. Frequently the “let’s see who can stay quiet” game was played on long summer road trips. Whenever my parents needed a break from my backseat verbosity, they employed the strategy to keep me engaged while saving their sanity.

A spinoff was the “who can spot the first windmill” game. That game was rigged, but I didn’t know it. That game was played en route to my grandparents’ home clear across Wyoming. Dad knew there was only one windmill on the route, and it was a couple hundred miles from our starting point. I would stare quietly out the rear window, intent on winning. Usually I fell asleep. Score one for the parents. If I didn’t fall asleep, I would slip into daydreaming as the miles floated under our wheels.

Summer always reminds me of those games.

When we were young, summer days unfolded leisurely and time seemed endless. But quiet time was not time wasted. Daydreaming is now touted as necessary to critical thinking and planning. Running different scenarios, different activities and different conversations through our minds is a healthy activity. We can test drive situations before they occur. Slowing down to think before acting is positive. It helps avoid mistakes. It’s a good strategy.

Effective communication requires good strategies. Just winging it won’t fly. For the whole to be successful, there must be purpose and strategy behind each activity. Over the past two decades, the most common mistake I’ve seen businesses make is to launch marketing activities without any overall strategy. I advise slipping into the road trip mode first. Look out the car window and do a little daydreaming. Go strategic.

Strategy is defined as a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal, usually over a long period of time. Applied to marketing, strategy is the GPS for getting a business from where it is to where it wants to be. Marketing strategy is unique to each business. It charts the course of activities over an extended period of time.

Coming up with effective strategies takes some time and effort. It doesn’t just happen. Strategy involves a great deal of free thinking. When I’m working on strategy I run many different scenarios through my head. I think about how different activities will create different outcomes and how different outcomes may be leveraged over time. Then I start focusing on the most favorable probabilities. Considering what will work, what won’t and why is critical to building a solid foundation for marketing efforts. It involves a careful consideration of resources, time and target audiences. Once developed, strategies must be viewed in total context to ensure that the original premise still makes sense.

When strategies have been developed and reviewed, the stage is set to launch a successful business marketing plan, a plan with defined goals, realistic objectives and a roadmap for getting to where you want to go.

I suspect my parental unit came up with the “quiet” and “windmill” strategies after other strategies to gently keep Stacy quiet failed. I don’t know if that’s the case, but the strategies worked. Not so much with my son.

When he was little and excessively talkative, I tried playing the games with my son. His response? An emphatic, “I don’t want to be quiet!”

My strategy for coping is a story for another time.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
Visit www.comm-concepts.com or call 303-651-6612.

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