Marketing Lessons from a Recent Vacationer

Jun 01, 2022

It’s true. Almost everything works better when you turn it off and then turn it back on again—even you. That’s why vacation is so important. And it really doesn’t matter if it’s a stay-cation or if you travel somewhere. Unplugging from your day-to-day life is healthy and necessary and deserved.  That’s why I didn’t blog last week. I wanted to show you that even I take breaks, so you should, too!

Once upon a time, my Type A personality would have double-blogged the week prior to vacation. Why? Well, I’ve been blogging for 33 straight weeks in a row! Thirty-three! So, my Type A brain would have said, “Self, wouldn’t it be really cool for you to say that you blogged 52 weeks in a row—a full year—without missing a single week?” Maybe it’s because I’m older or a bit wiser but I truly value renewing, rejuvenating, and reflecting more than a blogging streak. And I know I’ll be a better person all around because when I was on E, I took the time to fill my own tank back to F—and you should, too.

And last week I did just that as my husband and I took a week away, unplugged from work, and enjoyed some fun in the sun. And wouldn’t you know it, letting go of the deadlines, the timelines, and the finish lines brought forth waves of ideas everywhere I went. I was inspired by nature, people, and advertising as well as books, TikTok videos, and even some old friends. It was like the more disconnected from my 9 to 5 routine I got, the more my mind was open to seeing the world in a new way. And I’d like to share some of the Left Brain Marketing Methods filled with Right Brain Marketing Moxie that I discovered when I gave myself the self-care gift of time off.

Long Walks On the Beach: You know when you had to do those icebreaker questions in college where you had to tell 3 things about yourself and someone would always say, “I love long walks on the beach.” Really?! Seriously!? Because I just got back from the beach and walking through sand in brutal! Bru-tal! We stayed in a condo with a 5-minute walk to a beautiful sugary sand beach, which was wonderful. But it’s hot, so you need a cooler, an umbrella, and a coupla chairs at the very least. And hauling all that stuff through the thick sand in order to get your perfect horizon view was some minor form of torture. One seasoned snowbird there said she liked to call it shoveling sunshine. She said she far preferred it to shoveling snow—I liked that, and her.

Lesson to Learn: I’m not saying that people really don’t love long walks on the beach, some do. But I am saying that nothing is one-size-fits-all. With everything you send out, some will love it; some won’t. Sure, it’s good to use your left brain logic to measure which campaigns work better for you, so you can do those more often. But even if you’re the juiciest peach in the fruit bowl, someone won’t like peaches…and that’s ok.

Breakfast of Champions: While having breakfast one morning, I snapped a picture of this cute little family of four. And I just had to giggle at something I noticed about the father and his son because it immediately reminded me of the marketing logic adopted by many nonprofit professionals.

Check this out. It was a beautiful sunny day, about 90 degrees and the beach was calling our names. This adorable kiddo shows up to breakfast with a long-sleeved Oxford button down shirt, ready to start the day. Isn’t that how we all started out? When our nonprofits were young, we followed what the so-called rulebook said to do. We were all buttoned-up, playing it safe, and keeping it uber professional—certainly nothing wrong with that, if it’s working. But at some point, the results will flatline and you’ll need to move beyond the basics. That’s where this dad came in. I mean, check out his shirt! Through the years, as you gain more experience, trust, and confidence, you’ll want to be better than basic—that’s when the creativity can come out.

Lesson to Learn: You may realize that the people who have an affinity for what you do and the capacity to do something about it aren’t being as responsive as they used to be—maybe they aren’t even opening and reading your wall of words anymore. But you can change that. Graduating into a creative framework that tells your story in a way that sparks joy with your donor once again might be in order.

When More is Less:  When we got to the beach later that day, we spotted another adorable family. Literally, they had it going on. Two kids that played together beautifully. Buckets, shovels, pails, and sandcastles galore. Beach blankets, chairs, drinks, and snacks. They were prepared—a little bit too prepared. They also brought along with them a super-duper power source that was as big as an old-school boom box. That was placed in the middle of a blanket and followed by power cords for their cell phones and even a laptop computer. These folks were hyper-resourced—they pulled out all the stops.

Sidebar: Folks, I traveled all the way back to Indiana and accidently brought sand back with me. I can’t imagine how much sand landed in the nooks and crannies of that laptop keyboard.

Lesson to Learn: Now, to be fair, the laptop wasn’t being used the whole time—they were trying to have some family fun. My point here is this, other nonprofits might have more resources than you, but they can still get it wrong. Knowing what you have is smart—good stewardship of resources. Knowing when to use what you have is wise—more is not always more.

Results May Vary:  Now, I’m going to try to make this next point as PG as possible, so I’ll just say this: beachwear varies! But honestly, do people not know that there are children at the beach? And do they know that those children have eyeballs? But I digress! We saw this beautiful young couple who walked to the beach with nothing but a volleyball in hand. At first glance, they looked like they belonged on the cover of a World’s Best Beaches magazine. But once in the water, that ribbed, white tank top she was wearing was no longer the full coverage t-shirt that it appeared to be when dry. Did I mention there were children there with eyes?

Lesson to Learn: But I gleaned something from this duo as well. Many of us aren’t operating with agility. We have job descriptions and expectations of our Board or Team and those expectations are real. But variables do change and they need to be monitored. One splash of water and that full-coverage white tank top was no longer serving it’s original purpose. That’s why it’s not a bad practice to check in weekly with yourself and those who work with you to determine if the original plans are still do-able. Has anything changed? Do modifications need to be made? Trust me on this one, it’s best to adapt and adjust early to ensure that your end-product meets that benchmark standard that you have set. Otherwise, as they always say on commercials, results may vary.

The Crayola Box of 64: No one at the beach is afraid of color and I was there for it! From the blue on blue on blue shades you could see for miles in the ocean to the external rainbow of color on both businesses and houses—the entire box of 64 Crayola’s—you know the one with the built-in sharpener—were all represented! It wasn’t just white or 50 shades of beige like you see in many neighborhoods. It was kind of sad to think that we need to go to a vacation area to experience color. But what I loved most was watching what the guys were wearing. I saw shirts and shorts with an array of frivolity. Food patterns were big—bananas, pineapples, and oranges were popular for sure. I also spotted some linen lobsters, jellyfish, and anchors. Sure, these folks were on vacation, so they packed their fun clothes.

Lesson to Learn: But guess what? I couldn’t help but think that those folks were someone’s donors. They were drinking fun beverages, singing karaoke, and donning flip flops as their footwear of choice. In other words, they were real people who like to have fun and live life to the fullest. And even if they aren’t always on vacation, they aren’t always working. That means they’re open to, and even choose, creativity on their own time—like after 5:00 when they’re checking their mailbox and reading what you just sent them. They’re not afraid of a creative life, you shouldn’t be either.

Be Your Own Siri: Ever since my boys were little, they’d make fun of me when we went on vacation for one very specific thing. We’d get in the car and have to sit there for a minute when they’d sigh in a sing-songy fashion, ‘Mom has to get her bearings’. Well, yeah, as the navigator in a new place traveling to yet another new place, I did have to get my bearings. These days that’s more like plugging the address into your phone but it’s still pretty important.

Lesson to Learn: You see, you must know where you’re going in order to plan out the best path to get there—and I’m not just talking about vacations. At work, we call it vision. Do you know where you want to be 1-year from now? Five? Ten? It’s only when you clearly know where you’re going that you can get your bearings and plan the best route, the best tools, and even the best people to take. Sure, a vacation to Hawaii sounds great, but if you don’t make a plan, your car will only get you so far. Marketing / Communication / Stewardship Plans are no different. What route will you take? What tools do you need to use? What people can help you get to your goals—that includes internal stakeholders as well as donors. My family may have laughed at my consistent need to get my bearings, but it’s served me well in and out of the office.

The Five Senses: There’s clearly something mesmerizing about the beach. It’s a five-senses experience to be sure. You hear the waves crashing. You taste the salt on your lips. You feel the grains of sand flip back and hit your legs every time you take a step. And there’s that smell—it’s a combination of nature and Hawaii Tropic coconut oil that just takes you to another dimension. And, holy cow, looking at that horizon and seeing the white crescent waves coming in wave on wave, big and small, small and big—it’s hypnotizing.

Lesson to Learn: The beach sure is a great reminder of how big this world is and it puts things back into perspective if you let it. Just like those waves, there are plenty of donors to share. Some big, some small, all beautiful. So if you don’t get this one, you’ll get the next one. There’s enough. And just when you might start to think that the little bit that you’re doing seems inconsequential in this vast world, those tiny grains of sand stuck in your shoe remind you that even small things can make a big difference.

Fast Fishies: One of my favorite things to do at the beach is to drag my chair down into the water and let the waves cool me as the sun beams down. When we did that, we’d notice these teeny tiny little fish. I still don’t know what they were, but they were fast. And it made me smile when I’d see them. They lived in this vast ecosystem that housed all kinds of living creatures, including sharks. Remarkable!

Lesson to Learn: These fast fishies were surviving and thriving, among Sharks, because they used what they had—their location and their speed. I’m sure they had other ‘skills’, but I was impressed at how simple that metaphor was. You, too, can use the gifts you have right where you are and prosper. And yes, that place might even be filled with sharks—of the people variety. But even the sharks don’t have exactly what you have. Success isn’t just for the big ones or the scary ones or the bossy ones—it’s for everyone, if you leverage what you have.

A Fresh Perspective:  Many years ago, I used to fly weekly for my job. I was a jet-setter who I had this travel gig down to a science. I knew that I could make it from my driveway to my seat on the plane in 60 minutes flat. And my favorite part, as it still is today, was coming home. My airport of choice happens to have a bakery directly across the street. So, when you get home and step out of that airport, you get a big whiff of freshly baked cookies immediately. It’s like a giant cookie hug welcoming you home and there’s nothing like it. It happened again this week.

Lesson to Learn: It was literally midnight and we had all the “joys” of planes, trains, and automobiles that one day should be allowed to contain. We were running on fumes and ready to sleep in our own beds when the smell of freshly baked cookies enveloped us. Vacations are great, needed, and a terrific form of self-care--but there’s nothing like coming home. In fact, when you come back home and even back to work, refreshed and rejuvenated, you allow yourself to see things with a new lens, a fresh perspective. All seems right with the world once more. Because taking time off is a gift you give yourself that ends up benefitting everyone else around you, too.

Vacations and Cookies are Heavenly: So, that’s what happens when you allow your body and mind to vacate. Your creative mind opens and allows you see things with a clarity that you didn’t have before. So, I guess my new blogging streak stands and one—this one. And, you know what, that’s okay because everyone deserves a break. So, if you’re looking for a sign, here it is. Take a break. You and everyone around you can thank me later. You’ll come back with a fresh perspective, even if you don’t have the luxury of coming back to the aroma of freshly baked cookies. But seriously, if you don’t have a bakery across the street from your airport, getcha one. It’s heavenly!

All My Best,

[email protected]
Dawn Brown Creative, LLC.

P.S. Fundraising is hard, even though you make it look
oh-so easy! ♥

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