What Do Gardening and Marketing Have in Common?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Gardening has become a nice summer hobby. For some reason, I find it relaxing.

The other day I was pruning some tomato plants and my mind started to wander. I was thinking about the work to get done and an idea hit me like a ton of bricks.

There are some interesting similarities in the work I do both as a gardener and a marketer.

It may sound kind of strange but it’s true.

You may be thinking, “These seem like two really different things. What could they possibly have in common?”

I’m glad you asked and the answer is, more than you realize.

There are Many Options

I used to go to the garden center to buy tomato plants but it became expensive. 

I grow tomatoes to make salsa, tomato sauce, tomato soup, and of course, to eat. To make these things you need a fair amount of tomatoes which meant I had to buy more tomato plants. The budget only stretches so far, especially considering that I was buying other plants too. 

I started looking for ways to lessen the cost and the best option I could see was to grow my own plants from seed. Seeds were only a couple of dollar and would have enough for several years which I felt was a really good deal. 

Better yet, it opened up my options. 

At the garden center, they only have certain tomato plants. Growing from seed meant I had there were literally thousands of optons to choose from. I could grow the type of tomatoes that best suited my purposes. 

The fact that I was spending less money on tomato plants meant I also had the budget for other types of plants to put in the garden I wouldn’t have typically considered.

It works much the same way with marketing. You may be using certain marketing channels because they are the only ones that you feel you have enough expertise or because they are the most popular. 

They may work ok but they may not be the best options for you. 

On the flip side, just because you have many options doesn’t mean you should be investing in all of them. 

You don’t have to be everywhere. In fact, you shouldn’t be everywhere. More than likely, won’t have the staff or the budget to do it anyway. 

But, you need to know all your options and how they work at a high level.

I’m a strong believer in integrated marketing communication. There are four areas in which you can invest: Owned, social, earned, and paid. 

I suggest you start with one channel in each area. You can always add other channels later. 

What might this look like? 

You could focus on your website (owned), TikTok (social), Google ads (paid), and local media (earned). 

Or, it could be email (owned), Twitter (social), LinkedIn ads (paid), and a mix of local and industry media (earned). 

There are many options but in the end, you are looking for the best options, meaning the ones that provide the most impact on your marketing in these four areas. 

You Need A Plan

I have two small areas where I can plant.

I know what I wanted to grow but I also know that I can’t grow everything.

For example, I wanted to plant as many tomato plants as I possibly could but I also had other things I wanted to plant.

Onions, watermelon, carrots, and beans were things I really wanted to plant but I could make everything fit?

I then reviewed my options so I knew how much space the plants needed and how long they would take.

Then I put together a plan. I could have 16 tomato plants, carrots, radishes, onions, beans, and watermelon (it’s a short vined variety) but I still had room. It was too late to grow more tomatoes and I didn’t want to waste space so I found some seeds for some zucchini and squash varieties that wouldn’t take up much space.

Other than the weather causing issues and two tomato plants dying due to disease, the plan has worked out really well.

Planning is important because it identifies where you want to be and how you’re going to get there. It’s as true in gardening as it is in marketing.

As I stated earlier, there are many possibilities when it comes to your marketing but you can’t do everything.

During your planning process, you need to identify your business goals. You’re not just marketing for the heck of it. It’s to help you reach certain business goals.

When you know your business goals, it will be easier to plan your marketing. You’re able to ask yourself, how am I going to use my marketing to help me meet these goals?

It’s perfectly fine to walk into a planning session with all sorts of ideas. Just be ready to face reality.

You need to know how big your budget is going to be.

This will help inform you of what marketing activities you can consider. If you have a $5,000 marketing budget you can quickly rule out some activities.

You also need to understand the time constraints that you have. There is only so much work that can go into a day, week, month, quarter, or year. If you have a small staff, time is a big constraint.

The two biggest issues I have with my garden are money and space.

Two of the biggest issues you will have when planning your marketing are going to be money and time.

You can see great marketing results but it starts with a plan.

Patience is Required

The growing season starts for me in mid-March.

It’s not like I plant the seeds and a couple of days later I have seedlings. It usually takes at least a week or two for them to all come up. 

I then spend the 6-8 weeks taking care of them. In May they go into the ground.

I wish I could tell you a couple of weeks after they were in the garden I’m eating tomatoes but that isn’t the case.

Four months after I planted the seeds, two months after I planted them in the garden, I finally got to eat my first tomato of the year. 

I’ve learned that gardening is an exercise in patience because you typically spend a long time growing before you get anything. 

It’s the same thing with your marketing. You don’t start a marketing program today and see huge results next week. 

It takes time.

Yes, you can get small victories after a short amount of time but most marketing results don’t happen overnight.

Content marketing takes time.

Search engine optimization (SEO) takes time.

Pitching the media takes time.

Developing relationships and stoking interest on social media takes time. 

Creating a successful YouTube channel takes time.

About the only thing in your marketing arsenal that might get some quick results is running ads. 

I understand that you want big results now. So do I but that’s not going to happen. 

To grow something that produces strong, sustainable results takes, say it with me, time. 

It’s true for a garden but it also is true for your marketing. 

Going on Autopilot Will Result in Failure

It would be so nice if could plant my garden and simply forget about it until I harvest but it has to be taken care of or it will die. 

The plants have to be watered, fertilized, and pruned.

They have to be mulched so the soil doesn’t dry out quickly. 

I need to watch for any signs that there might be an issue so I can hopefully take care of it before it becomes a bigger issue. 

I have to pull weeds so my plants aren’t competing with them for the nutrients they need. 

Like gardening, marketing isn’t a set it and forget sport. 

There are many things you have to do to make sure that your marketing thrives. 

Everything your doing is a test. It may be a well-thought-out test but it’s still a test. 

You’re going to have to watch and see how your various tactics and the channels you’re using are doing (more on that in a minute). 

Everything in your marketing requires constant action. 

If you are doing content marketing, you need to keep creating content and promoting it. 

For the best results, posting on social media requires consistency. 

If you have chosen email marketing, you have to keep creating new emails. 

It may take several months before you land that coveted media coverage you desire. 

Even your ads require you do testing to see what resonates best with your audience.

And, at some point even the best ad campaigns need refreshing. 

Think of your marketing as a living and breathing organism. If you’re not putting in the work to sustain it, your marketing will whither on the vine and die. 

Deciding to market isn’t the end game. It’s the beginning of a longer game that requires you to nurture it for the best results. 

Measurement is a Must

I still have, at minimum, six weeks left in the growing season.

I do know one thing. Two of my tomato plants died. Despite my best efforts to care of them, they succumbed to disease. 

Now I’m waiting to see how everything else does. I also have some new varieties that I haven’t tasted yet and that will be part of the measurement process. 

The two things that have the most weight in my measurement of the tomato plants are taste and productivity.

Similarly, you need to be measuring your marketing efforts for the simple reason that you need to know what’s working and what isn’t.

You want results. I want you to get them but if you’re not measuring anything, you are doing nothing more than putting on a blindfold and going for a drive. 

More than likely, you’re going to have to do some tweaks along the way but if you’re not measuring you won’t be able to fine-tune your marketing to get the most out of it. 

I understand some things are harder to measure than others but this isn’t an excuse.

Marketing is an investment. You are putting time and money into it and you need to, at very least, have an understanding of whether the choices you made are working.

When determining what I was going to plant this year I took the data I had and put it into use. If the taste was meh, it was out. If it wasn’t productive, it was out.

How did it work this year? Well, one of my plants laster that produced amazing-tasting one-pound tomatoes and was highly productive. This year, one dead plant and one that looks like it’s on the way to dying without producing anything

Things happen. The environment changes and something that used to work no longer does.

It’s important to understand that there are always risks. You work your best to mitigate those risks but at the end of the day nothing, I repeat, nothing is a sure thing. You could do everything textbook and there is still a chance that it won’t work. 

This is why you measure. It’s pretty obvious when a tomato plant is dying but your marketing is a little more complex.

You’re going to have several balls in the air and you need to be able to look at data and analyze it to determine what’s off.

I’ve told this story before but I used to have an Instagram page for my business. After a little more than a year, I made the decision to delete it.

I found it to be time-consuming but more importantly, it wasn’t doing anything. It was sending .7% of my total traffic

After I got rid of it, I was able to put additional effort into other channels and my traffic increased.

If I hadn’t been measuring I’d probably still be wasting my time on Instagram.

Your time and money are finite. Don’t waste either one of them. Measure.

Please don’t take your marketing for granted. You need business results and your marketing can help you get them so why not treat it like a garden?

Shane Carpenter