A Healthy Habit
By Eric Cohen and Joyce Shulman
Regularly making time to conceptualize and execute a great marketing plan can become as habitual as brushing your teeth—and as beneficial, too.

Pet industry professionals often advise people on how to raise young pets. The goal is to change behaviors. You want kittens to stop urinating everywhere except the litter box and puppies to stop jumping on guests when they walk in the door. In the end, pets are rewarded for their efforts with hugs, kisses and accolades.

The same applies to successful marketing—develop the right behaviors and habits, and you will be rewarded. A habitual approach to marketing reaps numerous rewards for those who adopt the practice, and what was once a chore becomes a task to look forward to. Just as a keyed-up puppy can be taught to enjoy the rewards of sitting calmly when guests arrive, retailers will enjoy the perks generated from regularly devoting time to marketing.

Conditioning yourself to work regularly on your marketing plan can be a challenge. There are orders to fill, shipments to take in, employees to manage and so on. Tweeting, planning events and writing ads are not tasks that motivated you to open your shop, but now they are tasks you must do. Jim Ryun, a former congressman and world record-holding runner, once reportedly said, “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”

The secret is to make the good behaviors a habit, and reward yourself when you do. After spending 30 minutes on marketing tasks, reward yourself by taking your dog for a walk. After a 45-minute ad-campaign brainstorming session, break for 15 to read your favorite blog or browse a new online retailer you’ve been meaning to check out. Make that connection between the bitter task and the sweet reward early in your journey to making marketing a habit.

Still, establishing good habits can be as difficult as breaking bad ones, so expect some challenges. Set up a routine that helps you develop a habit. If you walk your dog at set time each day, for example, make it so that you can’t walk your dog until you put in 30 minutes of marketing. Set a schedule: from 10:30 to 11 a.m., work on marketing, and at 11 a.m., walk dog or feed fish, etc.

Review your daily marketing activities at the end or the beginning of each week. Look at what you accomplished and what still needs to be done. Did you focus on one area only? Plan a different set of tasks for the next week. You can plan out your week in advance, and each day can be a step in a bigger project.

You can look at those bigger projects on a monthly basis as well. Give each month a different area of focus. Work up an annual plan one month, then beef-up your Facebook page or attempt to add 200 Twitter followers the next. Set a goal for each month and review it in your weekly recaps. By establishing monthly themes, you’ll be more productive and more likely to accomplish your goals.

If you are looking for guidance on how to organize your time, we recommend the book Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, by Brian Tracy. This book has great tips to help you do the tasks that you may be avoiding.

Also take time to look at and analyze your bad marketing habits. Do you spend an hour a day on your Facebook page? That’s better than nothing, but it is probably not the best use of your time. Are you running ads in the same publication week after week? Unless they’ve proven great returns, this is probably an example of a bad habit—one you can easily change.

So take a step back, look at your behavior and habits and think about how you can improve your marketing each and every day.

The husband and wife team of Eric Cohen and Joyce Shulman is the force behind the Ignition Team, a marketing and business consulting group with a specialty in the pet industry.