Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Jackstraws Marketing

When I was a kid, I had a game called "Jackstraws." It was essentially "Pick Up Sticks," but a little more difficult. The little plastic pieces were all sorts of little tools and implements from 4 to 8 inches high. Shovels. Picks. Crutches. Swords. Hoes. Canes. Lots of things with hooks and nooks and crevices and crannies.

To start the game, you'd gather all of the little pieces in a bundle in your hand, stand them on one end, open your fist, and let them fall to the table.

To play, you had to remove one piece at a time without moving any others. The person who lasted longest without moving another piece was the winner. It wasn't easy. Often, the pieces were hopelessly intertwined, and moving one had unexpected repercussions deep within the pile.

Lately I've been working on a marketing consulting project that calls to mind a game of Jackstraws. Some of the ideas I want to suggest that my client implement are so simple, so easy, so inexpensive, and so needed.

But certain parameters within the company's current set up preclude a simple implementation. Before anything new can be done, the marketing environment must first be tweaked to support the change. And before that can happen we must determine whether or not that tweak will irreparably compromise the current system.

If it sounds confusing, that's because it is. Every time I say to myself, "Here's a great, easy thing you can do," I learn that what might be great for marketing would be disastrous for another department.

And so I pick my way carefully, wondering if shifting a shovel here will cause a far away ladder to tremble. And I hope that this strategy is non-invasive enough to the existing marketing architecture that we can implement it right away for immediate results.

If you are in the process of building your own writing business, remember to plan enough autonomy into each new aspect of your work that you can safely try something in one area without compromising the security, structure, effectiveness, or efficiency of another.

Consciously create an environment that lends itself to testing new approaches and new theories. Because without a safe way to try out new things in order to see if they might help your bottom line, you'll eventually discover that you've just been playing Jackstraws... the pile of pieces is tightly packed... and it's your turn to move.