In 1964, the great Bob Dylan wrote a song with the same title as this blog article. The lyrics I want to focus on today are:

Come gather ’round people

Wherever you roam

And admit that the waters

Around you have grown

And accept it that soon

You’ll be drenched to the bone

If your time to you is worth savin’

And you better start swimmin’

Or you’ll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin’

In March of 2020, I’m sure none of this could imagine the amount of change that would occur in the world around us. Fast forward 30 months later, and man, the world is a different place. Dylan certainly knew some things we didn’t know, and he foreshadowed much of it in his song. So, what does this have to do with marketing? Let’s look at the lines of the song and apply it to marketing your business, nonprofit, school, or startup today.

Think Globally

Gather ‘round wherever you roam. The world is not so big any longer. Wherever you may call home, you’re just a Zoom call, text, Slack message, or FaceTime call away. What this means is that you must start thinking more about the broad audience that is searching for your service or product. Consider the reach you can have to target customers you’ve never had. You may be thinking, however, that you’re a local business / nonprofit and your service area / reach is not that broad. People are looking for service providers beyond their usual sphere of influence and aren’t afraid to contact someone in the next city, county, or even state.

Two examples from Forum Clients:

Hire Heroes USA provides free job search assistance to U.S. military members, veterans, and their spouses, and they help companies connect with opportunities to hire them. Transitioning from the military to civilian life can be a monumental challenge. To find meaningful and lasting careers, the military community deserves the best. This company is dedicated to finding jobs for their clients, regardless of zip code. It’s obvious they aren’t a local staffing agency, but to reach their target audience of job seekers and companies looking to hire, they have to a broad exposure at the point where people are looking for their service. That’s why digital marketing is such a crucial part of their marketing strategy.

BGW Dental Group is a large dental practice with a unique approach to serving their patients. They have three locations, expanded hours beyond the normal dentist office (including being open on Saturday and staying open three weeknights until 7pm), 10 dentists, and 14 service offerings. Why? To best serve the oral health needs of their community and their patients. They realized years ago that flexibility, comprehensive services, and a family atmosphere would be the best combination for them to grow. The waters around them have certainly grown, so said Dylan.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Efficiency is one of the great equalizers of marketing. We often hear from clients that their competition is a bigger company, a national brand, or a first-to-market innovator that they can’t compete with. That’s where Bob knew what he was talking about when he sang about time being so valuable:

If your time to you is worth savin’

And you better start swimmin’

Start swimming, in my opinion, is a metaphor for working smarter, not harder. You can compete with the big boys and the deep pockets. You just have to be efficient and know what you’re doing. Quit throwing darts. Quit saying yes to every marketing gimmick and ad expenditure that comes across your plate. Build a marketing plan that fits your budget, has targeted outreach, and clearly defined KPIs. We call it a Forumula, a combination of our name, Forum, and the word formula. This is all about being efficient and using the resources you have.

A Business With No Plan is a Plan for No Business

The song says it best:
Or you’ll sink like a stone

Ever heard that old cliché statement that is the headline above? Take time to plan. If you’re not setting goals, constantly tracking progress, and measuring success, how do you know how to adjust moving forward?

The purpose of creating a strategic marketing plan is to do research, homework, due diligence, and assessment to figure out how best to promote your business and ultimately grow your bottom line. It should direct discussion about your annual marketing budget; defining key performance indicators (KPIs); how you will define, track, and quantify success; how you will execute each item involved; communication channels; and similar items.

I’ve told every client we work with that the pandemic has taught us many lessons. Those businesses, schools, nonprofits, and startups that embrace change have thrived over the last two and a half years. If you haven’t learned lessons from the pandemic and adapted to the new “normal” that is the world around us, then my friend, you’re not keeping up with the times. For the times they are a-changin’.