Steering the marketing canoe


I learned 4 things about canoeing while on vacation last week that reminded me of marketing:

  • Canoes turn more slowly than you think they will.
  • Canoes have much more momentum than you perceive.
  • Canoes require whole commitment to work well.
  • Canoes are not kayaks.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not only a novice canoeist, I also received exactly zero instruction and without access to the Internet, YouTubing “how to canoe” wasn’t possible, so I did the best I could. Anyone with even a modicum of experience and training probably would have laughed their butts off at me. I laughed at myself once I got home because I did check YouTube and learned I was doing it wrong from a technique perspective.

That said, the experience reminded me of marketing because of the similarities of making marketing work. Marketing programs, especially at larger companies, do take more time to change direction than you’d think. Folks who work in a startup environment where you can just change the program in an hour are often dismayed at how slowly larger companies move their marketing.

The second thing I noticed was that I didn’t think I was going particularly fast until I tried to stop and nearly lost the paddle. It didn’t feel like I was going fast, but I covered a mile in less than 15 minutes, which is far faster than swimming (for me) or using a paddleboat (which would take about 45 minutes). The same is true of your marketing program. Once you have momentum, it’s hard to perceive it unless something causes you to stop marketing. Only then do you realize how many things were running and how much you know it’s going to hurt to try to regain the momentum and rebuild your lead generation flow. You can coast for a fair amount of time while you figure out what to do next, but know that every day or week you’re not actively marketing, you’re going to have to work twice as hard to get back up to speed.

Canoeing requires commitment across the board. You can’t just paddle with your arms. You have to use your whole body. Even the people along for the ride have to be seated in a hydrodynamic way so that their weight distribution doesn’t unduly slow the boat down. The same is true of marketing. You can’t just use a tactic here and a tactic there. You have to market with everything you’ve got, and everything impacts your marketing. Bad customer service will damage your ability to market. Inept sales tactics will impact your ability to market. Public relations stunts gone awry can hurt your marketing. Everyone has to metaphorically be on board and rowing in the same direction.

Finally, canoes are not kayaks. I discovered this the hard way, having had some experience with river kayaks. Canoes behave very differently, are paddled very differently, and maneuver very differently. As a novice boater, this was not immediately apparent – they’re both boats with paddles, how different could they be? The same perspective is often held in marketing, especially by more senior marketers who haven’t done day to day tactical work in a while. Direct mail marketing and email marketing may look to be very similar on the surface, but once you actually start doing, you realize just how different they are. Beware of this in your own marketing strategy! If you’re not familiar with the tactics, get familiar so that your strategy isn’t relying on things you may not be able to do.

Canoeing was fun despite the struggles of not knowing what to do, and so I’ll close with this last analogy to canoeing and marketing: a little bit of research in advance goes a long way towards your success.

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Sleep, caffeine, and vacation learnings

One of my peculiar habits I do every 6 months or so is to take a week off of any kind of caffeine. This started a few years ago at the suggestion of Barry Meklir, my muscular therapist, who recommended it in order to give the body’s adrenal glands some time to recharge and reset. Consistent high dosages of caffeine tend to mess them up. I found that the caffeine purge was helpful for also getting my sleep cycles back in order, but didn’t give it much thought beyond that.

The signs when it’s time to do a caffeine purge become fairly obvious to me. First, caffeine’s effectiveness begins to decline. If I find myself feeling the need for more than the morning cup of coffee, that’s a hint. When I start drinking too much coffee, I notice other symptoms: little aches and pains become more persistent. Cuts and minor injuries don’t heal as fast. Muscle soreness from workouts lasts longer. When I see those signs, it’s time to do a purge.

Last week, while on vacation, I did one of my semi-annual purges, but the difference this time around was that I was paying closer attention to my sleep using my fitness tracker. I realized that there was a deeper issue than just caffeine – caffeine was just an easy source to blame.

The real source of the problem was the kind of sleep I was getting. My fitness tracker breaks out sleep into three different components: REM sleep (for the brain), light sleep, and deep sleep (for healing the body). How accurate it is, I’m not sure, but because I have only one and I wear it consistently, if it’s inaccurate, it’s consistently inaccurate.

Take a look at this simple chart I made of the three kinds of sleep I’ve gotten over the past three weeks:


Notice that during my vacation, I clocked more sleep (of course) but more importantly, REM sleep and deep sleep about matched each other. They kept pace, meaning that body and mind both had a chance to recover. Now look at the days before vacation. REM sleep was still more or less consistent, but deep sleep took some major, major hits. Some nights, my body had less than 20 minutes of healing time. If there are any injuries or illnesses, that little healing time is a problem, and it compounds on itself. Little injuries can become bigger injuries. A mild cold can become a nasty cold.

(It’s interesting, as a side note, that the mind protects itself more than the body, as evidenced by which kind of sleep gets sacrificed first.)

The solution, besides the week off of caffeine, was to more carefully judge when I could take caffeine into my body and when it needed to be at a low enough level to exit my body. There are a number of excellent apps out there that can track caffeine intake; the one I use on IOS is Caffeine Zone 2.


You have to judge how much caffeine impacts your ability to sleep; if a cup of black tea would keep you from falling asleep easily (55mg) or a can of soda (46mg), then that’s a good benchmark for what has to be out of your bloodstream. If a cup of green tea keeps you from falling asleep (25mg for an 8oz cup) then you know that’s a good benchmark. Once you know how much caffeine disrupts your sleep, you can program it into the app of your choice so that you know when you should have your daily dosages of caffeine.

Here’s some food for thought: if you take a large cup of coffee – 16oz, 240mg of caffeine – it can take up to 24 hours to completely exit your body, and 16 hours before the caffeine in your bloodstream is below that of a cup of green tea. If green tea disrupts your sleep, then having coffee any time sooner than 18 hours before bed is going to make sleep less productive for you.

If you’re trying to deal with any kinds of recovery or healing issues, look to your sleep first: more of it. You might find some answers there.

Disclaimer: I am in no way a qualified medical practitioner of any kind, and what I wrote here should not constitute medical advice. Consult with your physician before making any significant changes to your lifestyle or diet.

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Out of Office: Vacation

Wollaston Beach

For the first time in quite some time, I’m going on vacation. What’s different about this vacation, however, is that it will be entirely off the grid. I’m going up to northern Maine, to an area that does not have wireless coverage or Internet access, on purpose. (yes, there are still places like that in the world, though they’re increasingly rare)

While I am gone, I’m going to try a little experiment. Instead of new posts pre-written in advance or guest posts, both of which I’ve tried before, I am going to leave the blog as-is and use reruns on social media to see if anyone even notices the difference between old stuff and new stuff besides you, the hardcore fan that checks out whatever’s new every day (and thank you, may you have a restful week too).

All I’m going to do is program a week’s worth of content in Buffer, then see what happens in my web analytics. The 25 posts I will choose will be determined by Google Analytics, to see if there is more value in refreshing older stuff versus constantly creating new stuff. Of course, I will share my findings after I’m back from vacation.

I hope you have a wonderful week, and I will see you back here the week of July 28.

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