Traveling provides opportunity to explore terrain – both real and figurative – that is unattainable from the comfort of an easy chair. Seven weeks ago, my family and I began a long-awaited trip covering four countries and several time zones. We’ve seen and learned a lot in our travels, some of which is even applicable to non-profit design and marketing. For example:
Be prepared, but don’t overprepare
It’s foolish to embark on any journey without planning your route. It’s equally foolish to think you can or should control every last detail. Trust in your preparation, but remain nimble enough to seize opportunities as they arise – or adjust when things don’t go exactly as planned. They never do.
Watch and learn
Reading about something will never replace real-world experience. Whether entering a new country or a new market, you can never assume people will behave as expected. Observe how people get around, what they like, and where they go. Consider it real-time ethnographic research – then modify your tactics to fit prevailing conditions.
Your reputation precedes you
Chances are others have been where you’re about to go. Fair or not, this can color the locals’ perceptions and behavior towards you. How does your brand play in a new market? What do they know about you (or your type)? This knowledge should guide what you wear, what you say, and how you act.
Meet them half way
This is a friendly visit, not a hostile takeover. Accordingly, being polite goes a long way. To communicate, make an effort to learn the lingo – even a few key phrases. Then understand that regardless of your efforts, some will remain unreceptive. When people want to hear you, they will. If they’re not interested, they won’t.
Don’t try to do too much
Whether you’re visiting museums, eating gelato, or relaxing in the sun, you need to know your limitations. The same holds true when marketing an organization. An overpacked day planner, like an overpacked suitcase, will eventually hinder your ability to function effectively. Focus on doing a few things really well.
Apply your lessons
In marketing, consider each audience you’re trying to reach as if visiting a new country. Every new experience enriches us in ways we can’t predict. By remaining aware of your surroundings and learning as you go, you can become a better traveler and a better communicator.
P.S. One last piece of advice: Travel (and work) with people you like.
The Importance of Vacation
by Jonah Lehrer
The Woychick family’s travel blog