Baking Sourdough & a Marketing Plan
Prior to 2020, the world of sourdough bread was a total mystery to me. While I had access to tons of cookbooks and blogs with plenty of advice, I had less access to refrigerator space and spare time.
In mid-March 2020 I found myself with both spare time and more refrigerator space. Not sure how or why, but baking sourdough seemed like a good hobby. Probably because I already had everything I needed—flour, water, and salt.
The first step in sourdough is building a starter. There are several ways to get a starter: 1. Make your own 2. Borrow some starter from a friend, or 3. Buy an actual starter kit. With extra time on my hands and limited to places to shop, I chose to start mine from scratch.
Don’t let your fear of failure bog you down in planning and analysis.
I didn’t know what to expect and did not want to fail. I wanted a backup plan, so I grabbed two mason jars and labeled one Bubbles and one Brew (aka B&B). I added the required ingredients to both jars, stirred, waited 12 hours, discarded ½ of the gooey mixture in each jar, and repeated this for 7 days.
While B&B were maturing, I devoured articles and videos on how to make a perfect loaf of sourdough and figured out what items I might need to buy to do so. It turned out there was no shortage of sourdough baking paraphernalia out there. But for every item suggested, there was a DIY at-your-fingertips alternative at home you could use. The choice was to either spend money, or work with what I had in my house.
My choice was to work with what I had available to me in my kitchen. This turned out to be a great choice (although, looking back, choosing to substitute a razor blade for the lame was definitely a bad choice).
An imperfect marketing plan is better than no marketing plan at all.
So, what does my journey in sourdough have to do with creating a robust travel marketing plan? Both require planning, preparation and delivery for success. Without research, ingredients, and a great cast iron pot, the success of my bread-baking career would have failed.
Does this mean then that my first loaf of sourdough was perfect, or that the only good marketing plan is a perfect marketing plan? No. It turns out a not-so-great loaf of sourdough can still be delicious by itself or with a slice of cheese and butter. Likewise, an imperfect marketing plan is better than no marketing plan at all.
Don’t let your fear of failure bog you down in planning and analysis. Rather, launch your plan. Don’t fear the possibility of imperfection. Rather, fear failure due to inaction. A mistake is never a mistake unless you fail to learn. Imperfection is simply an opportunity to learn and improve.
4 Steps to begin creating your marketing plan
1. Begin your marketing research: Where to begin when it comes to creating your marketing plan? Host Agency Reviews is a great place to begin your marketing research as you build the frame for your marketing plan. Think about this step like the sourdough recipe, only it’s a marketing recipe. You pick the ingredients from the ideas and list provided. Add to your list what works for you. Maybe it's networking, social media, direct mail, or email the choices are yours to make. It is about you, your business, and your success.
2. Spice up your marketing plan: Once you've completed the recipe or framework of your marketing plan, it’s time to shop for the spice in your plan. What promotions and what travel partners are going to be a part of your success? You can do everything on your own, but why? Would my sourdough have been any better if I grew my own wheat and milled it? Maybe, but the wait would have been a good 6 months from start to finish!
I suggest first looking to your host agency, consortia, or franchise. More than likely they have in place a robust marketing plan created and ready to roll out with just a click of your mouse. A calendar filled with promotional opportunities from mainstream to ultra-luxury suppliers. They have done the research and the time-consuming part of putting the calendar together. Your task is deciding which of the many offers to include in your marketing plan. Think of it like deciding which of the many marmalades will top your fresh slice of sourdough? Not really such a tough job. Right??
Once the promotions are narrowed down, don’t stop researching your host, consortium or franchise:
3. It’s time to check to see if your host offer blocked group cruise space, specialty cruise departures sailings, hosted voyages, or exclusive amenity and culinary departures. Taking advantage of pre-booked cruise space frees up your time for marketing verses managing the actual space. Add a marketing campaign to your plan around one or several sailings.
4. Be flexible within your plan. One of the most underutilized advantages of blocked cruise space is pricing. Make sure you have a backup for unplanned supplier pricing or promotional opportunities. Recognize the need for a flexible plan in case you encounter unforeseen opportunities and build a marketing plan that's able to recognize and react to market and pricing advantages.
Building a marketing plan or baking sourdough isn’t difficult once you learn the tricks and once you do, you too can become a mentor or a coach.