“Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
When it comes to sampling, most programs tend to be short spurts, running for six months in a couple of markets. But every once in a while, a long-term program comes along. I am talking about the kind that runs 12 months a year, even for multiple years.
As a Star Trek fan, I naturally equate managing a long-running sampling program to embarking on a deep space mission. Teams may not be light years away from their home planet, but the open road, unfamiliar tour stops and remote operation can feel like working in another galaxy. Below I’ve listed some best practices for a prosperous mission – be it across the 50 states or foreign planets.
1. Communicate with your team
The key to success on a bridge crew is organization and communication. This also goes for a long-term sampling program. Laying out a plan that details who will do what leads to smoother sailing down the line. A solid training method, especially for field staff, gets everyone off on the right foot. But even the best-laid courses require small corrections from suns exploding or unforeseen schedule hiccups. Consistent communication between team members on the sampling program keeps everyone on the same page and makes sure nothing slips through the cracks.
2. Prepare for anything
On the journey, everything might be going just fine – until a space monster attaches itself to your warp core! If you work hard to organize things at the beginning of the program, things will be go great – until they don’t. Making a point to be proactive during the good times will make you better equipped when things take a wrong turn. When you work with people in the field who have access to vehicles, product and warehouses, sometimes things go awry. For example, sometimes you build a custom piece for the top of a sampling vehicle and you put that vehicle in a rainy market. One day, the manager in that market sends you video of rain just pouring into the vehicle from the roof. You have to find a way to get that roof fixed while the vehicle is thousands of miles away. Being prepared for as many scenarios as possible allows you to put out the fires quickly and decisively. Preparation gets you only so far, though. To counter the infinite unknowns, allow yourself to be adaptable. Flexibility can be a difficult skill to learn, especially when it is easy to get comfortable with a routine or process. There will be times when the only solution to a problem is to jump out of that comfort zone and tackle things a different way.
3. Keep all channels open
The ears of a Ferengi aren’t a requirement to being a good listener. Keeping a finger on the pulse of the program allows you to make the small day-to-day changes required to keep things moving in the right direction. Listen to your client, staff and team to keep you in tune with the personality of the program. Always use two-way communicators on away missions.
4. Focus on the mission
Don’t just engage the engines – engage your enthusiasm, too. The mental wear of doing the same thing week after week, day after day can negatively affect a program. Making a point to attack each day with a positive and energetic approach goes a long way. Being on the road for months, sampling may feel repetitive to you – but most consumers are experiencing the product for the first time. An enthusiastic attitude is one of the most powerful forces in the universe, so leverage it.
Taking steps to communicate, prepare, listen and focus won’t guarantee program success, but like deep space missions, they will sway the odds in your favor.
“Live long, and prosper.”
To chat with Michael about long-term activations – on earth or otherwise – reach him at MichaelC@TheSwitch.us.