Back in high school, coaches, parents and teachers had a common expectation of my peers and me: “Don’t sandbag.” In other words, don’t slack off, cheat, or rely on the person next to you to do your job or hide your lack of effort.

Then I moved to Fargo, a.k.a. Floodville.

Now, “sandbagging” has an entirely new meaning, and, actually, it’s the complete opposite. In the literal sense, sandbagging requires trust and dependency on everyone nearby. You could say ‘round these parts, the phrase “don’t sandbag” has been wiped out along with our ever-expanding riverbanks and hundreds of homes.

If you’re unfamiliar with sandbagging, first of all, feel lucky, and secondly, let me clue you in to what goes on:
First, a flood prediction is made and announced. After a good amount of grumbling and groaning, professionals haul in sand by the truckload to places with unique, catchy names like “Sandbag Central”. Volunteers of all ages step forward in herds to fill bags, seal them correctly and efficiently stack them onto pallets, which are then loaded onto other trucks. Finally, hundreds of people meet near the sides of area rivers and drainage ditches, form seemingly endless lines, and begin passing each and every bag to the end of the line where it gets added to the stack of bags that will grow to prevent water from leaking through. Ufda.

It sounds like a total disaster, but quite honestly, when everyone fills a niche and does his or her job, it’s a smooth operation and the ideal model for team effort. And, frankly, only a team can make it work.

As our community gears up to make another gargantuan mound of sandbags this year, I’ve taken time to reflect on how amazing the process really is. Not so much the fact that we have to sandbag every year, but rather that a group of people can collaborate to devise and implement a plan almost flawlessly by working together toward a common goal.

The process is comparable to formulating a marketing plan. Similar to how a team is formed with fillers, stackers, drivers and volunteers, the right team of writers, designers, media planners and PR peeps can build up your brand image.

Hear me out:
Like a flood prediction, leaders should evaluate any challenges the company is experiencing. Are sales down? Do potential customers perceive you incorrectly? Are people unaware that the company even exists? Just like the sandbag team fighting a flood, a marketing team has the expertise to strategize and put a plan in place to keep customers flowing in the right direction – towards your company!

The ultimate goal in fighting a flood is to save homes, businesses, and, in some cases, people. When volunteers and coordinators have the same goal in mind, it’s easy to get on the same page and dive in to the work, at which point, there’s no need to worry about swimming upstream. A marketing team is designed to do this for your company. They’re professionals at putting the puzzle together – not just making the pieces fit. They want everything from your logo to your core brand messages to match, so there’s very little doubt about what your company does, or why anyone should care.

Execution. Enough about the planning and development. Will the plan work? When you cover all your bases with everything from advertising to getting 4-pages of editorial coverage in your favorite publication to shaking hands with new customers at a tradeshow, you form a solid wall of marketing. And, just like a dike, a plan that has no holes in it will hold up even in the roughest waters.

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