Do You Eat Your Own Cooking?

By | January 31, 2011

There is an old adage that says, “Never trust a chef that doesn’t eat his own cooking.” You might think that the problem for the cook would be making sure that they don’t eat too much of their own cooking. But, if you’ve ever been a professional cook or chef as I was many moons ago, you know that sometimes you get so tired of being around food you don’t eat. I once cooked for an Italian restaurant, Café Amalfi, and I couldn’t eat red sauce for about a year after I left.

I have to wonder if printers and agencies feel the same way. They spend all day cranking out communications for clients and rarely do any marketing for themselves. It’s amazing to me how few companies, desperately seeking to deliver marketing services for clients, actually conduct ongoing campaigns for themselves.

Service providers – it’s time to eat your own cooking!

In prepping for this post, I called several service providers around the country, primarily regional firms that I’ve known for a while. I tried to focus on companies that used to mail to me when I was with Art Plus Technology or at Insight Forums. I started working on this thinking I would get a whole bunch of great examples to show. Instead, I got several types of responses to my request to “speak to the person who handles internal marketing for the company rather than marketing services for clients:”

  1. A receptionist who told me that “we don’t have any one here who does that.” (Folks – an unhappy receptionist is not a good thing for your business – but I digress.)
  2. A receptionist who told me that there was one person (sometimes two people) who does that, “but he spends most of his time on the road.” You know what? That sounds like a sales person – not a marketing person.
  3. If I made it past the receptionist (typically by cheating and calling someone I already knew there) the answer was, “we used to do that – but we haven’t in a long time.”

Wow! “We used to.”

Used to have more business too – hmmm? See a corollary there? Sarcasm aside, I do understand. The economy is slow. Maybe  you’re short staffed. The cobblers children have no shoes etc. etc. But haven’t we been telling our clients and prospects that a downturn is the right time to get more attention for your marketing dollars because there is less activity out there? Telling them that you can’t afford to go silent just because things are slow? Telling them that direct marketing is important for maintaining your brand equity?

I repeat. Service providers. EAT. YOUR. OWN. COOKING! (and stop whining about the vegetables.)

One bright spot in my research efforts was Wilde – one of my local suppliers here in Boston (ironically I know them through restaurant connections as well – go figure.) I had been to a marketing seminar that Wilde offered in partnership with 3 other agencies last year (held at a restaurant ‘cause they’re foodies.) and I called to find out how often they did that kind of stuff. Clearly they are not only doing a lot – but tracking it too because Julie Sullivan and Liz Swanson were able to get info to me within hours of my request (and lookee – two live marketing people actually in the office –even during a snow storm!) Here’s what I found out:

Wilde has a formal   lead generation program to support their sales force. For the past year, they have had campaigns dropping every four to six weeks,

Personalized snowman card

The campaigns promote downloadable content (white papers, tips sheets), webinars, and in-person seminars that showcase their direct marketing capabilities though thought-leadership (from creative strategies to operations best practices).

They use email,  direct mail pieces and are branching into inbound marketing channels, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and their blog (and providing content to 3rd party blogs such as thedigitalnirvana.)

 70% of leads generated in 2010 were deemed “marketing qualified,” meaning they met the ideal customer/ prospect profile. Almost 30% of qualified leads led to a sales opportunity and half of those 2010 opportunities have already led to closed business (and more may convert since the sales cycle can be as long as two years). 

One of the other, less quantifiable benefits of this marketing effort has been an overall perception lift for Wilde. Because their lead gen campaigns centered on value-added direct marketing content, as opposed to pushing products,  clients are recognizing them as being experts in direct marketing—not just your run-of-the-mill lettershop.

That, my friends, is the value of eating your own cooking!

 I am sure that there are other companies out there investing in their own marketing well-being, but I sure couldn’t find them last week. If you’ve got some good examples to share – please get in touch.

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13 thoughts on “Do You Eat Your Own Cooking?

  1. Julie

    Thanks for the recognition of our efforts! And the humorous story about your hunt to find marketers who actually drink their own Koolaid.

    Last year I spoke at OnDemand to MSPs about how to develop a marketing strategy for their own company. The good news was that it generated lots of interest and certainly struck a chord with many. The not so good news is that many companies still don’t have a marketing plan in place to differentiate from the competition, attract new prospects and create value for their customers. To me, it’s a no-brainer!

  2. Gee Ranasinha

    Great post.

    I wrote a blog post about my own experience with “Eating My Own Cooking” last year (you can read it at http://kexino.com/marketing/too-close, if you’re interested). Namely that, if you’re in the the marketing, promotion or communication business, it’s often doubly-difficult to create something for your own product or service because you’re “too close” to the value proposition.

    I was having a tough time putting together a marketing plan for a new service that my company was launching. I was finding it difficult to communicate the BENEFITS, and was too focused on the FEATURES. Basically, I had fallen into the very same trap that so many of our clients fall into before they contact us!

    My solution was to bring in a friend of mine to help. He’s an independent designer with an ad agency history, who knew enough about my offering to understand it, but not to the point of how it worked under the hood. Together, we carved-out a plan and campaign that helped create a successful launch.

    Take away: You may find it beneficial to have a third-party involved when you’re “cooking for yourself.”

  3. Bert Salter

    Great read and reinforcement that we are on the right path. The strategy has taken some time, more than intially thought but we are starting to see results. Every 4-6 weeks was an eye opener, but as we build content and eventually cross over into the webinar world, I hope to have us there there soon.

  4. Elizabeth Gooding Post author

    Thanks Gee. (Gee Thanks?)

    I agree that writing your own material can be daunting. Much like writing your own resume: everything seems important and it’s hard to weed out information.

    Your recommendation of hiring an outsider is in a way even more like eating your own cooking. You’re not only saying marketing is critical, but that you should get outside help. I think outside strategy and creative is always a great idea – in fact when I had my own information design firm we always brought in outside people at least for brainstorming. But, once the creative is done – there is no excuse for not keeping the campaigns cranking and the leads flowing. Don’t leave the sales guys out in the cold with no marketing support! Thanks for reading!

  5. Elizabeth Gooding Post author

    Hi Bert – I bet a lot of people were surprised at “4 to 6 weeks.” I don’t have a lot more detail on what Wilde did – but I’m guessing that they did not do new campaigns every 4 – 6 weeks (but maybe they did) but rather hit different portions of their list. One mistake I see over and over again is the “one and done” marketing approach where a huge mail or email campaign goes out all at once. You need to tie the volume to the ability of your sales force to follow up. Look at staggered campaigns and drip campaigns that make it easy for the prospect to contact you and easy for the sales force to follow up in a timely fashion. Or to stay with the analogy – when you eat your own cooking, don’t bite off more than you can chew!

  6. Jason Pinto

    Elizabeth,
    Thank you for posting this article. It was very direct — but it absolutely contains the encouragement needed for service providers to increase their own marketing efforts.

    Also, thank you for highlighting the example of Wilde! Congrats to Julie and Liz for all that they have accomplished.

  7. Elizabeth Gooding Post author

    Jason – thank you! I’m trying to reach out and find more real-life examples to share. The basics – like getting your own marketing campaigns out the door – are things that individuals can control when there are so many things about our industry that an individual can’t control (new channels, rising postal costs, changing demographics, executive inertia, SNOW IN BOSTON!) Thanks again for the encouragement!

  8. Scott Fahy

    Excellent article and a great boost to me as I struggle though this month’s, and next month’s marketing campaigns! We’ve invested in having a full-time marketing director here at MMS (that’d be me) and while trackable new business is slowly starting to come in, I can say with certainty that our “less quantifiable” perception has definitely gone way up recently. I was at an event last night and was approached by the sales manager of a rival company (it’s a very friendly community we’re in) who commented on the quality of our marketing materials he’d seen.

    If we’re eating our own cooking, I’m all in for seconds…

  9. Elizabeth Gooding Post author

    Thanks Scott – so glad this gave you some motivation. Hearing from you gave me a boost too – I just knew there were more companies out there cooking up some marketing! I’d be really interested in hearing more about your progress as you get more campaign history out there. My feeling is that it really feeds on itself (in a good way.) The more visibility you get – the more likely people are to actually look at what you send. Good luck with your efforts!

  10. Jim Raffel

    Great post, that ironically my new marketing team member found and shared out of our Twitter account. This is exactly the kinds of things we hired her to do. Funny how solid sales come right after a well planned marketing campaign. It’s just crazy how complicated this stuff is!

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