Growth Insights for CEOs

Marketing Today: More like Making a Salad than Baking Bread?

Posted by The Chief Outsider

How marketing is like a salad: Customized and easy to change.

What do you like to do?

How do you bake bread? Not that I am any kind of an expert at cooking (just ask my kids) but when you bake bread, you heat up an oven, add the ingredients and cook the loaf.

You don’t have an opportunity to make changes once it is in the oven. If you put in too much salt, for example, you get salty bread. You can’t just add more flour after it comes out of the oven.

With a salad, you have much more flexibility. You start out with some fixings—lettuce, tomatoes, olives—and then once you have combined them, you can add tomato and cheese. If you put in too much cheese, you can add additional lettuce. Even after serving the salad, you can make changes based on customer preferences.

Marketing used to be more like baking the bread. You had to be all-in, once the ingredients were put together.

  • The brochures were sent to the printer and thousands of copies
    were printed
  • The advertisements went to the magazine months in advance
  • TV ads were shot and put in the can

The decision on where to spend the marketing budget needed to be analyzed in great detail. Mistakes were expensive and difficult to correct in a timely fashion. (Again, compare bread and a salad. Bread uses more of your calorie budget and the salad less—if the salad is made wisely.) 

Marketing has changed

Now, marketing is more like a salad. If customers respond more to one ingredient, than another, you can add more of that. If they don’t like another, you can take that away. The salad can be customized, depending on individual preferences.  It is easier to start out small, developing the salad along the way to optimize customer enjoyment.  Testing different variations is not very expensive. (ex, add a blog)

Many experts are saying that we are in the age of niche, localized marketing. With real-time data, we can continuously fine-tune our message to produce better results.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Localized mobile advertising: A deli with several locations found that some products sell better than others in specific locations within half-an-hour of each other.
  • Pumpkin Pie: every year a small local bakery business battles with Frisch's Big Boy to market pumpkin pie. Both businesses benefit. 
  • In Macy's, they target the customers in individual stores. The merchandise is different depending on what is popular in the community

Effectively using digital marketing, including social media, encourages experimentation—experimentation on a limited budget. Using analytical tools—like Google Analytics—shows almost instantaneously what is working and what can be improved. 

  • The data-driven decisions allowed by available real-time metrics
  • Digital—including mobile, social and other localized options that encourage smaller, cheaper experiments

The convergence of these two forces has changed marketing dramatically.

New start-up companies are taking advantage of this today. Larger well-funded companies are starting to understand the power of this change.

The question that many mid-size companies need to address is, “Are you?”

And “If not, why not?” and even more importantly, “What is going to happen if you don’t change?”

Change does not mean that you throw out the old and take on the new. It does mean that you use the new marketing tools to evaluate the old. If it’s working, keep it up. If not, try something else.

At Chief Outsiders

Over the last 10 months, we have quadrupled our web traffic, doubled our leads, and improved our search rankings dramatically.  These are some of the reasons for our dramatic growth. (Not the main reasons.  People are always the most important asset of any company, large or small.) But we don’t have a big budget. We have been around four years and haven’t used debt financing so we have had to be very strategic and budget conscious with everything we have done. We have all had experience as marketing executives in big companies with big budgets but we chose to leave that environment and concentrate on providing our services to mid-size companies where every dollar counts. Companies like our own. That’s why with our clients, we spend their money just like we spend our own—wisely.  

What do you think? Would you rather bake bread or make a salad?

Topics: Digital Marketing Tactics, CEO Marketing Strategy, CEO Marketing Vision, Marketing Metrics

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