Marketing Recipe

chili ingredientsFor the past few months, I have been soaking up different types of chili.

It started on Sunday November 3rd, when my son Max and I attended our first chili cook off together to help support Second Harvest Food Bank.  The fun continued in December when my wife Jennifer and I all attended a chili cook off in Lenoir City.  During New Year’s Eve, my friend Joel (a.k.a. Home Cookin’ Hunter) served up some venison chili cheese dip.  And with the cold weather we have been experiencing, I’ve been cooking some of my own chili.

All this chili got me thinking how marketing and chili are very similar.

An effective marketing strategy is not a one shot deal; rather an effective marketing strategy is the efforts of several actions focused on one goal.  Just like a good chili isn’t just one ingredient, but several ingredients.

Know who you’re cooking for (Target Audience)

Fire ChiliI have a friend that always makes really spicy chili; no matter what.  It’s so hot I worry when he has children that their taste buds will be scorched beyond repair.

In marketing, it’s no different.  If you want to attract a certain audience, be sure to sale to that certain audience.

The Office Manager Incident

In 2007, the bank I worked for launched a new Remote Deposit Capture (RDC) service.  This service allows business to deposit checks at work by using a scanner.  After doing our research we created a target market based on different local business owners in a variety of industries.  To market and sell the service, I would conduct a joint call with the bank’s commercial lenders and, before the call, would confirm with the commercial lender that we would be speaking with the business owner.  Since the business owner was THE decision maker, it only made sense to meet with them and discuss the benefits of the service.

One afternoon, I went on a sales call with a commercial lender who waited until we reached our destination to inform me that the office manager, not the business owner, would be meeting with us.  The commercial lender pointed out it was too late to reschedule and that it, “didn’t make that much of a difference.”

After presenting the service to the office manager, she said she would not recommend this to the business owner because it would reduce the time she would be out of the office.  In other words, it wouldn’t justify her two and a half hour paid lunch.

So know who you’re cooking for, or you both may end up getting scorched.

Know Your Ingredients (Marketing Channels)

spicy pepperBefore adding too much spice to a chili, be sure to know the effect it will have.  Some peppers have spice that will hit you up front, while other peppers have a back end heat.  I learned this the hard way with my very first batch of chili.

When marketing to your customers, make sure you use the right tools to reach them.

The Health Savings Account Issue

In 2005, the bank I worked for put together a team to create a Health Savings Account (H.S.A.) product.  It made since because the bank also had an insurance agency and we could create a referral system between the bank and the insurance agency.  While putting together our advertising campaign, a Senior VP and our ad agency decided it would be “fun” to create promotional buttons that our tellers would wear that said, “Ask me about H.S.A.”  When I questioned them about it, I was out voted and told not to worry because it would bring in a lot of referrals.

Did it bring in a lot of referrals?  No.

Why?  Because an H.S.A. is a specialized product that can only be used if you have a High Deductible Healthcare Plan (HDHP).  During that time, the majority of people did not have an HDHP Insurance plan.  The bank wasted money we could have used somewhere else.

So know what ingredients you use, or you may end up getting scorched.

Have you created a great chili or marketing campaign you’re willing to share?

On a side note, check out the Home Cookin’ Hunter on facebook.


Creating Fans

Ali BabaWhat makes a business build a strong following?  Here’s one great example

If you live in Knoxville, by now you have heard about Ali Baba’s Time Out Deli and hopefully you were able to experience it before the owners decided to close the deli.  Every visit was an experience and no two visits were alike.  The two men who ran the establishment had a passion for what they did.  They loved talking to people, took pride in their work; and it created a strong fan base.  Here are three basic rules the owners of Ali Baba’s stood by:

Create a Great Product

Sounds simple, but many businesses fail because their product is too bland.  In the case of Ali Baba’s, they decided to have a menu that offered different items.

  • Traditional Deli Sandwiches: Pastrami sandwiches, roast beef and many more deli sliced awesome sandwiches.
  • Burgers and Such:  The Vol Burger, hot dogs and chicken sandwiches.
  • Middle Eastern Dishes: Falafel options, hummus and the infamous King Solomon Chicken plate.

By no means did I try everything on the menu, but the items I did eat, I loved.  They made the best pastrami sandwich in town and the King Solomon Chicken was a great dinner any day of the week.

Provide Excellent Service

A company can have the offer the best product every made, but without focusing on service, it is destined for failure.  The two men who worked at Ali Baba’s were always happy to see customers and went out of their way to show their appreciation.  They never made their customers feel like an inconvenience and were always willing to share suggestions to customers when customers were debating what they wanted to eat.

While waiting for the meals to be prepared, the guys would either be going on with some kind of banter, make you laugh at a quick joke or would have a conversation about what was on their television. There were a few winter nights I would walk in there tired and cold, but because of their warm personalities, I always walked out happy and feeling good.

Be Different

Ali Baba’s wasn’t for everybody.  It was a vibe that was all its own.  They didn’t try to be all things to all people.  It was a deli in East Tennessee with a Middle Eastern twist.  You couldn’t order a beer with you Vol Burger; though you could purchase a hookah.  They didn’t have fountain drinks with unlimited refills, but you could purchase exotic canned sodas.  People chose to eat at Ali Baba’s because they knew it was something they couldn’t get anywhere else in town.

These three basic principles helped sustain Ali Baba’s Time Out Deli for 40 years. It created a loyal fan base of people who flocked there on a regular basis.  For those loyal individuals who lived outside of Knoxville, they would always make sure to stop by when passing through town.  It was a deli, but more importantly it was an experience.

What was your experience at Ali Baba’s Time Out Deli?

Never been, then what experience have you had with a business that left you wanting more?

TV Ad Rules Broken

When I first started in bank marketing there were several “rules” banks followed.  One rule was that banks would end all advertising in the fourth quarter of the year.  From October thru December 31st, banks would lay low, and go dark.

As one bank marketer explained it years ago:

There’s too much junk on T.V. to get our message out.

Though that was only a few years ago, I’ve noticed this “rule” was not applied this year.  Community Banks, Regional Powerhouses, Mega Banks and Credit Unions are all still going strong with advertising, especially on television.

Why is that?  What is different this year from others?

  • Presidential Election: Though this was a heated Presidential election, Tennessee was slated to go to Gov. Romney.  In fact, there was little to no television advertising after the Republican primary, even in smaller state/local races.
  • Home Loans: Home loan rates are at an all time low.  People have the opportunity to refinance and save money by reducing their interest rate.  Banks, along with Credit Unions, realize this and are finding ways to let the public know, while obtaining new customers.
  • Branding: This applies more to Credit Unions.  Credit Unions are still riding high on being a local company and “not a bank.”  On a national level, more and more Community Banks are starting to learn from this and are applying the local company concept to their brand.  In Knoxville, a couple of area banks have started using the approach, by highlighting their local decision making process.

Other than banking, it appears the fast food industry is also coming on strong with television advertising.  Two good examples are Domino’s and Arby’s.

Both companies are not focusing on fast delivery of their food, but rather emphasizing their commitment to food quality while attacking their competitors.  The first part is not new.  Several fast food companies are focusing on quality, and Dominoes has spent years on branding their company as an organization dedicated to producing a quality driven product.  It’s the second part that is making these two companies stand out from the pack.

Deep Dish Pizza

Domino’s has came out with a new deep dish pizza and has been promoting it with television adverting spots.  Domino’s starts the commercial by calling out competitors who use frozen crust to make their deep dish pizzas, then the commercial shows how Domino’s makes their fresh deep dish pizzas.  The commercial doesn’t come right out and say who the frozen deep dish restaurant but this is a different approach than previous Domino’s commercials.  In fact, their last product push focused on their cheesy bread, where they point out how bad their cheesy bread was before they enhanced it.

Sliced Fresh

Arby’s has pulled out the big guns with this one.  Arby’s isn’t just attacking their competition, but they call them out one public offender and doing it with some flair.  Arby’s is using former NYPD Bo Dietl as a spokesperson to uncover the truth about Subway Restaurants and the way they slice their meat.  Here is just one of the current commercials running nationally.

I’m certain that there are other industries besides banking and fast food restaurants that are going strong in the fourth quarter.  What companies do you know of that are changing their television advertising strategy?

BBQ’d: Seasonal Marketing

Fired UpI love cooking outside.  Whether it be grilling burgers, smoking pork, supporting a low-country boil, or deep-frying a turkey, nothing beats a good ol’ BBQ.

With summer ending, and fall beginning, the frequency of cooking outside will certainly intensify.  Cooler weather, tailgating, and camping are just three reasons I’ll be behind the grill cook up some good food.

This idea of limited time left to accomplish something reminds me of lessons in seasonal marketing.  You know what I’m talking about:

  • Advertising shorts in spring & summer; and advertising sweaters in the fall & winter
  • Flu shot reminders at the beginning of fall

Though seasonal marketing is short-term in advertising, the strategy is much longer.  Consider the banking sector; most banks advertise home loans and mortgages during the summer, because this is the peak of the year when families decide to buy a new home and move.  On the outside, it looks like banks bump up their advertising and hope that people will act on the advertising; however more is done behind the scenes to make sure it is a success.  Some examples include:

  • Multilayered advertising including: Web, TV and print
  • Referral process that rewards customers and/or staff
  • Direct marketing campaign using traditional and email tools
  • Staff education and training

The majority of people will think of the first three as a typical marketing plan, but many do not consider education and training as a level of marketing.  Think about it, a company pumps money into an advertising campaign for a product, and the staff has no idea how to sale or service the product.

It’s the equivalent of someone who has always used a gas grill and suddenly has to use a charcoal grill.  They have never had to get charcoal started, so how can they cook?

Unfortunately most of us have experienced this before (the poor sale and service experience, not the poor grill example).  We have all been in a store and felt the person who was helping us knew less about the product than we do.  This is why staff education and training must be implemented before any advertising is started.  If not, then your campaign will go up in smoke and your customers will be left feeling burnt.

Enough grilling analogies.  Let’s cook!

BBQ Session

Last month a group of my friends and I were exposed to the world of competitive BBQ.  John Bublitz from QueNivorous took us under his wing to teach us the way of Brisket, Ribs, and all things BBQ.

We started around 7am and kept the fun going all day.  Around 2pm, some more friends came by and played some great blues and rock.  Click on this photo link for pictures from the event.  Here is a slideshow highlighting the event.

BBQ Adventure

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Good Mood Food

When my wife and I moved to Knoxville nearly four (4) years ago, I fell back in love with Arby’s. I know this sounds cheesy, and typically I don’t stand up for fast food chains, but come on, it’s Arby’s!

Growing up we didn’t have much money, and going out to eat at Arby’s was a nice treat. There was an Arby’s right by the mall we would visit and, as an eight year old, I thought it was awesome.

As I got older, my fondness for Arby’s faded away. But then Jenn and I moved to Knoxville.

During our first year in Knoxville, we lived downtown and Arby’s was walking distance from our apartment. In fact, it was right in between where we lived and where I worked. Slowly my love for Arby’s returned.

Though Jenn and I no longer live downtown, and I no longer work at the same place, I still visit Arby’s. Luckily, there is an Arby’s right down the street from my office and every once in a while, I will treat myself to lunch there.

After experiencing a bad dinner experience at a, high-end restaurant, I figured a lunch at Arby’s would hit the spot. While eating there today, I thought of the two reasons why Arby’s stands out over the other traditional fast food stops.

  • Different Menu: For starters, there are no hamburgers; instead they offer roast beef. The roast beef is sliced and cooked on site, which is nice change to frozen patties being reheated. They have seasonal sandwiches, like the Pecan Chicken Salad, that you would never see at a fast food burger joint. Plus, who can resist their horsey sauce?
  • Customer Service: The Arby’s I now visit (6903 Kingston Pike) is always clean and everybody always says hello. The cashier makes sure to call everyone by name, every time. Even the guys who clean the lobby have a smile on their face. Everyone truly wants to be there and they truly care about the customers who come in the building.

A restaurant can spend an astronomical amount of money on marketing to get people into your restaurant. A business can hire actors and famous musicians to be in their television advertisements. These tactics can get new people in the door, but ultimately it’s the food and service people receive inside the building that keeps them coming back and builds brand loyalty.

Hey, if it’s good enough for Puddy…

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