Last night as I was preparing dinner, I was struck by some out-of-the-blue marketing insights. You know those moments that come when you least expect it and never come when you demand it! I was flipping through my library of cookbooks and I made an unusual parallel between cookbooks and marketing content. As I scanned my counter, I counted six cookbooks that I had purchased during the past 12 months. Hmm…let’s explore this revelation a bit more.
Even during the economic downturn of the past several years, cookbook publishing in the U.S. has held its own. According to IBISWorld’s latest research on cookbook publishing, “…consumers splurged on cookbooks to eat and entertain at home instead of going out. Although external competition from online recipe sources is escalating, consumer demand for printed cookbooks continues to rise.” Obviously, this industry sector is doing something right. Here are a few best practices from cookbook publishing that we can apply to our marketing efforts regardless of our industry.
Beautiful imagery sells.
Part of a cookbook’s appeal is its abundant use of photography and illustration. We all want to drool over the spicy BBQ ribs and ooey gooey brownies. Likewise, we should boost the visual appeal of our products and services across our marketing mix even if we’re in the technology sector where it’s more challenging to depict what we do. In these situations, infographics can be extremely helpful for conveying a difficult concept or abstract idea. And don’t forget to budget extra funds for professional photography and/or illustration if you don’t have this expertise in-house.
Scale down your words to eliminate confusion.
Professional cookbook writers don’t add excess fluff. They provide the precise amount of words to guide you successfully through the recipes. And to ensure they get this word mix right, they’ll recruit other individuals to follow their steps and report back. I’m so busted on this one! Over the years, I’ve been known to go overboard in the word department. My best advice is to simply remove the excess words in all of your marketing deliverables (PowerPoint presentations, web copy, online videos, product descriptions, white papers, data sheets, etc.) Need a little extra assistance in this department? Hire a freelance marketing editor who can whip out the red pen when you get too close to the project. It’s always harder for us to edit our own work.
Be organized so prospects and customers find what they need.
Most cookbooks follow an intuitive structure and include an index. I don’t have the time to page through an entire cookbook to locate the turkey lasagna recipe. I’ll either thumb to the pasta section or go to the book’s index and search for the letter “l.” In the same manner, it’s important for us to organize our content in customer-friendly formats especially on the web. Strategize about your primary and secondary navigation as people look for information in more than one way. Don’t skimp on overview or highlights sections of your content since some folks may only want a top-level view. And always include sidebars of benefits or key points, as well as provide links to related information. Bottom line…don’t make your customers hunt for what they need.
Don’t over promise on what you (or your product) will deliver.
Cookbook publishers will rarely ever do a “bait and switch” on their faithful readers. Similarly, if you promote a soufflé, don’t give your customer a cupcake instead. Marketers need to collaborate closely with their product development teams to ensure they understand the feature mix and represent it accurately to sales. Ask questions and then ask a few more! And make sure your product manager is involved in reviewing key product messaging and demonstrations.
Always promote your newly revised edition to customers.
I own two editions of the same cookbook. Why…? Their marketing team made sure to beef up the new additions so I felt that I was missing out. While we tend to tout new product releases to prospects, we sometimes forget to inform our current customers. Remember they’ve already purchased from you before so a good share of the work is already done. However, you’ll need to tailor your messaging so that it’s appropriate for your customers. Explain what’s different and unique about this release compared to the last. And if appropriate, offer a reduced price to thank them for their repeat business.
Anything more? Drop me a line and share what’s on your mind.