What Lentil Soup Taught Me About Marketing

What Lentil Soup Taught Me About Marketing

My mom hates to cook. She’ll happily be the first to admit this you. When I was growing up, if anything was cooked beyond boiled water or a spin in the microwave, it was done by my dad.

And while I never considered myself a “rebel” in the traditional sense, I have always liked to buck traditions and put in the work to show that I can be different if I put my mind to it. (That’s the secret about a lot of entrepreneurs/business owners/freelancers I think).

So I cook.

In fact, now that I work for myself, I cook all three meals at home most days. (Except when a poke bowl is calling my name...or a donut).  

I’m by no means a master chef (I couldn’t even cut it on Masterchef Junior -- those kids are intense) but I like it and it brings me a specific type of joy to be able to create nutritious meals for me and my husband.

So naturally, as I was whirring up some tomato soup the other day I started to think about how I could leverage this for content share my experiences to help my audience.

And it occurred to me that learning to cook isn’t all that different from learning marketing.

Allow me to present: lessons I’ve learned in the kitchen that have made me a better marketer.

Bon Appetit!

Start With Simple Stuff

I don’t remember the first thing I ever cooked but I remember the first ‘complicated’ thing I ever cooked and it was this lentil soup. It was delicious, but I spent what was probably half of my checking account on saffron threads which was...dumb.

When it comes to marketing your business, you don’t have to start with a recipe that has you frantically googling what Swiss chard looks like. For instance, you don’t have to build a complex marketing funnel before you’ve sold your first product and you don’t have to buy the most sophisticated automation software.

You can start with a grilled cheese or a simple pesto, which in this case might be writing a blog post, using the free version of MailChimp, or just setting up social accounts for your business.

To mix metaphors, you don’t have to dive into the deep end to learn to swim and if you do, you’re a lot more likely to drown AKA get super overwhelmed.

It’s OK to Use Recipes

There’s some common wisdom that if you use recipes, you don’t really know how to cook or you’re not a good cook.

I use recipes all the damn time and nobody is complaining about my pizza dough or vegetarian chili.

Business owners are creative risk-takers, and we tend to build a lot of our identity around those descriptors. Sometimes that translates to “I have to come up with a fresh new idea every time I do something, otherwise I’m a fraud!”

For your marketing to be effective, you don’t have to create your strategies from scratch. You can start from successful recipes, whether you find them on a blog, in a course, or just kinda crib them (the strategy, NOT the content) from other successful people.

Once you get more experience (and data) under your belt, you’ll be a lot better equipped to make tweaks, changes, and even create your own brand new, fresh-to-death strategies that work for your business.

Memorize Your Favorites

I think it was Ina Garten (or maybe Martha?) who said you should have a handful of really good recipes memorized to be a good cook.

I don’t know how to make coq a vin or beef bourguignon and I would be completely lost if you tried to get me make a souffle.

But I can throw together a pizza dough, tomato soup, some homemade naan, and a juicy roast chicken from memory.  If I want the other stuff, I can go to a restaurant.

Maybe you’re really amazing at writing blog posts but you suck at in-person events (what, no, this isn’t based on me, of course not). Maybe you’re superb on camera but sitting down to write marketing emails makes you want to scream.

Play to your strengths. Get good at what you want to be good at. Of course you want to take on new challenges and learn new things, but you can do that once you get really good at your favorites. And you can always go a restaurant AKA a professional service provider for the stuff you don’t get yet or don’t care to learn .

Learn Your Tools

When I first learned about oven thermometers I was absolutely floored. You mean to tell me that there’s a chance my oven temperature doesn’t match up exactly to the number on the knob on the front?

You don’t have to hang a thermometer in your oven every time you bake, but whenever you start cooking with a new one, it can make a huge difference to know what temperature your oven actually is.

Whether you know it or not, you already have a kitchen full of marketing tools at your disposal. It might be your personal narrative, an extremely unique product, or a deep and unrelenting knowledge of your target market.

How do you know how effective your tools are? You start using them.

Share your story on social or write blog posts about the topics your target market really cares about. Track your results, try again. Repeat.

There’s no oven thermometer for marketing, but there are plenty of analytics that can help you. But you gotta start trying things.

You Can Leave Some Things Out

When I made that lentil soup so many years ago and spent like $40 on saffron I hadn’t learned one of the most important cooking lessons out there: you can leave stuff out.

I wouldn’t try to make a lentil soup without, you know, lentils, but leaving out a garnish, a topping, a drizzle, a spice won’t turn something delicious into something gross.

Want to launch a promotional campaign but you haven’t had a professional photo session yet? Eh, skip it.

Have a blog post itching to get our but you haven’t finished your lead generating content upgrade yet? Just publish.

Your business and your marketing will never move forward if you’re waiting to get every single piece perfect. You’ve got to put yourself out there and start trying things to figure out what works for you. Even if you don’t have and za’atar or arugula isn’t in season.

Results May Vary

You only have to take a short scroll down to any online recipe comment section to learn that a recipe that yields incredible results for one cook is a total disaster for another.

It could be the aforementioned oven temperature thing, but it could also be humidity, altitude, utensils, or the phase of the moon. Who really knows.

The point is that this can also happen with your marketing strategy.

You can copy a successful launch exactly or follow all the steps your favorite marketing expert has laid out for you and you might not see the same results. By the same token, you can try something completely different and new -- or something that goes against conventional wisdom -- and you’ll see great results.

I mean, what do you think the first person who tried to make milk out of oats was going on? At just look how that turned out.

What you Take the Time to Learn Today Will Feed You Forever

This is a little hokey, but the truth is that if you dive into marketing your business and get good at it, it will feed you for the rest of your life. Even if you shutter your business, move on to other opportunities, start a non-profit -- knowing how to promote, sell, persuade, and add value for customers will never go out of style. The skills you’re learning and practicing will stay with you in any kitchen and you’ll only get batter. I mean, better.

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