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About 25 years ago, when I lived in San Francisco, I would frequent a wonderful bistro named “Lefty O’Doul’s.” Situated just off Union Square, near the theaters and shopping, Lefty O’Doul’s was the perfect place for a college student just scraping by. My husband and I would sidle through the cafeteria-style line past the glistening fresh carved turkey and beef, and head straight for the spaghetti special. Roughly $3.00 would buy a salad, pasta, dinner roll and drink. They had a big-screen television, and we’d buzz right through the line and be at our table exchanging small talk with other Giants fans before the national anthem. Lefty’s, named for a famous baseball player and plastered with baseball paraphernalia from front to back, has been in business since 1958. I am happy to say that they still have their spaghetti special although the price has risen to $5.49.

Across town on Nob Hill, another restaurant, Acquerello, opened about 22 years ago. You can get a three-course pasta dinner here as well, but it will cost you $70. Throw in tip, wine, valet parking and so on, and you’re looking at some serious cash. Granted, their bill of fare is somewhat different from Lefty’s’. The first course is pear and foie gras ravioli ― that’s “dry-farmed, organic Warren pears filled with truffled torchon of foie gras.” I’m fascinated by this for a number of reasons: I’d never heard of “dry farming”, I hadn’t realized “truffle” could be used as a verb, and I’m puzzled that an Italian restaurant features French “torchon of foie gras”.

Aside from these random musings, I find a great metaphor for marketing in this everyday conundrum, a common occurrence in my life. We hear a lot about innovation and I’m all for it, but we must beware getting caught up in innovating for innovation’s sake.

Just as an expensive restaurant doesn’t necessarily guarantee a palatable experience, innovation doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective. That’s why our companies need us. Marketers are the equivalent of a concierge, guiding our prospects to the right experience.

Let’s look at one example ― virtual events. Is the ROI worth it? Well that depends on why we’re doing them. If frequency is key to our strategy, we’ll wear out our teams and budgets by piling on too many events. But if we want to capture a far-flung audience with “live content”, I’d absolutely add a webinar. But then I’d … “innovate”:

§  Ensure your platform can handle application sharing and include a live demo or stream a video so the event rises above the norm.

§  Use live Tweeting during the event.

§  Host a LinkedIn Discussion the following week to continue the conversation.

§  Post a scaled-back version of the PowerPoint on Slideshare.

§  Add short clips from the event to YouTube.

§  Follow up with a related article or white paper, AND insert that same piece in your content syndication.

My mother used to tell me that necessity was the mother of innovation. Mom was right. (Who knew?!)  Frequently, when looking for multipliers to extend our reach, budget and bandwidth constraints challenge us to be innovative. Social media tactics promise to stretch our imaginations even further because, like pre-game chatter at Lefty O’Doul’s, they offer us the opportunity to build a fan base along the way.

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