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Author's profile photo Ginger Shimp

Marketing innovation lessons courtesy of ‘dry farming’ and ‘truffling’

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’s was the perfect place for college students just scraping by. My husband and I would sidle through the cafeteria-style line past the glistening hand-carved turkey and beef, and head straight for the spaghetti special. Roughly $3 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.

Across town on Nob Hill, another restaurant, Acquerello, opened about 22 years ago, also featuring a three-course pasta dinner, though the price runs $70. Throw in tip, wine and valet parking, and you’re looking at some serious cash. Granted, the bill of fare is somewhat different than 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 an adjective, and I’m puzzled that an Italian restaurant features French “torchon of foie gras.”

I find a great metaphor for marketing in this. We hear a lot about innovation and I’m all for it, but we must beware of 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. A marketer is the equivalent of a concierge, guiding prospects to the right experience.

Let’s look at one example, virtual events. Is the ROI worth it? 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.” Consider doing some of the following:

  • Ensure your platform can handle application-sharing, and can 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 webinar’s PowerPoint on SlideShare.
  • Add short clips from the event to YouTube.
  • Follow up with a related article or whitepaper, 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 pregame chatter at Lefty O’Doul’s, they offer us the opportunity to build a fan base along the way.

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