My wife, Dawn, is a “personal chef.” That’s culinary lingo for a person who prepares meals for small groups of people with whom the chef makes a close personal connection. Sometimes, it’s just for a couple, rarely for more than 15-20 people. Sometimes it’s for a single night, sometimes for weeks or months or even years. Sometimes it’s haute cuisine, and sometimes it’s meat and potatoes. But one thing is constant with all chefs like Dawn. The connection they make with the people they serve is up close and personal – unlike most dining experiences where the chef is removed and shrouded behind kitchen walls.
Dawn is also an avid reader of all things related to food and cooking. Not just magazines, but websites, food-related murder mysteries, biographies and anything else she can lay her hands on. On our recent vacation, she read a book called A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, a food writer who’s highly popular right now in the culinary blogosphere (www.orangette.blogspot.com). It’s an autobiographical love story with the kitchen at its center – along with lots of Wizenberg’s recipes.
Everyone Needs a Chocolate Cake
Dawn was so smitten by the story that she was constantly regaling me and our daughters during our trip with something funny or touching from the book. As she read the final chapter, she was visibly moved. It begins with an assertion that “Everyone needs a chocolate cake in her repertoire,” and Wizenberg’s is called the “Winning Hearts and Minds Cake.” She writes, “It’s not something you want to serve to someone you feel so-so about. It’s what you serve when you want his undivided attention.” Setting aside that she was talking about her fiancé, the sentiment she captures later in the chapter relates strongly to a central theme in past issues of Inside Out.
As I wrote in one recently, the typical approach to marketing is focused disproportionately on promotional activities like advertising – the attraction side of the marketing formula. By comparison, relatively little effort and expense goes for relationship-building – the retention side of marketing. While both are essential, numerous studies show that efforts aimed at retention typically are more lasting and cost effective in the business-building process.
Relationships = Recipe for Success
In the last paragraph of her book, Wizenberg compares cooking to life, saying that “what it all comes down to is winning hearts and minds. Underneath everything else, all the plans and goals and hopes, that’s why we get up in the morning, why we believe, why we try, why we bake chocolate cakes.”
As Dawn has experienced time and again – and what every marketing and communication professional must understand – you don’t win hearts and minds through promotion and persuasion. You earn it through personal relationship-building – with people both inside and outside the organization, especially when you want their “undivided attention” – and when you want them to feel like they’re the center of your world. In the end, that’s the surest recipe for heart-throbbing success – in cooking, in business and just about everything else in life.
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