Salty.
Sour.
Sweet.
Bitter.
Flavorful
.

What’s similar about all of these?

ETC2010

They’re all powerful tastes we are biologically wired to respond to. We love foods with these different flavors. A seared steak with cracked peppercorns and salt. A warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream on the side. A plate of buttery salmon sushi with wasabi on the side. Whatever the food, whatever the cuisine, there’s something that makes you happy.

Now ask yourself this: when was the last time you put a spoonful of salt in your mouth? When was the last time you ate straight sugar? When was the last time you served your dinner guests a small bowl of MSG and nothing else? I’d wager never, certainly not for dining purposes unless you wanted to make sure those guests never came by the house again. We don’t like pure flavors very much. Flavors need to intermingle, flavors need the complexities of foods that have lots of secondary and subtle interactions.

So why, in the world of marketing, do we pursue purity so much? “We need an SEO strategy!” “We are going to market just with social media, it’s the future!” “We don’t advertise anywhere except pay per click!” Why do we insist on pure flavors when the customer we work with every day enjoy and demand complex meals of content, interaction, engagement, brand, and persuasion?

Part of the answer lies in metrics. In our quest to measure everything, the faster we can get to pure flavors, the faster and easier we can get to measuring our work. If you served nothing but a bowl of salt to dinner guests, it would be trivial to measure how much sodium was in the meal, doubly so after everyone left without eating. Measuring how much sodium is in a Thanksgiving dinner is much more difficult, isn’t it? Yet few would argue that a delicious full dinner is more satisfying than a bowl of salt.

Just as we don’t serve pure flavors at a meal, neither should we serve our customers and prospective customers with an insistence on marketing purity. Measure what you can, sure, but serve them with the best and most practical integrated marketing strategy that you can. Have content out there. Have social media interaction. Go to trade shows, speak at conferences, make interesting videos, do your SEO, send plenty of email, maybe even consider billboards or flyers if you’re a local business.

At the heart of this is acknowledging the complexity of an integrated marketing strategy and understanding that you can’t measure all of the interactions in a customer’s mind. A prospect might become a customer because they first met you at a trade show but a blog post reinforced to them that you knew your stuff. A prospect might become a customer because they first saw a YouTube video, then chatted with you, then read your eBook, then followed you on Twitter, and finally was convinced by an unsolicited testimonial of a friend of a friend on Facebook.

To the best of your ability, to the practical limits of your budget, serve a multi-course dinner as often as you can instead of bowls of single flavors. Your metrics will suffer to some degree, but you and your guests will be much more satisfied with you after it’s all over, won’t they?


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