A Five-Step Recipe for Marketing Success

Cinnamon pecan buns

My cinnamon pecan buns

You’ve already heard that I work long hours juggling multiple priorities in my role with Affinity Express. When I show up at the office armed with trays of decadent desserts my coworkers, I invariably hear the question: “How do you find the time?” 

The answer is that I make the time because baking not only gives me a welcome break from work but also reinforces the way I approach marketing and gives me an opportunity to think through more complex challenges. Let me explain.

1.  Understand the Plan

You have to read a recipe thoroughly before you start doing anything to see how all the steps work together, the timing and the equipment needed. Although the process is fun, the objective is to create something delicious. In my years of baking, I have forgotten this rule occasionally and realized I didn’t have half-cup ramekins or overlooked the fact I needed to make pie crust dough earlier in the day so it would have time to rest. Trust me—these were not my best desserts!

Marketing is not a series of isolated events. You don’t send out a random email blast without a plan. There has to be a defined goal and each tactic or step has to advance you to the desired end point. If you want to generate leads or increase visibility for your brand, document the tactics you will employ, who will be responsible, when they will perform tasks, how long it will take and what it will cost. Even if you have to respond to an unexpected request or surprise news, map it out before reacting.

At least once per year, we get a last-minute request to attend a new industry event. That’s when Marketing kicks into high gear, researches the attendees, drafts the messaging and meets with the appropriate team members to pitch our pre- and post-show emails, handouts, signage, offers and more. All the components have to work together and it would be tremendously inefficient and ineffective to dole out tasks and knock them off our list without overall coordination and collaboration.

2.  Gather the right ingredients

Without the basic components, a recipe will fail. In most cases, if you don’t have flour, butter, baking powder and sugar, it’s not a cake (yes, I make flourless chocolate cake and carrot cake with oil instead of butter but you get the idea!).

You may have a phenomenal design for some collateral but if the messaging is wrong, it doesn’t speak to the right decision maker, it’s not promoting the critical features, etc.; you essentially have chocolate chip cookies without the chips. Don’t bother! Most chefs advise lining up all your ingredients before you do anything else. This is a great way to make sure you didn’t forget the eggs or aren’t short on cinnamon.

The same is true in marketing. We have an upcoming technology solution that has to be promoted with a press release, media interviews with key team members, new website content, updates to sales presentations and trade show handouts. Although I have a couple of months’ notice, I have already assessed each element and ensured I have enough time, budget, team members, etc., to meet the requirements on schedule. Especially when there are multiple moving pieces and participants, I find it is better to evaluate early and address any gaps, rather than while you are already deep into a program. You also have to communicate to key stakeholders and get the appropriate buy-in. We’d have a real problem on our hands if the CTO decided to take vacation the same week as our press release!

Raspberry pie

My juicy raspberry pie

3.  Measure carefully

Anyone who has ever mistaken salt for sugar, knows that quantities count in the kitchen. A little salt improves flavor while too much can be disastrous. Let me take this opportunity to apologize to my former boss and his wife for serving them a key lime pie with salty whipped cream on top. It was fifteen years ago but I know you haven’t forgotten! In baking, a cup is a cup and a teaspoon is a teaspoon—there is no variation because a recipe has to come out the same way for every person, every time they make it.

From a marketing perspective, the idea is to have a return for every activity or investment of money and/or time. There’s no point to creating and sending an e-newsletter if you don’t know how many people received it, opened it, clicked on links and inquired or signed up for the product or service.

When my boss asks how we did with a new publication for one of our client groups, I can’t answer, “Fine.” He wants to hear the numbers and how they compared to our projections. If they were higher than expected, I will tell him what did right and, if they were lower, I’ll explain what we are doing to improve results. Even more important, he will hear from me how drove more orders and increased revenue. Any project should have criteria and a method of measurement. If not, how will you ever know if you are successful?

4.  Follow instructions

There are reasons why recipes are written a certain way, especially in baking, because science is involved. Unless you understand the chemical reactions (e.g., how double-acting baking powder works, or why yeast likes sugar but not salt), don’t take creative license.

Similarly, you should leverage what has been proven to work in marketing. There’s no shortage of free advice on anything you might try. Read about the experience of other companies who have used tactics you are considering. Reach out to experts in your network or on social media. Hire the best talent you can afford. Then turn your new-found knowledge and trusted resources loose. There is a reason they are called best practices.

When we were revising our website, Unmana and I spent a lot of time researching usability and a host of related topics. We consulted an expert in search engine optimization. We also studied our competitors’ sites and made sure we differentiated Affinity Express. It took some time, but we had a strong rationale for every decision we made.

S'More brownies

My s'more brownies

5.  Experiment

While baking requires attention to detail and has its constraints, there is room to be creative. I take my favorite brownie recipe and add toffee and nuts to the batter. My kids love when I put marshmallows on top and sprinkle crushed graham crackers to make a s’more variation (plus I get to fire up the blow torch for this one!). I am not messing with the principles but am adding flair and customizing the basics for my target audience (so they will go outside and wash my car).

Some of the greatest advertising campaigns would never have seen the light of day if not for the creativity of marketers and their internal teams or agencies who did things differently like the Old Spice campaign (FYI, the YouTube Channel is the fourth most subscribed to sponsored channel of all time and the third most viewed sponsored channel of all time). It’s amazing how they used the campaign to change the perception of this brand. Instead of my grandfather’s cologne, I now think of that gorgeous guy, Isaiah, when I hear Old Spice.

Sometimes you do have to break the mold to stand out but you should know the rules before you go crazy. And even radical approaches have a foundation in the essential principles of marketing.

When we first launched our Facebook page for Affinity Express, Unmana and I went by the book. Now that we’ve established a following of employees, clients and prospects, we are experimenting. We’ve implemented an icon rather than using our company logo and designed with Mel some art to encourage likes (if you search Google on this topic, see whose blog comes up!). We also tested advertising. Now we’re playing with the photo strip to feature winning Designs of the Quarter and will use the feature to promote our new Affinity Express ELITE initiative in the coming weeks. We’ll keep trying new things but keep the basics in place.

Aside from having some principles in common with marketing, baking gives me a chance to think through a problem or a project while kneading dough, waiting for egg whites to whip or watching cookies brown just the right amount. As I wrap up my week so I can head to the kitchen, I know I’ll be thinking through the content of strategy presentation I have to deliver in a few weeks. When my hands are busy and the smell of sweet treats fills the air, solutions appear suddenly . . . and so does my family, which is an added bonus.

Do you have a hobby that applies to your profession?

Here’s my recipe for s’more brownies

2/3 cup cocoa

1-1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups sugar

1 cup butter

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

1 cup cream

1 package large marshmallows

1 cup crushed graham crackers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two 8×8-inch glass pans with foil and coat  with vegetable oil spray. 

Sift first four ingredients together in small bowl.  Cream sugar and butter together.  Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla.  Mix in dry ingredients.  Pour into pans and bake 30-35 minutes.

Melt chocolate in microwave.  Slice marshmallows in half and top brownies.  Place under broiler until golden or use kitchen blow torch.  Drizzle melted chocolate over and sprinkle with graham crumbs.

About Kelly Glass
Kelly has been vice president of Marketing at Affinity Express for nine years now. She drives company strategy and all marketing activities.

2 Responses to A Five-Step Recipe for Marketing Success

  1. I like the content of the post, so yummy. What other ingredients of that juicy raspberry pie made of? I wanted to try it at home.

  2. Kelly Glass says:

    Thanks, Francis. Here the recipe for you. It’s pretty easy if you use purchased pie crust dough!


    Raspberry Pie

    1 15-ounce package pie crusts
    4 cups raspberries
    ¾ to 1 cup sugar
    3 T quick-cooking tapioca
    2 T butter, melted
    Vanilla ice cream

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine berries, sugar, tapioca and melted butter. Toss to combine.

    Unroll bottom crust and fit into pan. Trim and add filling. Roll remaining crust out and cut into lattice strips. Press to adhere to bottom crust. Cover edges of pie with foil to prevent burning.

    Place on pan to catch any dripping and bake 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20-25 minutes more. Cool for 30 minutes and serve with ice cream.

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