Fresh, handcrafted marketing

Jan 31, 2021

Make sure your marketing uses fresh ingredients, is thoughtfully assembled, and temptingly delivered.

I remember the days of going out to dinner with my spouse, meeting colleagues for lunch, and grabbing a latte in a trendy café with a friend before the workday began. In pre-COVID days, my kitchen was suspiciously clean for days at a time. With two working adults and two active kids at home, who had time to cook?

Contrast to now, and our hard-working kitchen. Without a doubt, like your favorite diner, we serve breakfast and lunch all day, every day. With luck, and a litany of precautions, we might opt for take-out for dinner every now and then.

So it is no surprise services like HelloFresh and Blue Apron have taken off. These meal delivery services have one key thing in common – a promise to deliver delicious, easy to prepare ingredients for meal preparation, when and as often as you want them.

The words surge and booming have been used to describe sales for both companies as many Americans exhausted their culinary repertoire right around April 2020.

After all, not everyone is a chef, but we pretty much all like to eat good food. So it follows that one of the keys to the successes of these brands is breaking down more complicated cooking tasks into bite-sized, easy to manage tasks, with clear directions that, when brought all together, deliver a culinary masterpiece.

A similar recipe can be applied to marketing for AEC firms.

  • Fresh ingredients. Whether you are preparing qualifications, a proposal, direct mail, or any other type of marketing connection, you need to make sure it is fresh. We are all fighting to keep our inboxes lean, to address and organize the content from our Zoom chats, to bring order to the buffet of PDFs, webinars, and listservs that are a normal part of our everyday existence. If you are thinking of adding anything more to the glut of things called “communication,” do everyone a favor and make it fresh. Make it pointed. Make it count. Stop using those figurative dried parsley flakes that have been sitting on the shelf for too long.
  • Some assembly required. When the freshest ingredients are available, you may be tempted to send along, as the saying goes, everything but the kitchen sink. However, in the mid-1940s, that expression was connected with thoughts of intense bombardment. Not exactly the best way to communicate. Instead, like HelloFresh, consider portion sizes and strive to provide exactly what is needed – no more, no less. Also, think about your last visit to a restaurant or the last time you viewed a menu for take-out dining. Chances are high that there were options. Lots of options. Today, if you are vegetarian, lactose or gluten intolerant, or have any number of food allergies, you can find something that caters to your needs. HelloFresh offers pescatarian-friendly meals. Blue Apron has Beyond Meat, Weight Watchers Approved, and Diabetes Friendly options even in their “standard” offerings. In a past article (“Personalize Your Marketing”), we explored B2H (business to human) marketing – an individualized approach. Take that into account. If you are investing the time to connect with someone, focus on that someone and what they need to know right now, and in what order your message should be received. Most firms have a standard collateral package or proposal template. This is meant to be a starting point – not the final product for everyone. Attentive customization is key.
  • Plating. Check out @HelloFresh and @blueapron on Instagram. Without a doubt, you will see food photos. But you will also notice fancy plates, lit candles, bottles of wine, colorful textiles in the form of napkins, pot holders, and tablecloths, and many more non-food items. All because, as much as it is all about the food, the presentation is the first line of judgement. It may even sway a reluctant diner to at least sample the offering. Conversely, plating also has the power to turn someone off and turn up their nose. How do you think dino-nuggets got their start? The concept of plating has easy application to marketing. Your fresh ingredients are thoughtfully assembled with a particular person’s needs and desires in mind. You know this. But the person you are offering these materials to? They don’t know that. You can expound “never judge a book by its cover” all you want. It doesn’t mean people won’t do exactly that. What does your delivery presentation look like?
    • Are you sending something physical or digital?
    • Are you required to use a standard form or follow an RFP’s specific directions?
    • Are you delivering PDF files or another file format?
    • Are materials a combination of words and imagery or is there an opportunity for video?
    • If files are sent via email, download, or overnight delivery, what does that look like?
  • Although seemingly benign, each of these steps, in practice, holds potential pitfalls that can negate all the progress you have made up to this point. In fact, these steps stand firmly between your message and its consumption.

Handcrafted and fresh. The basic recipe is fairly simple: fresh ingredients, thoughtfully assembled, temptingly delivered. Layer that with your in-depth knowledge of your business and your target audience to create a true masterpiece.

In the words of Julia Child: “The more you know, the more you can create. There’s no end to imagination in the kitchen.” Bon appétit!

Jane Lawler Smith, MBA, is the marketing manager at Derck & Edson, LLC. She can be reached at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.