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Creating Your Marketing Strategy? Make a Pot of Gumbo First

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Recently, my in-laws came to visit. While they were here, my mother-in-law mentioned someone’s gumbo she recently tried and how it was different from hers. They’re from south Louisiana (like real Cajuns), so I should mention that in case you’re wondering why I am writing about gumbo in the first place.

She talked about how they had a lighter roux than what she usually makes, they added okra and also went with a seafood combination, different from her usual chicken and sausage staple.

“It was good,” she said, “but it just wasn’t the right combo for her.”

You all know I like to write about food analogies in marketing, so it immediately hit me how similar gumbo and marketing are!

Stay with me for a minute here…

There are tons of different ways to make gumbo. As I mentioned above, you can have a lighter roux (this is where you burn the flour without actually burning it — Google it), and you can have a variety of seafood or chicken with sausage, or both! You can add okra (word of advice — don’t). You can use chicken, beef or vegetable stock instead of water. You can add more liquid to make it thinner or keep the heavy roux. You get the picture.

With marketing, you can use thousands of options to market your small business. The question is, which ones are the best for you and your business? What is going to move the needle quickly? Which channels are your people hanging out on? What kind of content do they like to consume (podcasts, blogs, videos, etc.)?

Let’s dive in before we all get too hungry to concentrate!

Related: 7 Strategies for Entrepreneurs in Partner and Affiliate Marketing

Start with your foundation

This is obvious and simple but so often overlooked.

For gumbo, you’d need your butter (or oil) and flour to make your roux. Cook your roux to your desired color, and then throw in the holy trinity (onion, bell peppers and celery). This is literally the foundation of any gumbo.

In marketing, you need to know who your people are (AKA buyer persona or ideal client), what they’re struggling with and where to find them. This is the holy trinity of marketing, and answering these questions will help you create the strategy that will resonate with your potential and current clients!

Like a roux, go slow and don’t rush mastering this stepping stone of effective marketing.

Related: ‘Barbie’ Was a Publicity Machine — Here’s How Barbie and 4 Other Blockbusters Mastered the Art of Marketing

Create your recipe or strategy

Again, in gumbo, which ingredients are you going to use? Seafood? Chicken and sausage? Will you throw some (slimy) okra in? What are you trying to accomplish? What do your guests like? What side dishes will you create to accompany your gumbo? (Potato salad is the traditional choice by the way). You will likely craft your recipe and entire meal based on these answers.

In marketing, what channels and tools will you use to achieve your goals? Where are your potential customers hanging out (off and online)? What are they typing into Google to find answers to their problems? What message are you sending them? People want transformation, plain and simple. They have to be able to see themselves where they want to be by using your product or service. So, how can you say that (multiple times and in multiple ways) so that it will grab their attention and resonate with them?

Grab some paper or a recipe card and start brainstorming your unique strategy!

Related: 10 Small Business Marketing Strategies That Actually Work

Analyze and get feedback

You will get feedback from anyone who tries your gumbo — that’s how it is. They’ll comment on your roux and what ingredients you used, not in a bad way, but in fun, “Huh, I never thought to add XYZ to gumbo!” Or, “I liked how dark (or light) your roux was. I will have to try that next time!” kind of way.

In marketing, this is where you talk to your people and look at your numbers. Both will tell you tons! Numbers tell a story, but entrepreneurs often don’t look at them long enough to see what they are telling us. What is performing well? What is driving traffic? What is converting? Where is traffic coming from? What kinds of content get the most engagement? Call or email your current clients and ask them what they want and need. I promise they will tell you. A lot of times, it’s not what business owners think, and there is another kind of “Huh, I wouldn’t have thought that!” when they look at their numbers and get feedback from their clients.

Related: 9 Marketing Strategies for Startups to Boost Growth and Visibility


Once you have figured out what works and what people like, you can keep doing it! This will not only be more effective, but it will save time as well.

For gumbo, you can cultivate your own memorable recipe and do the same with your marketing! People remember a great meal and the feelings that accompany it. When you craft your marketing plan with strategy, creativity, and genuine empathy to help the people that need your product or service, they will remember it!

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