Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life examples of the good, the bad, and sometimes wild, in marketing.
Julia: All right friends. Today, we have my friend, Elaine. She’s another StoryBrand guide, but we’re not talking about StoryBrand. We’re talking about how she used all of these marketing principles in a new company that she’s creating, almost as a case study for how marketing works in a way, in my opinion. And so it’s the ultimate marketing in the wild. So before I get into it, Elaine, tell us about you. Tell us about you, tell us where you lived, about your business. Tell us everything.
Elaine: Thanks for having me, Julia. I am Elaine Acker and I am in Austin, Texas, and I became a StoryBrand guide about three years ago and the certification kind of unlocked a lot of opportunities for me and it’s been exciting, but I also started thinking I wanted something that was going to let me be my very own best case study. And I’ve tried all kinds of things in the past. One little fun thing about me is that once upon a time, I worked heavily in conservation-type projects and I often worked with that conservation, and yeah. So then I learned, with all the bad PR bats have had over the years, if you can sell the mission of protecting bats, you can do darn near anything. So that built a lot of confidence.
Julia: I believe it. Oh my gosh. That’s awesome. And so we’ll get to your case study business, but your marketing business, what do you focus on with your marketing business?
Elaine: In marketing, you know, people tell you to niche down and it has taken me a really long time to take my own advice on that one. But I have this year, in the past, I worked heavily with nonprofits and I also had done some small business things. And so this year I have started specializing in email marketing because after watching clients, you know, they worked so hard on building their messaging and really making it clear what they do and how they solve problems, they probably fixed to their website and they knew what they wanted to say. And then there was this lag and you probably seen it too, in your business because you work on email, but people just didn’t follow through with the email and I felt like they were just leaving a lot of money on the table.
Julia: I always say, I think of all of the marketing strategies that are implemented now, I think email is one of the biggest moneymakers, honestly. And so just because you can’t guarantee that a social media post will reach somebody, but you can at least guarantee that an email will get into their inbox. They might not open it, but it got there.
Elaine: Exactly, it got there and they saw your name. That’s a bonus.
Julia: So let’s talk about The Cookbook Creative. How did this idea come to you?
Elaine: It’s kind of funny because it’s been a progression. It wasn’t one day of an aha moment. In this case, I have wanted to work on cookbooks, probably for the last 20 years in some form or fashion, and have done this start-stop kind of thing with it. About five years ago, I started working on a blog called Postcards from the Kitchen, which I never launched, but the idea is really to take people on this journey around the world in food, because we can’t always travel.
But if we share food and recipes and stories about our cultures. Then we have a chance to connect and people connect over food. So that really took hold for me then. And I think it wasn’t until after I had access to the StoryBrand guide network, that I knew I had the people and the tools to really make it a reality. I learned a lot last year and I had spoken with Erica Bryant and told her that I now was ready to kind of do a case study. And she said, “You know, you keep bringing up the cookbook thing over and over. I’m guessing that’s should be your next project.” And that was when it really off.
Julia: Shout out to our good friend, Erica, who is the wisest of us all. So tell us what The Cookbook Creative is.
Elaine: The Cookbook Creative is a way that anybody can publish their own cookbook. In publishing in the past, there have been gatekeepers, you know, the big publishing houses who tended to tell people what they could and couldn’t publish and what I kind of looked around and I said, well, this works. It doesn’t matter if you’re a family who wants to create something to capture family stories and recipes, or you’re a business and you want to showcase your expertise in food or even a fundraising effort for a team or a nonprofit. It fits in so many different categories because people love food. So that was what we’re going to do, is kind of open the door and let anybody have the ability to publish their own cookbook affordably and share it, share something they’re proud of.
Julia: Well, and I even thought, we’ve talked about this before, but now that we’re talking about it now, I even think about aspiring cookbook writers, who aren’t going to get picked up by a publishing house at first, but this might be like their first opportunity to get their own creations out there. Like that’s a pretty cool idea, too.
Elaine: It’s super cool. And one of the things that, I’m working on a sample one now and it’s based on some of my family’s dessert recipes, because who doesn’t want dessert? But it was the quickest, easiest way for me to put together a good sample so that I can walk somebody through the process and show them, this is what this is going to look like. It’s beautiful. I’m working on all of the content right now. We’re going to get it designed and it’ll be ready for distribution probably about the same time our site goes live.
Right now, we’ve just got a waiting list for people who are interested, but when the site goes live, I’ll have this good example that will show people what it can look like, what it would cost to produce that kind of thing. So it’ll be very transparent.
Julia: For sure. That’s awesome. So back to the idea, were you ready to dive in? Obviously, it sounds like it took you a while to come to the idea and it has been playing with you for like 20 years. How did you know you were ready to dive in and get started?
Elaine: Well, funny story. What really pushed me over the edge was that I could not find my mother’s fried pie recipe.
Julia: I’ve never even heard of fried pie! What is fried pie?
Elaine: Oh, it’s a yummy flaky dough and you cut it in a circle and you put this filling inside. For us, it’s typically peach or apricots, but you can use all kinds of different fillings. You cook down this filling, and then you put it on the inside, fold it over, seal the edges, and you can fry them. A lot of people bake them, too, and they’re also called hand pies. Cause you can just hold it.
Julia: That’s awesome. That sounds so yummy.
Elaine: And I couldn’t find it. And my oldest sister finally found the devil recipe. I thought, well, okay, that’s a good start, but it was so funny. Just it wasn’t until I started looking for the actual dessert recipes for the cookbook, the sample cookbook, that I did find the original recipe written recipe.
Julia: Awesome. That is awesome.
Elaine: But that’s why we’re doing cookbooks, so people don’t have to scramble through these stacks of recipes to find the one they want!
Julia: Are there any fears that you had to work through when you first decided that you were going to take this on?
Elaine: It was a big deal because it was it was committing, it was the commitment. And I think for me, I felt like I had the resources in the guide community and the knowledge of marketing to do it and do it successfully. So that wasn’t really an obstacle for me anymore. It was just the commitment that I’m creating this thing that I’m going to have…I’m not just doing the messaging or just this part or piece. This is a whole big thing that I have to follow through on. So that was it, more than anything, was a deep breath and say, this is not a one-month or a three-month contract, and this is a multiple-year deal. Am I really ready for this?
Julia: That makes sense. I think, obviously with your marketing business, you’re talking to a ton of business owners. I talk to a ton of business owners, we have business owners listening to us. And I do think that you do have to decide you’re in for something for the long haul and not just to…I’m really good at starting things, but not very good at finishing things. And so I do think that we have to make that decision. So, that’s awesome.
Elaine: And I think that’s true in marketing really. I mean, you do, you have to go all-in, you have to choose the tools you’re going to use and give them a chance to work hard for you and so many people quit right before they win.
Julia: Yeah. Right. And just like we were saying, like with email, so many people will get their beautiful new website up and then stop there, but you have to like keep going to see the reward. So tell me, why was it important to you to put your marketing know-how into practice? Why was that important to you in terms of your marketing business?
Elaine: I have always wanted to, whether I was leading an organization or whatever it was, I just wanted to be the person who was willing to do the work, as well as tell you what to do. And that was it. It was that I tell people all day, every day, what works and I get to see their successes. Thank goodness!
But I wanted to be able to point to my own project and say, this is how I built this from scratch. This is where I was at the three-month mark, the six-month mark, three-year mark. I want to be able to walk them through that process because it’s probably, and this is, you know, wing and a prayer here, but it’s probably going to look like an overnight success and it wasn’t, there was so much work that went into it and yes, we started from scratch and yes, I think it’s going to be awesome. But I don’t want anybody to compare themselves to this product because the truth is I worked on tons of things that never took off. And it was because I wasn’t all in and I didn’t do all of the work it took to turn it into a success. And this time we are and we’ll have a shining example of the steps it takes to make things happen.
Julia: For sure. And one of the things that I loved watching, I first heard about this idea when we were in Nashville a few months ago. Just hearing how you’re collaborating with a bunch of people on it, too, I appreciate it. And I think it’s really cool that you are not trying to do it all like here. You’re like, “Hey, let’s find designers. Let’s find people who know what they’re doing.” Why was that important to you?
Elaine: Because of the quality of the work. If I were trying to do it all by myself, it would take a whole lot longer and the quality would not always be there. I felt like I did what I do best. I’ve worked on the copy on my website, but I turned to a designer to really make it look good.
There’s no way I could have programmed all the backend stuff that goes into this. So I had somebody leading the project management on the website itself and somebody building the front end and somebody building all the technology on the backend. There’s just no way I could’ve done it in a timely fashion. And it’s just leaning into what I felt like I knew how to do and letting other people do what they really know how to do. It’s going to make it a much better project.
Julia: So let’s talk about some of the marketing strategies that you have tried and that you are employing. What are some of the ones, like you’ve mentioned, like we have a website, you have the design work done, what are some of these other things that you’re working on or that you’re trying?
Elaine: Yeah. So backing up to the basics. I do think it takes being very, very clear about who you are and what you do first before you start to build on that foundation. Because, and especially for startups, I struggle sometimes when I’m working with startups, because things change all the time. And so it’s important to go through whatever process you have to go through to nail your messaging first, then you can build all the fun things. So we did that and then we started working on the website itself. I did the copy and again, I was turning to somebody else for the design. So we worked through that part. We made sure that we had landing pages that spoke to the audiences that we really wanted to talk to, which was the families, the businesses, and the nonprofits or the fundraising groups that needed it. And yeah, again, made sure all of that was super clear.
Then I put somebody over on the building side, so we got started building it. But at that point, that was when I really started talking about my own email list and how I was going to grow that and turn it into something that was going to help me when it was time to launch. So we did a lot of pre-work. I started connecting to food-related businesses, bloggers, chefs online on LinkedIn. And that just told them, I said, “I’m working on this publishing project. It’s a work in progress, but I’m expanding my food connections. I would love to connect.”
And they are the friendliest, blossoming group of people. They have been awesome. So we connected and I’ve kept them up to date on what we were doing and I’ve continued to expand that. So I think expanding your own network within your audience is important. And that was where I started. That’s also one of the things we do when we’re talking to people about email marketing plans. Not only do you follow through on emailing the people that are there, but you work really hard to build the list.
And one thing that I think people overlook that we did was sometimes it just takes time and effort, but you reach out to your audience one-on-one and say, is it okay with you if I add you to my list? And 99.9% of the time answer is, “Of course!”
Julia: Yeah, of course! Then if later on, for whatever reason they don’t want to, that is what the unsubscribe button is for.
Elaine: That is what it’s for. And then that’s our job to provide value for them. Give them a reason to stay.
Julia: For sure. That’s awesome. So you’ve had a couple of wins around your email list. Would you tell us about those?
Elaine: My motto has been “No missed opportunities.” I’ve used that at other organizations in the past, and I think it helps me stay focused on every possibility. And one of the things I did recently was I get The Skim, which is a daily, during the week, Monday through Friday, sort of news compilation because I find the news pretty overwhelming.
Julia: Me too. I also get The Skim and I think it is excellent.
Elaine: Yeah, that makes it easy for me to stay up with what’s going on in the world without being bogged down and all the drama. So I’ve gotten The Skim forever and down at the bottom they always do shout-outs to subscribers who are doing new things. And there’s a teeny weeny little link that says, if you want to, you know, submit something, click here. I’m like, well, of course, I want to submit something. So I clicked there, turned it in. And it was literally two days later, they gave me a mention and linked to me and I got at least 85 new signups from there. I’ve gotten some others trickling in, but that day it was about 85 new signups.
Julia: That’s awesome. That’s so cool. That is like an essence, like no missed opportunity.
Elaine: Yes, it’s one little link that led to people who are going to spread the word.
Julia: And people who…there is something to be said when we ask people that we know to be on our lists, like they love us and want to be on it. And there’s something about like you had 85 strangers sign up for your list! And so that means they’re really interested, too.
Elaine: I was standing in my kitchen, scrolling through all the notifications, getting teary because I was like, “It’s happening!”
Julia: I know, it’s so cool. So at this point, while we’re talking, you’re in like the pre-launch phase, probably when this episode comes out, you will have already launched, probably, hopefully. Cause when is your launch date?
Elaine: Probably four weeks from now. So it’ll be early to mid-March.
Julia: Early to mid-March. And so listeners, you will probably listen to this after she’s launched. So you’ve got to hear like the pre-launch stuff. But the one question that I have is have you had anything that you’ve tried and hasn’t worked for your marketing or for anything? And maybe not yet, and that’s okay, but I just wanted to ask.
Elaine: It’s early for this one, so not so much yet. I think the decision we’re making at this time, because it’s always hard to drive traffic. That’s the other place I find that people struggle. And that’s why I focus on the email marketing list. It’s hard to drive organic traffic. So we’re at that point where we’re deciding whether or not to run ads to speed up this process. And we probably will.
But I have run ad campaigns for myself, for Sparx 360, in the past, that really didn’t catch on. And I believe now that it’s because I was not in a predictable niche, that it was a little too broad. But I was willing to spend the money to experiment with it again because I was telling other people if you want to drive traffic, you know, let’s take a look at running ads. So now I have more experience to share with them. It was a slightly expensive lesson, but I’m willing to share so that they don’t make the same mistakes.
Julia: We have plenty of our own expensive lessons around here as well. So I had a lot of them last year and you know, it’s just, you learn an expensive lesson. You don’t do it again. Oh my goodness. So Elaine, I am just so excited for you. I just think, one thing that I am really passionate about is I feel like as marketers, we have to practice what we preach and you took practicing what we preach to a whole different level. I’m so excited for you. Most likely this episode will come out after your launch. If people are interested in finding you, where would they connect with you?
Elaine: People can find me in a couple of places. I am at sparx360.com. That is where I do all things StoryBrand and email marketing related.
And then probably more important right now is, you’re either going to see a waitlist or you’re going to have a chance to play with the platform at thecookbookcreative.com.
Julia: That’s awesome. Well, Elaine, I’m excited. I’m excited to see your journey from start to finish. I feel so lucky to have known of like little bits and pieces before you started. And now we get to hear about your success as you do the pre-launch. And I cannot wait to hear about your launch.
Elaine: I’m excited to share and I will keep you posted!Julia: Who knows? We might have to bring you back on here for an update in six months. Alright, everybody. Well, thank you for joining. We’ll talk to you next week.
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