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What Meal Planning Can Teach Us about Marketing

Food plateLet me see if I have this right.

You are a small business owner who does all of your own marketing. You have probably read over a dozen books on the subject of marketing. Your bookshelves are filled with how to guides about marketing. You follow numerous blogs on the Internet (like this one) that talk about marketing. If there was a marketing degree you could get for self-study, you would have qualified for a Masters in it.

In fact, you even have put many of the marketing techniques you have studied into practice. You might advertise either in print or online. You might guest post (as I am doing here) on high profile blogs. Your business is connected to social media with its own Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other accounts. You speak publicly, write books, and create podcasts. I bet you are working your tail off marketing.

So why don’t you have the business you want?

I know it is painful, but does this fit?

A Problem of Consumption

“I don’t stop eating when I’m full. The meal isn’t over when I’m full. It’s over when I hate myself.” ~Louis C. K.

Does the Louis C. K. quote sound a lot like your marketing efforts? What is happening is that you have a problem of consumption. You are either putting way too much on your marketing plate and you can’t finish the meal or you are not selecting the right elements to make a nutritious meal.

This is where I talk about meal planning. You can think of creating a marketing plan outline as the way you might plan a meal.

A lot of small business owners market like they are going to a buffet restaurant. They might go up to the buffet, overload their plate and don’t finish what have. In other cases they go up to the buffet and take only the crab legs, too much of only one or two foods.

In either case, they are not getting their basic needs for good nutrition. It has to be balanced and sustainable.

Good Intentions

You start out with good intentions for a marketing campaign plan. Every small business owner has a reason behind why they launched their business. For most, there is tremendous passion behind their small business, either to help people or create some sort of bigger and better life for themselves. This passion carries over to their marketing.

The problem is that you are working hard, but not entirely smart or productive. This isn’t a fault of yours. It is rather a fault of all the books, blogs and other programs that talk about the one aspect of marketing that is their particular topic – social media, guest posting, networking, cold calling, advertising, the list goes on and on. Your enthusiasm for the business causes you to go overboard, pile too much on your plate, or focus on the latest marketing technique you just read about.

You have to take the ingredients and create a meal. Many of the experts you read don’t talk about it, because they are only dealing with one topic. Let’s do a little meal planning to get your marketing set up correctly.

Appetizers, Main Course, and Dessert

For a good meal, you need appetizers, a main course and a dessert. You can place marketing categories into these categories so that you get that balanced, sustainable diet I keep talking about. You want something that is going to nourish your business and is pleasant enough to do without burning out and quitting.


Appetizers are research and planning activities such as what you are doing right now – reading blogs about SMB marketing. It could be reading a chapter in the newest, hottest marketing book on the New York Times Best Seller List. It might be doing some research on the Internet about what your competitor is doing for marketing. Another appetizer might be reviewing your overall marketing plan to see if you need to adjust some of the ingredients.

Appetizers get you ready for the main course. You don’t want to eat too much of them or spend more than a half hour or so. You want to dedicate the most time to the main course.

The Main Course

Main course items are where you get your bang for the buck. As in a real meal, you want your marketing main course to be varied with different nutrients. Think of food groups – getting leads, creating a relationship and closing sales.

From these you pick marketing activities that will give your business what it needs to grow.

  • Getting leads – advertising, networking, cold calling, guest posting, etc
  • Creating a relationship – email sequences, running your blog, social media, etc
  • Closing sales – writing sales copy, following up with interested buyers, etc

The main course ingredients might move around a bit, but I think you get the idea that  you want varied activities that create a funnel, bring the customer to the point of purchase and then closes the sale. You don’t want to load up on only on one food (marketing) group. It is a good way to get sick and not get the results you want.


Finally you want to have dessert. I know, I know – you are probably saying that as a small business owner, you have no time for dessert. Think twice about not doing this. You really should include it in your marketing plan.

Dessert is where you reward and take care of yourself for following your marketing plan. This might be going out to nice meal once a week. It might mean getting out of the office for a special coffee drink at your favorite coffee shop. It should also include keeping your body healthy. Think about a walk around the block, park, or whatever is around your office, business or home. Dessert is all about making your marketing plan enjoyable and sustainable.

Remember, if you hate something enough, your brain will find some reason for you to quit. I talk about this in my book, Train Your Brain. Your brain is a powerful ally or enemy. Make your marketing enjoyable with a reward at the end of the day and end of the week so that your brain instead of sabotaging your efforts will help you stay in the game.

Putting It All Together

A good way to plan your marketing is to lay it out like a basic meal – one or two appetizers, two or three items for the main course and a dessert to make sure you are enjoying what you are doing and will keep doing it on and on and on.

Getting the results you want from your marketing doesn’t have to mean blood, sweat and tears. A lot of people when they walk out of the buffet restaurant are in real pain. If they would have done a little bit of meal planning, they would have a voided this.

There is a real dieting tip that translates over to your marketing plan. If you want to lose weight consistently; eat the same foods over and over again. Your marketing plan should stay the same until you get the results you want or the particular activity is not showing any results at all. Then you just take an appetizer moment and readjust your plan.

Your marketing can take less time, get the results you want and even be fun if you just apply what I have talked about and put into action.

Based on this post, what are you going to plan for your marketing meal? Please tell us in the comments what appetizers, main course items and dessert you are going to have.

About Mike Martel

Former Green Beret Mike Martel is author of Get Er Done - The Green Beret Guide to Productivity. Mike focuses on helping individuals, writers, entrepreneurs, and small businesses improve productivity and get amazing results at Achieve The Green Beret Way.

33 thoughts on “What Meal Planning Can Teach Us about Marketing

  1. Anytime I see a food-related post about business or marketing, I get excited. And the idea that some “meal planning” needs to happen is a seriously important one. Far too many people believe they have to read and then implement EVERYTHING. That’s just crazy. And here’s another crazy thought: let’s have “dessert” FIRST. Spending time outside the office — especially on ourselves — can make all the difference.

    Also, if anyone wants more to read about on this topic of balancing out your marketing plate, I wrote this one (just after the food pyramid became a round plate):

    • Hi Tea,
      Glad you liked it. Yes, marketing is just like cooking or anything else that requires some forethought and discipline. Nice that you liked the idea of dessert.


  2. Hi Michael, Food is always a good analogy! I think you are talking a lot about productivity, setting priorities, and time management. At least, that’s what it means to me. And you have some good reminders here! Don’t gorge on all the prep stuff; make sure you have time to do the meat of the project! Then, give yourself a break.

    Thanks for the post! 🙂

  3. hi Mike

    Desert is my favorite part, and I eat that daily! 🙂

    My desert is the time I spend with my 2 little kids… they’re my life… I do this because and for them… I want to leave a legacy here… I’m into affiliate marketing and blogging for the long haul. I will never forget how I started more than 10 years ago and the commitment I’ve made from day one was to never give up, and do everything with full passion…

    • Hi John,
      By taking dessert, we wire our brain to help us succeed. I know the psychology majors out there will be able to explain it better but by rewarding ourselves we help ourselves adopt the habits much more easily.


  4. hallo Mike,

    I’m right at the beginning of my blogging life. The comparison with meal planning is so practical and energizing; it helps me get a better perspective on things and not be so perfectionist. I think I should do some more networking, come to think of it – and take more time off to relax. Thank you for this encouraging post!

  5. Perfect analogy! We can get so tangled up in tools and tactics that we lose our focus on the big picture. This is such a simple way to chunk it down to “bite-sized” and “digestible” pieces. No more marketing “indigestion.”

  6. Mike! I love this analogy! I can see how I get stuck eating appetizers now….with marketing, that is – not real life!

    My plan is:
    – 2 appetizers only – one book and a few blogs (via subscriptions). I’ve learned to manage this over time!
    – 2 items on the main course. Guest posting and social media. This has been the most effective way, so far, that I’ve managed to grow my blog.
    – Dessert is a little hit and miss! This is something to work on as I don’t directly reward myself for achievements.

    Phew! Full already!

    – Razwana

  7. Thanks for the analogy Mike. It made me discover I research too much and I don’t reward myself at all.
    At least I’m on a diet 😉
    I do the same thing over and over again and I check the results.

  8. How can someone not love a good meal place laced with marketing.?

    I’m a main course type of person. I like creating relationships talking with people, but I feel that closing the deal might be where I decided that was enough to eat.

    Perhaps it’s because I filled up on appetizers who knows.

    Appetizers: read marketing information.
    Main course: create lasting relationships and attempt to close deals.
    Dessert: enjoying life.

  9. Thanks for this. I didn’t use your analogy, but I realised recently that I spend too much time on research (appetizers), and try to do too much promotion (mains) and don’t have any me-time (desserts). I have done a lot of scaling down to make things manageable and more effective. AND I’ve just been on holiday!

  10. Really captured the attention to jump start reading the posts.The ideas you have described are extremely valuable and I like the point you mentioned, consume with choice and limit information overload. This is some thing I’ve get caught up the mornings when I start reading and end up reading for hours without starting to write a blog post.

    Thanks for the share and the message is highly beneficial for us.

  11. I like the title of your book and found it on Amazon. But I’m not too sure if I want to train for the Green Beret. I did get hungry as I read your post between meals. I’ll get some fruit now. God bless!

    • Shirley,
      The book isn’t about train to be a Green Beret. It is about working smart, using leverage and getting amazing results. Is that something you might be interested in?


  12. An interesting idea. Since most of us plan meals – at least special meals better than we plan our businesses, the idea of using meal planning is great. And when you add the time frames of a meal – appetizers, quick bites, social, short, the entree as longer, lingering as you say relationships and desert – the sweetness of life. Cool idea. Thanks

    • Hi Roberta,
      You hit the keys – to prepare, use a variety of ingredients and not too much of one. Finally to take time to enjoy and reward yourself.

      Thanks for stopping by.


  13. Thanks for the entertaining meal of marketing bites! The information is dry without this type of delivery. And I really like Danny’s “Naked Marketing”. Guess I am just a sexaholic!

  14. Great analogy, and one I really needed to hear. I work for two small churches and have basically implemented this type of process with them, but when it comes to starting my own blog and freelance business I get so overwhelmed with the appetizer buffet that I can’t get past it to the main course – somehow I see their limited time and resources as different from my personal limitations which just happen to also be time and resources. I realize I’m essentially standing over the appetizer table comparing calories and nutritional values and crunching all the numbers to see where I’ll get the most buck for each bite and I’m so caught up I forgot I’m there to eat and enjoy a whole meal. The food analogy really helped put this in perspective. thanks!

    • Hi Leslie,
      Thanks for stopping by. That is really the whole point- we want so much to succeed, but end up doing too much and moving into overwhelm. Then everything shuts down.

      I used the analogy of meal planning to show how moderation and planning can get the results we want so much.

      BTW, I am offering my Green Beret Tool Kit that will help you plan and use your time more effectively, increase your confidence, reduce distractions, train for success, improve commitment, and much more.

    • Hi Elise,
      I am not entirely sure what you mean. Yes social media can be an important part of a marketing campaign, but you need other ingredients to get the “full meal.”

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