Rattlesnakes have a bit of a reputation. You might even call it a “brand.”

Their collective brand includes stories that usually end in life and death scenarios. Very much a “handle with care” kind of item, right?

So if I offered you the chance to EAT one, how would you respond? Are you the adventurous, try-anything-once type? Or do you feel more comfortable with the tried-and-true?

Probably the better question is, If I told you that you HAD to cook up (and eat) a rattlesnake, how would you approach the challenge? Would you do a quick Google search for Rattlesnake recipes? Or would you just wing it all the way?

What You Can Learn About Marketing from Cooking Rattlesnakes

If you’ve never seen it, Chopped is one of those reality-genre competition shows on the FoodNetwork. And I LOVE to watch it. It’s all about skill, speed and creativity.

The concept: four chefs compete for a prize of $10,000. There are 3 rounds: Appetizer, Entrée and Dessert. After each round, a panel of experts judges the competitors on creativity, presentation and taste – with the worst  chef  for that round leaving until there are just two vying for the best dessert.

The biggest challenge? They have only seconds to plan and minutes to cook an amazing course using a basket of mystery ingredients. Plus, there’s always something a little wacky in the basket. In one episode, the contestants had to deal with things like: tapioca pearls, squid ink, guava paste and rattlesnake meat. What would you do with that?!

Here’s why I love the show, and why I think watching it teaches us some key things about marketing our small businesses:

  • Creativity is key. There are NO recipes here, folks. And the ones who pull off a successful dish are the ones who reallyknow their ingredients – or at least how to mix certain types of things together. And they also know their tools. This allows them the freedom to be inventive. To come up with something spectacularly new and interesting. And to make amazing use of the stuff on hand in the pantry.

    The lesson: don’t try to copy what others are doing. Recipes (or How To articles, books, classes, etc.) are helpful for learning certain processes and tools. But at a certain point, you need to leave those crutches behind and try something on your own.

  • Presentation is huge.We eat with our eyes first, and the judges are quick to downgrade a dish if it looks blah or thrown together haphazardly. And don’t forget your ratios. Is your starch balanced by the right amount of vegetables? And did you make enough for everyone? Remember to tie everything together cohesively in a theme.

    The lesson: People DO judge books by their covers. And whether that’s your website, or your what you’re wearing to a networking event, you need to put your best foot forward.

  • Give the judges what they want.The smart contestants are the ones who pay attention and do a little research ahead of time. The pool of judges is pretty well-known. It’s not hard to find out if someone hates spicy food, or has a pet peeve about oversized garnishes.

    The Lesson: Always research your target audience and understand what THEY want from you so you can give it to them.

  • Keep your ego in check.You’ve got to be confident and bring your A-game when you compete. But some of the best contestants are the ones who know their missions, their passions and who are humble enough to know that they don’t know everything. Every time a chef gets cocky, they get into trouble.

    The Lesson: Thinking you’ve got something nailed before you start can be detrimental and can lead to laziness and producing mediocre work.

  • Implementation is the true test.Can you pull it off? You’ve only got so much time to get everything on the plate (and make it look beautiful and taste fabulous). If you come up short in any of those areas, you’ll fail.

    The Lesson: Planning and paying attention to deadlines and timing is key to pulling off any campaign.

Marketing Can Sometimes Feel Like Cooking a Rattlesnake

don't shy away from marketing challengesI’ve been a marketer for over 20 years now, and I’m still learning new marketing strategies and tactics. So believe me when I tell you that I totally get how overwhelming it can be to try to learn some of these newfangled marketing methods.

Here’s the truth: You don’t have to know everything. You don’t have to be an expert marketer to build a successful small business. You just have to be willing to learn the basics and then roll up your sleeves and get to work.

That truth is brought home to me almost every single day. Recently, for example, I self-published a little book called “Attract and Feed a Hungry Crowd.” I had to learn how to format the dang thing properly for Kindle. I had to figure out how to maneuver the ins and outs of print-on-demand and working with Amazon. And I had to be willing to experiment with the title, cover and other pieces crucial to catching a reader’s attention.

And that was just the first day. There’s so much MORE to book marketing than you might think. So, did I create a masterpiece on my first attempt? Mm, nope. But I kept playing with the ingredients (and testing!) until I got it to a place that felt like it might actually work. And honestly, I’m still finding new ways to think creatively about the whole project. It’s a journey that never really ends.

My advice: don’t get caught up in the drama of overwhelm. Just decide that you’re going to approach your next marketing project as a learning opportunity and play with it. Make it fun. Breathe. Rest. Find some like-minded friends and colleagues with whom you can bounce ideas around. Then test! I know you can do it. I have faith in you. And besides, rattlesnakes aren’t really that hard to cook once you figure ’em out. Plus, they taste just like chicken.

What “rattlesnakes” are you dealing with? Post your questions, ideas and suggestions below. I’m all ears and love to chat.

Photo Credits: David Jones (under Creative Commons license) and Depositphotos