One of the secrets of making progress in business and life is to look for good examples wherever you find them and learn from them.
Not everything worthwhile and useful comes from books, manuals, seminars, podcasts and articles.
Sometimes you just have to keep your eyes open…
I discovered it in the airport
I was traveling through Chicago’s O’Hare airport on my way back to the Hudson Valley from San Francisco where I ran across a food place called Tortas Frontera.
“I wonder if that’s related to the Frontera Grill?” I thought.
The Frontera Grill is one of the most popular restaurants in Chicago and won the 2007 “Outstanding Restaurant Award” from the James Beard Foundation (kind of like the Academy Awards for eateries.)
It’s run by a guy named Rick Bayless. I was vaguely aware that Bayless had done some other things like write a book, but it occurred to me that this was someone worth learning more about.
The guy’s got an empire
I quickly discovered that Bayless has assembled an empire over the years since opening the Frontera Grill in 1987.
Besides the Grill and the place at O’Hare (which in fact turned out to be his), he’s got three other restaurants: Topablampo, Xoco, and Frontera Fresca, all serving high end Mexican food.
Not bad, but what does this have to do with info marketing?
Just this: It all started with an amateur’s passion, research – and a book.
The power of information
I always say that quality information is the best possible lead generator for any business no matter what it is and Bayless’ tale proves the point.
Bayless came from a restaurant family so he knew food and was a barbecue master.
But he left that world and went to college where he decided to study, of all things, Latin American Studies and Spanish (an unusual choice for someone who went to college in his era.)
After that he did graduate studies in linguistics at the University of Michigan.
How the heck did that lead to a restaurant empire?
He and his wife Deann decided to move to Mexico for a few years (it turned out to be six) and dive deep into their passion: Mexican cuisine.
If you only know Mexican food from Mexican restaurants in the US and outside of Mexico, you’re missing out on some of the best food on earth.
Their research, which grew out of an impractical passion, turned into a book (the first of many) “Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico.”
They did a pretty good job with it. Craig Clairborne the legendary foodwriter for the New York Times praised it to the moon. Other books followed as did a television show and of course the mandatory web site.
Now the books, the TV show and web site promote the restaurants and the restaurants in turn give Bayless a living presence in the lives of his readers and viewers. Quite a system.
Three big lessons
What can you learn from Rick Bayless’ experience?
Lesson #1. If you’re lucky enough to have an overwhelming passion for something, don’t be too quick to reject it because it’s not “popular” right this minute.
Nothing was taken less seriously in the US than Mexican cuisine back in the early 80s when Bayless and his wife devoted themselves to their research.
Lesson #2. Do it right.
Contrary to Internet guru BS, the quality of your product matters a lot.
Think of product quality as a marketing amplifier.
Marketing may get the book into people’s hands, but it’s the quality of the info that’s going to provoke people to tell people – and sometimes the people doing the telling will be massively influential people in your market who can make your career overnight.
Bayless’ book inspired a producer into getting him his own TV show and putting it in front of millions of viewers. I guarantee that would never have happened with a “cut and paste” eBook.
Lesson #3. Information is powerful and being the expert opens many, many doors.
The restaurant business is one of the toughest on earth. You’ve got to be a sharp operator to stay in business and you’ve got to keep people coming in the door all day, every day through all seasons and through all fashions.
Without his research, books and TV show, it’s not clear that Bayless would have ever been able to open his restaurants let alone keep them in business all these years.
If you want to achieve something remarkable and profitable, don’t be afraid of doing the hard work of digging a deep foundation.
And there is no better way to spend your time and energy than to pick a topic you’re fascinated by, become a true expert on it, and take that expertise to market as creatively and energetically as can imagine.
– Ken McCarthy