Cookbooks are my guilty secret. Like a teenager sneaking porn into his bedroom, I try to hide the latest acquisition in the bookshelf, where my addiction won’t be obvious. My new favourite turns out to be an unexpected hit. The cookbook by Nagi Maehashi, a novice cook and food blogger, has sold 37,000 copies since launch in October, becoming the highest selling title ever by a debut Australian author in the first week. It’s outselling Jamie Oliver and Ottolenghi by 2-3 times.
Aside from some great recipes and an adorable golden retriever assistant, what has Nagi done to be so successful? When you dig into the secrets for her success there are lessons for everyone struggling with corporate partnerships.
Build an audience
Nagi’s food blog, RecipeTin Eats, has more than 15 million visits each week. Building a loyal audience means that she had a ready market when she finally published her cookbook. One of the greatest assets of a non-profit is its audience. That might include donors, sponsors, social media followers, ambassadors and beneficiaries. Being able to describe that audience in detail is key to enticing corporate partners and identifying who might be interested in what you’ve got. Don’t just throw numbers at your corporate partner, give them details about demographics, ages, locations, level of engagement. Then they’ll be able to see how valuable a partnership with you might be. The value goes beyond the commercial value of a single tweet or post; because you’re a non-profit, you bring credibility, trust and authenticity to the relationship with your audience. But you need to put effort into building and growing that audience first.
Nurture a community
One of the things you notice about Nagi’s food-loving community is how welcoming and generous it is. People share their triumphs and disasters, and it is a trusted space. Nagi chose the recipes in her book by polling the community about their favourites. She was also careful to hold back many of them for the exclusive use of the RecipeTin Eats community. Communities are nurtured when they feel included, involved and valued. That goes beyond the one day a year corporate volunteering. How are you nurturing and growing your corporate community? Think about offering them relevant expertise or getting them involved in a problem-solving workshop. Don’t make every communication an ask. You are building trust with your audience by allowing them to see behind the curtain of what you do.
Be easy to work with
A feature of Nagi’s recipes is that each one comes with a video showing you the detailed cooking method. She also provides helpful tips on which supermarkets stock unfamiliar ingredients and which brands work best. You feel supported every step of the way. How are you making it easy for corporates to work with you? Is the corporate information buried under several layers in your website? Are you clear on the ways they can work with you? Are the contact details current? You’re competing with thousands of other worthy organisations wanting corporate partners. You need to remove the barriers to corporates wanting to connect with you and give them a pleasant experience dealing with your organisation. That doesn’t mean sounding needy. Instead, you can position yourself as the solution to their problems and be genuinely in service to their objectives and needs.
Demonstrate the outcomes
Who doesn’t love a delicious meal? But many cookbook pictures are staged and styled to an unrealistic degree. Nagi takes the pictures herself, with the dish straight out of the oven or pan. The result is authentic and credible. When non-profits describe the outcomes of a partnership, they are often tempted to veer into technical program speak and acronyms that make them look smart. Corporates want to understand the impact of their partnership but want to feel included in the conversation. You’re the expert, not them, but you mustn’t talk down to them. If you can inspire a corporate about the outcomes you can achieve together, using language that makes sense to them, you’ve got a bright future for the partnership.
I’m off to plan dinner, thanks to Nagi. And I’ll be back for more. If you want a record-breaking partnership, take some tips from a humble food blogger.