Greenhouse Canada

Features Business Retail
Focus on Retail: May 2015

Creating a ‘Purple Cow’ Ensures Sales Success

April 15, 2015  By Brian Minter

May 2015 – The new realities of marketing are incredibly complex and, if not fully understood, can waste vast amounts of time and hard-earned dollars.

The revolution in marketing began in 1974 and hit its stride in the 1990s when ever-increasing public participation hit a critical mass. As the Internet became a leading source of information on all topics, it also became the open book source on personal life diaries, with comments and evaluations on everything and everybody – no holds barred. Facebook became the social connection for groups with various relationships connecting on all topics. Tweeters had a platform to share their world as they observed it and the most effective and prolific tweeters became the social gurus on virtually any subject.

Yelp provided critiques on any event, business or group doing whatever they did. Craigslist and eBay provided the opportunity to buy and sell virtually anything, anywhere, anytime.


Paralleling all these social connections were vast numbers of businesses looking at this phenomenon and wondering where they fit in and how they could connect. Early attempts to create websites and selling venues were pretty much a disaster as there were too many uncertainties in security and privacy and there was still that fear of the unknown.

The millennials have embraced online activity as their most important connection to the world. Even their basic toys are based on the principles of computers. More importantly, most of the boomer generation are now highly engaged in online activities.

With all its complexities, as small businesses we need to not only understand what’s going on and how quickly it changes, but we also have to figure out how we can be a relevant part of this vast universe of social connection.

Overriding all this complexity is marketing guru Seth Godin’s premise in his first book (and I think the best of the 17 he wrote) called “Purple Cow.” Essentially he is saying that doing a bad job of marketing is the equivalent of ripping up dollar bills all day long and throwing them all away. Sound familiar? Instead, he suggests creating a purple cow – one that stands out in the herd. That purple cow is your business, it’s people, and how you run it. He suggested that’s where your marketing dollars should go. Big or small, your store should stand out! Your people, your product and your facility must provide a great experience. He still insists that before you market anything you get the product right. That alone, he says, will create a dynamic where your key customers – “disciples,” as he puts it – will market you and your products for you. When you are getting close to having it right, they will do the social commentary and tweeting for you.

To engage well in the online game, according to the gurus, you need to be continually relevant to your audience. You must also know the “tribes” to whom you are “community.” Tribes are groups of people who share similar ideas, passions and views of the world. They connect with each other and want something to happen. Need an example? Try the “Starbucks” tribe.

Your presence online must also tell a story that has relevance to your targeted tribe. They must be treated differently, not as a mass market. Understand their passion and become part of
their culture.

Learn to be welcome in their Inbox.

Creating loyal customers is about the right customer choosing us. You need to focus on those customers and their needs, desires, hopes and shared values. In doing so, it is very important to do the right thing to maintain trust, openness and transparency. Something like moving away from neonicotinoids (harmful to bees), for example, is a prime factor in their world.

Your website, your tweets, Facebook comments and Instagram posts all need to reflect your culture and values as well as the exciting new product that is relevant to your tribes. It’s not just “what is,” but “what could be” for them. Be a leader in your field.

To play this game well, you must totally focus on their changing needs and desires. Your store must be everything you are online and more. It’s a huge challenge, and a lot of work, but it’s the only way we can connect today and grow our customer base as well as our plants.

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