Philosophy of Finding Customers

Word is out. We are farmers. Yup. That’s what we are. We raise animals in a humane way and without the use of hormones or sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics. But we also grow really, really good food…getting better every year.

Do you see that those two ideas are the same…but different? Let me illustrate with two statements we hear from new customers regularly.

Chris, we just watched Food, Inc. I didn’t realize animals were treated so badly by farmers and farmers were treated so badly by Monsanto. My daughter has stopped eating. So, do you sell eggs? Are your chickens outside? How much are the eggs?

Chris, my friend X was just telling me about your eggs. He says the whites whip up like nothing he has ever seen! Can you put me on your list for a dozen? I can’t wait to try them!

From my experience (and experiences vary) the Food, Inc. viewer feels guilty. The second customer is probably more of a “foodie”. Guilt wears off quickly. The love of good food endures.

Leaving off nutrient density, everybody wants food to taste good and there’s a certain amount of that you can cover by just learning how to cook. Any mix of fresh ingredients is going to taste better than any similar mix of boxed, frozen or canned. But the next step is to find better ingredients. I promise you, pork from a hog floor and pork from a pasture smell different both when butchering and when cooking…and maybe that’s why you think you don’t like pork. There are worlds of difference drinking and making ice cream with freshly squeezed raw milk vs. pasteurized milk from the store. So when a foodie finds us for the first time they buy a dozen eggs and I usually get a text message or email or Facebook posting comparing my egg (orange, firm and tall) in a skillet next to a store bought, free range, organic, cage-free brown egg (pale yellow, limp and flat) along with a lengthy list of the merits my eggs and all the different things they cooked. The best was when a pastry chef friend took two-dozen of my eggs to an event where several chefs were working. After the event she said they all hung around to “play” with my eggs. Or when a group of sisters and old friends all came to together one weekend to bake cookies and the cookies were, apparently, the best ever. How cool is that?

These people enjoy food. Compare that to customers who arrive out of guilt. The customer who was lectured by their teen daughter about what they “should” do and, because the daughter is starving herself and the father is desperate, he buys a dozen eggs. “But a chicken is a dang chicken. It can’t be all that different.”

Obviously I am concerned about animal welfare. Remember what I said above about sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics? That is done to help animals in confinement deal with the stress of being in confinement. Allow me to illustrate. Imagine being packed into a small airport terminal with hundreds of people you don’t know…people you don’t want to know…people you don’t want to smell or touch or – GEEZ! – feel rubbing against your leg. Add to that, you are eating strange food. You can’t find a place to sit down. You need to go to the bathroom but it is closed. You are, yourself, wondering if you’ll make your connecting flight as you wait to be inspected, sorted and led down the loading chute. It is stressful. Now, imagine your flight never leaves and you are stuck in the terminal for months. In time, your health may decline. To help avoid that, you are given small doses of antibiotics in your food on a daily basis. This will help keep you on top of stress-related diseases. Does the discomfort of travel prevent you from traveling? Does this illustration keep you from eating feedlot beef? Probably not.

How about public school. You know, a 12 year sentence with people who are paid to keep the inmates from killing each other. Children who can’t perform in the gulag will be medicated into submission. I am working to evoke emotional response here, not debate the morality of compulsory education. Did you feel you angry as you read what I wrote? What do you do with that emotional response? Go ahead. Imagine yourself angry after reading that or after watching Food, Inc. Now what? How long will that feeling last? What is it you are angry about? Are you angry that I said it? Are you angry that people feel that way? Are you angry that there is some truth to Food, Inc.? Are you angry that you can’t do much about it? At some point your anger will wane. That’s just the way it is. There is little you can do about it and the kids are late for soccer.

Isn’t it better to appeal to something positive? To say, “Wow, I love to eat and those eggs are worth eating!” than to say, “Well, these eggs don’t suck as much as those.” Isn’t it better to think about what you like instead of dwelling on what you do not like?

I work to find passionate customers. I find that customers who are inspired to act out of gilt peter out quickly. They buy that first dozen eggs with a bewildered look on their face and one comment on their lips: “You get $4 for eggs?” and rarely return for seconds. The foodies have the opposite reaction. They are shocked the price is so low and return to me with a story. Then they buy a chicken. Then they buy a hog. Now they are partnering in our farm. The guilty buyer goes back to cheap food, not seeking an experience, not seeking quality. Just doing what he has always done.

I don’t really know how to end this other than to say I think this applies far beyond food and to caution that this is not a more carrot/less stick talk. Appeal to people’s passions if you want to motivate them to action. Saying, “I can help you fulfill your dreams!” is far more powerful, long term, than, “Give me money because you feel guilty!” Don’t just run around like Chicken Little claiming the world is ending and we’re all going to die. You are going to die. It is going to happen. But a few of us choose to live while we are alive. And those are the customers I seek.

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6 thoughts on “Philosophy of Finding Customers

  1. Guilt wears off quick. That’s priceless. We’ve just got to string things out properly. Read Fast Food Nation then wait about a year and then watch Food Inc. and then wait about 6 months and watch Fresh. You can be guilty your whole life if you play your cards right.

    freshly squeezed raw milk? apples to apples and oranges to teats.

    … like all these other thoughts too…

    but how about hooking them with guilt and turning them into foodies. how does one become a foodie anyway?

  2. I couldn’t agree more with your post Chris.

    Another example that I was reminded of while reading this was when my wife and her best friend (many years ago) started using and selling a brand of makeup that was suppose to be better than the over-the-counter stuff. It didn’t contain all the chemicals, tallow from hormone induced cattle, etc. Now, a few years later, a few more wrinkles, they both have said, ‘I don’t care what’s in the product as long as it gets rid of these wrinkles’!

    Positive response wins out over a negative response every time. Except when I’m fussing at my kids for leaving the lights on all over the house for the tenth time today, or for leaving their dishes on the table, or…

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