My friend Dahlia had been bugging me for months to visit the farm with her.
“Please, Stephanie,” she said. “You’re gonna love Insook’s Farm!”
I didn’t know why it was such a big deal. I mean, I like fresh vegetables from a local farm, but I didn’t get why my friend was so worked up about it.
Finally, one day the stars aligned. Jeff and I accompanied Dahlia to Insook’s Farm.
It was nothing like what I expected.
We pulled up to a house with a Really Big Garden and a hand-painted sign out front, “Insook’s Farm.”
“Bring a jacket,” Dahlia said. “Insook keeps it very cold inside so the vegetables are fresh.”
We parked at the end of a driveway and passed a table of Korean women playing cards under a tent. Dahlia waved to them and guided us to a door at the side of the house.
A small Korean women greeted Dahlia by name as she opened the door. “You want blackberries? Just picked.”
It was a cool 60 degrees inside, a relief after the summer heat. The produce was carefully displayed in wooden boxes around the tight space: gorgeous eggplants, celery stalks and kale in water, garlic bulbs, beets, summer squash. Blackberries.
There was a handwritten sign on the refrigerator advertising homemade kimchi and pickles. I pointed them out to Jeff because he’s a huge pickle fan.
Insook saw Jeff eyeing her pickles. “I’m out of my famous kimchi. But I have garlic kimchi. You try!”
Within seconds, Insook was feeding my husband kimchi with a plastic spoon. He raised his eyebrows in delight and made his num-num noise. Our eyes met and we smiled.
The door opened and a man joined us, bumping into me in the tight space.
“Eugene,” Insook called to him. “These cucumbers are for you. Not those. These the ones you like.”
Eugene put the cucumbers in his bag and we grinned at each other.
We left with a bag full of beets, leafy greens, garlic kimchi, pickles and a pint of blackberries Insook threw in for free. She was happy to let me take the vegetables without paying (she the names of people who’d forgotten to bring cash on the dry erase board behind her register) but I wrote her a check.
All of us left smiling.
The Power of a Purple Cow
A business like Insook’s Farm is an anomaly. Only an hour outside of New York City, a tiny basement store selling garden vegetables and homemade kimchi, it doesn’t even accept credit cards!
Insook doesn’t advertise, other than her weekly email list. (She scribbled down my email address and I still haven’t received anything.)
Yet there was a steady line of people in and out of Insook’s tiny farm. She knew each person by name, took the time to explain (and hand feed them samples) of her homemade goods.
Insook’s Farm is a Purple Cow.
The term “purple cow” was coined by Seth Godin to describe a remarkable business that stands out like a purple cow in a herd of boring, brown heifers.
A purple cow is remarkable enough that people talk about it. They recommend it to their friends and insist they have a visit, just like my friend Dahlia did.
A business is a purple cow because of the way it makes people FEEL.
Insook’s Farm isn’t for everyone. People who don’t hate veggies would never set foot in the place, and it’s a far cry from the familiar sterility of Hannaford’s supermarket. My grandfather would be horrified because she doesn’t carry Bird’s Eye Broccoli & Cheese.
But for the people who love Insook’s Farm, it just makes them feel good.
They’re buying local, supporting the tiny business of this charming Korean woman who knows them by name. It makes them feel connected to the community.
Most of all, Insook’s Farm is a purple cow because it’s overflowing with Insook’s personality.
Her family kimchi recipe. Her easy smile and the ways she boasts about the fruits of her garden. How she knows the names of her customers. The trust she displays by letting even strangers take her goods on credit.
For the fans of Insook’s Farm, there’s no question about the value of shopping there.
It’s about so much more than a bargain price on organic vegetables.
Lessons From the Magic of Insook’s Farm
The easiest way to make your wedding business into a Purple Cow that gets talked about is to infuse yourself into everything you do.
#1 – Don’t do things just because the competition does them that way. In fact, do the opposite!
If you have a quirky sense of humor, make a video for wearing a turkey hat and send it to your clients. (Well, it worked for me.)
Or if you’re rather outspoken on a topic or two (like pushy photographers or DIY planners) let people know about it.
#2 – Show off what makes you different and unique instead of forcing yourself into a mold designed by someone with no imagination.
What do you secretly wish you could share with your clients?
Do that. Say that. Let them see that.
Most wedding pros are hiding their best stuff because they’re afraid someone won’t like it.
#3 – Don’t try to make everyone happy.
You know that old adage about how “the customer is always right?”
It’s a lie.
You can’t make everyone happy, no matter how hard you try. And if you water down your wedding business and personality to attract the most people, your message becomes so weak that no one will notice.
Accept the fact that you’re not right for everyone. Worry about the clients who absolutely love you. Make them happy and forget the rest.
#4 – Take a stand people can disagree with.
I didn’t have a chance to talk to Insook about it, but I’m pretty sure she has some strong views about how vegetables should be grown, cooked and sold. She might even have something against high-volume farms and grocery stores, opinions that would offend more than 50% of the potential customers in her town immediately.
Pissing people off is okay.
In fact, it’s a sign you’re actually saying something worthwhile.
The most powerful way to communicate your value is through creating an experience that makes people FEEL.
What do you think?