Recommended Read: Purple Cow

Recommended by Gabrielle

I've made it a habit to read two books a month - one fictional book that I can get lost in and one practical book that will help me to move forward in my career goals. Last month, I read Seth Godin's Purple Cow, and I highly recommend that you bump it to the top of your reading list! It's a pretty quick read but so dense with valuable information that will really challenge your thoughts and actions in your business.

In the book, Godin encourages us to put a Purple Cow — something truly remarkable — into everything that we do. Basically, what he's urging us to do is to create products and services that are worth marketing in the first place.

Although the book is chock-full of information, I have three main takeaways:

  1. Advertising like it once was (think TV and radio commercials, full-page print ads) is irrelevant today, and marketing is mainly done through word-of-mouth — through your brand's "sneezers"

  2. Not taking risks is riskier than taking risks

  3. If you want your product, service or business to succeed, it has to be truly remarkable, and, you need to focus on early adopters and "sneezers." Don't try and advertise to everyone on the planet. Narrow down your audience and really speak to them.

And, here’s how I’ve applied these takeaways to Aster + Gray, my brick-and-mortar boutique in Valparaiso:

  1. I’ve made it a policy to only commit to one print ad per quarter, and it’s a VERY specialized publication that is tailored to my customers (people who appreciate and support the shop-local and handcrafted movement). We’ve also narrowed down the audience of our targeted digital ads and have seen a huge spike in engagement and conversions (people who come into the shop). This has been a super cost effective way to reach the right people and eliminate advertising “waste.” Also, since our core customer group heavily uses social media, this was an easy decision to make!

  2. I’ve never been a fan of the “play it safe” mentality, and, that’s helped with my store. Even before opening my shop, I quit a full-time job and gave up my financial independence and paid time off. But, had I not taken that risk, Aster + Gray wouldn’t exist, and the 100+ artisans in my shop wouldn’t have had the opportunity to share their products with Northwest Indiana. It’s easy to fall into a rhythm of things that work, but, how can we grow if we don’t try something different? Sure, taking a risk and doing something new isn’t guaranteed to be a success, but, it’s a definite guarantee that your idea won’t work if you never try.

  3. This goes back to what I talked about in the first point - don’t try to reach everyone under the sun. The truth is, not everyone needs or wants your product or service, and, you have to figure out who is going to be in that group who actually wants what it is you’re offering. I know that not everyone who walks into my store is going to like what we offer, and, that’s okay. It’s hard not to feel discouraged when people walk out empty handed, but, we look at that as an opportunity to speak to our customers and educate them on why our shop exists and why the products we sell are, in Godin’s words, remarkable. We stock the shop with handcrafted goods, and each purchase of a handcrafted item literally changes someone’s life. Some of our brands exist to help artisans in third world countries break the cycle of exploitation by providing them with financial independence, healthcare, safe working conditions and opportunities for higher education. To us, THAT is remarkable.