Milking the Purple Cow

PK CHEFS 2016 - Marshall Atkinson

This is going to be the easiest article I’ve ever written.

Why you ask?  Have you ever been so jazzed up about something and felt like a rocket on a launch pad just waiting for the countdown to go 3…2…1, so you can get blast off into outer space and start your mission?

That’s me typing right now.

Let me explain further.  I’m extremely honored to serve in a non-profit leadership group for the promotional item industry called the PromoKitchen.  It’s a tight group, and the members that are elected get the mythical title “chef”.  No, we don’t get to cook any food.  We cook with ideas instead.

Our entire purpose is to push the envelope with thought leadership discussion, figure out how to make things better, educate our community, and provide mentorship for those that are struggling.  Basically the exact viewpoint of this blog.  It’s no wonder we get along.

Check out the PromoKitchen webpage by clicking here.

I just flew back from the PPAI Expo 16 show in Las Vegas (…and boy are my arms tired.  Babumpbump).  At the show, PromoKitchen held court at the House of Blues Monday night with a fantastic mixer.  Over beers and piped in musical awesomeness that only the House of Blues could deliver, five hundred or so people stirred the conversational jambalaya.  New friends, old friends, customers, suppliers, even competitors were there.  Talk about rocking the house.  We had a line to get in and everything.  I love being the cool kid.

Visual Impressions printed the t-shirts of course.  SanMar donated them (thanks!) and the great Tee Hamilton with Creative Alchemy designed them (double thanks!)  Here’s a video we made of the t-shirt printing process with the editing help of Kirby Hasseman’s team – click here.

We even had a huge Rock Paper Scissors contest with the winner getting a $100 casino chip.  It is Vegas after all.  I didn’t win.  (Although I did win on the Alabama vs Clemson college football national championship game thanks to that last minute Clemson score.  Thank you Mr. Point Spread.  Cha-ching!)

So what’s the story with the article title you ask?  Milking the Purple Cow?  

For the keynote talk on Tuesday morning to start the expo, PPAI brought in Seth Godin to deliver one of the most inspirational talks I’ve listened to in my life.  (Hence, the rocket ship analogy earlier.)

“Who is this Seth Gordon guy anyway?”  This was an actual question I overheard in line before the keynote doors opened.  Try this.  Go to Google right now and just type in one word.  Seth.  

I’ll wait.

The first listing that comes up is his blog.  Seth’s Blog.  He publishes daily.  If you aren’t a current subscriber you should be.  He has a great insight and loves to challenge how people see things.  He is a disruptor.  That’s why I like him.

Can you get the top search ranking just with your first name?  Seth Godin can, and there’s a good reason.  When you are consistently incredible, you are always named first.

When I type in “Marshall” into Google, I don’t get the same results.  Marshall Amplifiers does.  Some quotes from me landed on the first page block, so I guess that’s a plus.  What do you get when you type in your name?  I know you’ve tried it.  Or, are stopping what you are doing and trying it out right now.

Ok, fine…but still no Milking the Purple Cow explanation.  That’s the only reason I clicked on the article in the first place, because of the funky title.

Seth’s keynote address was incredibly packed with stories, visuals, and ways to make you see how to market your company differently.  He is all about pushing you to the edge and convincing you that you can fly.  And he delivers.  Here’s how:

A few years ago Seth was driving through France on a family vacation.  His kids were in the backseat of the car, and like most kids, were being themselves.  Lots of noise and disruption.  They rounded a bend, and there standing in a pasture was a beautiful black and white cow.  It was an idyllic setting and picture perfect.  The car got extremely quiet.

For about twenty seconds.

Then it was back to regular kid-generated pandemonium.  Seth thought to himself that if that cow could produce the effect of making the kids quiet for twenty seconds, what would happen if the cow was purple?

For a purple cow, they would have to stop the car.  The kids would run over and hop the fence, sprinting to the cow to be able to get there first.  They would even touch the cow, so when they got back home they could tell the story of going to France and touching a purple cow! They would take pictures of the purple cow, and tell stories of the purple cow for years to come.

It’s a purple cow!  Have you ever seen one?!  We have.  Let me tell you about it…

So what if instead, the purple cow was your business?

All the other businesses are regular black and white spotted cows.  Yours is purple.  Those kids are your potential customers.  Racing to do business with you.  How awesome would that be?

What makes your company a purple cow?  That’s what you need to market.  Don’t market that you are a cow.  That you have normal black and white spots.  That you stand in a pasture chewing grass all day like all the other cows.  Just a happy part of the herd…

Market your purpleness.  Why are you different?  Anybody can do what you can do.  Milk the purple cow.

Ok, so that was pretty good.  What else did Seth say?

After the keynote, Seth joined a small intimate group for a workshop that PPAI and PromoKitchen sponsored.  Luckily I took some notes.  Several pages to be exact.  Here are some thoughts that struck a chord with me:

“A product is not a market.  People are a market.  Your goal should be to solve problems for people.”  Instead of pushing whatever your company is selling, everything you do should be about how your company solves problems for people.  Really good marketers illustrate the problem solving.

“Nobody has talkers block.”  Seth pushes out a blog article every single day.  His point of view is that you should be a blogger, just so you can connect your ideas in your head to what’s out there in front of you.  He shot down the myth of writer’s block, stating that it was a made up convention.  Nobody has any trouble talking to explain something.  Just write like you are talking to another person.  Start your blog and see where it takes you.

“Why do people run a marathon?  To get tired and run anyway.  The trick is to find a place to put the tired.  The people that don’t finish, don’t know where to put the tired.”  This is genius and so true.  The goal in any endeavor is to find a place to put “the tired”.  Challenge yourself.  Do things that frighten you.  Seek things out and keep going.  Learn where to put the tired.

“Would they miss you if you were gone?”  Think about that for a moment.  In your industry, community, family…what type of trail are you leaving behind?  Are you just nose down working all day?  Are you seeking to make a positive difference in this world?  My personal preference is to be a boat charging ahead, leaving a big wake behind me.  Helping others succeed.  Challenging the norms to make a difference.  Building something.  Be a leader.  That’s where all the fun is kept.  Have some fun.

“The act of marketing is the act of making change.  What change are you trying to make?”  This was a good discussion.  One of the points he made is that nobody goes out and gets a Suzuki tattoo.  They might be a great company, but they don’t have the following or the built-in tribe that Harley Davidson enjoys.  Think about all the effort and brand building that Harley invests in everything they do, catering to their specific audience.  Find your audience, and change their perception of your company.  Be so good that your customers permanently brand their bodies with your logo.  That’s a purple cow.

“Choose your customers.  Choose your future.”  I think this is one of the most dynamic statements I’ve heard in a long time.  Rather than getting embroiled in an “all things to all people” approach to how you do business, focus with laser-like intensity on the exact core customers you want to serve.  This is important as there are more frequent discussions online by people posting comments about their experiences dealing with some wacko customer behaviors.  Pause for a moment and think about your ideal customer.  Who would that be?  What type of order are they placing?  Where do other customers like this one hang out?  Cater to who you want to do business with and make your future a success that you want to be a part of daily.

“Cheaper is the point of last resort to marketers that don’t have anything interesting to say.”  I love this.  There’s always a cheaper guy.  Always.  Why even go that route?  Instead, I’ll bet there is something else that you can discuss.  Why is your cow purple?  That’s a good place to start.

“Who are you taking on the journey with you?”  Connect with your audience.  Think about the marketing that Apple, Nike, or Harley Davidson puts together.  They don’t talk about price.  They don’t slam the competition.  They focus instead on taking their tribe on the journey with them.  You want to be part of the experience as you see yourself in that group.  They are milking the purple cow all day long.

“Do the things that won’t work and learn how to do them.”  This is where innovation comes from.  It is the steady work towards your vision.  Every day.  Every week.  Every year.  Inventing, tweaking and changing whatever you are doing.  Overnight success takes years to accomplish.  You aren’t failing, you are just learning what doesn’t work…until it does.  Find what works.

“The Brand is the Expectation.”  Are you making souvenirs or are you supporting the brand?  Meaning, people have an expectation built in when they deal with you.  What are they taking away?  Good, positive helpful things?  Things that illustrate why your cow is purple?  Or negative things about your company that they can bring out and tell people?  Are you building trust in everything you do?  Support your brand.

“There are only two types of successful blogs:  Ones that explain how something happens or ones that predict how something will happen in the future.”  Thinking back through all the stuff I’ve written, I can agree with this statement.  Here’s the one thing that I can predict in the future for me:

I’m going to be making my cow purple.  PMS 527 to be exact.  How is that for a prediction?

If you like the idea of what PromoKitchen is all about you can help support our mission.  We are a registered 501c3 non-profit, and your financial support helps us with content, developing programs for the promotional item industry and more.  Click here to learn more and donate today.

My links on the PromoKitchen website you should check out:

5 Tricks for Working With Your Apparel Vendor

The Sky is Falling

PK Podcast @91 – Marci Kinter – Mark Graham and I interview Marci about sustainability, CPSIA and more

PK Podcast #82 – Marshall Atkinson  – hey, I get interviewed!  This was a lot of fun…

When You Are Up to Your Ass in Alligators – PK published my favorite blog article

 

Business Management

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http://about.me/atkinsonmarshall

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