The Purple Cow and Passion


just picked up Seth Godin’s The Purple Cow again last night.  Both the merchandiser and writer in me are parched for ‘new’ material, and this was one of the books I purchased over a year ago, but somehow never read. 

One of the key principles in Godin’s book revolves around what makes you, the business owner, remarkable, hence the purple cow.  He uses the analogy of traveling with his family in France and being enchanted with all the peaceful cows grazing in beautiful pastures. Eventually after passing countless pastures, the excitement wears off.  Every pasture looks the same.

Hence the purple cow.  A purple cow would make cows interesting again.  But be forewarned, even the purple cow will eventually become common place.

I had to ask myself, what makes me remarkable?  What is different about the services I provide or the way I provide them?  What is my purple cow at the moment?  Of course, this then led me to realize it was time to look at my business plan and analyze where I am today so that I can determine where I need to go tomorrow.  I encourage you to do the same.

Every business owner should be able to identify their purple cow and must re-examine what continues to make them remarkable along the way to continue to be successful.  There is no end-point or moment when smart business owners will sit back and say, “Yup.  I’ve made it, now I can just enjoy the fruits of my labor.”  Or, perhaps I should say, that any business owner that gets this lackadaisical about their position in the market, just doing business as usual year after year, will not continue to be remarkable.

I was fortunate to add my writing voice to the amazing nonprofit, Bridge over Troubled Water’s holiday e-mail blast last year and the first thing I said to Karin Cassel, Bridge’s Director of Development was, “I am not a marketing expert.”  Yet, this was precisely what was remarkable about what I had to offer at that time:  a creative spirit and no preconceived notion about what needed to be done.  Every nonprofit letter I was receiving at the time had a sad story and pleaded for my funds.  Unfortunately, they all blended into the background babble of charities. We wanted to create a purple cow for Bridge, and hence the “See Me” campaign was born. 

Godin mentions Starbucks, JetBlue and Prozac as companies with purple cow products.

I’d like to add REI, my former alma mater, to the list.  Many retailers talk about their strength in customer service as their purple cow, but REI elevates this to a science.  How?  They hire sales staff that aren’t sales people first, but are instead first passionate about their outdoor endeavors.  This passion and excitement is contagious and provides product knowledge that training alone can’t come close to. Countless customers come in for quality products to be sure, but they also come in because they want to buy from someone who participates in and understands their outdoor endeavors.  From the top down, REI is committed to the outdoors industry.  You can’t fake that.

Every company that identifies their purple cow effectively has passion.  Passion about what we do is the contagious and authentic ingredient that draws business our way.  Today’s consumers can spot from a mile away any retailer that is lazy and lacks passion. 

The new year is only days away.  I invite you to remember why you are doing what you doing and what specifically makes you stand out from the crowd.  What is your passion?  What is your purple cow?

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