Show Me The Cheese: The Magic of In-Person Selling
This weekend we visited an upstate Farmer’s Market in Great Barrington, MA and enjoyed walking from stand to stand, chatting with the folks about their bread, dairy, jams or meats they were selling. In most cases, the people were the farmers or owners themselves. I’m no stranger to farmer’s markets, and they’re a growing trend in both cities and country for good reason.
What I couldn’t get enough of was the detail with which they described their process, the love and passion that came through, casual banter that formed a personal connection, and the helpful tips and suggestions about preparing meals that only inspired me more to buy. There also were tasty samples.
I’ve always been a fan of great salesmanship. Back in high school, I ran the French Club croissant and orange juice sales early in the morning, eventually raising enough to send the entire club to visit both the Statue of Liberty and see Les Mis on Broadway. Selling has stuck with me. One year ago at my agency, we created the Search for the World’s Greatest Salesperson to reassert the nobility of sales and create a product offering around social sales for it. I recently updated a list of favorite and memorable advertising from the last 30 years and see that nearly a third of my top votes were campaigns that involved in-person selling. It has, after all, a lot of effective ingredients for marketing — the formation of a personal connection, longer format to tell more of a story, and actual product demonstration to show off how it works or why it’s great.
Up late for the informercial: Long-form television commercials are an American phenomenon rich in information, background, tips and of course a compelling and repeated offer to motivate action now. You probably know them most for bizarre health or mental aides, celebrity jewelry, or workout equipment. They’re fun to parody but they also work very well at what they do. Act now. While it might seem like a dated format, the informercial has seen some modern upgrades. Perhaps no brand embodies the modern digital demo better than Blend-tec, maker of the Total Blender. Blendtec’s series of online videos have earned more than 9 million views and shares first by blending iPhones and then by entertaining suggestions of objects to blend.
Seeing is believing. Product selling also builds brands for the long haul. Procter & Gamble has built many of its brands on the strength and formula of the product demonstration — showing how it works and even how it works better than a competitor. As consumers, we’ve learned to trust the data and sources so even the Pepsi Challenge was temporarily believable. Briefs today for many packaged goods commercials for cleaning supplies or hair care still require at least a few seconds of showing the ingredient in action or a comparison.
The best connection is personal. Most of all, there’s something about knowing exactly where your food comes from or having been taught by Gary Vaynerchuk online how not to be afraid of wine. It changes the purchase experience, not to mention the usage experience later in the kitchen or at the table. Supermarkets do it in a half-hearted way but there’s no substitute for doing it outside or in a more intimate setting like a farmer’s market. The visit to the Great Barrington market this Saturday was an activity of which Bryan Fuhr and I were both quite proud. We ambled along the old railroad station where the Saturday market is held. I entered the raffle giveaway for a Mother’s Day basket. We bought cheese from one dairy farmer, mushrooms and spinach from a vegetable stand, eggs and ground meat for hamburgers from Blue Hill Farm, a place we know with a connection to a great New York restaurant. On the way out, I braked for a second dairy farmer, an Ethan Hawke look-alike, with the most amazing sign for The Amazing Real LIfe Food Company. I already had bought some cheese, sure, but was so inspired, I ran back and got some ideas from him for a delicious lunchtime omelette. Yum.
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