Vulnerability makes a stronger connection, than strength.


Vulnerability makes a stronger connection, than strength. A different thought is circulating in the marketing world, but one you might have noticed some in the local food movement already use: Marketing your vulnerability. I see this as an offshoot of marketing with authenticity, or just being authentic; just being yourself. (This was inspired by an article I could not find again, but this article is a good connection to vulnerability marketing connections.) Spotlighting your vulnerabilities takes courage,but there are a few specific reasons why it can be effective for small business owners like us. 

You are authentically are vulnerable. The most important thing to remember is that you are vulnerable. No business is a fortress. No business can exist without customers. Mother nature can turn on a dime and leave successful operators wondering what happened. 

Empathy builder. Sharing your honest concerns for your crops with your customers, all in good measure, helps them relate to you. It connects them to you and activates empathy within them. That empathy, a very regular human emotion, is not accessed by “We’re the best!” marketing messages. It’s a personal connection through pictures of frost-bitten blossoms and apples fallen to the ground.

It’s hard to be Superman and everyone knows you’re Clark. I know this because for years I was on the by-the-book, everything’s-great-here, we’re-the-best-all-the-time-at-everything marketing plan. It’s so hard to keep trolling out the superlatives, awesome, great, something for everyone, best-ever-and-ever-and-ever again(!). Seriously, nobody’s buying it. They all know your secret identity as a real person. 

Social media allows you to tell your story.Social media also encourages it. The people who “Like” your business have asked for a closer look into your business. They can hear your ad on the radio, but they connected to hear your story. Facebook & Twitter are built to allow you to share pictures, joys, disasters, worries, successes all with a click of your smartphone. The platform s there. You just have to commit to using it to connect. 

How to appropriately connect. You can take this too far. No one is interested in your bad-mouthing the weather, complaining about every circumstance or belittling troublesome employees.(If that’s really a rut you get into, please adjust your “authentic self” for the sake of your business and lighten up.) 

Go for balance. Stay positive 13/16ths of the time and add in a real, true vulnerable moment. 

Use pictures. Don’t complain about the weather, show the snow and explain what it means, good or bad, for the crop. 

Education & empathy. Use the posts to tell the story of the plant, the crop, the people. In short, educate your customers with these authentic moments in farming. 

What a relief. Isn’t it nice to know that you don’t have to be perfect any more? It was such a relief to me because I was failing miserably at perfection. The world ain’t perfect. Your customers ain’t perfect and, thankfully, you don’t have to be. You have to be positive, but not perfect. 

Share your vulnerabilities every now a then and let people know the real you and the real story of your family’s farm. People are desperate for something real in an age of posers and politicians. 

Have a great week,

PS Registration is open for NAFDMA (North American Farmers Direct Marketing) Conference! This has been my favorite place to meet folks doing pick-your-own, pumpkin patches, corn mazes just generally fun folks who do what we do. It’s Feb 1-6, 2013 in Portland, OR. I’m leading one of the Bus Tours, the “TechnoBus”– it”s a workshop on wheels where we explore the world of social media and technology in a quest for customer connections. You can see the Bus Tour destinations here.


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