Knowing your customer

18 May

I’ve always loved marketing and communications. Even as a kid, I was fascinated by messaging, by what worked and didn’t. And, over the years, I’ve come to understand and believe that the profession is one of respect and efficiency. Really, why bother communicating (marketing, pr, social media, media buys in advertising … whatever your tools), if you aren’t going to be respectful to your audience and give them information in a manner they are best able to receive it, right?

A big part of this “right communication” is knowing your audience. Well, I had to put such wisdom to work this past weekend where I’d take a road trip to help out at Buckland Farm CSA as part of their work weekend of farming fun. (It really is fun, and the company is always fantastic.) So, Sunday morning, Carrie, the proprietress, had put out some just-a-bit-sketchy raw fish for the chickens to eat. They’re omnivores, these chickens. She put out a few big chunks of the fish near where the chickens were scratching in the dirt and pecking around. They pecked a little, but there wasn’t any feast happening around the proferred fish.

It was then that I knew I needed to put on my marketing hat and apply the principle of knowing your customer and right communication.

See, chickens are interesting. Even if Carrie had put out 27 bits of the same food item for each of the 27 chickens, they’d still find themselves more interested in what the other chicken had. Or, best I’ve observed, they’re most interested in the one running away from the crowd, assuming — rightly, in most cases — that the fleeing chicken has found something good to eat and doesn’t want to share. Hence, the fleeing in the opposite direction of its buddies.

So, I knew I wanted to get a bit of friendly food frenzy going on to pique their interest in the fish. The first problem was that the fish meat was too big for one chicken to get a beakful and run off. I decided I needed “stealable” chunks, so I got some meat sheers and cut the flesh and light bones. I started tossing the bite-size bits to the chickens to stir up their interest, and, lo and behold, predictable as animals can sometimes be, the curiosity in the fish skyrocketed. I continued to cut the fish and shaved off a good 70-80 percent of it into bites and bits, leaving the remaining flesh for those who now had tasted and decided they did, indeed, like fish.

And, that, dear humans, is a short story about knowing your customer from a weekend farm-stay experience at Buckland Farm. Thanks to travel buddy, CSA member and pretty-good photographer Lisa V. Smith for the photos. (More on the Buckland Farm Facebook page.)


6 Responses to “Knowing your customer”

  1. Brick May 18, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

    jessie, great story…can i share this?

    • JessieX May 18, 2010 at 1:14 pm #


      it’s public

      … and thanks!


  2. Linda Joy Burke May 18, 2010 at 5:41 pm #


  3. Freemarket May 18, 2010 at 6:18 pm #

    Ha, nice post!

    One of the reasons the Healthy Howard Access Plan is such a failure is that the designers did not understand the customer. This led to a poor product.

    • JessieX May 19, 2010 at 6:57 am #

      Thanks, FM, coming from you, and one familiar with farm animals beyond a virtual game-based relationship, I appreciate your compliment. Re “not understanding the customer” and HoCoGov, I’d guess that a good 80% of businesses and organizations don’t understand their customers. I’m sure they did at some point, but after a while, organizations become more interested in self-preservation than in doing what’s needed. I don’t think this is malicious, conscious or intentional, and if a a Truth-telling Mirror were held up to the leaders in most organizations, they’d cry out against the accusations.

      But it’s so observable as the recipient of organization’s/business’s/government’s choices about how they define their purpose and related activities: few understand their customers, and, therefore, perform at a fraction of their potential.

      That’s my two cents, and I got plenty more pennies where those came from. ~ J

      PS – My chicken/farm friends just got bees, too. I’m thinking that might make your heart swell with joy.

      • freemarket May 19, 2010 at 11:22 am #

        Well, if it is true that 80% of business don’t understand their customers (and I am skeptical of that claim), at least they are wasting their own money. Healthy Howard, on the other hand, is wasting tax dollars.

        I have bees and chickens, so I have a real connection with your farming friends :-). The nectar flow doesn’t seem like it’s amounting to much this season. Local honey might cost a little more than usual this year.

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