What was the last purchase you absolutely loved?

See it in your mind’s eye. Feel the feelings (again) of finding it, buying it, using it.

I’ll tell you mine, if you tell me yours…

For me, one of the best ways to spend money is at my local Farmers’ Market. It’s not just the gorgeous flowers and delicious produce I come home with.

Heirloom tomatoes from farmers' market

Nothing in the world tastes better to me than an heirloom tomato

Nope. It’s the entire (full sensory) experience.

It’s the riot of colors and sights and sounds. It’s the free slice of whatever’s in season. It’s the specialty food trucks and the yummy smells that waft over and around me as I walk by. It’s the cooking demonstrations. It’s my conversations with the vendors.

And at the end of the day, it’s the products I come home with and how they make me feel when I cook or use them.

These aspects that attract me to the Farmers’ Market? They’re the same things I try to incorporate into my offerings.

Not literally, of course. But I do look for ways to create a sensory experience for my clients — before, during and after the sale.

And even though most of what I sell isn’t tangible (coaching services are a long way from Heirloom tomatoes), I can bridge some of those gaps by looking at the feelings I’m attracted to and build in ways to create those same feelings in my customers.

Here’s an example:

Part of what I adore about buying at the Farmers’ Market are the conversations with the vendors. The best ones really enjoy their products and love to share their knowledge.

I’ve been attracted to a booth because it looked interesting and then purchased something simply because of the conversation.

It wasn’t planned, but I had a little extra in my budget and felt good about the purchase because of the stories that were shared.

One week it was a paper bag of wild mushrooms. The next, a bar of handmade goats milk soap. Once I purchased three different exotic sounding vinegars — all because the lady behind the table took the time to tell me about how to use them in cocktails!

Then there are other purchases I make just because.

Just before Christmas, I bought some rabbit. Rabbit! And let me tell you, it wasn’t cheap.

It was something I’d been eyeing in previous trips, but only in a kind of wouldn’t that be fun sort of way.

What Made Me Finally Decide to Buy the Rabbit?

It wasn’t the vendor.

Christmas was just around the corner. I was pretty sure I’d be alone…No Mr. Perfect. No Mom or Dad. No son. Nobody here but me and the Portland rain.

And I thought cooking up some rabbit would help me make the day special. A new adventure.

So I shelled out $17 and some change for roughly 2 pounds of “organically fed, free range” rabbit.

Definitely not what I’d call a bargain, but it was a special occasion splurge.

I had the best of intentions.

And then my son (who graduated from art school in mid-December) decided to forego his post-college wanderings to spend Christmas with me.

Woo hoo! Christmas dinner would be extra special!

Except here’s the thing: I’d never made rabbit before. And my son is not the gastronaut his mother is (at least not yet).

Every recipe I found was either beyond my cooking abilities or beyond his palate.

So I left the rabbit in the fridge for another day and we went to see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty instead. We had popcorn and peanut M&Ms for dinner.

It was a lovely little Christmas.

And then Mr. Perfect sent me an airline ticket with a note that said Come join me in the sun.

By the time I remembered that the rabbit was still waiting for me…well, let’s just say that bunny rabbit had sailed.

Has that ever happened to you? Maybe not with rabbit, but something else?

You had fabulous intentions when you bought that online course. But then life got in the way and you forgot? And before you knew it, your circumstances had changed and you just didn’t care anymore?

Even my OCD mother spends money on fabric and other sewing rick rack because of momentary lapses into big ambitions.  

Usually — hopefully — we learn from these experiences (or at least try to minimize these types of purchases in the future).

I know I’ll pay a lot more attention on my next trip to the Farmers’ Market.

Think I’ll buy more rabbit? Probably not.

Not without really good reasons and better planning.

Actually, that first purchase was a total fluke. For me and the vendor.

I’m intrigued by the cuts of meat she’s got available: wild boar, venison, moose…you get the idea.

housewife controlling vegetables for recipe

But unless I know what the heck I’m going to do with it and have a specific menu in mind, I won’t be shelling out any more of my hard earned cash.

Your potential customers may have the same issues with your offer.

What would entice me to buy from her again? If she…

  • Gave out uber tasty samples
  • Talked with me about ways to cook the meat (helped me over the learning curve)
  • Shared tips on how to buy the best cuts
  • Told me (true) stories about how the animals were raised, caught or butchered

If she could engage me in the full experience of what it’s like to be a person who loves to eat/cook wild game, I might get enthusiastic about the project and feel more confident about spending my money there again.

But the one time I visited her booth, she did none of those things. In fact, she was pretty quiet. My guess is that the owner hired her to stand there and just take money.

Another example of how to nurture repeat sales

There’s a market called New Seasons and they’re just around the corner from me.

They don’t always have my favorite heirloom tomatoes and they don’t usually sell wild game, but the folks behind the meat counter are the epitome of fabulous.

They’re full of smiles and friendly tips about the best way to cook everything. They ask me questions and offer opinions. (Have you made this before? It goes really well with…) Because they buy their own products. And while they don’t handout free samples, you can ask them anything and get a helpful, friendly response. They’re like what I imagine the old timey butchers used to be like.

The meat itself is the highest quality: organic, grass fed, free range. But that’s not the only reason I buy my meat there.

Because let’s face it — there are tons of options for this stuff here in Portland. (Lucky me!)

I could buy my meat at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s or the Co-op.

But I get my stuff from New Season’s.

Your customers have the entire world at their finger tips.

They could buy from anyone on the interwebz. Why will they choose you?

Will you take the time to make sure they get exactly what they need? Will you show up in a spirit of true service? (And not just marketing gimmicks and hype?)

If you love what you do, it shows.

You sell something unique, right?

Is your product ‘wild game’ or a commodity (like bacon)? 

Commodities are everywhere. They’re sold on the exchanges (think pork bellies and sugar and milk). They’re often put on sale as a promotion to get you in the store.

There isn’t a lot of extra service given to those who buy them. The margins are too low. It’s not worth it to the grocer to create a workshop on creative ways to cook bacon, right?

But you’re not a commodity. (At least, I hope you know you’re not.)

Would you like to work with clients who are willing to pay just a little bit more? (Because they know you’re worth it?)

Would you like your customers to actually USE your thing, experience how wonderful it is and then come back for seconds?

(Instead of buying on a whim and then abandoning it because they weren’t engaged with you?)

Or will you place your revenue hopes on things like seasonal promotions and special deals?

Don’t get me wrong. Those methods certainly work once or twice. (I did buy the rabbit, after all.)

But if you don’t back up those methods with extra care — before, during and after the sale — you’ve just trained your customer to buy on a lark or only when there’s a deal.

So where do you begin?

Start by creating something you love SO much that you’d be willing to give it away.

Heart moulded by hands from the doughThink about your current products or offerings.

Do you believe there are people out there whose lives would change* if they just had the chance to use your thing or work with you?

It’s kind of fanatical to think that way, I know.

But try. 

[*Changing lives doesn’t have to be epic. I feel like my life is vastly improved because of the conversations I have at the markets. Small changes often ripple out into bigger ones.]

I ask myself that question every time I think about creating something new.

Yes, I do the research and solicit feedback and tweak my stuff so that everything matches up with what you say you want.

But I absolutely won’t create the thing unless I also believe that I’d keep doing it even if you didn’t buy it.

Look at it this way: if you didn’t have to worry about money and could choose to do or make anything, what would that something be?

Your answer is a clue to how you can best serve the world and allow the world to give back to you.

Let me be clear tho: I’m NOT saying you should only follow your bliss. OR that if you just do what you love the money will follow.

Nope. I’m saying you need to know yourself and get crystal clear about what matters to you.

That you need to be sure your business goals are in complete alignment with who you are at your very core.

Because when you’re connected that deeply to your mission, you can’t help but get excited about the work.

As if that weren’t enough, your subconscious also joins in the fun.

Your love for what you do clears a path for inspiration and creativity.

Here’s my bottom line: don’t put the time and energy into creating something unless you’re willing to offer it up as a gift — at least initially. You must be willing to take YOUR time to figure it out and get it right.

The focus isn’t put first on profit or “getting to six figures.” It’s on your mission.

Questions I ask: Will this thing I want to do provide real value? How will I know? (Experiments are all about being open and looking for evidence to prove/disprove your ideas.)

It’s why I did Prosperity’s Kitchen the way I did. It’s why I offered a scholarship last year for the Digital Dining Room. And it’s why I’m experimenting right now with a gift economy model for my new Sunday Brunch program.

Even the simple act of writing a blog post is ultimately a gift.

Sure, it’s helpful to do a little keyword research and optimize for SEO and make sure your formatting is user-friendly. But in the end, you need to be willing to write the thing for free.

Even if nobody shows up. Even if nobody reads it.

Because without that willingness to put your heart into it — to practice and build a body of work over time — you won’t be able to weather the rough patches of self-employment.

(Like an artichoke, our heart is the best part.)


What about you? What do you love to give your money to again and again? And why?

Your reasons are important. Like my biz mentor Andrea Lee says, what you find attractive in the world — what attracts you to buy something — is a big crazy clue about why your customers will find you (and your business) attractive. It’s why they’ll give you money.

So dig deep. Really look at this and ask yourself these questions:

  • What conversations happen before, during and after my favorite transactions (with either my family, friends, colleagues or the vendors themselves)?
  • How long do my good feelings last? Is there anything that the vendor did (or does) to extend those for me?
  • What kind of price would I be willing to pay for this thing? How high would the price have to be before I said, “No, thanks”?
  • What keeps me buying that thing over and over again?

Relying on your customer’s good intentions isn’t enough to build a successful business. You want to be sure your customers come prepared to use your product. And that only happens when you think beyond the sale. When you put your heart into every last piece of it.

The world needs you to give it everything you’ve got.

Your turn: I’d love to hear a story about your last favorite purchase and how it made you feel. Please share!