7 Personal Branding Lessons From an Unlikely Source

Have you visited your local farmer’s market recently?  If not, you are probably missing out on a couple of interesting lessons (and a few tasty vine-ripened tomatoes).  Sellers at the farmer’s market face an extremely difficult task: with similar products being offered left and right, each seller must somehow stand out from the rest to succeed.

Here are 7 valuable personal branding lessons we can all learn from a trip to the farmer’s market.

1.  Over-promoting inevitably backfires.

In a crowded marketplace such as the farmer’s market, it can be tempting to over-promote.  On my most recent trip, I heard one vendor yelling about their incredible deals while I was still 5 booths away.  The yelling continued, and I made a point to hurriedly walk past.

What about you?  Is your Twitter stream a constant barrage of over-promotion around your own blog or job search?

2.  Specialization works.

My only mandatory purchase at the farmer’s market is a big crate of dark red strawberries.  Who do I always seek out to provide these delicious treats?  The vendors who sell only strawberries. Why?  I trust that their “strawberry only” ways lead to a certain expertise that others can’t match.

Do you have an area of specialization that separates you from the pack?

3.  Familiarity breeds confidence.

Another category of vendor that I tend to gravitate to are those that I’ve purchased from before.  In general, we fear the unknown, and take comfort in the familiar.  For this reason, you will benefit from forming connections and putting your work out there for all to see.

4.  Free samples trump all else.

The free sample is really the cornerstone of the farmer’s market.  I want what you are selling – but you better prove it to me via a free of charge sample taste!  This philosophy is no different in the business world.  You want to sell me an e-book?  You better show me a hell of a blog post on the subject before I am willing to spend a dime.

This article I wrote extols the virtues of providing your network and employer with as many free samples as possible.

5.  Personality matters.

Most farmer’s market patrons aren’t fruit or vegetable connoisseurs.  But, they are all experts on one subject – people.  A smile and a friendly greeting is more likely to inspire a sale than the product itself.  If you are using social media to market a product (or your own services), the same principal applies.  Kill ’em with kindness.

6.  Location, location, location.

The farmer’s market is proof that proper location is a powerful thing.  Set up a lemonade stand in front of your house tomorrow, and you might sell 10 lemonades.  Set one up next to the kettle corn stand at the farmer’s market, and you just might sell 1,000.

If what you are selling is your personal brand, are you doing it in the right places?  This article on how outposts improve your ecosystem offers an excellent guide.

7.  Uniqueness stands out.

I don’t like plums.  Don’t really like apricots either.  But, the first time I saw that science and nature had combined to create the “pluot”, I just had to have one.  In fact, I bought ten.  Why?  Because it was simply too unique not to try.

Have you been to the farmer’s market lately?  Any other lessons, or awesome fruit hybrids, that I haven’t mentioned here?

For personal branding tips and tricks from Ryan Rancatore and a great group of guest bloggers, visit Personal Branding 101. Or, connect with @RyanRancatore on Twitter.

Photo credit, The Ewan and RaeA.


Add yours
  1. 1
    Laura Wasilewski

    I love farmer's markets and think you provide a lot of great information here – what a great analogy!

    My only concern is the specialization — as a consumer, I like a place that specializes in one thing; like you, I know I'm getting quality because they're putting all of that effort into one thing. However, from a seller (or business) standpoint, how do you reconcile this with the concern of putting all your eggs in one basket (so to speak)?

    Going back to the farmer's market, if a freeze, parasite, infection, flood, etc destroys all of the farmer's strawberry crops, they could be ruined. If they had diversified, maybe the peppers would survive the parasite that destroyed the strawberries and they could squeeze by with a lean summer. Considering the recession, what do you think is the best approach?

  2. 3
    Suzanne Vara


    Love when people take experiences and add the marketing flair. The booth screaming out is the person who runs into SM and talks at and not to people. We ignore them as we do not like to be shouted at. There is much to say about being shouted at as many feel that traditional advertising is companies shouting at consumers. I guess this forgets the fact that some commercials are not all about selling but add humor and some tell a story of sorts. Nonetheless, shouting is an intrusion in our lives.

    Uniqueness, location and personality – in almost any type of business these are key factors to success. The entire customer experience is to be looked at as what if you are the person who is next to the shouter and are associated with them in a negative way, the booth that looks just like everyone else who just exists and has no element of differentiation – these affect the entire consumer experience not in a positive way.

    Plums -sorry despite being purple and Iike purple, they just do not make the cut.


  3. 4
    Ryan Rancatore

    Laura – Good question…great question, actually! Your point is valid – specialization is a risky move, whether for individuals or for businesses. I think the risk is balanced by the potential for great return, and is a worthwhile move. But, you are right – in instances like you describe (or if an industry suddenly falls out of favor), you might be hurt b/c all your eggs were in one basket. Thanks for the excellent comment.

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