Last weekend my son Charlie and I spent a day in Wisconsin at the Racine County Fair. One of the highlights was watching the market pig auction.
Every summer dozens of young people raise pigs for the auction. They buy piglets in the spring and then spend months feeding and caring for the animals. At the fair, they auction them off. Prices are usually good; a normal market hog on Saturday was going for about 50 cents per pound. At the auction, the kids were getting $2 or $2.50 per pound, a rather nice premium.
Most of the buyers were local businesses: Blume Trucking, Bob’s Mobil, American Family Insurance, Community State Bank, Foam Pro Insulations, Martin’s Ford.
For small businesses, the purchase makes a lot of sense. It shows you care about the community and supporting young people. It’s a way to give back and a fairly modest investment—just a few hundred dollars—that helps you say something notable about your brand.
It is even better if you can buy a pig raised by one of your customers. The idea of reciprocity is powerful; people naturally support each other. It is tough to drop your insurance provider if they just bought your kid’s hog.
Pricing can be affected by establishing, or not establishing, these kinds of relationships. In the world of marketing, differentiation is critical. If you aren’t unique in some fashion, customers will focus exclusively on price. This will force you to cut your prices, which will shrink your margin and limit your resources. One way to differentiate is to build a relationship with your customer. You might have a similar product offering, but you have a personal connection and that changes the relationship.
The most notable moment of our visit came when a small disabled girl entered the ring with her 240 pound pink pig. She followed it around the ring, doing her best to keep up.
Bidding started quickly at the usual price of about $1.50 per pound. Before long it was a $3 per pound, then $5 per pound. The bids kept coming and the price marched steadily up: $7…$10…$15. There was no hesitation or slowing. The price kept climbing as the bids came in…$18…$20…$25. The pig eventually sold for $30 per pound, for a total of more than $7,000.
What a remarkable moment. At a time when people are focused on all the problems we face, it is refreshing to see people come together to help others.