This Little Piggy Went to Market: A Marketing Lesson from Agriculture

Ryan Eidson  —  April 25, 2014

2011-hfmgrFor nearly two years my wife and I managed a farm overseas. A US-based non-profit organization asked us to help turn the farm operation around. In many ways, the farm was in a very difficult situation: poor use of natural and mechanical resources, employee troubles, and unwise financial decisions, just to name a few.

We did not realize how bad the situation was until after we moved there.

We committed to stay and do what we could to improve the operation and learn the local language.

Both my wife and I grew up on family farms in the American Midwest, so we had some knowledge and skills to help us along. Each of us brought a different skill set to the table: she enjoyed working with the vegetables, row crops, and animals, and I did more of the employee management, conflict resolution, record-keeping, and financial aspects.

During the spring of 2010, after collecting data and forecasting the profitability of a swine enterprise, we decided to buy some small piglets to fatten them up and sell for pork. We bought 29; however, most all of them got sick with hog cholera after a couple weeks, and two died. (Hog cholera is eradicated from the USA; we had never seen that disease before.)

marketing-lesson-agriculture-pigsWho’s Gonna Feed Them Hogs?

I developed a healthy and cheap feed ration for those pigs. We wanted to maximize growth of the pigs without adding extra fat, while keeping feed costs down.

One local person who worked with us said that the pigs would grow too slowly if we feed them according to my ration. He wanted us to use the more expensive feed so the pigs would grow faster. At the same time, he admitted that the pork from the commercial pigs that eat this other ration does not taste as good as the pork his family ate 50 years ago.

Because of the hog cholera, I did have to make adjustments to the pig feed to help the gain back all the weight they lost from the disease. But I switched them back to the original plan later, because it was the healthier option for the pigs and the consumers.

The Word Spread Like Wildfire

Sure enough, when it came time for the first group of pigs to go to market, word started to spread after people ate our pork: “This pork tastes really good! You can’t get this kind of pork at the market any more!” People started telling their friends. We privately sold the entire last bunch of pigs—none of them went to the general market.

A few months later, these last buyers came back to ask us if we would raise pigs again that next summer. We said that we were moving back to the States (which we did) and that the next people running the farm would be the ones to decide if the farm would raise pigs again. Our village friends were sad to see us go, and sad to not have that great pork for the next winter.

Apply This Marketing Lesson to Your Book Promotion

After word got out that the pigs were for sale, those pigs ended up marketing themselves. The quality of the product was so good that simple word-of-mouth carried the message around the place where we lived.

Granted, pork is a commodity that has its own market, but you can do a similar thing with your books. Give your readers such an outstanding experience that they will tell others about you!

What if no one knows about your books yet? How do people first find out about you? How do you get your initial set of customers? The online marketing space is so full of opinions that it will take you a long time to sort out all of their information. Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Cross-promote with other people in your industry.
  • Maintain an email list. Do you provide a way for people to sign up for email updates?
  • My top piece of advice is: Create quality content. Keep providing some high-quality work for free. Top-notch content will take you far.


Are you overwhelmed with all of the possible marketing tools and techniques at your disposal? Or are you confident and ready to dive in? Answer in the comments below.

Ryan Eidson


I have the unique ability to make complex ideas easy to understand. I am the author of A Couple with Common Cents and live in rural Missouri.