Common marketing missteps waste time and money. These 5 fixes are GAME CHANGERS.

Honor System Marketing at Georges Mill Farm

Georges Mill Farm - Honor System Marketing

Have you heard of honor system marketing? If not, it’s probably because it’s as uncommon as a cryptid sighting in a murky Scottish Highlands loch.

The In Rainbows Payment Model

Remember the Radiohead experiment back in 2007? Fans could pay what they wished for In Rainbows, the band’s seventh full-length album. At the time, it was a game changer. Here in Denver, SAME Cafe (SAME – So All May Eat) served a whopping 28,000 meals in 2020 using a pay-what-you-can model. Though there’s no paywall, Wikipedia uses an honor system of sorts to encourage donations that will keep the behemoth resource up and running.

Here’s the message I received back in December when I hit up Wikipedia for the second of 72 times that day:

Hi reader. This is the 2nd time we’ve interrupted your reading recently. 98% of our readers think they’ll give later, but they forget. This Tuesday we ask you to protect Wikipedia. All we ask is $2.75, or what you can afford, to secure our future. We ask you, humbly: Please don’t scroll away. If you are one of our rare donors, we warmly thank you.

I’m on Wikipedia 72 times a day, and all they’re asking for is a contribution of $2.75. The disconnect is jarring.

Honor System Marketing and Sales

Now, farm stands and outdoor markets have long relied on honor system marketing to build goodwill while earning money for the products they sell. I have to say, though, that Georges Mill Farm in Lovettsville, Virginia, took me by surprise. I was visiting my sister and nieces in New Brunswick, Maryland, and I found this gem of a farm less than 5 miles away. I was in search of local cheese and charcuterie. What I found was a 24/7, unstaffed, honor system-based store.

To get to Georges Mill Farm from Maryland, you’ll need to ask your niece Ally to drive you across the Brunswick Bridge over the Potomac River and then wind around this road and that. (I’m assuming you also have a niece named Ally.) Though the farm is only a few miles from New Brunswick, if the sun has already set you’ll spend a good amount of time wondering if you’re almost there or if you and Ally are plowing through some guy’s field.

Ally and I made it to the brightly lit haven, picked out our purchases, and slipped cash through a wall slot. (You can also pay by Venmo and Zelle.)

Next time you’re in the area, stop by for the farmstead chèvre, soppressata, eggs, and goat’s milk caramel. And to experience the “responsibility that comes with freedom” (quote courtesy of Eleanor Roosevelt). I don’t know about you, but I could use a reminder now and again.

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