Now that farmer's market season is wrapping up for the year, it feels like a good time to talk about carrots.

For centuries, nearly all carrots were a myriad of colors - yellow, purple, white, red, you name it. In the late 16th century, though, some patriotic Dutch growers decided to put an end to the reign of rainbow. As a tribute to William of Orange, they took some mutant strains of the purple carrot, and slowly developed them into the plump orange varieties you find on grocery store shelves today. A thousand years of variety and carrot history was wiped out in a generation.

Lately, though, rainbow carrots have been back in vogue. Carrot crunchers around the world have been snapping up bunches of so-called heirloom veggies from their local farmers' markets at a rate not seen in decades. While a lot of buyers might spout some nonsense about beta-carotene or vitamin A or other such reasons for the boom in interest, I've got a simpler theory.

Rainbow carrots are becoming more popular because they're less boring.

I like to call it the orange-carrot complex - when everybody's offering the same stuff, there's no way to make your offer stand out from the bunch. You see others offering carrots to their audiences - downloadable cheat sheets, swipe files, webinars, ebooks, the list goes on - and you think "Hey, I should be doing that too!" You take the same info, season it to taste, and throw up a few Facebook ads. The cycle goes around a few times, and eventually, your audience ends up so bombarded with the same carrots, they just stop paying any attention.

Like the Dutch, a lot of marketers have kind of lost their way. I see so many people these days making the mistake of assuming their list is about them first, and their audience second. They offer Costco-sized bunches of identical carrots to tempt people onto their list, then they only email them when they want something from them - a sale, a share, an affiliate offer, a favor. They never offer any real value in return for their audience's attention.

I won't lie - I'm guilty of the same crime. I've dabbled in the cheat sheet game, and I'll admit, it does help you grow an audience a lot more quickly. But I've realized that I want people to sign up for my email list and follow me online because they were truly interested in what I have to say, not because I had bigger popups or spent more on Facebook ads than the next person. No amount of growth hacks will fix an offer that just isn't all that interesting.

"But Kieran," you say, "how else will I grow my audience? I've got to offer them something to take action and join my list."

Simple. Sell rainbow carrots instead.

People are busy - seeing the same offers over and over again in their inboxes and news feeds is a quick trip to snooze-town. To have any chance of grabbing their attention, you need to offer a rainbow carrot - something that solves a specific, burning problem for your audience, solves it quickly, and makes you stand out from the crowd.

You're asking your audience to give up something valuable - usually their email address - so make sure you're giving them something valuable in return. Fortunately, rainbow carrots aren't hard to cultivate, as long as you follow a few simple rules.

Step one - make sure your carrot is quick to eat. How many PDFs do you have stashed away in a "Read Later" folder somewhere on Dropbox, just waiting for a rainy day? What are the chances your audience has the same folder in their Dropbox?

A burning problem doesn't always need a 173-page ebook or a 12-part email series to solve - instead, focus on providing a quick solution to an immediate problem. If your audience can't take action within five or ten minutes of downloading your carrot, it's too big. Think discount codes, free trials, checklists or swipe files.

Next, make sure your carrot is super-specific to the audience you're trying to attract. This comes from knowing your audience, and knowing exactly what specific problem you're solving for them. Don't be afraid to ask your audience what they need help with, and then use the same words and phrases they use to speak to their needs.

Your carrot should solve one specific problem for one specific market. If you can figure that out, prospects will gladly hand over their contact details. Staying focused has the added benefit of turning off people that are a bad fit.

Most importantly, don't feel like your carrot has to be orange, like everyone else's. Don't be afraid to buck the trend and do things your own way. Take ConvertKit, for example - their marketing team sends a personalized welcome video to almost all their new customers. It's a small touch, but it makes a big impact on their customers, making them feel welcomed and appreciated. Think of ways you can add that personal touch to your business, even if it feels like you're stepping outside the box - taking risks and learning what works beats sticking with the pack every time

Growing an eager audience isn't all about popups, cheat sheets, and beating people over the head with the same offer until they submit to your sales offers. It's about providing value without obligation - solving specific problems for a specific market, one small bite at a time. That's what makes you stand out from the crowd.

So, when it feels like no-one seems to carrot all (ba-dum tsh) about what you're offering, try thinking outside the bunch.

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