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Apr 22, 2021

Feeding a Baby Giraffe

I’m on a business trip today in Fort Worth, Texas, and I’m so grateful that my youngest daughter was able to come with me on this trip. After our business meetings were completed, we were able to get to the Fort Worth Zoo about an hour before it closed. USA Today has ranked the Fort Worth Zoo is the top zoo in America, and it has a vibe similar to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, without the rides. 

My daughter’s favorite experience was feeding a baby giraffe. The Fort Worth Zoo has an enclosure with a bunch of giraffes. The giraffe enclosure has a walk-up platform near eye level with the giraffes. Near this platform, the zoo has an employee selling leaves of romaine lettuce. 3 leaves of lettuce for $6. That’s a great profit margin, and he was selling a lot of lettuce. Then, zoo guests can hold the leaves of lettuce out over the fence, and the giraffes walk up and eat the lettuce out of the guests’ hands

So, I purchased lettuce leaves for my daughter, and a baby giraffe walked over and ate the lettuce directly from her hand. The giraffe tongues are surprisingly long and caused a squeal of delight from a little girl who was next to us.  On the YouTube video version of this episode, I’m including video clips of my daughter feeding the baby giraffe. That simple feeding created an amazing, memorable experience that my daughter and I will remember for a very long time. 

So, here a monetization framework a learned from feeding a baby giraffe today:

  1. Create a Product or Service Around Something Our Potential Customers Already Want to Do. It seems like every zoo has signs telling guests not to feed the animals. They have to post these signs because people naturally love to have encounters with and connect with animals by feeding them. Usually, zoos try to prevent these animals from feeding. However, the Fort Worth Zoo embraced it and decided to turn that natural desire of guests to feed the animals into a revenue stream. 


  1. Turn an Expense into a Profit Center. The zoo already had to buy lettuce and other food to feed the giraffes. So, the Fort Worth Zoo took an expense of lettuce for which they were already paying and turned it into a profit center when they started selling lettuce for the guests to feed the giraffes. Not only did selling the lettuce reduce an expense, but it also generated a lot of profit. By selling lettuce, the zoo is also able to control what type of food their guests are feeding to the animals. 


  1. Turn the Product or Service into an Experience Through Which Customers Can Better Connect with Us. By allowing my daughter and me to feed the giraffes, the Fort Worth Zoo allowed us to engage with and connect with the giraffes and the zoo itself. This was very different than just looking at the giraffes from a distance. After that experience, I bought my daughter a mug and a shirt, and I called my wife and we planned to bring her back so I could share that experience with her as well. My daughter and I both like giraffes and the Fort Worth Zoo far more now than we did before that experience. These things never would have happened if we had just looked at giraffes from a distance. 

Application to Our Businesses

So, how do we apply the three principles of this framework to our businesses? Here are a few examples:

Are you a popular speaker at events, and you try to avoid people mobbing you after you speak? Then, maybe you could start charging a small group of fans for a chance to speak with you after your events. This fee will make you more money for something you are already doing. And, you will create a unique experience with fans who can better engage and connect with you and are willing to pay for it.

Or, do people constantly email you with questions, looking for free answers. I’m not talking about pre-sales questions. Maybe instead of ignoring these emails, or resenting the fact that answering these questions takes so much time, we could turn this expense into a profit center. Maybe we could start charging customers a flat price to answer a question with a video, and we could post the video answers online, to create more pages of content in search engines, and establish more credibility with customers. In addition to a new revenue stream, these direct answers would provide more engagement and connection with our customers. 

Or, do people regularly call you wanting to do lunch and pick your brain about their businesses? Then, maybe you could start charging these people for a chance to go to lunch with you and get your advice on their business. 

Let’s find what our potential customers want most, and instead of trying to prevent it or avoid it, let’s embrace it, by offering that product or service as a new revenue stream, and allow them to better connect with and engage with us. 

That’s all of today. I wish you success in your monetization efforts. 

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