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Marketing Tips From the Hood: How to Increase Sales (Or Con People)

Updated on June 27, 2012

Moving Into the Hood

In the last two weeks I have unintentionally given away $50, about 20 hours of my time, and my very own bed, to people I didn't know a month ago. Now, if I was wealthy, had no need for a job, and enjoyed staying up all night, this wouldn't be a problem. Unfortunately, this is not the case. I have been between jobs for the last several weeks, have a smaller bank account than when I was 12, and love sleeping.

Why then have I "lost" so much in the last 14 days? Because people in the hood are some of the best salespeople in the world.

My brother and I are both studying in Michigan and decided to purchase a house in an urban community for two reasons: 1) to experience more of what many people in inner-cities have to grow-up with and the challenges they face, and 2) because we found a home for $10,000 that we believe will be able to be fixed up and resold when we finish college.

During the first month in our little red house we have met a variety of fascinating, beautiful, and struggling people. With some hard work and prayer hopefully many of these people can escape the dark world of drugs, gangs, and alcohol that has engulfed them - though this neighborhood is cruel to those who strive to become better.

In our experience here I have discovered many great marketing and promotional tips from those who have been able to sell (or con) me into helping them out in one form or another.

The front door of our house that has been knocked on by all kinds of interesting people. The gateway to a whole new world.
The front door of our house that has been knocked on by all kinds of interesting people. The gateway to a whole new world. | Source

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Marketing Tips from the Hood

So here they are - a list of fantastic methods for marketing and sales that I have learned from my interactions in this urban community. Some of these are common sense, others are somewhat unethical. But I have no doubt that these work - hence the reason that I am much poorer now than I was two weeks ago.

Reach the Customer Before the Competition

We had several people come to our house right after we moved in. Most of these people stated an interest in working with us to repair this house. It is great to know that we have many talented and friendly people around who we can contact when we need assistance with repairs (unfortunately, however, we have more time than money - so we may not be able to provide many jobs anytime soon).

Other people, however, were just asking for a favor. Whether a few dollars or a ride. Of course, when you are interested in coming into a community to help people out, you are more than happy to help someone out. However, after you realize that there are certain people who don't want help, but rather want permanent financial support, you realize that simply giving money and time away is not the best method of helping those in need.

Applying it: Just like you are more likely to help the first person who asks you for money because it is a novelty, consumers will likely be more interested in a product the first time they hear about it. If the competition has already bored her to death, she will unlikely be interested in what you are promoting.

Be Friendly

One gentleman came and asked for a couple of gallons of gasoline because his car had run out of fuel. After my brother got some fuel for him he insisted on repaying us by fixing the law mower and mowing our lawn. Then, after mowing the lawn, stated that his fee was only $20. What we thought was a favor in exchange for a favor, ended up putting us out $20 for a job that we could have easily done ourselves.

Applying it: Although you probably don't want to con your consumer into thinking he is getting something for free, by offering a favor and helping someone out, they will likely be more interested in helping you out as well. Used correctly and ethically it is a great marketing device.

Share Your Story to Build a Connection and Receive Sympathy

One young gentleman asking for work or a handout had a picture of his little girl on his phone. They don't have money to buy diapers for her and he is struggling to find some work or other way to take care of her, his wife, and himself. Unfortunately, at this point, there was no way I could afford to help him out. But I have a phone number and a name - I am going to try to help him out as soon as I can.

Applying it: Stories sell people. We spend billions of dollars watching and being a part of stories on TV, in sports stadium, through politics, and in wars. People sympathize with stories. If you can share a compelling story or, even better, make someone a part of a story, you will have a much better time getting them involved in purchasing and promoting your product.

Keep in Touch

While at the home of a man who had just spent a month in the hospital due to a crack overdose, a woman came in and spent a few minutes talking with him and asking how he was doing. After she left we found out that she was his crack dealer. It's amazing how the same person who was giving this man the thing that nearly killed him was still interested in his welfare (to an extent I suppose).

Applying it: People like doing business with those who take an interest in their lives. If you keep in touch with your customers and potential customers, interact with them on occasion without trying to sell your product, and become somewhat of a friend, your sales may increase significantly.

Push Your Sales When the Customer is Not Alert and Has His Guard Down

It was 11:30 at night, my brother was gone for the evening to meet a friend in Chicago, and I was doing an assignment on my computer. There was a knock on the door and a drunk, depraved, neighbor stood in the doorway. He stated that his roommate had thrown him out and he had no place to go. He just needed a place to crash. I told him that he could stay the night.

Long story short, he stated that he was planning on living with us for no more than a couple of months! I was blown back by this and ended up not knowing how to respond (the next day I told him that we could not put him up for months and would help him find a place to stay). He went to bed on my brothers pad (we are both sleeping on the floor at present) and by the time I was ready to head to bed he had peed on both or our pads.

I am 6' tall and spent the night on a 4 1/2' couch, tossing and turning because I had just let a man into my house who thought he was going to stay there for 3 months and had already peed in my bed. I didn't get much sleep.

Applying it: Actually, you should probably never do this, as it is very unethical. It is however, very effective. When someone is tired, distracted, or in a rush, it is much easier to get them to do something simply because they are unable to thoughtfully think it through. Of course, you are unlikely to receive return business or good references from past customers. I recommend avoiding this method.

Where I Live

A markerbenton harbor, mi -
Benton Harbor, MI, USA
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A small town with an inner-city personality. It's hard to imagine this small town is part of one of the richest nations on earth.

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A World in Need

While this article is intended to give advice and be slightly humorous, the serious truth is that we live in a world with a lot of pain. Many of us have been privileged enough to live very comfortable lives far separated from the suffering that takes place - not only in distant countries, but in neighborhoods just down the road.

Regardless of what you sell or market, I hope that you are also striving to share with people the priceless gifts of love, acceptance, and friendship. If as many people who marketed movies, sports, iPads, and Abercrombie, were willing to help others find peace of mind and comfort, this world would be a far better place.

I look forward to hearing about what you are doing to market a better life to those around you. Share your thoughts, questions, and ideas in the comment section below.

Contact me personally if you are interested in finding ways to help out in the Benton Harbor community.



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    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much for the compliment! And you are right, you certainly do need to be careful. I think it is amazing that you and your family have come up here. Clearly you are and have raised great people.

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      If the world was full of people with hearts as big as you and your brother, the world would certainly be a better place. I know of the area where you are going to college (my daughter attended a church summer retreat there once, and our church has done short-term mission trips there) and there are so many people in need. Just be careful and remember the lessons you have learned. There are so many ways to help people and so many wonderful organizations, as well, that I am sure you can help connect these various individuals to these groups that have more resources. But it is so refreshing to "meet" someone like you that has a servant's attitude. Voted up, beautiful and awesome.

    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 5 years ago from California

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting Liz! I am impressed that you are willing to help people out as well. It is always difficult to know how to best benefit people. Giving money is not always the best way, but often it is all that one can do. Great job helping others!

    • lizlauder profile image

      lizlauder 5 years ago from Western New York

      Wow. I lived in Lansing, MI, for a long time and had lots of similar door-knockers. I gave out some cash for diabetes emergencies, bus fare emergencies, and gas emergencies, but I never let anyone inside and definitely no one ever peed in my bed. (On my house, yes. But on the bed, no.) I can't even say how impressed I am that you'll let people into your home that way. Kudos to you for handling this with humor and generosity.

    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 5 years ago from California

      Well thank you for stopping by alocsin. It has been a learning experience and perhaps one day I may have to write it out in more detail. Enjoy the rest of your day.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      You certainly live in an interesting neighborhood. It's great that you've taken these incidents and turned them into pearls of wisdom. I've no doubt you're continuing to experience these poignant teaching movements. Maybe you should write a book? Voting this Up and Awesome.

    • JanMaklak profile image

      JanMaklak 5 years ago from Canada

      I loved the topic and the portions that are the application. Good style. And yes, if we all spent just a little more time helping the world would be a better place. Good work

    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 5 years ago from California

      Thank you linda for your comments and concern for my safety! I assure you, I do a lot of thinking and praying.

      @Millionaire Tips: You are very smart in helping people you know need it. One of the biggest challenges I have is figuring out how to help someone who smokes and drinks. They have kids that need help, but they're spending $50 a week on nonsense. It certainly is a challenge to know the best way to be a benefit.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      I too am stunned at your generosity, despite knowing that you have been conned. Some people are simply takers, and will take whatever they can get. I've had someone come over late at night asking for money for gas, like you have and I said no. I only help people that I know who come to the door. He said he knew my neighbors, but he if he did, he would have gotten the money from them.

      When I help strangers, it is through a charity, or initiated by me when I see someone in need.

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 5 years ago from Arizona

      Great parallels between business marketing strategies and panhandling (sorry, couldn't think of a PC word). Stay safe as you continue your good works. Thanks for sharing your experience! Take care.

    • Sethughes profile image

      Sethughes 5 years ago

      Thank you much, and I wish you the best in your studies as well. I looked at your page and I only hope I can live life to the epic proportions you have!

    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 5 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment Seth! I am glad that you enjoyed and were moved by this article. A fellow student of business is always someone I am interested in getting to know. I wish you the best in your studies, and don't hesitate to take opportunities to do epic things while you are in college as well!

    • Sethughes profile image

      Sethughes 5 years ago

      This was outstanding. You and your brother are very generous and accepting. The world needs more people like that. I laughed hysterically about the man charging for mowing the lawn and about the guy peeing the bed.

      The fact is that I really look up to someone who will willingly accept people into their homes and put up with the things you guys did. Even though you know they may be manipulating or conning you for something, you accept them. Not many people do that. They should. As a marketing student I am so glad I read this and could better put things into perspective.


    • krsharp05 profile image

      Kristi Sharp 5 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      Excellent hub Robert. You have a generous spirit and you seem to act with such fortitude in everything you do. It's admirable and inspiring. Hopefully this adventure pays the dividends you and your brother are expecting. -K

    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 5 years ago from California

      Thank you all for your comments. I love the stories and suggestions that have been shared. It is true that there are many challenges in the world that need our attention. I look forward to reading more of your awesome interactions in the exciting world we live in!

    • alwritetea profile image

      Lisa Sumner 5 years ago from Vancouver

      I am stunned at your generosity, and can't help being more than a little frightened for your well-being in such a neighborhood. The appalling actions of Lawnmowerman and your overnight 'guest' left me with my mouth hanging open.

      Your willingness to help others is so commendable, but please be meticulous in your choices. The man with the picture of his daughter on the phone sounds like a classic case of tugging at your heartstrings. We all know how much cell phones cost per month, and if he truly is in such desperate need, perhaps he should consider taking a few months' break from his cell phone service.

      Please don't misunderstand me, we all need help now and then, and God knows I've given enough of my time, money, energy, kindness, clothing, food, etc.. to those who were in need. I just question some people's ethics when it comes to asking others for help, when they are perfectly capable of helping themselves, but choose not to.

      Great Hub, voted up, interesting and helpful....Please be careful in your new home! : )

    • Trinity M profile image

      Trinity M 5 years ago

      Another great hub Rob and quite a novel spin on a serious problem. You are a great guy (and I know this 1st hand!) and I bet if you can you’ll save every single one of these people in need. Great hub and great lessons. Voted up and interesting.

    • spartucusjones profile image

      CJ Baker 5 years ago from Parts Unknown

      Very practical hub and I truly appreciate your application of your personal life experiences. I also agree that helping others is important as well, but of course it can be a challenge to discern the best way of doing so. You did a nice job of articulating that struggle as well.

    • mattdigiulio profile image

      mattdigiulio 5 years ago

      This is wonderful, thanks for sharing. You've done a nice job of outlining your issues with buying the house and the con-jobs on the periphery, but you've also given us a larger issue to chew on, which is the disturbing underbelly of income inequality and struggle in a post-industrial America. Voting up, up.

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Excellent, Robert. While living in the not so good part of Daytona Beach, we ran into a lot of the same types of people. Some even went so far as to DEMAND that we give them what we had worked and scraped for. I guess that would be bully sales. :) My husband and I politely explained to them that we worked hard for the little that we had and they were welcomed to *try* to take it, but they might not be around to take their next breath. :) I call that anti-bully sales. :) VUMS!

    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 5 years ago from California

      Thank you both. And ye Cassy, from your writing I get the idea you are a very helpful and caring person.

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      Excellent article! I am always in amongst the community helping where and when I can. It is a new way to look at marketing tips and all are completely on point. Voted up and shared!!!

    • writeyourwrongs profile image

      John Crowley 5 years ago from Sheffield

      This is good stuff. Up!