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Marketing Tips From the Hood: How to Increase Sales (Or Con People)
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.
A Conman's Success
Have you been conned before?
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.
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 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.
The Helping Questionnaire
How do you help people?
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.