Marketing for and from the Homeless

I’ve had a few reminders of fundamental marketing concept reminders that i recieved from some unlikely characters lately. They got me thinking a lot and i felt it was worthwhile sharing.

1. 11811 – Offering a service.

What the homeless have to contribute.

I really have to point out that the people i saw implementing this concept were not homeless it was more like lazy busking… But probably would have got an even better response if they were homeless and making effort to contribute. Two guys with a cardboard sign, operating an “Enqueries” service outside a busy train station. Folks would ask them – “Which way to…” a hotel / street / attraction etc and then throw them a few coins. Its a perfect service as it meets a requirement and give people an option for an easy answer rather that ask a stranger. Most homeless would know the streets pretty well (no pun intended) and would have a good knowledge where things in their territory are. If only they knew how to monetarise the intellect they don’t know they have.

2. The Fussy Homeless man who choose his customers.

A good lesson from the down and out.

Not meaning to be disrespectful of any ones unfortunate situation or circumstances, but i met the most interesting homeless fella when in London. He was anything but the normal sight you see begging. This lad was drinking Champagne / Sparkling Wine from a brown bag and the first time i saw him was reading a 600 page crime thriller novel – it was a Wednesday afternoon and he was a the exit of the Underground. As i paused to check directions the guy checked his watch, put away the bubbly and book – seconds later the crowds rushed out off the latest arrived train, several contributed to his hat and as soon as the volume of the rush went away his focus was back to his book and away from his hopeful glares that caught the eyes and wallets of his contributors. There were still the occasional passerby, but these went as productive times. I remember in a brief moment of bemusement thinking that the guy was more self-actualised than the vast majority of his contributors (clients).

The guy had his business worked out and his goals set clearly. He didn’t want to spend all his time begging, was there a return begging while it was quiet – well yes – but he’d rather focus his marketing during the busy times when the return was higher. Its the classic 80-20 rule and certainly an area many of us can improve on. We spend 20% of the time going after 80% of the business. Maybe like the homeless guy we should just let some customers drift by and focus on where the big money is.

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