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4 Marketing lessons from the local panhandler

New York isn't just full of successful big-shot executives, infinitely leggy models, and milling crowds of journalists. It also features some of the most successful and entertaining panhandlers the world has ever known. The old cliché still applies: "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere," and even if "it" is "enough money to buy booze, accumulated one spare coin at a time," there's much to be learned. With that in mind, we're proud to present lessons from one of our favorite marketing gurus (his base of operations is about a block away from the office):

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1. Location is Key

Panhandling is the ultimate world-is-flat business. Anywhere with foot traffic and styrofoam cups can be the headquarters of a thriving begging enterprise — but by locating his business between a pet food store and a huge Barnes & Noble outlet, our hobo is able to immediately show passersby that, even though he may waste their money, he'll be wasting money they were probably going to spend on gourmet cat chow and limited, signed, extra-eye-glazing editions of Jonathan Safran Foer's latest.

Similarly, at Blue Fountain Media we try to get our message in front of a receptive audience. Our social media marketing targets communities that are already open to a customer's product, but could benefit from learning more. Our SEO is designed to get high-quality links from related sites.

2. Write Compelling Copy

If you stopped for a double-take when you read that sign, you're not the only one. At Blue Fountain Media, we've discussed the sign several times; more than we can say for basically any other similar appeal. I walk past dozens of giant, flashy banners on the way to work — this simple, textual ad was the one that got my attention.

3. There's Room for Originality — and for Knockoffs

You've probably seen a similar sign before. You might have seen a nearly identical sign online. But if it works, it's more important to do it right than to do it first.

At Blue Fountain Media, we're constantly learning from what our competitors do. Whether it's through direct competitor research (looking at who links to our competitors, and getting them to link to our clients as well) or general research into industry practices, we work hard to keep abreast of new trends.

4. Rigorously Test Your Ads

This isn't the first draft, or even the fifth draft, of this sign. Prior versions (not pictured, sadly), included straight appeals for money, a plain request for beer money, a request for beer money or drug money, and, finally, the beer and music appeal. And we doubt that this is the last one (and not just because cardboard signs wear out fast).

We're always finding new appeals, too. At Blue Fountain Media, we adapt to changing consumer tastes, adapting search engines, the rise and fall of social networks, and revolutionary changes in the mobile Internet. Call us to find out what Blue Fountain can do for you!

Just in case you want to help the guy out, spare change and decent guitars can be delivered to Broadway and East 17th Street, approximately.

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