Three Marketing Tips From the Two best Panhandlers in Vegas

I was recently in Vegas, where a walk down The Strip is a marketing juggernaut. From the costumed characters tossing you coupons for all you can eat buffet, to the carnival-like barkers pitching you on the coolest show in town, everyone is trying to sell you something.  And then there were the panhandlers.

In the AD spectacle that is Vegas, where a half nude woman with a 2-foot headdress doesn’t stand out, it’s no surprise that the panhandlers were unique.

In other cities you might see signs that say: Will work for Food, or I Lost My Job.

Not Vegas.  My two favorite signs, spotted three blocks apart, each held by a raggedy yet smiling man seated on the sidewalk:

One said, in black magic marker:  Need $$ for Weed.   IMG_1125IMG_5459The other proclaimed: Why Lie, I Need Beer.

I laughed out loud.  Of course, I had to interview both of these guys.  I discovered that these two men, both of whom were articulate, friendly,  and interesting, know a thing or two about marketing.  Whether you’re selling your product, your cause, or your self, here are the three lessons from the Vegas strip to help you be successful:

1. Be different

New, improved, fabulous, best, etc., the language of marketing is fueled with so many meaningless adjectives that we’ve become immune to them. Yet most people are afraid to push the envelope with anything more interesting.
“Need $$ for Weed” said, “I’m saying something that most other people don’t have the guts to say.” In doing so he sets himself apart from every other guy asking for money.  He’s memorable.  Sure some people are offended, but those people wouldn’t have given him money anyway.  He’s willing to risk offending half the market, because he knows they’re not his market.

Figure out who you want to impress, make laugh, or engage, and then work to make yourself interesting to those people.

2. Connect, don’t convince

“Why Lie, I Need Beer” says, “I know this is what people are thinking anyway, I might as well just start with what’s already in their head.”

Instead of trying to change people’s beliefs, meet them where they are. So many marketing campaigns and pitches try to convince people. It’s more effective to validate them.  For example, if you’re trying to sell a program that improves business owners’ accounting skills, instead of saying, “Our awesome accounting programs will make you an expert.”  You’d be better off saying, “We know you don’t like accounting, let us help make it less awful.”

Mr. Why Lie, I Need Beer knows if you give voice to what the customer is really thinking, you’ll forge a stronger connection.

3. Match the mood

Both men said they use different signs for different times of the day. Mr. Need $$ for Weed said, “In the morning people are hung over, they’re feeling bad. I use a sign that says,  “I’m homeless and need some food.”  They can relate to feeling lousy.  But in the evening, when people are drinking, they prefer humor.”

Think about what your customer is feeling and tailor your approach.  A description of your product, service or cause is quickly forgotten.  But marketing that validates the customer’s emotions, is engaging.

In answer to the unspoken question, I gave each guy ten bucks.  You can see their photos (with their permission) on our blog  Thanks to the two marketing gurus on the Vegas strip.