Monday, October 01, 2007

Know Thy Customer

The better you know your customer, the more effective your pitch and the likelier you are to close the deal. Tailoring the pitch, the style and the element of “shock value” to your audience is the best way to capture people’s attention. Let me explain what I mean.

I was on a packed #7 subway in New York City about 10 days ago — deeply engrossed in my New York Times — on my way to the U.S. Open Super Saturday event, when suddenly a voice came out of nowhere.

I looked up and saw this rather nice looking, approximately 14-year-old boy sandwiched between people, holding onto straphangers, speaking loudly, trying to rise above the din: “Ladies and gentlemen … Can I have your attention for just two minutes?” The crowd suddenly became silent, almost as if something important were about to happen.

“I am not asking you for a donation to a charity or some other kind of organization,” he said in a very resonant tone. “This is not Boy Scout or Girl Scout Cookies. This is not fundraising of any kind. I am trying to make money for myself. I will be selling packages of M&Ms for $1 a piece and would appreciate your considering buying one. Thank you very much!” And he proceeded to make his way through the car selling the yellow sealed packages with the pictures of the familiar candies on it.

Now I know what you’re going to say. “It’s illegal to solicit on the subway.” You’re right! It’s also true that the so-called “fundraising candy scam” is familiar to almost every New Yorker.

I’m definitely not condoning this young man’s activities, but I certainly noted his energy, the enthusiasm in his presentation and his apparent candor about making money for himself. He clearly chose this particular venue to target an upscale crowd. His young, resonant voice caught everyone’s attention. He positioned himself as an entrepreneur and tailored his sales pitch to an audience of up-market businesspeople.

And his pitch was effective! A number of sophisticated straphangers, many of whom knew precisely what was going on, bought the candy anyway, because they saw something special — something of themselves — in this young man.

Technorati Tags: #7 subway, New York Times, U.S. Open, Boy Scouts, Girl Scout Cookies, M&Ms, shock value, fundraising candy scam, pitch, straphangers, New York City, business, communications, public relations


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, Ken. Reminds me of a time when I was fresh out of college, walking through Times Square on my way to my office at Rowland. There sits a guy, down and out, with a sign: Need money for beer. Despite the obvious ethics, I emptied my pockets for the man, for it wasn't that long ago that I was a college student making the same request.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007 10:23:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home