A business marketing lesson from street performers.

This weekend I took a long walk through downtown San Diego. I strolled in the warm sunshine along the Embarcadero and up through Balboa Park. During the walk I enjoyed the performances of several entertaining and very talented street performers.

While watching, something noteworthy caught my attention. The amount of tips that street performers receive is not necessarily related to the quality of their act.

What seems most important is salesmanship.

At Seaport Village, I watched two very good magic acts. The first magician was also a mime; he performed his tricks silently and in a deadpan style, which I found very humorous. The second magician was vocal, hilarious and engaging. He addressed his audience directly.

When the silent mime concluded his act and bowed, people who were watching hesitated for a moment, then merely drifted away. No money went into the hat. They were all enjoying their walk, like me, and were off to see the next thing.

When the second magician finished, he immediately addressed the audience. He made a personal, direct plea for tips. He asked to be rewarded. He pointed at his hat on the ground. People immediately responded and walked over to drop dollars in the hat.

This is an interesting phenomenon I’ve observed many times. When street performers make a direct appeal for money, they rake it in. Those who are more modest or quiet, don’t.

I’ve found this to be a practical lesson about human communication, effective business and marketing in general. To successfully market a service or product, you must make a direct and bold appeal. You cannot be shy. You cannot assume that busy people will stop and voluntarily do a thing that to you seems irresistible or obvious.

You must grab people’s attention. You must place the idea in their mind.

You must direct your potential customers to take action.

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