5 Marketing Lessons from Crack Dealers

Disclaimer: I have never used illegal drugs and I do not advocate the use of illegal drugs or controlled substances illegally. Drugs and the repercussions of their use, do irreparable harm to the user, their families, their coworkers and the community at large. Stay clean, stay sober or stay home.

One of the things I love about teaching Sanera Camp is I get to hear the awesome ideas the recruits come up with. This was one of them.

Earlier in class this week, we talked about building relationships versus push marketing and how technology has helped us do that better than ever because the new tools allow us to share information across wider audiences. We also talked about the shift in mindset from protecting our information to sharing our information so more people can get to know us, our level of expertise and what it would be like to work with us.

Then this conversation broke out:

Person 1: Alicia, I was thinking that drug dealers are a great example of this.

Everyone else: A combination of silence, belly laughs and dropped jaws.

Me: How?

Person 1: Well, they’ve given out samples for years and years and it works. Their prospects know what it tastes like, what it feels like and the quality of the product.

Person 2: You’re right! I never thought about it before.

Person 1: Look at it. It’s a successful, multi-billion dollar industry that has world wide distribution. The use of illegal drugs has increased, not decreased even though it’s against the law. Their clients know where to find them, know how much the product costs and they tell everyone else about it. It’s perfect word of mouth advertising.

Person 3: But what we’re selling isn’t addicting.

Person 2: But can’t we make it addicting? If we give out some of what we have to offer, won’t people want more?

They are right. It’s hard to find a better example of how giving things away can drive revenue. But Person 3’s observation is pivotal – certainly one advantage the drug dealers have over us is that their product is physiologically and sometimes immediately addicting. So what can we do to drive our revenue without breaking the law and harming others?

How To Market Like a Crack Dealer

1. Know your target customer

Who wants your product/service? Better yet, who craves it? Who needs it so badly that the moment they get it, they will have an insatiable desire for more of it?

2. Analyze your market

Where does your target market hang out? What kinds of activities are they doing?  Is it in a certain zip code, metaphorical “corner,” in an industry meeting or somewhere online?

3. Make distribution easy

Ensure your target customer knows who you are and where to find your products/services. Make the purchasing process as simple and seamless as possible. You will jeopardize your chance of closing a sale if you make them:

  • Talk to lots of people
  • Click too many times online
  • Give too much personal information
  • Look at too many options

4. Give away the right samples

Here are some examples of things you shouldn’t give away:

  • Cheesy tchotchkies that people are going to throw away. If you’re going to give away promotional items, make sure they are things your prospects will use and value.
  • Proprietary information. Enough said.
  • Low quality products. I know this sounds obvious, but come on. How many of you have received a sample and discovered that it was someone’s attempt to get rid of their non-selling inventory? It’s happened to all of us. You will be associated with your samples. What do you want people to say about you?

Some things you should give away:

  • Consumables – when they run out, they will want more from you.
  • Useful, actionable information. This is not limited to service industries. If you are in retail or a product-driven environment, you have valuable information to share about your store, your products, care of your products, upcoming sales, etc. Err on the side of education & information vs. “selling.”
  • A piece of what you want them to purchase. Giving “everything” away eliminates the incentive for your prospects to want more.

5. Give them to the right people

If you give everything away, you won’t make money. Be selective. Find the influencers, the people who will spread the word and give to them.

It’s pretty unconventional, but think about it. Any lessons here you can apply to your own business?

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Special thanks to Nora FrostDenise Sample and Rob Hatton for their creative ideas and discussion. Keep the conversations going!

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