5 Things You Can Learn About Marketing from Panhandlers

Ok, I know what you’re thinking, this is the most absurd title for a blog post and it’s rather insensitive to think about needy people in this light. Well, maybe that’s what you’re thinking because I feel like it’s what I’m thinking…

Anyway, the talking points below came to mind while driving Downtown after swim practice this morning as I approached a busy intersection with a panhandler working the morning commute.

So what can business learn about marketing from panhandlers?


Visibility is a critical ingredient to any successful business. You have to show up to get noticed; otherwise expose your brand to a target audience.

 Brand Identity

Panhandlers are masters at owning their brand identity. You know the different types: the single dad, the cancer patient, the veteran, the jobless person, the firefighters, the high school kids. Yeah, you can nearly spot them from a mile away. Likewise, your brand needs to visually reflect your business and your mission. (help tell your story)


You have to give it up to panhandling men and women because they all but invented the elevator pitch, better yet they fit it on a 10″x10″ piece of cardboard and have it committed to memory. There’s nothing magical about this one. If you are a business owner then you should write and commit your elevator pitch to memory.  Businessweek describes the elevator pitch as, “being able to sum up unique aspects of your service or product in a way that excites others.”  Basically, a pitch that says why people should care about your brand in :30seconds.

Call to Action

This point is too often overlooked, just try to find a Call to Action in Cadillac’s new ATS car commercial. (Jason Sadler wrote a blog post addressing this. Read Post)

With that, you never have to guess what a panhandler wants because they tell you. “I need money for food”, “I need money for beer”, “I need work”, “I need…”  You should always give your audience a next step.

Follow The Adventure where? Twitter? Facebook?


Advertising particularly, is all about reach and frequency which means people need to familiarize themselves with your brand a number of times before it becomes top of mind. In addition to visibility, frequency means that you need to show up not just once but multiple times. You better believe panhandlers have a firm grasp on frequency. Before the end of the week you will likely know the story and probably the name of the panhandler on your local street corner.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Posted in Marketing

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