A Great Untapped Marketing Resource You’re Probably Not Using

on February 24, 2015

We spend an inordinate amount of our time sitting behind a desk trying to figure out ways to market our products and services. We read marketing advice, purchase advertising, and converse with other industry experts on better marketing techniques.

With all that effort, the actual time we spent marketing is a fraction of that time. If writers are told that the best advice for writing is to just write, then it would make sense that the best marketing advice is to experiment and do more marketing.

WaitingLine_03Spend less time talking and reading about it, and just do it. Yes, you’re going to make some mistakes, but heck, doing something is better than nothing. That’s assuming you learn how to test cheaply and effectively. If you’re going to make a mistake, just don’t make it a big one.

In my years of producing content I’ve found one spectacular resource that’s worked great for marketing, business development, and content creation.

The secret is…

People standing in line.

People waiting in line at a theater, at a bar, at a restaurant, or practically anywhere else are a seldom tapped marketing resource.

They’re a captive audience. They’re trapped and bored. They are usually staring at their phone and/or desperate for some type of human interaction. Unlike email marketing, web ads, and general content marketing, you’re not fighting for their attention.

When people are waiting in line, they’ve got attention to give.

People standing in line are a golden opportunity that very few people realize.

If you are going to take advantage of this fantastic resource (DO IT!), just make sure you adhere to the one cardinal rule…

Make it about them

Just because an audience is captive, it doesn’t mean they’re open to any pitch. When you approach them, they still have the option to say no. You can’t just hammer them with anything. Make the engagement focus on their interest, not just you pushing your product or service. Here are a few ways you can take advantage of a line and focus primarily on the individual.

WaitingLine_04Interview people: When I’m conducting “man on the street” interviews, I always look for people standing in line. They’re looking for engagement and I’m going to give it to them with a fun personal interview. I walked up to them and ask, “Can I ask your opinion about _________?”

Conduct market/product research: If you’ve been working on a product or you have an idea for a product, why not ask a random sample of people their thoughts? Show them the product and get their opinion. Bring a video camera and capture the results of that research.

Gather leads: If you want to know if someone is interested in your product or service, ask them. But don’t come out and say, “Do you need web design services?” Instead, ask, “Are you happy with the look of your website?” Chances are they’ll say no as almost everyone wants to improve the look of their website. With a tablet device handy, call up their website. Have them point out what they don’t like about their website and then you can offer up some suggestions. After a couple of minutes they’ll probably ask you for their card. If not, ask for theirs and tell them you’ll follow up with your advice.

WaitingLine_01Get reaction to market research: One of our clients in the recruiting space had recently published a report on salaries. We had a good opening line. We approached people and asked if they were interested in seeing the results of a salary survey. Everyone said yes because they wanted to see how their salary compared. We started to show them the results, but then quickly turned it into a game to get their participation. Before showing them certain results we’d ask questions such as, “Which city do you think had the highest median salary?” or “What job do you think had the highest median salary?” With each question we drew them deeper and deeper into the conversation until we hit the point where we asked for their email address to send them a copy of the survey. Almost everyone agreed.

Launch a social campaign: Play “Let’s Make a Deal” and ask people if they’ve got a photo of themselves on their phone. Do they have a photo of themselves holding up your product? If they don’t, say you’ll take one of them on their phone. If they post it with your hashtag they’ll be entered to win a contest.

How to work the line

Success with this technique requires learning some basic concepts of line etiquette.

Avoid fast moving lines: If the line is moving quickly and you have to move with the audience, forget it, move on.

WaitingLine_02Take advantage of your past success: If you had a successful engagement with the last person, use that to your advantage. The next person is inches away and they probably heard part if not all of your conversation. They’ll have seen a successful engagement. Make a reference to the last person as you ask for acceptance from the next person. You don’t always need to keep conversations one-on-one. You can also “hold court” and draw more than one person into your conversation.

Go in order: Try to avoid too much bouncing around the line. If you want to take advantage of your past success, go to the next person in line. You’re going to hit a lot more people that way since the next person is inches away.

Act quickly: A line doesn’t stick around forever. If you see one, pounce. It’s a golden opportunity to get a captive audience that’s looking for interaction and just happens to be so conveniently packed together.

What’s your opening line?

WaitingLine_05Your opening line should be as much about the person you’re interrupting as possible.

For example, ask a question for which you’re looking for their opinion. Or you could comment on what they’re wearing. Even better, figure a way to tie in what you’re trying to do with the reason they’re waiting in line (e.g., “Do you like the wine at this restaurant? What kind of wine do you drink?”)

Go out and find a line

People are far more agreeable when they’re standing in line. It’s your job to make the miserable experience of waiting more fun for them while at the same time being advantageous to you.


Creative Commons photo attribution to Ed Yourdon (2,3) David Chartier, Andre Natta, and The Community – Pop Culture Geek.

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