Marketing Lesson From A Homeless Guy: How To Convert Someone After They Say No

A few days ago I was walking home from a neighborhood frozen yogurt shop.

In my neighborhood the streets are lined with palm trees. Hollywood star’s names are printed on the sidewalks. It’s almost always sunny and 75 degrees.

Sounds lovely right?

Well, sometimes it is… But other times it’s horrifying.

There is a huge population of street people here. Homeless people, panhandlers and mental patients litter the streets like leftover paper cups and candy wrappers after a street parade.

They sleep on the sidewalks, they piss in the parking lots and they walk around like zombies.

They’re everywhere.
It’s a freak show.

Today I’m going to tell you about an experience I had with one of these folks. A story about how a panhandler added a simple twist to his “begger’s plea” (Can I have a dollar? etc.) that made me stop in my tracks, turn around and immediately hand him $20 dollars.

Then I’ll show you how you can use it yourself for your own gain.

Sound interesting enough to read?
Good.
Here we go.

homeless-sign

Welcome To The Jungle

Now, before we get started I need to paint a picture of the neighborhood.

Imagine this.

You’re driving down Vine street, between Sunset Blvd and Hollywood Blvd. Each side of the street is a completely different world.

On the left side of the street you see a line of Rolls Royce, Mercedes and Lamborghinis. Valets are rushing around in circles opening car doors for the celebrities and models inside. They spill onto the sidewalk and stumble into a high end sushi restaurant where they’ll drop anywhere from $200 – $10,000 on dinner and drinks.

On the right side of the street, a 57 year old homeless guy, is standing in the road blocking traffic. He fishes around in his backpack for something. He then proceeds to pull down his dirty sweatpants and underwear and take a steaming, hot dump into a mayonnaise jar.

Really.

I’ve been here for several years now and the neighborhood is the strangest mix of glamour and horror.

Nature Walks

I go for 20–30 minute walks around the neighborhood during the day. I’d say that during these walks I get asked for money four to five times, every time.

Most days it’s the same people asking. I’ve seen them every day… over and over again. I’ve gotten pretty sick of them.

In the beginning I gave out money. I have extra cash and I’ve been in some near-homeless situations before so I’ve always enjoyed giving out some cash from time to time. Especially if their sign or story is good.

*Side note: Once, in Dallas TX a friend and I were driving around drunk downtown. We spotted a homeless guy near an entrance ramp to the highway. He was holding a rainbow-colored sign that said ‘VISIONS OF ICE COLD BEER’. We were so impressed by the creativity and honesty of the sign that we pulled our car up to him, handed him the case of beer we had just opened and gave him all of the money we had in our pockets.

But over time I’ve become jaded.

Giving money to someone once is fine. You think that maybe you’re helping them get a room for the night, or just a little dope to ease their withdrawals. But when you see the same guy (or girl) in the same spot month after month, year after year, it gets really old.

So I’ve learned to tune them out.

It’s basically a form of homeless people banner blindness.

*Banner blindness = an advertising term for what happens when people get so tired of seeing your ads, that they tune them out. They no longer see it.

The same thing happens in real life.

At first you notice and acknowledge every homeless person you see. You smile, nod and give them money from time to time. But over time you get sick of it and start looking away.

That’s where I was on this day – I’d say that by the time I came across this particular panhandler – I hadn’t given anyone money for at least 3 years.

This is where today’s story comes in.

Current Day

I was walking past the coffee shop on my corner and saw a guy standing there. A new guy, maybe 30 years old at the most – probably a drug addict. He was covered head to toe in filth from what looked like several months of sleeping on the street with no shower.

He had a sign.

Something written on a piece of cardboard… you know, pretty standard stuff.

As I walked past him he said something like “Hey man can you help me out with a dollar?” It was such a bland homeless plea that I didn’t even really hear it. I responded with my standard line, “Nah, I aint got it man…”.

I’ve used that phrase for years. I feel like if I say “I aint got it man” and use incorrect grammar they’ll think I’m one of them. Maybe they’ll think I’m homeless too and leave me alone.

Anyway – he hits me with his crappy line and I hit him with my instant denial and walked away.

And that’s when it happened.

The Phrase That Pays

As I was walking away he said “That’s OK… have a great day and God Bless you…

It was like I snapped out of a dream.

His words hit me hard. I mean, you never hear something like that from a homeless person in this area – ESPECIALLY if you don’t give him anything.

And then I heard him say it again.

A woman had just walked by without giving him any money and he said the same thing again. “That’s OK… have a great day and God Bless you…

When I heard him say it the second time I stopped walking.
I reached in my pocket and grabbed a $20 bill.
I turned around, walked towards the guy and handed him the money.
Then we had a short conversation.

Him: “Woah thank you dude!
Me: “No problem, I really like the way you handled that
Him: “What do you mean?
Me: “The thing you said after I didn’t give you any money
Him: “Really? What did I say?
Me: “You said: Have a great day and God bless you

Then he went off into some wild story about how his backpack had been stolen that morning, and how his phone was stolen and he needed to get to the bus so he could…

At that point I had to escape the situation. He was about to drag me into some seriously crazy sh#t. But anyway – here’s why this was so interesting.

You see – in this neighborhood the homeless/panhandlers aren’t very nice people. If you give them money they’ll say thanks but if you DON’T give them money they will verbally assault you and threaten your life.

Normal interactions going something like this:

Guy: “Hey can I get $5 from you bro?
Me: “I ain’t got it man
Guy: “Well FUCK you then mother fucker, you’re nothing but a piece of shit anyway. One of these nights I’m going to find you on these streets and slit your throat!

So this is what I was expecting from the guy standing in front of the coffee shop with the generic cardboard sign. I expected him to ask me for money, I’d say no and then he’d curse me out.

But that’s not what happened.

This guy asked me for money.
I said no.
Then he said “Have a great day and God bless you

And that little twist completely changed the outcome of the situation.

Instead of me walking by, giving zero dollars, I stopped, turned around and gave him money.

So What Does This Have To With Anything?

After I walked away from the situation my head started working. I love taking real world experiences and testing them out on online ad campaigns.

So while I was walking away from the panhandler… and my $20 dollars, I started thinking of how I could apply the technique he used on me -to a landing page.

Here’s what came to mind:

1) Exit Pops

What the panhandler did to me in the story above is the equivelant of an “Exit Pop”. [You know… that box that pops up when you’re about to close down a webpage.]

Normally it says something like “WAIT! Don’t miss this great opportunity!”

They’re annoying as hell but they work. I’ve seen lifts in revenue from 10–30% by hitting people up one last time before they go.

But what if instead of screaming “WAIT PLEASE DON’T MISS THIS OPPORTUNITY!!!!” we said something like.

Hey, I see you’re about to close the website and down. I just wanted to say that it’s OK that you’re leaving without buying anything. Have a great day anyway.

I’ve never seen it done before. I actually don’t have any campaigns that allow exit pops right now either. So feel free to take that idea and try it out.

2) Sub-CTA (Call to action)

Next I thought of how I could use the “That’s OK… have a great day and God Bless you…” phrase on my landing pages to get more people to click and buy.

I was reminded of an old trick I’ve done for ages. It works about 50% of the time. Here’s what you do.

Imagine you have a big red button at the bottom of your page that says “BUY NOW”.

BUY NOW.

We assume that only about 10–15% of your visitors are going to click that button. So 85-90% of your visitors don’t click. This sucks.

But what happens if you said a little something extra, directly after the button that could change people’s minds?

I’ll tell you what happens: If you get it right, it makes people go bat-shit crazy with clicks on your call to action button.

Here’s what it looks like.

BUY NOW.
Fancy marketing words here.

Instead of a big red button that says “BUY NOW” you add something directly under it that can change someone’s mind. But you have to get it right – and do a lot of testing to figure it out.

Because the magic is saying the right thing, at the right time. Something that will help eliminate whatever hesitations people have that will make them say no.

Imagine a woman is reading your landing page about a Rolex watch.

She reads your headline and sub-headline and is moderately interested… But she isn’t sure she should buy the watch, because it’s $7500.00. Which for her is 2-months pay.

She scans the landing page copy, reading the headlines and bolded text. In her mind she is thinking “No, No, No” every step of the way.

Finally she gets to the big, red BUY NOW button and said to herself “No, I will not buy this Rolex watch today. It’s just not in my price range right now”.

Then she sees a small blurb of text under the BUY NOW button and reads it.

It says: You’ll be happy you did.

Wait!!” she thinks… “I want to be happy! That’s the whole reason why I’m looking at expensive jewelry anyway. Now she excitedly thinks to herself — I WANT TO BE HAPPY! I WILL BUY THIS WATCH!

And BOOM – you’ve turned a passerby into a paying customer. And then another… and another… and another. [and another]

Here are a few real examples that have worked for me in the past.

BUY NOW.
You’ll be happy you did.

BUY NOW.
Hurry. Only 13 left available.

BUY NOW.
It’s 100% secure.

Adding a killer secondary thought or phrase to the CTA could (and totally does) change people’s minds enough to get them to click and buy.

Just like I did after hearing the panhandler – the people who would have said “NO” – freeze in their tracks, turn around and give you their money.

*Psssst: A little warning – I tested the panhandler’s exact words on a landing page. The results weren’t good and it was removed. So if you’re going to play with this, be sure you come up with a 10–20 different phrases and test them yourself to find a winner.

Conclusion

Today I’ve shown you how a homeless, panhandler on Sunset Blvd. converted me from a passerby into a source of income.

After declining to give him money he said “That’s OK… have a great day and God Bless you…” Those words made me turn around and gave him a $20 bill.

I’ve given you some practical examples on how you can use it on your landing pages to make more money. I hope it helps you turn the thousands of people who are walking past your offer without buying – into paying customers.

I really hope it helps you.

But if it doesn’t…

That’s OK… have a great day and God Bless you…

Today’s question: Have you ever given a homeless person money? Was there a sign or phrase that made you do it? If so share in the comments below.

  • Lucia

    Missed your insights, Malan! That little “extra” is the magic. I once went to the grocery store and outside at the door there was a gypsy and her little kid. She said with a soft voice, “buy us something”. I didn’t look at her, but I heard the words. So when I came out, I handed them a bag with some food and they were so surprised that I actually heard her voice. They just looked and looked. And I smiled at them feeling amazing for doing something other than ignoring them.

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      wow – yeah that’s a pretty hard-to-ignore plea. “buy us something” i don’t know why but I’d have probably done the same thing. Good on you man.

  • Rory Coyle

    Another gem my man! Such a great idea and so elegant in its simplicity. Gonna test this out asap. #SYITF

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      cool hit me up on FB and let me know how it goes. Be sure to try 5-15 sub-lines before you decide if it works or not. #syitf

      • Rory Coyle

        Thanks dude. Will do.

  • http://www.mikemrk.com/ Mike MRK

    I never give money to homeless people, but one day, a child said something about his ill sister. I gave him some money with no regrets. After that I realised that it probably was a big lie.

    But it doesn’t matter, his story worked!.

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      yeah Mike – old dude was probably waiting around the corner to take the cash and buy heroin. oh well… 😉

  • Petri Jarvinen

    Rarely nowadays, But sometimes i lend them my ear for an hour or two..Remember life is about experiences, i pity those who never been poor, they missed half of it..

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      me too Petri – when I first hit it big online, I was making money by the truckload every week. Where did I hang out? At the corner starbucks with a group of 5-10 street people. They were way more interesting than the fools in line for the club.

  • CptnCrnch

    I pass by homeless people without thought 99.9% of the time. Once, a guy said, “Hey man, can you spare three million dollars?” I chuckled and said “sorry man” he responded “That’s OK, I’ll take three bucks instead.”

    I reached in to my pocket and gave him all my change on the spot.

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      haha I love that. I would have paid him as well, just for the creativity

  • Alison Hollister

    Like you, I usually walk by, but I encountered this incredibly creative guy outside of Fenway Park last fall. He had 4 signs, if one didn’t work, he’d try another. I gave him the last of my cash (around $15) if he’d let me take pictures of the signs. We chatted with him for about 10 minutes, and he continued to rake in the dough, it’s amazing what people will do when you make them laugh and show creativity!
    For example one of the signs read : “I’m the best kind of prostitute. People give me $ NOT to sleep with them!” (The others were less appropriate, but still very funny)
    I admired the creativity and effort, it didn’t feel like charity…

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      nice Alison, I have a post on split testing homeless signs that I’ve been meaning to write for a year. That dude has it figured out. Comedy = attention = money.

  • PG

    Interesting post & perspective Sir. Always thought provoking. But commenting more than anything to say thanks for doing the Periscopes….they are a blast! Also hope you’l do another Vlog soon. And for the record the hat rocked 😉

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      thanks PG – and see you [on Periscope] in the future.

  • Edward Vaughn

    Man really enjoy reading your posts! They are always so down to earth and real. No sales Bullshit and No fluff. The value you share can be applied to real life and our marketing technics. So just wanted to thank you for being you bro! Keep on doing what you do!

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      yo Edward – thanks for the feedback man, see you in the future

  • Mitesh

    Awesome post man, really enjoyed it. I’m new to affiliate marketing but it’s a lot harder than it seems and I just wonder at the lack of success in my projects. Had a dropshipping business but that’s stalled as well – meaning no sales. Going to a job and getting a steady paycheck sometimes seems to be the best option.

    When you got started in affiliate marketing did you ever have doubts as to whether it’ll work out for you malan?

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      I absolutely had doubts in the beginning. We ALL do. I wasn’t even sure it was a real thing early on. I lost $3000 my first month of paid traffic and had a come-to-jesus moment where I had to decide whether to quit or continue. Luckily I chose to keep going and the next month I made it all back and more.

  • Jonatas Leal

    Very nice! I’ve been learning so much since I started reading this blog. Thanks. Keep posting and periscoping.
    Oh, by they way, what’s the name of the song you were listening during the periscope session? That on you said its royalty free. I loved it. 🙂

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      not sure to tell you the truth. It was from Youtube’s royalty free library. GOogle it

  • Ivan Fann

    Awesome post. Enjoyed your point of view and subtle stuff that we miss out everyday and how that affects our lives. Good job!

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      Thanks Ivan

  • http://www.nshamim.com Shamim

    You have nicely crafted the LP copy with the help of offline idea. Such a nice idea mate! Just loved it.

  • Kevin Michael

    Great post Malan! Funny thing is that I know exactly which homeless guy you’re talking about (I also live in LA). He did the same exact same thing to me. Same line — same story. Anyway, good read as always.