“Hey man, spare some change?”
Rain or shine, the professional panhandler works a busy corner every day in my neighborhood. He sets up shop right by the ATM, on the theory that people who have just withdrawn a hundred bucks are more likely to give him a dollar or two.
The location is good, but prospecting is tough. Day in, day out, he sits on a stoop, asking people for a couple of bucks. He sees it as a numbers game – 98% of the people who pass by will say no or just ignore him, but if he asks enough people, a few will pony up.
Is panhandling effective?
Strictly speaking, I guess you could say it works . . . but most of us would agree that asking random people for money isn’t a great career choice. You have to deal with continuous rejection, your income is wildly unpredictable, and you get wet when it rains.
Too Many Marketers are Like Panhandlers
“Hey man, spare some change? Check out this great offer I’ve got . . . it’s just what you need, you’ll love it, really.”
On an intuitive level, most of us understand that it’s better to deliver our message to the right people. We know that we shouldn’t panhandle – but then we go out and do the opposite of what we know is right.
We model ourselves on the salesman who goes door-to-door hawking vacuum cleaners. Sure, he might sell a couple by the end of the day, but do we really want to be that guy?
I call this approach evangelism. The goal is to change someone’s mind and convince them to do something they wouldn’t otherwise do.
Why Evangelism Doesn’t Work
Most of us have deeply-held beliefs about everything from religion to politics to what kind of sandwich we like to eat for lunch. You probably aren’t going to change my mind about almost anything, and I’m probably not going to change yours.
So let’s not try to sell unwanted vacuum cleaners to each other.
The alternative to evangelism is recruitment. Instead of knocking on doors or begging for spare change, recruitment is all about opening your own doors to the people who are already naturally predisposed to your message.
Instead of needing to be sold, these people are dying to hear what you have for them.
At its best, recruitment involves welcoming a select group of people and challenging them to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
When people feel simultaneously welcomed into a group and challenged to go above and beyond their current limits, you’ve got a group that’s eager for your attention.
Regardless of terminology, these are the people you want in your group. You can think of them as your basic church choir. And preaching to the choir is a good thing.
“Come if You’re a Good Fit” Instead of “Come As You Are”
Recruitment also requires the gentle filtering out of people who aren’t a good fit for what you offer.
Wish them well . . . then wish them to go somewhere else. Most people won’t pitch a dollar in the panhandler’s bucket, and most people probably aren’t suited to what you have to offer.
That’s okay. Ignore the atheists outside the church. Rise above the noise, recruit a choir of your own, and start preaching.
Here’s wishing you well in your next sermon.
About the Author: Chris Guillebeau preaches to a choir of remarkable people at the Art of Nonconformity site. His 279 Days to Overnight Success manifesto offers a free case study of how to build a career in new media. Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisguillebeau.