Have you ever run into street hustlers?

They either try to sell you something, or get you to spend money on a card trick or whatever else.

You could learn a thing or two from them.

In general, hustlers and con men make for great stories and movies but…

…Their “tricks” involve shady ethics at best and criminal activity at worst.

Still, you could really learn something – as long as you stay on the ethical side of it all.

Persuasion and influence has been tossed around in marketing for a long, long time.

Heck, most marketing and sales make use of psychology, emotions and behavioral economics in just about everything.

Anyway, as someone who deeply appreciates marketing psychology, I was thoroughly enjoying a recent experience involving a street hustler and his rap music on the streets of New York City.

What You Can Learn From Street Hustlers In New York City

Turns out, you can pickup some simple yet explosive sales and marketing tactics from street hustlers in NYC.

I did, one sultry, sunny summer afternoon.

Imagine yourself coming up on a crosswalk, on 5th avenue. Not too close but not too far away from Times Square or Central Park (remember this).

Just a few yards in front of the sidewalk, you’re greeted by a lanky, casually dressed guy who says: “Hey, can I ask you a question?”

You slow down, turn to him, and say “Sure”.

Immediately, he puts a CD in your hand, and tells you: “Here’s some free music – what’s your name?”

(See what he’s doing here?)

You tell him, and then you ask what he just gave you.

Right away, he says: “I just recorded some new music and I wanted to share it with you. It’s rap but not like gangster rap, about drugs, murdering, robbing and raping.”

“Oh, good”, you think. As you’re looking at the CD, he says: “I call it ‘Swag Music’, it’s my own thing, I haven’t heard anyone else make music like this.”

As your crosswalk sign turned to “Walk” and people start crossing, he moves in for the kill:

“Today, we accept any donation, for the music I just gave you”

See that?

(So much going on here that I hope you’re catching.)

You laugh and because you appreciate psychology, sales and marketing, you give him $10 (not for the music, it was awful; he did a great job pitching and selling it.)

Let’s Break Down What Just Happened

You’ve probably noticed a few things going on here, but here’s a short summary.

For Traffic, He Did This:

He was standing at a very busy crosswalk, right on 5th Avenue and close to Times Square and other tourist attractions, like Central Park. There was a never-ending flow of people – that’s Traffic.

No chasing after people – just placing himself where they already are.

Are you doing this with your target market?

To Capture People, He Did This:

People naturally stopped at the crosswalk, waiting for the “Walk” light, without him having to stop us. Approaching from slightly front-right makes it non-threatening, too.

Then, he immediately asked a question to get your attention. You’re caught.

What are you doing to capture people? Does it make sense? Is it working?

And For Conversion, He Did This:

Right after the question, and before anything else, he gave you a physical CD to hold on to. He just placed it in your hands and tells you it’s “free music”.

Then, he does the clever thing: he distracts you for a second by asking for your name.

You can’t help but stop and think – just enough to stick around for the next round of questions.

(See? Only small steps here, not asking you for much.)

He differentiates himself and handles objections at the same time by not only saying his music is NOT “gangster music” but also calling his music “Swag Music” – something you’ve never heard of before.

And then, when you’ve got your bearings, he tells you that “today, we accept donations”.

No pressure, just a small squeeze, and using the music you already have in your hand for reciprocity.

Boom, Conversions.

What are you doing for conversions? Are you leading up to it, with small micro steps, or move in for the ask too fast – and asking for too much?


Lots of fun to experience it all.

How do you make use of cognitive biases, psychology and persuasion?

Where do you spot it “in the wild”?