A LESSON IN SUBWAY SALESMANSHIP

A captive audience?

Taking the NYC subway is always an experience and I am sure anyone who has ridden on the train has been entertained at some point. Well, you can get more than just an experience on the “A” train—no need to go to a Broadway show and spend $100 plus $4 for a bottle of water.

If you take a ride on the A train, or I am sure any other letter or numbered car, you will get more bang for your buck for your $2.25 and get your own seat (hopefully). Maybe even get an M & M snack bag from a teenager selling from his (haven’t seen a woman perform this job yet) box which is usually taped to the hilt so no profits fall through the cracks.

The curtain call is usually announced by someone in a youthful voice, projecting very loudly or even singing the words “It’s Showtime”. Make no mistake about it—that is what you are going to get; whether you like it or not. There are several different acts as in a variety show, with minimal intermissions-only break you can get is if you put earplugs in or fall asleep. Always a surprise to see who is on the Playbill. New Yorkers understand…

About the Salesmanship…

What I find most interesting is the sales & marketing behind each performance and entertainer. Each act, whether guitarists in authentic costumes, bongo drummers who bring their own seats, kids selling candy, people fundraising to support their families or those who want you to repent, has something in common. They know they should market to subway riders who have nowhere else to go, boarding the train in the evening when people are more awake and would sooner be bothered to give donations and applaud, those who need to be soothed by very loud dancing music, tell you that they are not criminals and the money is going to children, families or their education. They also know exactly when to leave your subway car to step into the next so all can be beguiled by their charm, talent and sometimes wit.

Even the man who sells flowers and doughnut sticks on the platform knows exactly where to stand to get the most business and how to package his goods for the convenience of the transit goer. I am not sure how many of these food vendors and entertainers have studied the craft of marketing, but they certainly know instinctively how to brand themselves and be in front of their target audience to increase sales. They all do repeat performances on the A train, maybe because they like the customers in their ever-changing storefront. Music and food are two big sellers, but I am still deciding about religion and ridership. These self-employed marketers really know how to promote their stories and their talent. Some are one in the same, like the poet I heard recently or the man who makes the exact same sound as the subway doors closing. He has gotten lots of laughs with his unique skill.

Since our full service agency is entrenched in creating marketing, social media and PR campaigns, I can appreciate the value of the sales tools and marketing strategies they employ. Smart is smart.