Site moved to, redirecting in 1 second...

« A Crowdsourced Barbie Doll | Main | Emulate Drug Dealers (part 2) »

April 13, 2010

Emulate Drug Dealers


In the book REWORK, the authors, Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson (co-founders of 37signals) recommend emulating drug dealers by offering free samples to customers. Drug dealers, as Jason and David point out, know by giving away free samples of a “product so good” and “so addictive,” customers will “come back with cash in hand.”

Businesses, according to the authors, shouldn’t “be afraid to give a little away for free” so long as they are confident in the products/services they sell. As cited in the book, ice cream shops confidently give away free samples knowing it will most likely result in a sale. Car dealers do the same by allowing potential buyers to test drive a car before buying it.

Why stop at emulating drug dealers by only giving away free samples?

Businesses have a lot more to learn from the business practices of drug dealers. From procurement of product to acquiring customers to satisfying customers, the parallels between a well-run drug dealing operation and a successful business run thick.

This is territory we’ve covered on the Brand Autopsy blog. In early 2004, we ran a 7-part series on “Street Corner Selling” which shared drug dealing business lessons from Bruce Jacobs' book, DEALING CRACK.

The lessons have held up well. Read for yourself...

Street Corner Selling Curriculum:

Lesson #1: Customer Acquisition
Don’t Act Desperate

Lesson #2: Ten Minute Rule
Surpassing Customer Expectations
Lesson #3: Procurement
Wholesale Buying Strategies
Lesson #4: Merchandising
Maximizing Sales Through Bundling
Lesson #5: Angel Customers and Demon Customers
Selecting Profitable Customers
Lesson #6: Developing Enthusiastically Satisfied Customers (pt. 1)
Generating Customer Referrals
Lesson #7: Developing Enthusiastically Satisfied Customers (pt. 2)
Making it Easier for Customers to Buy


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Emulate Drug Dealers:


Come on guys. Free samples have been a staple of package goods marketing since the fifties. Anyone using this promotional tool is simply emulating package goods marketers.

This is what drives me crazy about Marketing professionals today. Even the Marketers don't hold the profession in high esteem. There are a great many promotional tools to achieve trial, re-trail, continuity of purchase, etc. "Wow! Drug dealers have hit upon a really new idea! Let's give away our product like they do!"

What's next? Promote like a Pimp? Buy two, get one free?

Bob ... you are right. Giving away free samples is a tried and true way to achieve trial, re-trial, and continuity of purchase. That's why I tried to share some other, not so conventional, business smarts from drug dealers with an link to some vintage Brand Autopsy posts.

I suppose my question has not so much to do with this actual marketing strategy so much as how we would go about convincing the consumer that, or actually have, such a product with the number of generics flying around?

There have been far too many times in my own life where I just thought, "Well, to hell with this, the Wal-Mart brand can't be that far off" and went with the knock-off.

Essentially, how do you win over a cynic that knows better?

Thanks for the Tips. We've been talking about this metaphor for 15 years, so I was really happy to read the Rework article. Now, thanks to you, I can dig in a little deeper.

Sheila ... you ask such a loaded question that any quick response would come across as trite. My advice is to immerse yourself into the following books. You'll find answers aplenty in these gems...

PURPLE COW (Seth Godin)
THE BRAND GAP (Marty Neumeier)
DIFFERENT (Youngme Moon)

Ugh - seriously? Emulate Drug Dealers? Dealing Crack?

The lessons or advice may be worthwhile, but the 'package' just reinforces negative stereotypes about marketing.

I'm not a prude, I enjoyed the 80s (maybe too much!), but these types of titles really rub me the wrong way.

The comments to this entry are closed.