Man Breakdancing This is a guest post by Brad Farris, Founder of

When I walk through the streets of Chicago, I regularly encounter street performers playing at subway stops (where the acoustics make them sound fantastic) and on street corners. In Chicago, we have everyone from a lone man with a horn to a whole team of drummers beating on 5 gallon buckets.

After seeing tons of performers I started noticing the strategies that each person used. What worked for them? How did they get people to pay attention? How did they get people to pay?

If you are busking for a living (or at least part of your living) you are asking hundreds of people a day for their attention (and also for their money), so you've got a lot of experience getting eyes in the right place.

By observing what successful street performers do, I've learned a few things about how to sell and how to market my business.

Here are some takeaways:

1. Be where the traffic is.

You don’t see street performers sitting in an alley wondering, “why am I not finding people who want to watch me perform?” Instead, performers stake out areas with the most traffic (subway platforms), where people are coming by with loose change (outside of coffee shops), or where crowds congregate (special events, ball parks, city squares, etc.)

Ask Yourself: Am I getting in front of my prospects? Where do these people congregate in person and online? How can I be part of their conversations?

2. Make a clear ask.

Whether it’s on a cardboard sign or chanted as folks walk by-- the ask is clear-- can you support my performance? More specific asks get better responses. “Just a dollar makes a big difference” works better than “can you give?” It's easier to make a decision if someone is specific and clear about what they need.

Ask Yourself: Do I leave prospects with a clear call to action? Do they know what I want from them? Am I making it clear what they should do next?

3. Make it about them, not you.

When a man paints himself silver and stands on a box that says,“Pictures with the Robot $5” it’s clear what you are going to get out of the transaction-- a picture. He’s not selling features or telling you about his qualifications. He makes it clear what you'll get-- a memory and a picture.

Ask Yourself: Do I clutter up collateral materials with things that make me look good or that are about my product or service features? Or do I focus on what's in it for them? What benefit does my target buyer receive when they engage with my company?

4. Show what you can do, then ask.

Performing is a very personal act because you put a lot of yourself on the line – it’s a big risk. These performers put their art out there for everyone to see, then they ask others to generously support them. They put their performance first then ask for money after. The transaction is optional.

Ask Yourself: Do I realize that buying my product or service is a risk? When a buyer puts their affairs into my hands (because I'm an expert and I promised I could help them) they are making a gamble. Is there a way they can experience some of the benefits of my services (not necessarily all) before they buy? Can I figure out a way to give them a sample?

5. Say Thanks.

When I give money to street performers, they are genuinely grateful. Sometimes they even add a 'thank you' number into their performance, like a special song, dance, or speech. When they say 'thank you,' I feel good about the transaction. And think about it-- don’t we all love to be thanked and appreciated? A great way to convert one time clients into repeat business is to say thanks.

Ask Yourself: Am I thanking my customers for choosing me? Am I taking the time to express my thanks to make people feel good about my company?

If you want to learn more about how street performing relates to marketing, Amanda Palmer did a terrific TED talk called “The Art of Asking” where she talks about her personal experience panhandling, busking, and asking her fans for help.

Do you think there's something to learn from street performers? Have you picked up marketing and sales strategies from unexpected places? Please share in the comments below!

Brad Farris is the Founder of, a small business owner community and been advising business owners since 2001 at Anchor Advisors, a consulting firm in Chicago. He's the author of Marketing and Sales: A Love Story that helps the business owner struggling with low leads and decreasing sales. Find him on Twitter.