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5 Marketing Lessons From A Pimp

April 21, 2014

Iceberg SlimRobert Beck started pimping at 18 and continued until he was 42. At that point, he became a writer and started releasing books under the name for which he is better known, Iceberg Slim.

His autobiography, Pimp: The Story of My Life, is worth a read, much like Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is worth a read. Even if you don’t agree with the author’s outlook, you’ll at least have food for thought and be able to join in on the conversation around a book so many people have read.

There is no doubt that Iceberg Slim, assuming what he wrote is true, was a man who did a lot of bad things. He psychological manipulated the women who worked for him, he drugged them, and he used wire hangers to beat them.

But Iceberg Slim also did some things that you’ll find helpful to running a successful business…

5 Marketing Lessons From A Pimp

1. Have Your Own Language – Every group of people, including your customers, has a special way of communicating with each other. Groups have their own shorthand, which lets them know when they’re talking to another “insider.”

For example, somebody who knows about telecommunications understands what “RBOC” means.

“Are you a traveling man?” – This question means something to Masons.

Iceberg Slim had his own language too. There is a glossary at the end of Pimp: The Story of My Life, so you’ll know what he’s talking about when you’re reading.

If you want to connect with your customers, you need to meet them where they are and speak the same language that they do. If you are your customer, this will be easy and you’re probably doing this already. But if you’re in a business you’re not personally familiar with, good places to learn how your customers speak include Meetup.com events, Amazon reviews on related products, and books such as those by Iceberg Slim, written by somebody who has lived what he’s writing about.

2. Outsource The Work – Iceberg Slim didn’t do the “work” himself — he was a manager. That’s where the big money is made. Work on your business, not in it.

If you’re a solo operation and looking to outsource tasks to other people, services like Elance, oDesk, and 99Designs are a good place to begin. Start with something simple, like an easy data entry job or article writing, then graduate to larger tasks as you get better at hiring and managing people.

3. Replicate – Over the course of his pimping career, Iceberg Slim was said to have managed over 400 prostitutes. When you’ve running a commodity business, where one worker is more or less the same as another, this is important.

With that said, even if you’re not running a commodity business, replication is an important aspect of successful businesses. When you find something that works, do more of it.

For even greater strength, add diversification to the mix. You never know when things will change for distribution, advertising, and product interest, so you can offset any problems by having different versions of each.

4. Sell Ease – Iceberg Slim sold ease to both his stable of prostitutes as well as the men who hired them. To his workers, he sold physical and legal protection. To the men who hired his workers, he sold a black and white transaction, unlike what they’d get from a traditional sexual relationship.

Regardless of what you’re selling, remember that what people are really buying is ease. Don’t let your product or service get in the way of what people really want. Sell a hole in the wall, not a drill.

5. Reputation Matters – People, even prostitutes, want to be associated with a winning team. The more Iceberg Slim’s reputation for people a good pimp grew, the more women he was able to recruit for his stable.

Are you in the “blogging” niche? A lot of people who come here are.

Why are some bloggers more popular than others?

Reputation.

It’s certainly not quality of content or originality. Just a few people actually come up with original “how to blog” stuff. The rest just hear it from others as it gets passed down the line.

All businesses are this way. Because of this, if you want to build true reputation and have staying power, focus on innovation.

Final Thoughts

His business was in a gray area, but the methods he used to grow it will work for any business. Much like poker, pornography, and network marketing, beyond the “questionable” morality of Iceberg Slim’s pimping, there are solid business strategies you can model to be successful in your business.

ABOUT THIS SERIES: Every Monday, I analyze the good, bad, and ugly about the marketing behind a common business or famous personality. See other posts in this series here and, if you have a request for something (or someone) you’d like me to analyze for this series, contact me via Twitter.

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