This Guy Sells Out His Shows With a Strange Uber Tactic
And you too can use Uber to make sales
And you too can use Uber to make sales
Arvind Jayashankar (A.J. for short) landed in San Franciso at 12 p.m.— but by 7 p.m. the very next day, he was standing on a stage in front of a sell-out, paying crowd. A show, at first, he assumed would be empty.
When I asked him how he did it, he told me he was able to leverage Uber rides as a selling tool.
Not knowing the city, the people, the venue, or the nightlife, A.J. had spent a full day riding in Uber Pool cars from the airport to the city and back again. Selling tickets to unsuspecting patrons from the back seat.
When I heard about this five years ago, it was the most unique marketing tactic I’d ever heard. Five years later, it still is.
This Wasn’t an Established Tactic. It Was an Accident
I first met A.J. five years ago in New York on the steps of the Javits Center. He put a sticker on my back and got my colleague to take a photo for fun (below). Ironically, we were waiting for an Uber.
It’s then, after hearing about my love affair with marketing, that he told me his story. I was captivated. Two stage shows, back to back, on the same night, 100 people in the audience for each show. Most tickets being sold from the back of an Uber.
Honestly, it felt like he’d discovered fire. A cheap, practical, try-before-you-buy approach to marketing yourself as a performer… but it could apply to everyone.
You see, he, like myself, has a passion for magic and mentalism and uses those skills to network — like a boss.
Even without that hobby to back you up, his story can be applied to many different business and networking opportunities. You never know who you’re going to meet in the back of a ride-share, subway car, or on the quiet carriage of a long train journey.
Maybe you’re an app developer and the other passenger is looking to make an app.
Perhaps you’re a marketing professional and the other passenger is a business owner who needs help.
It could be that you’re a photographer and the other passenger is getting married and really needs one.
There’s often some opportunity for you to enrich their lives, or them to enrich yours.
How He Discovered This Marketing Strategy
In his first Uber Pool from the San Fran airport into the city, he showed passengers some card tricks and ended up selling them three tickets for his show, a show he was expecting to be empty.
“That worked,” he thought, so he booked an Uber Pool back to the airport to repeat the process, selling another four tickets on his second ride back into the city.
He then explored San Francisco with a seatbelt on, hitting all of the tourist traps through the app with his $10 a ride chauffeur.
Ride and sell. Ride and sell. Rinse and repeat.
It worked for three reasons:
Uber Pools are cheap in big cities. So you won’t run up a huge tab.
He only travels with hand luggage, so he could get out, walk around easily and get back into any Uber he liked, any time of the day.
Most people inbound on transport into the city are available to see a show. They’re tourists or people in for business who have the evenings free.
Think about your own business or service, could this tactic work for you?
NOTE: I’m very aware than Uber Pool cars are currently unavailable in some areas due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, they will likely come back at some point and the next chapter covers how his approach can still help you. Even without Uber.
What If It Doesn’t Work?
I asked A.J. the obvious this past week… “has it ever worked since?” The short answer is yes.
It’s not Uber Pool, but the thinking behind it that makes it an affordable, desirable strategy.
A.J. travels more than anyone I know. He’s seen parts of the world most of us can’t even spell and he’s visited the first-class cabin more times than I’ve been to the bathroom — in my life.
In-person networking gets him so many gigs as either a magician or as a photographer and his Instagram looks like the National Geographic channel on pause… but he didn’t come from money. It’s all self-funded from his work.
All of his initial explorations are on a super-modest budget.
“I’m not worried if it doesn’t work out” A.J. told me.
“I reframe it in my mind so travel is my first priority — getting paid is second.”
He can’t fail, because his goal is the experience. To absorb the local culture, learn new things, have fun, and take incredible photographs. If he can sell out a show to pay for it all, great.
“Often, if I’m returning to a country, it’s because I’m getting paid. The first time I go and network by performing in a hotel, hostel, or by meeting people on free walking tours. The second time I’m there is because one of those connections (or more) has become more lucrative,” he explained.
After meeting people in Ubers, hotel bars, hostels, or on free walking tours, he tells people what he does, finds out about them, and follows them on Instagram from his photography account. They are enamored with him.
Those new connections often turn into service users who’ve already had a positive experience with him as a person. They hire him for one of his two vocations and his talent helps him command the price he’s asking for.
He’s gone international with his local, in-person strategy. Avoiding social media and preferring instead to market his services by meeting people in areas where they congregate naturally. Basic networking.
I always tell people that the secret to charisma is to be more interested than you are interesting.
Interested people are, ironically, more interesting — and by opening that door with strangers, you never know where it’ll take you. It’s not about Uber specifically, it’s about creating opportunities by putting your phone away around strangers, striking up a conversation wherever you are, and seeing if you can provide value.
Official networking events are always full of people trying to sell you their service. They’re not interested in you. The real world is where the customers are hiding.