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5 product marketing lessons from bus marketers in Lagos

I learnt some of the lessons that have improved my marketing skills from a very unusual place. It was when I commuted on a TATA public bus popularly called Ise Oluwa.

An Ise Oluwa bus. Credit: Wole Ogunlade

These Ise Oluwa buses are poorly-ventilated and are not the most comfortable way to travel in Lagos. The drivers are notorious for rough driving and use of foul language. Imagine a bus with a sitting capacity for about 50 passengers but on a typical trip, you might have as many people standing as those sitting.

But that is where I learnt some valuable lessons I want to share with you.

Meet Adewale, a bus marketer earning ₦500k per month

A typical trip is an average of 45 minutes with 70 other commuters. Adewale is one of the typical bus marketers that commute with you to sell herbal concoctions and unprescribed Western drugs. Sometimes, he makes up to ₦5,000 per trip and he does five trips daily, possibly making up to ₦500,000 per month. By the way, most professionals make far less than this.

So, if you are wondering how you can get people to pay for your products, you can learn a lot from Adewale (and his fellow bus marketers).

Lesson 1: Warm up your audience before selling

The first goal of a typical bus marketer is to get emotionally connected with the commuters before attempting to sell. They might crack a joke, say a prayer or attempt to act nice by collecting fares on behalf of the bus conductor. They believe that finding a “common ground” with you is the first step to sale.

How to use this marketing lesson in your business

The marketing lesson here is for you to do everything to make your prospects predisposed to buy. Before you even attempt to sell, show that you care. This can be done by having a social media and content strategy to share valuable information to your audience. You can also publish white papers, free eBooks, helpful blog posts or even give away free product samples. All these gestures can “warm up” your customers to buy from you.

Lesson 2: Unlock sales with “fear” emotion

In order to get people to buy, the bus marketer simply tells a lot of stories that agitate the problem the drug cures. In the process, they paint a scary picture of everything that could go wrong with you if you do not buy their drug. Their goal is to get you agitated enough about the problem to do something about it.

How to use this marketing lesson in your business

There is empirical evidence that fear is an emotion that motivates many people to buy. Hence, to improve your marketing success, you need to trigger this emotion. This article and several others show how you can use this emotion to drive your product sales.

Lesson 3: Use customers’ testimonials to build credibility

No one wants to buy an unprescribed drug or herbal mixture from a stranger.

To address this concern, the bus marketer needs to show their credibility. They might need to remind the commuters (for the umpteenth time) how long they have been in the business and brag about some of their accomplishments, which usually includes building a house or buying a car from the proceeds of their wares. Sometimes, they invoke curses on themselves to prove they are genuine. However, their best option is when they share the testimonies of past customers.

How to use this marketing lesson in your business

Include customer testimonials on your website because third-party recommendations influence new purchases better, sometimes by up to 60%. The testimony of other buyers will give credibility, authority and convert new buyers. Also, you can showcase your credibility based on what you have done before with a well-designed “about us” page on your website or product brochure.

Lesson 4: Use price anchoring and FOMO to get customers ready-to-buy

Any bus marketer that has perfected the art of closing the sales knows the powerful secret behind price anchoring. For example, instead of revealing the exact amount their drugs sell for, they start by comparing how much you could have spent on alternative options, especially the expensive drugs. Then they assure you that they have a special price for that day only. Evidently, by this time, if you are ready to buy you will consider the price they are offering as a discount offer.

How to use this marketing lesson in your business

There are 2 psychological triggers you can use to your advantage. The first one is price anchoring (a cognitive bias that makes people to heavily rely on the first piece of information offered when making decisions). Here are examples of price anchoring in action.

The second physiological trigger is the fear of missing out, a.k.a FOMO. Wikipedia describes it “as a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”. Since people don’t want to lose out on deals, you can use this to improve your marketing and sales. Here is a good example of how FOMO is driving sales for brands.

Lesson 5: Aim for the first sale

As a bus marketer, you cannot afford to leave selling to chance. You have to do everything to close the sale while you still have the attention of the commuters, which is a 30-minute window.

The smart move of the bus marketer is to create a “signal” for bandwagon effect. Usually, when one person buys the product, several others make orders. To reinforce this impression, the bus marketer repeatedly asks if someone else wants the product before they run out of stock.

How to use this marketing lesson in your business

You can include customer feedback from early users (beta tester) to indicate that other people have achieved success with your product before taking it mainstream.


It is worth noting that the customer journey to purchase is always complex. To improve your chances of increasing sales, you need to trigger as many emotions that will lead to sale by offering both logical and emotional motivations to customers in order to close the sale.

I wish you success mastering marketing your business.

Hope you learnt some lessons from these tips? Please leave a comment to share some of the lessons you have learnt in unexpected situations.

Source: techpoint.ng

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