It was 1916. The location: Coney Island. Handwerker, a young, ambitious immigrant opened up a hot dog stand selling his frankfurters at 5 cents each. Even then, this price point was shocking since it was half as much as the competitor’s. Then, something interesting happened.
No one was buying.
To Handwerker’s surprise, no one was buying. Food regulation was not as strict then, and hot dogs were already suspect in the public’s opinion.
It was only natural for people to be afraid of eating discounted hot dogs. Wouldn’t you?
So, Handwerker decided to pay several young men to wear white jackets and socialize with each other at his stand while eating these 5-cent hot dogs. People saw this and assumed the men in white jackets were doctors.
They had a change of heart.
“If doctors are eating them,” they thought, “then it must be okay for us.”
This stunt worked for the young Handwerker. Customers overlooked their fear of a cheap mystery meat and started buying.
Handwerker’s quick thinking saved his business from ruin. And, the hot dog business worked out very well for him.
This young vendor’s full name was Nathan Handwerker, the man behind Nathan’s Hot Dogs.
What is the takeaway?
When it comes to trust, humans look for signals. We look for details (even subconsciously) that clue us in on something being safe, fair, or valuable, etc.
In the example above, the perceived authority of the young men eating hot dogs was high. After all, people thought they were doctors.
Yes, this was misleading. Lying is not a good way to acquire customers or clients.
However, the above example should inspire you to reflect on your practice.
What signals of authority and trust are you deliberately or inadvertently broadcasting to prospects and clients?
- How you dress
- The freshness of your website
- The way your lobby looks
- The quality of your marketing
- The appearance of your employees
- The social engagements you invite clients to
- The community and charity events you support
Are you inspiring confidence in others that you can handle their wealth and financial future?
Small signals can hurt or help your business in a big way.