Street Cat Marketing (or How I Sell Stray Cats Around the World)

A personal passion of mine is animal welfare.

Specifically, I mean caring for stray cats in poor health, and rehoming them with someone who will be able to look after them permanently. Most people would think this practice is incompatible with my highly mobile lifestyle, where I often won’t spend more than a couple weeks or months in one location. They think finding someone to adopt a cat is a lengthy process, and not something that can be accomplished spontaneously. After all, just look at how many stray cats there are on the street, or sitting in shelters waiting for owners.

Over the course of the last year, I’ve taken at least a dozen cats off the streets of Guanajuato, Casablanca, Kumasi, Kuala Lumpur, Ubud, Tbilisi, Athens, and other cities, and found new permanent homes for them. The reason I am equipped to do this is because I understand the art of the cold pitch. I know how to target qualified prospects from a large group of random people, show off the most uniquely attractive attributes of what I am selling, and say the right words that lead to a buying decision as quickly as possible. I can do this even in a place where I have no social connections, and am unfamiliar with the local language or culture.

I call my process “street cat marketing”. It has dual meaning, because the cats are “street cats”, and I’m finding new homes for them through old fashioned “street marketing”. It usually consists of taking my latest feline companion into my arms and meandering through a populated public area, such as parks and outdoor cafe venues, to garner the attention and interest of qualified prospects (i.e. other “cat people”). It’s an irrefutable fact that anyone who likes cats will be irresistibly drawn towards a well-dressed young man carrying a cute little kitty in his arms. This is the first step in the process of qualification, and they quickly become viable leads.

The sheer unusualness of the situation causes a great many people to look my way, or come right up to me to pet the cat and ask me questions. Already, I am gathering attention by being unique in my setting. Since at this point they are already intrigued and asking me questions, all I have to do is answer in a way that continues propelling them into wanting to know more. I answer in the form of a short narrative – a story about how I am a perpetual traveler living around the world, rescuing cats as I go. Now they have context, both for who I am and the critical information which will come next.

When I explain that I found the cat I am holding struggling to survive on the street, and how eager it was to come home with me, and how it has since turned into a healthy and social pet, my audience becomes emotionally engaged. They are ready for the call to action.

I tell them that I will be leaving the country soon, and that if I can’t find a new home for this cat who has risen up from poverty to be the beautiful creature they see before them, whose soft fur and loving eyes they are in the process of engaging with emotionally, I will have to put it back on the street where I found it. If I really want to drive the point home, I will show them pictures on my phone of what poor condition the cat was in when I first found it. This serves as proof of concept for the story I am telling, and validates their blossoming emotional engagement.

They immediately understand, without me saying it, that the cat will lose the trust of humans it has developed, and will revert to being a mangy wild animal again. At that point, I rarely even have to ask them to do anything. If they are able to take the cat themselves and give a home, they offer to. Or, more likely, they offer to search around for me to find someone who wants a cat and get back to me.

The entire exchange may take only a minute of time, but the message and its impact are clear. It has not failed me yet, and I’ve been able to find homes for stray cats in as little as one hour, or sometimes up to a few weeks. One even had a litter of five kittens under my care, and reared them in my suitcase for six weeks until I could find someone willing to take in the whole family.

My Lightbulb Moment in China

It took a profound personal experience on one of my travels to begin to understand the emotional power of being able to give people exactly what they want in a very specific way. Years ago, I was having a miserable time teaching in China. I made the decision to leave the country as quickly as possible to get away from the high levels of authoritarian control and conditioning of children I witnessed. At the time, I saw the entire few months I had spent there as a waste for myself and everyone else involved.

When I told the mother of a young girl I had recently begun tutoring of my impending plans to get on a plane and never look back, I was quite shocked when she literally begged me not to go, and offered me a blank check to stay and teach her children full time.

As it turned out, this family had been searching for years for a native English teacher who could actually connect to their daughter – emotionally so that she would enjoy the process of learning, but also as a quality language tutor, so that she would grow in her speaking and writing abilities as quickly as possible. They were quite eager to leave China themselves, and emigrate to the United States, which meant their children would need to have excellent English skills. She confessed to me that she had seen more progress in her daughter in our few short weeks of working together than in several years prior with numerous other language teachers.

That moment was when the lightbulb turned on in my head. Instantly, I knew, in a very real way, how big of a difference it made to have someone who could provide exactly what they needed instead of something that was just “close enough”.  While English teachers were plentiful in China, there were none which could cater to this family’s highly specific goals in the way that I had already demonstrated to them. I ended up staying a few months longer to work with this family directly, and it turned out to be a highly rewarding experience for me, as I was finally seeing the results of the value I was creating. I realized that everyone has something they desperately need, and they will be deeply appreciative of whoever can provide it for them.

It is common to blame lack of sales on anything and everything external to the actions of entrepreneurs. It could be the weather, or just labelling customers as lazy and ignorant for buying elsewhere. Most of these entrepreneurs will never turn their focus inward to look at how their own actions have allowed for these situations to exist. For things to change, they have to change.

Blaming the customer for lack of sales is proof that the business owner has not created sufficient value around what he or she is doing – or else has not communicated that value in the right way to the right people. Remember that everyone is looking for something. The only reason we ever take any intentional action in the world is to get something we want, or get rid of something we don’t want. If owners were to approach their business by waking every day and asking, “How do I create value today?”, their company’s downfall would not depend on external circumstances.

Because people’s values are constantly changing, you can never be completely sure that the specific value you create today will still be relevant tomorrow. Plateaus in your growth are an opportunity to reflect and add further value to your brand identity. What is it that you need to be doing to solve the most pressing needs of your customers? How do you give them what they need most in a unique and compelling way? Your brand identity must become that of the person who is best qualified to make their lives instantly better in a specific way, just as I instantly changed the lives of that Chinese family at a time when there were zero comparable options.

My Unconventional Path

For certain types of people, the conventional path will never be a viable option. Even in early childhood, I knew there was something I didn’t like about the way most of the adults around me had structured their lives. I couldn’t understand how the majority of them could be happy spending their time working in jobs that had nothing to do with their passions, and which barely paid more than enough to cover their basic living expenses. I felt like it was the accepted social norm to give up on dreams, adventure, and curiosity so that we could better fit into the hole others had already carved out for us. I knew there had to be other ways to exist.

It wouldn’t be until I was a little older that I would finally have the power to explore my innate curiosity about the many possible ways a human could live on this planet. On my 18th birthday, I moved out of my parents’ house in southern California and lived comfortably in an oversized Ford Econoline van, finishing high school and supporting myself through freelance guitar lessons and other independent means in San Diego.

The lifestyle experiment didn’t end there. The level of freedom I experienced during that initial unguided adventure couldn’t possibly compare to the perspective I gained from international travel after high school. Building my profession as I traveled forced me to become adaptable and resourceful. It was difficult at times, but my desire to live and make money on my own terms kept me on my chosen path until I could become financially comfortable.

A multicultural lifestyle also showed me that the world was not how I had been told it was supposed to have been. I experienced extreme cognitive dissonance for years as I continued to experience things which contradicted my previous worldview.

Traveling the world on my own terms taught me that human beings make decisions based not on the reality of things, but on the stories that fill their heads about how things are. I’d been told that Latin America was a wholly dangerous and unstable place. Instead, I found some of the nicest and most functioning communities on earth. I learned, as well, that stories could be used to alter and manipulate the mentality of people for a specific purpose quite easily.

As part of my global journey, I worked as an educator in countries like China, Thailand, Iraq, Italy, and different parts of Latin America. Having this kind of direct exposure to the developing children of so many societies gave me a unique outlook on the many ways in which people are conditioned to think from a very early age. Volunteering in Ghana with the Africa Youth Peace Call Liberty and Entrepreneurship Camp, I helped the young adults and teens who attended learn to see the world through the eyes of an entrepreneur. This meant not just creating value, but learning to communicate it to a world which would be very unforgiving of foreign appearances.

The stigmas that they will face as young entrepreneurs rising out of poverty into a worldwide marketplace are the same stigmas you will face as you introduce any new product, service, or proposition of value to people who think they already know what they want. Communication is the bridge which will break down the default barrier others hold towards new ideas, and all that occurs as a function of your compelling brand identity. Education removes the resistance to new ideas inherent to each of us.

Shortly after I started my travels, I met a man in his seventies named John A. Pugsley, or Jack to those who knew him. Jack was a very influential writer on free market economics, his most famous titles including The Alpha Strategy: The Ultimate Plan of Financial Self-Defense and Common Sense Economics: Your Guide to Financial Independence in the Age of Inflation. At the time, I felt lost about the role I was going to play in the global human civilization I was gradually becoming more aware of. He was kind enough to spend much of his time mentoring me in the subjects that he understood would help me make sense of my life.

John Pugsley passed away only two years after I met him, but during those couple of years I learned a lot through his writings and the time we spent together discussing how large-scale human society did not have to exist as the random chaos I perceived it to be. It was all part of an elaborate order called the marketplace. This was the first functional filter through which I could make sense of the world of exchange. I realized that an entrepreneur was someone who created new processes for producing value, and could convince people to make beneficial decisions they hadn’t previously known were possible.

Before this pivotal paradigm shift, I had been struggling to understand how the human race could ever progress from its present state of political and economic adolescence. Despite my newfound perspective on human culture, I didn’t know what to do with my life, or what it meant to play an important role in the human world. I know now that every intentional human action is performed in the pursuit of happiness, or in the avoidance of unhappiness. We are all trying to make our own lives better. Everyone else is simultaneously doing the same thing in their own lives the best way they know how.

We all have different ideas about what happiness is and the best way to acquire it. That’s where we run into conflict, and it is only with respect to the larger system of free market exchange that a solution to that conflict becomes obvious. You begin to see the human race and every way we interact as a system of mutual happiness pursuit, irrespective of our subjective variations on happiness. It doesn’t matter if what you want is completely different than what I want, so long as there is a way for us to interact where we are both getting closer to our respective goals.

When you understand such a simple concept, you will see that money is just a vehicle through which people exchange happiness, and that businesses provide a method for people to do this in a tailored and systematic way.

The Narrative of Gregory Diehl

Early in life, I became bored with the boundaries I was given to examine my own existence. This set me off on a path of deep personal inquiry and worldly exploration as soon as I reached legal adulthood. I had to learn how to find myself.

What began as a spontaneous adventure in Central America evolved into a desire to see the Earth’s many human societies for myself and push the boundaries others had established.

Today, nearly ten years after I started my journey, I have lived and worked all over the world. The real world education I have received from traveling to over 45 countries showed me what I needed to become in the world as it currently stands.

Worldly exploration gave me a wide set of observational data about humanity. I use these experiences to form important principles for living. It shows me elements of my own potential I could never have known on a path of tightly controlled boundaries.

For years, I worked in education in unconventional international settings with children and young adults. I want to know how different cultures passed on knowledge and values to upcoming generations. It was also a chance to learn how to provide the support and guidance budding young people of all backgrounds need to thrive in their own identities.

I also learned about the importance of stories. We all use narratives to make sense of the enormous slew of information thrown at us in every single moment. If you can change someone’s narrative, you can alter how they interpret old memories and new experiences. This is the basis of my approach to helping others grow.

Intelligence does not run counter to emotion or humanity. It can be the tool that unlocks deeper levels of caring and humanitarian action. But the beholder must wield it effectively. I encourage people to develop their intellect to their furthest potential.