By Marc Babej
Market researchers, consultants and penny-pinching business owners have long tried to bring science to the art of marketing--from new research methodologies to fancy programs that crunch return on marketing investments. Innovation is good, but often we end up losing touch with what separating customers from their money is all about.
For that, you have to go back to basics--that is, to the marketplace.
I visit marketplaces wherever I travel. I watch how merchants display their goods and how they interact with customers. I take notes on who really moves merchandise and who doesn't. I've also snapped hundreds of photos of bazaars in Argentina, Laos, Turkey and Mexico, among other places
In my travels, one lesson is clear: While the goods, audiences and prices may differ, the fundamentals of marketing haven't changed. Herewith, a handful.
Make the product the hero. Market shoppers don't buy brands, they buy products. Many of these things are available at competitors' stands a few feet away. So rule No. 1 of any marketplace: Show what you've got and why it's better, in terms of quality, variety and price.
Let them interact. Shoppers want to touch, smell and feel the merchandise. Let them come as close as possible to imagining what it would be like to own or consume what you have to sell.
Chum the water. Once in awhile, a butcher in the San Telmo market in Buenos Aires will slip customers' pooches chunks of meat. In Istanbul a carpet salesman enticed customers with a free cup of tea. Freebies work--and they don't have to break the bank.
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Image: Let them interact