In the Market for Stories
I love going to local markets. Apart from my interest in hand-made, sustainable items and quirky creations, I am curious about the ‘marketing’ approach at each stall – how do the semi-professionals and the amateurs sell their products?
Unfortunately, very similar to how big stores, small stores and huge conglomerates sell. Some personalise the whole experience and you end up buying a product imbued with love, care, skill and a great story. Others are just there to move merchandise as quickly and profitably as possible.
When we give value, we don’t need to sell
Here’s why I love to buy at my local market, whether seasonal or regular. Maria sells clothes made from recycled and ethically-sourced materials at my local flea market. As I browsed her rack of skirts we chatted about the various materials she works with and why some are not up to her ethical standards – yet. But she’s working on it with the help of her family back home and her business partner, who does the sowing and helps out with the design. When I handed her a skirt to try on she advised me that it didn’t suit my size or shape (I’m on the smallish, skinny side). She’d have a wider selection ready for next week – if I was around again.
Story trumps hustle
Guess what? I did call again and I bought two! I didn’t just buy two skirts. I bought the stories woven into the fabric of those two skirts – of Maria’s family in Central America, of her small workshop with her business partner in Berlin where they rotate parenting with running a new business and of how challenging it is to live your sustainability standards working in fashion. I’ve shared the story of my skirts with everyone who asks me about them and tell them where they buy them.
Don’t Sell Scarcity
Last weekend I visited our local Christmas Market to find a new winter cap – handmade, soft, warm, colourful and made for small heads. WhiIe trying on one in my favourite colour, I asked the stall owner if she made the caps herself. She evaded my question, but immediately remarked on how much the cap suited me. The mirror clearly told me otherwise. While trying on another one, I asked her where she sources the wool . This time I got an abrupt response that ignored my question, before she declared with authority that this cap definitely suited me better. The pompon was bigger than my head! As I put it back with the others, she then delivered the conventional sales pitch. Her caps were selling so quickly they’d all be gone very soon.
I don’t buy scarcity or desperation, so I left her stall and continued to browse.
We buy connections, not commodities
Whether you stand behind a market stall, offer online courses or the latest technical invention the same rule applies: We are in the market for good stories, told by people who show us they care and ones we can share with others. Or, in the words of the marketing guru, Seth Godin: “People don’t buy goods and services. They buy relationships, stories and magic.”
As I wandered through the stalls afterwards, I smelled the magic of the market wafting through the crowds. I followed that smell to the mulled wine stall and gladly joined the queue.