5 Marketing Lessons From The Turkish Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar colourful lamp shop

Our trip to Istanbul last year was extraordinary. It was one of the most memorable city escapes we ever had. Istanbul is a beautiful capital and I wholeheartedly recommend it. From the street vibe, to the markets, food, culture and people, it truly was an experience and we already planned our next flight. It also inspired one of our most loved branding boards. It also offered us 5 key lessons that prove marketing is at the heart of any type of trade.

As any self-respectable tourist, we had to see the Grand Bazaar. As one of the world’s oldest and largest markets, it is actually considered the ancestor of today’s shopping mall. There is a good reason for it too; the Turks are excellent traders.

So what have we learnt from our little (3h) trip through the dazzling Turkish bazaar?

Marketing lessons from Turkish Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

Walking through, we couldn’t help but notice the innate talent these traders have for marketing. Behind every stall, there’s an expert marketer that will convince you their product is worth buying. Competition is fierce, as each stand is more enchanting then the next, so every trader must fight for your attention and ultimately, your custom. So here’s 5 marketing lessons that any Turkish shopkeeper could probably teach you, in 5 minutes:

1. They establish a connection

Between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors pass through the bazaar daily. With that kind of footfall the time to establish connections and build trust is really limited. Once they catch your gaze, they’ll shout out a friendly “hello, where are you from” with a wave and a smile. This helps them get some key info about their potential customer. Are they tourists or are they local? Can they speak English? Spanish? Russian? 

Almost every shopkeeper will have a repertoire of a few words in any of these languages. This allows them to connect easily with a punter, because hearing your language far from home is a nice personal touch, no matter where you come from.

Knowing who you’re serving or who you want to attract as clients is instrumental for your business success. If while reading this blog post, a little voice inside you is asking: “who is my ideal client?” you need help. Download our freebie and get crystal clear about your ideal clients.

2. They create an atmosphere

Now it’s difficult to assess whether the atmosphere is created with the customer in mind, or just for themselves. Any wise marketer would say, this is a marketing stunt, to make the place more welcoming. But the reason it’s so difficult to be cynical, it’s because those people really look… at home there. Sat two, three together, at the back of the shop, chatting, having tea, or playing backgammon (although do not think the shop front is left unattended. A young cousin, or a child is always around ready to alert the elders).

They seem just as comfortable there, as they would in their own back garden.

3. They tell you about the problem and showcase the benefits 

Once you come closer to a stand to smell the spices, admire their colourful arrangements, the shopkeeper knows he has your attention. They know their time is limited to showcase any product, so they make the most of it. 

We stopped at a tea stand and after exchanging a few words in a mix of Turkish and English, the shopkeeper started explaining something about the herbs in this particular tea. When the language barrier became too much he ran to the back of the shop and came back with a little, white teacup and indicated to take in the smell. As we did so, the strongest mix of mint, eucalyptus and another unidentified aroma filled up our sinuses. 

He smiled and explained “headache better with this”. Pretty straightforward problem – solution – benefit. Within 5 minutes. Without either party fully speaking each others’ language.

Spoiler: Two of us ended up buying the miracle herb. Not used it to this day.

 4. When the offer is right…

Buy 1 one, get 1 free. Half-price. Discounts, offers, perks and package deals. They all have a place in the Grand Bazaar. 

We even had offers of discounts in exchange for phone numbers, or dates. 

As we kept going through the labyrinth market, we found a few guys ready to “buy” a date. One was even willing to part with a lamp. Another played hard to get, but came back after a short re-think and offered 2 knock-off bags. Alas, neither got a date. It was either 3 knock-off Gucci’s or nothing at all.

The takeaway here is that whatever the product, the Turks are always willing to negotiate until they get the right price. Better a converted customer than a warm lead. 

5. Somehow you always buy more than you need

This really applies best to food. The Grand Bazaar was not the place for it, although we ended up buying menthol herbs that we didn’t really need, and there was a close call with a lamp.

But when it comes to food, you simply want to try it all. 

Typical Turkish food in an Istanbul restaurant

A typical dinner in a Turkish restaurant

And the Turkish people are wonderful when it comes to food. They take great pride in offering the very best they have, with lots of free extras, and huge portions. If you never tried Turkish cuisine, no better time than the present! Just find your local Turkish restaurant and pay them a visit.

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