How I spent 4k on a product I didn’t need and got 4 lessons in value-driven marketing I hadn’t expected

So on my last day in Sri Lanka with Human Made, this happens: I’m enjoying a 🍺Lion’s at one of the beach bars in Negombo, a touristy area not far from BIA airport. Every other five minutes, another vendor walks by, offering what they have: souvenirs, clothes, jewellery. I kindly tell them no thanks, I’m good – not knowing I’ll be in for a heartwarming, eyes-wetting marketing lesson within no time.

My two friends from Sri Lanka

1. Prioritise customer experience, invest into sincere 1:1 relationships

Enjoying my view on the Indian Ocean, I notice two local ladies chatting to a woman at another table. Although I can’t hear anything, the way they interact looks quite different from the other vendors: They don’t seem to be trying to sell their stuff. Instead, they seem to be listening to the other woman, smiling, responding – just a chat between… friends? Have they met before? There’s no sign of a sales pitch at all, I’m fascinated.

Their conversation goes on for a good five minutes or so, with much smiling and a few contagious laughs, and by now, I’m placing bets against myself about what’s going to happen next. Are they going to sell, or not?

They’re not. They finally do show their merchandise, but the woman declines. They don’t look disappointed at all, though, and exchange a few more words and smiles before they move on.

2. Identify quality leads, engage, personalise

At this point, I’m performing serious attempts of light magic to have them to come over to my table. I so like their style and un-intrusiveness, I am ready to buy whatever the little cash I have left can pay for.

Sure enough, gravity and intuition work their wonders, and here they come, holding up a nice bluish beach dress. I’m trying to break the ice pointing out I’m afraid that one won’t fit me. Giggles. No, of course not! But perhaps I am married to a fine wife?

I let them know I’m actually interested in another piece, an indigo sarong with a pattern of white elephants. How much? 4,000 Sri Lankan Rupees – about 20 Euros.(Sorry about that title up there.) I count my cash – it happens to amount to ex-act-ly 4,000 Rupees and not a penny more. This is meant to be, folks! Trying to bargain would feel like a slap in God’s face at this point!

We close the deal, everyone is happy.

3. Add value to the transaction post-sale

So now they have my money – are they just walking away with it? Well, not before letting me know what good my money will do: One of them mentions she’s got a handicapped daughter who has to crawl on her hands, and my Rupees will help make her life easier. She asks for my name, so that they both can pray for me and my wife. Have I mentioned I’ll be crossing almost half the planet in an airplane the next day? Certainly can’t have enough people praying for me.

Just so managing to not burst into tears I thank them and ask if I may take a picture of them to show to my wife and friends. I may. We shake hands, and they’re off to the restaurant next door.

4. Re-engage customers with your brand

Elevated, I turn back to my beer and spend the next 10 minutes typing the whole experience into my team’s Slack channel. But before I can even post the thing, here they are back again! And what happens now, comes so completely unexpected and from a place so rich in understanding the value of human relationships, it just blows my mind…

They hand me two pieces of paper, obviously acquired from a waiter (restaurant brand on it) on which they have written both their names and addresses. One paper for each of them, perfectly accurate handwriting – wherever this is going, its data model and design is already making my life easier.

Would I mail them the photo I’ve taken? To be clear: not email – print, stamp, envelope, and oh, I will be delighted to! Marvellous, they say, so they will look forward to receive my letter, and they’re going to write back, and meanwhile they will always pray for me, and I now have two friends here, and they would love to meet my wife… at which point I’m a sobbing mess.

The end

So here you have it, four lessons in value-driven marketing out of the literal blue.

Wait, I know. Some of you are probably arguing the sincerity in all this: ‘Dude, wake up. They just ran their playbook on you, trying to milk more money out of a naive westerner.’

Is that what you’re thinking? Well, let me tell you:

  1. Not these two.
  2. Even if they were, who gives a shit? If their story was all marketing, they made it sound damn real.

I’d happily submit myself to the gracious and loving sales strategy of these two lovely ladies time and time again; their kindness and attention made my life more enjoyable. And my wife actually liked that sarong. 🙌

(This article appeared first on LinkedIn.)