Lessons From a European Christmas Market

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Everyone loves different holidays for different reasons. Some love 4th of July, some love Halloween, and some love family Thanksgivings. For me, I truly love the handcrafted gifts of Christmas and the Christmas markets.

Last year I visited the Christmas Markets in Basel, Switzerland for my first time and fell in love with what I saw there. The city sets up mini swiss-chalets for the vendors and there are crafts of every genre that appeal to all different tastes. Woodworkers, glass blowers, knitters, painters and artists of all types come together and what results is a sales frenzy.

Even in that beautiful market, there are business learnings. If you look behind the glitz, glam and fabulous products, you will see that each one of these business owners has a slightly different technique for attracting customers, selling their wares and promoting their business: 

• Some are aloof, so you don’t feel pressured as you browse the contents of their chalets, while others aggressively push their products. 

• Some engage with strident voices, like barkers at a fair, while some stay quiet and let their wares pull you in.

• Some provide a half-smile and scowl at you mysteriously.

Self-promotion comes in all forms, but some would say the successful entrepreneurs are the ones that know how to find that happy medium and most importantly, connect with their clients. 

So how can you promote your product and brand while staying interesting, engaging and build trust from your customers and clients? The key is to recognize what is of value to your customers so that they never think of you as a “jerk.” You can see the answers in play at any event, the same answers I saw at the Basel Christmas Market:

1. Make your messaging all about the customer. What does your ideal customer NEED? What would delight your ideal customer? Make sure your product resonates with that need, and you will get more people on board to buy your product or service.

2. Make sure you clearly communicate how your product or service will move them forward. “Sales” is all about movement. People want to move forward, and when you can help them see how they will get there faster, or be more happy with your product or services, that will help you connect with the customer – and stay connected as a trusted partner.

3. Make it easy for your customers. You know how it is. You want something but the vendor makes it so difficult you finally give up! Pay attention to what hurdles lie between you and your customers – often some are effectively made by the way you do business or interact with your customers. When you see a hurdle, get rid of it. Always make sure you understand your customers’ journey and do your best to remove all obstacle for them.

Watch, listen, learn. Whether you are a large corporation or a small start-up, we can all learn from the natural styles of vendors at a Christmas market. 

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