What My Market Vendor Taught Me


Many business folks think that lowering prices is the only way to get more business and more customers. Well, think again. In many cases, price doesn’t even feature!

One of the clearest examples I can think of is my neighbourhood wet market. We get our fresh vegetables from this particular stall in the market although there are many other stalls around (I think I counted something like five or six different stalls selling fresh vegetables in that one tiny market).

Why? Auntie (that’s what we call her) doesn’t even have as much variety as the other stalls. Sometimes we end up buying the same type of vegetables we ate the week before – kai lan, baby choy sum, brinjal, long beans, French beans and broccoli! And we believe Auntie’s vegetables aren’t that cheap either but we’re her loyal customers, week after week!

Is there some magic formula at work here? Did she charm us?

The charm is in the relationship we have with her.

It’s the same relationship we have with our fishmonger’s wife, Mrs Gan.

Mrs Gan tells us which fish is fresh, which is worth buying and as she knows we do one whole week of marketing, she only lets us buy the freshest fish which we can freeze and keep for a whole week.

Always smiling, always helpful and always asking if we had had breakfast, Mrs Gan informs us when she has really fresh fish, or lets us know if the sardines, garoupa or mackerel comes from the big boats or if the prawns are organic or inorganic (useful tip: go for fresh marine prawns – they may look mangled but they’re tastier. Reared prawns, she says, are tasteless although they look cleaner and unbroken!).

The relationship that we have with both Auntie and Mrs Gan is one based on mutual trust, value and credibility.

We trust them because they offer us more than their fresh produce or fresh fish – they are looking out for our best interests. Auntie gives us fresh coriander, spring onions and cili padi even when we don’t ask for them! Mrs Gan used to give us sardines for our cat!

And how does this tie in with marketing and business?

If you establish a real relationship based on honesty, value and credibility with your customers, they’re yours forever.

They won’t shop around either because PRICE is never going to be an issue. What they value is something money can’t buy.

They value your honest opinions; they value your ability to deliver what others can’t.

Mrs Gan helps us gut and clean the fish we buy – we just let her know which we want and come back to collect the fish after breakfast and our fish are clean and gutted, ready to be rinsed and popped into the freezer.

Auntie gives out tips and recipes on cooking vegetables, going so far as to introduce us new ways of cooking and sometimes even tells us to try out this restaurant or restaurant!

So yes, we get lots more when we buy from Auntie and Mrs Gan. And it is this authentic experience which keeps us loyally their customers.

There’s no need to go on a price war if your competitors are doing it to annoy you – just raise the value that only you can offer. Focus on the relationship that you already have with your customers.

When you have these ingredients in place, pricing will never be an issue!

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