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Content Marketing – Egyptian Style

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I visited Egypt for the first time last week to celebrate the marriage of a very dear family member. Based on stories from friends and family, I had a vague idea of what to expect when we arrived in terms of tourism and traffic. I was unprepared, however, to meet some of the best and most unconventional marketers ever during my 4 short days there.

Everyone wanted to sell us something. After being warned by Egyptian friends that we were going to be assaulted by sales pitches all day long, we had our guard up and gave in to none of the charming and nearly persuasive bids for our tourist cash.

With one exception.

After touring the Pyramids in horse buggies, we stopped to catch our breath at the tour operator’s office before embarking on our next adventure (everything in Egypt is an adventure). As we waited for everyone in the group to use the bathroom, rest sore feet, and ready themselves to move on, one of the operator’s employees, Ahmad, offered us tea. Most refused his first offer, but he smiled and insisted, “this isn’t regular tea. This is tea with mint. The national drink of Egypt! Part of the famous Egyptian hospitality.” Of course, we couldn’t turn down that hospitality.

As he was serving the tea, Ahmad began telling us some stories from Egypt’s history that we hadn’t heard before. He spoke of Pharaohs and Boy Kings, of curses and love lost. He captivated us with tales from Egypt’s rich history and golden years.

As he spoke about King Ramesses II, Ahmad pulled out a tiny vial of oil and passed it around the room. This was a fragrance created in Ramesses’ honor, he claimed, and its tones were meant to capture his allure, power, and dominance. As the oil was dabbed on our wrists, he continued regaling us with Ramesses’ accomplishments. The scent was stunning and I was so enthralled with the history, I jumped in to ask him if it was for sale.  He ignored me.

Ahmad continued his history lessons and actually passed out another perfume vial accompanied by even more stories. At this point, I was itching to get my hands on one of these perfumes. I love buying authentic souvenirs on my trips, as opposed to cheesy ashtrays of landmarks, so this seemed to be just the thing. I needed to know if it was for sale so I interrupted him again, only this time more firmly.

“Of course we can provide you with this famous oil, madam,” he smoothly replied. Note that he did not mention the word sale. In fact, I only confirmed he was actually selling the stuff when I forced a price out of him. At that point, I was so convinced about buying it I did not care what it was going to cost. Pleasantly enough, it was reasonably priced.

As soon as I had the oil and the money had changed hands, it all clicked. I took a step back and put my marketing hat on. This guy was a content marketing PRO and had successfully snagged me with his technique. Let’s look at the tactics he used:

  1. Target a captive audience: We were there to use the bathroom, nothing more. But Ahmad knew that after seeing the marvels of the Pyramids, we were probably hungry for more history and he capitalized on that desire.
  2. Establish yourself as a credible source of information: Ahmad was already in a good position to do this, as he worked for the operator with whom we had just completed a tour of the Pyramids. He solidified his position as an expert by warming us up with historical stories that were unconnected to the perfume he aimed to sell. He hooked us with his knowledge.
  3. Content marketing is not about the hard sell: Never once was it mentioned that the tour operator had any products for sale. While the shelves in the office were lined with perfume bottles and tiny souvenirs, there was not a single sign indicating that these products were for sale. Instead, the sales technique was so slick that I was almost prying the bottle out of Ahmad’s hand before he was finished telling his stories. This is the kind of impact you want – people begging you for your service before you even offer it.

Think of your potential customers as wary tourists in Egypt: cynical of sales pitches and hard to part with their money. In this day and age, audiences are so bombarded with advertising messages that they have grown adept at tuning them out. Instead of trying to force your way in, capture their attention instead with the metaphorical sweet scent of Egyptian perfume oil.

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