The Footprints of Fabric Wholesale: Azam Cloth Market

The shopkeepers of Azam Cloth market pride themselves on, and they like to stress this vehemently, being a part of ‘the biggest cloth market in Asia.” While snaking your way through the many winding alleys lined with shops of various sizes you do tend to lose track of both time and space. The market is a collage of many small interlinked bazaars where the daylight doesn’t always seep in and the damp musty odor of history prevails.

Situated in the walled city of Lahore, the Azam cloth market is the hub that has been handling wholesale distribution of cloth and ready-to-wear for the last six decades. From khaddar to silk, ready- to-wear to clothing fabrics, casual wear to bridal wear, the market has something for every apparel retailer.

According to Mohd Amjad Sheikh, who has been in the wholesale apparel business since 1974, the Azam cloth market caters to a wide customer based both in Pakistan and abroad. “Retailers from all over Pakistan, Dubai, and UK visit us for their stock purchases. However, the recent security issues have had their impact on the business. Our customer base from India and Afghanistan has dwindled to almost zero. We hope once the situation improves retailers from all neighboring countries will find it comfortable to visit us.”

The merchants of the market are well versed in the history of the place, and every shopkeeper can recount how when the market was created and named. There was a small market near Wazir Khan Mosque; in 1953 when a road had to be widened the market was shifted to its current location by General Azam who gave his own name to the market. Over the decades, the small market extended and now has numerous interlinked blocks or bazaars all dealing in wholesaling of various types of clothing fabrics and lines.

How many interlinked bazaars are there in the market? There is no consensus as such but gathering from the comments of various shop owners the number must be somewhere between 15 and 20

‘It’s an Institution.’

All the bazaars of Azam market are linked and managed by a board of directors. “You won’t find a more well managed institution in Lahore. We have our own constitution with a specific set of rules. Every bazaar has its own president who in turn is answerable to the president of the board. Elections of the board are held every three years to elect resident of the board. Security and administrative decisions made by the board are binding upon the market community,” the business community of the market proudly spells out details of the ‘institution.’ Fire extinguishers, security guards and clean lanes show an active involvement of the board that runs on self-help basis. Every shop owner pays monthly charges of about 200-300 rupees to form a combined pool that helps meet the maintenance expenses.

Nawab Bazaar: The oldest block of Azam Cloth Market

While it is difficult to explore every bazaar in a single visit, every first time visitor should stroll in the Nawab bazaar to get a feel of the place. Nawab bazaar is the first and the oldest block of Azam cloth market. Its open cool spaces invite the customers to linger and shop at their own pace. The shop owners are friendly and there is an overall ambiance of good cheer.

‘What’s in the name?’

Two different versions prevail in the market about the history of block’s name. One interesting story traces origins of the name to the first generation of business men who started their businesses in this market.

According to this version, this first generation of wholesalers liked to arrive late in the markets and opened their shops around noon. So people started calling them nawabs (nawab connotes a laid-back almost royal attitude) and the market came to be known as Nawab bazaar.

Javed sahib, the president of Nawab bazaar, however, strongly disagrees: “My, father, Haji Nawab Deen, was the first generation of wholesalers who established businesses in this block, and the bazaar is name after my father,” he states.

Whatever the real history of the name, the different versions add to the aura of antiquity surrounding the market.

It’s a Man’s World

The wholesale business is dominated by men. Not only there are no female shop owners but you encounter female customers. Occasionally you can run into a lone female retailer traversing the narrow alleys of the market. Razia is one such brave woman I met while combing through the glittering, colorful shops of women’s apparel.

“I have nine children and my husband is a ‘home-tailor’ who works at his clients’ places. To make ends meet, I have started this business. I purchase ready-to-wear female kurtis from this market and my husband takes them to his clients’ houses and sells them. We get to save 100 to 200 rupees on every kurta. It isn’t much but it helps,” Razia explains her ‘business model.’

First Time visitors

Whether you are a retailer, a casual visitor, or a customer who wants to get good bargains, try to heading for the market between 9:30 am to 10:30 am. This is the time when the traffic is not too heavy and it is still quiet in the throbbing, congested lanes of the market. Visiting the market early will save you half of the hassle of long traffic jams. The other half, while going back, you will have to bear. Another advantage of visiting the market early is that once you are there you can shop at leisure and will even have time to haggle with the shopkeepers. As the day advances the business activity picks up pace, the market gets too crowded.

Parking your vehicle is now easy as there is a huge parking plaza near the market. However, the plaza doesn’t have a lift and once you park the car you will have to walk all the way down and then walk all the way up to get the car. It is bit of an exertion and would help if you are in the mood for some exercise.

Azam Cloth Market is surrounded by many other wholesale and retail markets, and while you are there you can have quick round of the other markets and schedule your next visit to one you like.

How to Kick-Start Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy

Developing a B2B content marketing strategy that aligns content messaging with your target audience is no small task. In fact, 88% of B2B marketers currently use content marketing as part of their overall marketing strategy, yet only 32% have a content marketing strategy.

The development of a fundamentally customer-focused marketing strategy will blaze a trail for a B2B content marketing strategy to reach new customer engagement and acquisition goals. By ensuring value is delivered to your customers, the B2B content marketing strategy will fall into place.

Here are a few key tenets of B2B content marketing strategy to kick start the process for you and your team:

1. Determining your content point of view. Here’s a hint: Make it customer-focused.

2. Ensure once you start executing on content creation, you can measure your efforts. Another hint: Make sure it’s driving a tangible business outcome as well.

3. Align your team’s talents with the type of content being created. Last hint: Not all marketers think the same way.

Customer-Focused Point of View for Content Pays Off

Content marketing strategies developed to engage customers with your brand start by aligning content with the point of view of your reader. Delivering information both that the customer sees as valuable and that aligns with your brand should be the underpinnings of every B2B content marketing strategy.

In a recent study from Forrester Research, they provided the example of Kraft Foods launching a site (kraftrecipes.com) to share recipes and food ideas using their products. By shaping purchase decisions, encouraging buyers through the journey through value-driven content, Kraft Foods had buyers that were all-the-more inclined to purchase cream cheese for “that casserole recipe I saw online”. They delivered value to customers by encouraging a purchase decision as opposed to pushing a coupon.

With a customer-focused point of view regardless of the buyer type (B2C and B2B buyers), position your content to deliver value to your customers. Similarly, through customer-centered content, you can actively shape purchase decisions through a B2B content marketing strategy that drives leads which, in turn, fuels revenue.

Prioritize and Set Content Goals

In a recent survey of content marketing maturity, Forrester found that 52% of B2B marketers were in the early stages of assembling a content strategy and executing it. While B2B marketers seem to be embarking on a more customer-focused approach to content development, a key tenet to a closed loop model for your B2B content marketing strategy is tracking buyer interactions with content at each stage in the purchase life cycle.

Providing buyers with content that is useful and valuable to read, watch, or interact that encourages forward movement in the buying cycle is a B2B marketer’s dream. And yet if those interactions are not measurable, how do you know your content strategy and supporting tactics are effective?

To kick start your B2B content marketing strategy that produces customer-focused content, ensure your team is taking a practical approach to content creation aligned with short-term goals. Meeting and rewarding these short term goals will push your team to drive increasingly buyer-aligned content. This will inevitably result in customer interactions that contribute to increased revenue. These longer-term objectives ensure content drives tangible business outcomes.

Align Talent with Content Creation

Balance your team to align strengths with content creation requirements. Buyer-aligned content that captivates, inspires and challenges is a different focus for most B2B marketers. Marketers whose background include a mix of product marketing, sales positions and even direct marketing may be challenged to make this shift.

Climbing to new heights requires planning and preparation but it also mandates physical and mental stamina. Applying that principle to strategy development versus plan rollout and execution, B2B marketers need to consider skill assessment and training as a critical tenet of B2B content marketing strategy. When the team is ready to hit the trail, talent needs to be aligned with a type of content creation that sees through the buyer’s point of view, interweaves a compelling story and is appropriate to the content application.

So, begin with your team to consider what content will deliver value to your customers. With this customer-focused lens, a B2B content marketing strategy will achieve the following:

  • Address buyer concerns to engage
  • Motivate them through the buyer journey
  • Build support from bottom-line-thinking executives.

Why Word of Mouth Marketing Strategy Is the Most Powerful Method for Growing Your Business

Sometimes, marketing can be a risky investment, especially true if you find that you try all the famous tools and strategies, but receive no results. Luckily, one of the most effective marketing strategies is practically free – and that’s word of mouth marketing.

Before making a decision to buy a product or service, people typically ask a family member or a friend for suggestions. They don’t rely on commercials. Word of mouth is the fastest way for people to get information. What is even more important, we perceive our friends’ and family’s experiences as the most trustworthy source of information.

Within the last few years, marketers have focused mostly on boosting the number of social media fans instead of connecting with them. Having a few hundred satisfied fans who love your products is far more effective than thousands who’ve only “liked” your website to win something.

WHY A WORD OF MOUTH MARKETING STRATEGY IS SO POWERFUL

Word of mouth marketing is the oldest and the most original social media platform. It is the most valuable form of marketing proven to drive the highest sales for companies. For this reason alone, no marketer shoulder overlook it.

Whether you are choosing a restaurant, smartphone or a hand cream, you will often highly value a suggestion from a close friend, neighbor or a co-worker. Why? Because traditional marketing strategies such as TV and newspaper ads aren’t as trustworthy as the actual people in your community.

Despite the numerous media platforms available nowadays, verbal communication about a certain product or brand is the best way to expand your business. Once a person passes the word about a certain product to their friends, they are much more likely to become loyal fans and regular consumers.

A word of mouth marketing strategy provides a long-term benefit for your business. When a consumer purchase is based on a prior referral, they often buy more in comparison with consumers who find products through conventional marketing. These consumers usually stick with your products or brand longer than others.

Moreover, when referred consumers communicate with their friends about your products and services, the value of the first referral spreads even more. Naturally, if these consumers are satisfied with your products, building a high quality brand should be your next business step.

Building your brand may be somewhat challenging if you are developing a small business. Brand building may prove demanding even if you have a franchise, especially if your competitors have already established their spot. Luckily, a good word of mouth marketing strategy can help consumers develop a positive feeling about your brand really quickly.

Once you establish your brand, a word of mouth, marketing strategy becomes a valuable method to expand your business and increase your profits. In comparison with the cost of a consistent conventional marketing campaign, which involves newspapers, radio and television, referrals are almost free.

BUILD UP YOUR WORD OF MOUTH MARKETING METHOD

You may have a great product to sell, but if consumers don’t know about it, you can’t turn it into profit. It is always a good idea to keep track of what people are saying about your products online, but there is a lot more to it than just creating your Twitter and Facebook profiles. Effective and successful word of mouth marketing requires serious thinking and lots of hard work.

Social platforms are the easiest way to get in direct communication with your target consumers. Due to the fact that social media has rapidly grown in the past few years, nowadays over seventy percent of all internet users use social media.

Almost forty percent of social media users, have shared brand-promoting content. This includes sharing information about a certain brand or product on their Facebook wall. Such content sharing is highly valuable since it inspires a great mass of people to talk about this brand or product, and eventually become consumers.

TARGET THE OPINION-MAKERS

The success of the word of mouth marketing method can increase even more if you take the time to win over the opinion-makers in your community. Opinion-makers are people who can influence a mass of people and shape the creation of opinions. This includes public figures, trendsetters, bloggers and journalists. They are the active voice in a community – and often speak out and give advice to others.

Since you want to reach as many people as possible, opinion-makers can be of great benefit for your business. They can help you build your brand successfully through word of mouth marketing. Therefore, it’s a good idea to make a list of the opinion-makers that appeal to your targeted audience and include them when promoting your brand.

MAKE AN IMPACT – BECOME A THOUGHT LEADER

Engaging the opinion-makers to promote your brand is great, but becoming a thought influencer is even better. You know what makes your business unique, so go ahead and tell people about it. Get the word of mouth process rolling by communicating with your audience.

You can reach your potential consumers through social media platforms, blogs or even at a conference. Choose the medium that supports your ideas best and establish a strategy to increase your influence in your community. Increasing your personal social influence will help you promote your brand more successfully.

WORD OF MOUTH IS THE KEY MARKETING STRATEGY

Word of mouth should be a key aspect of your marketing strategy. Many companies use a word of mouth marketing strategy, encouraging their happy customers to promote their products. It is crucial to provide consumers with a great product or service, so that they happily share their experience with others.

If consumers are satisfied with the quality of your products and services, they will be willing to share their experience with their close ones. Their family, friends, co-workers and even random people that read their tweets or blog posts, or ask them for advice, will certainly consider their suggestions.

A successful word of mouth marketing method promotes your business and convinces consumers to buy your products. By buying your products, people should be convinced that they are joining special ranks, and that your brand products or services will define their identity in a more positive way.

Whether planned or not, a word of mouth marketing strategy is well worth the effort. It is still considered the most powerful and influential type of marketing communication. If you put your energy into this effective marketing method, your company can become a beneficiary of word of mouth and build a successful brand. Remember that your brand is only as good as consumers claim it is.