Break Out of Your Comfort Zone
By Lois K. Geller
It started with a phone call. A pleasant female voice asked, in delightfully accented English, did I want to speak about direct marketing in Istanbul?
The next thing I knew, Mike McCormick, our creative director, and I were relaxing in the business-class section of Turkish airlines. Nine hours later, we met the wonderful Meltem Karateke, president of IMI Conferences and the greatest hostess in the world.
Until then, I had only a vague idea of where Turkey is.
I wasn't at all sure I wanted to go there, but it was a new and exotic place, and I'm a big believer in trying new things.
Boy, am I glad I tried this new thing. Istanbul is a wonderful city, about twice the size of New York, and the people are terrific. You feel rich in Istanbul because US$1 buys about 1.4 million Turkish lira.
Michael and I spoke in three sessions to 250 Turkish businesspeople at Karateke's conference. A few days later, we met the director of the Turkish Export Board. Turkey is ready to do business.
They have carpets, of course, jewelry, magnificent textiles, very good beer and wine, outstanding food, and a can-do attitude about everything, including customer service. They also import tons of stuff for sale at Fifth Avenue/Rodeo Drive-style shopping districts.
They like Americans, and they definitely have a middle class and upper-middle class. Our hostess brought her family to meet us, and the kids wore Converse sneakers. One daughter had read "Anne of Green Gables" in English.
The Turks are a bit behind the curve in direct marketing, though. The samples I saw at the seminars looked like old-fashioned trade catalogs. They don't really have lists or lettershops. Telemarketing's getting hot, but it'll be a while before they get a do-not-call-list going.