Monday, July 18, 2011

Marketing Micro Spirits (Or Anything, For That Matter).

It came up recently on a site frequented by micro-distillers whether or not brand-imprinted golf balls are a good marketing vehicle or a waste of money. After several producers offered opinions, pro and con, I submitted this:

"There are no good or bad marketing tactics. (Giving away branded premiums such as golf balls is a tactic.) There are only tactics that support and advance your brand proposition (good) and tactics that do not (waste of money). The same exact branded golf balls may be a great tactic for one company and a terrible waste of money for another, depending on their brand propositions and strategic plans."

These questions flare up from time to time. What's interesting is that when the question is posed as it was originally -- "Golf Balls, Good or Bad" -- the opinions come flying. Then I make a statement like the one above and the discussion stops. That I seem to be good at closing discussions is interesting but beside the point. The question this raises is, how many of today's fledgling craft distillers have given any real thought to marketing? And how many have any grasp of basic marketing principles?

A few do. In some cases, at least one of the company's principals has a marketing background. Some are just naturals. Salesmanship can be taught but for some it's a matter of instinct. If you have talented sales people in your family or if you have been acquainted with them in a past business relationship, and learned their lessons, you may have a good grasp of the principles without being able to articulate them formally.

But I can tell from some of these discussions that in many cases, the people starting small distilleries haven't given the marketing of their products a second of thought. In a few cases, I've talked to small distillers who are hostile to the very idea of marketing, as somehow contrary to the purity of their endeavor. "A superior product doesn't need marketing."

Good luck with that.

Here are the basics of salesmanship and, by extension marketing, as I have distilled them down from 40 years in the business.
  • Learn everything you can about your customers and prospective customers.
  • Listen and let them tell you what they want.
  • Tell them what you heard.
  • Give them what they asked for.
Yeah, it is that simple.

Sales, marketing, product development, pricing, and distribution are all pieces to the same puzzle. You can't manage any of them in isolation from the others. Trying to do so is a good formula for failure.


Gary said...

The basics of sales as you listed them are right on the money Chuck. What's different is that we lovers of spirits are easy customers. No one has to try to coerce the information out of us, we're more than willing to tell you exactly what we want without any hesitation. Listening is always the key. Give us what we ask for and we're yours, no golf balls necessary.

Jordan said...

At least with respect to spirits, making sure that bloggers can get their hands on samples seems pretty key. There are plenty of bottles I've bought purely because bloggers I respect have given them the thumbs up.