I guess it’s about time I start touching on the other half of the title of my blog. I’ve written quite a bit about various aspects of marketing, but not touched on how it applies specifically to the retail beverage industry.
I suggest using a combination of technology, excellent people, and smart techniques to create a two-way communication with all your customers and potential customers. I would get a good, inexpensive contact management software package (like Maximizer, in a shout-out to my west-coast peeps). I would then start collecting as much information about my customers as I could: favourite drink (obviously), birthday, names of family members and friends, activities and interests, career, previous visits, etc. Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t make everyone who walks trough the door fill out a questionnaire. The data would be collected over time, by simple observation. Some guy is getting drinks bought for him because it’s his birthday? Make a note. A bunch of ladies come in after their weekly softball game? Put it into the software.
Once you have gathered information about a person, you can begin to communicate with them electronically on a 1 to 1 basis. Hopefully, you can get permission from him or her to send them emails about topics you know they will find interesting. Sometimes, the topic may include some overt marketing, like: “Hey Bob, swing by on Thursday and I’ll buy you a Chivas to celebrate your birthday!” But it may be just a relationship-building thing with no (immediate) revenue generation: “Andréa, I found this great Web site about acoustic guitar pickups, and I know that interests you…” There’s nothing sneaky or underhanded here – it’s called looking out for people and doing them favours.
Over time, those casual relationships will start to become friendships. It won’t be, “Stephen, that guy who runs the pub by the lake,” it will be, “Stephen, my friend who runs the pub.” And when you have to make decisions about where to spend your scarce recreation time and scarce entertainment dollars, wouldn’t you rather do it with friends?