What Bourbon Has Taught Me About Business

by Sara Ahlgrim

What Bourbon Has Taught Me About Business

I’m an avid bourbon enthusiast. I grew up in Kentucky and have been surrounded by culture largely influenced by whiskey heritage. I’ve watched the “bourbon boom” gain traction over the past few years and continue to expand. Each time I visit the store to pick up a bottle, I’m met with so many new choices as distilleries continue to pop up on the market. Each one of these offerings claims to tweak and alter the process just so, making them unique and special. The truth is…they all do the same thing: make bourbon.

As I stand in the aisle reviewing my choices, I glance past the newly founded “craft” brands in favor of an established favorite. When there are nearly 100 options to choose from in a decent sized liquor store, why should I care enough to choose something new over my normal selection? Why should I choose X brand over Y? I often find myself wondering…do these whiskey brands, or anyone for that matter, ever ask the question “why should anyone care?”

This is a tough question for brands, for sure, but it’s a question that needs to be asked. It will cause tension. It will ruffle some feathers. But whether you’re launching a new product, promoting a service, hosting an event, or forming a new brand altogether, you MUST ask yourself and your team this question. After all, if you don’t poke holes in your own ideas or practices in the development stage, then someone else will. What’s worse, they’ll do this after you’ve spent time, money, and resources putting your brand out there. Save yourself and your brand the trouble and put your idea to the test beforehand.

It can be difficult to wrestle with the answers to these questions, especially when you believe in your cause more than anyone else. You live and breathe it every day, of course YOU care about it! But will anyone else?

Here are 3 ways to give your customer a reason to care:

  1. Tell your story – Let your customer know who you are and what you stand for. Tell them your philosophy and your mission. Communicate your passion and expertise. Building this identity and tying it to your brand helps customers relate to you. It tells them what sets you apart from the other guys and why you’re unique, special, and the right choice for them.
  2. Answer the question “What’s in it for them?” – Tell potential customers about anything that your brand does that is an added benefit. Are you environmentally friendly? Great! Are you locally owned? Awesome! Can they participate in an aspect of your marketing that’s interactive and fun? That’s so cool! Whatever your practice is, let people know what you’re doing. This only adds to your brand’s personality while also creating the sense that they’re getting something extra by choosing you over your competition.
  3. Reward loyalty – You’ve got customers, but how do you entice them to come back for repeat business? Addressing this can be anything from sending them a discount code on their birthday or anniversary to segmenting their purchase behavior so that you can serve them messaging that’s relevant to their interests. Maybe you should consider a loyalty program that rewards repeat business. Perhaps it’s a preferred customer rate or special treatment. Rewarding their loyalty lets them know that you care and will keep them coming back.

These are great, thought provoking topics to help explore your brand and dig deeper into how you communicate it with your customer. But don’t stop there! Keep going, ask: Why WON’T this work? What will customers dislike? What are the pitfalls? How is what we’re doing different from what everyone else is doing?

And be honest!