(This article will be focused on the Irish market and on a specific product, but the strategy can be easily adapted to any other market or product.)
Most of the tourists in Ireland do one thing when they go to a bar, they sit at the counter and ask the bartender:
“What would you recommend?” (what whiskey in our case)
That is understandable and unless you are a whiskey expert or enthusiast, when you go to Dublin, this is what you are going to ask too. It is the person on the other side of the counter’s job to say:
“The X whiskey from X company is the one you need to try, because of this and that”
It is simple as that. What your company needs to do is to make sure the first or at least one of the products the staff will recommend is yours. You are company X.
No advertising will influence the bartender or waiter to do so, they most likely will recommend the whiskey that they like or the one that has been on the shelf for months and they need to get rid of. So the question now is, how do you make sure they recommend your whiskey?
The answer is, to turn your attention to the staff and by staff, I mean the people who are making the sales, not the big name who owns the place. They, of course, are important to be looked after too, because they are the ones that are placing your product in the establishment, but they are not the ones who will sell it to the customers. And if your product does not get sold to their customers, no matter how many golf trips you take the management to, if they do not make a profit from your product, they will replace it with something that will make the sales.
This is an amazing marketing strategy that I have learned from experience rather than something I have read or studied in college. It comes from my work experience as a bartender and a waiter in one of the busiest pubs in Dublin. I first noticed it a few years back when a small whiskey distillery was trying to get into the market.
The whiskey brand is called Teeling and it is the only distilled in Dublin. I will not go deep into their history but it is an old name that was recently reborn (their new logo consist a phoenix for that reason). It is owned by the two Teeling brothers who invested over ten million euros in a new distillery based in Dublin. Their main products are three whiskeys: single malt, single grain and small batch.
The pub where I am a bartender in a tourist landmark and it is visited by a huge number of tourists from all over the world, which makes it the perfect spot to place a product like a whiskey Teeling are selling.
You can imagine how much whiskey the establishment is selling to the tourists and when Teeling’s competition consists names with the likes of Jameson, Bushmills and Tullamore Dew, it is not an easy job to get the bar and floor staff to recommend the brand ahead of them, especially if the staff is new and has little to no knowledge about whiskeys.
The trick question here is:
“How do I get the staff in this busy place to recommend my brand ahead or at least along with the big brands on the shelf?”
The first thing you should do is, get them to know the brand. The best way to do that is to talk to the management and organise a whiskey tasting for the staff. It does not have to be the whole staff, but make sure they are the influencers, the ones that like whiskey and like talking about it . They will spread the word for you to the rest of the staff. If it is a good product, as Teeling turned out to be, they will start recommending it.
Next step is, make sure the staff understands how your product is different than the rest, what is that unique quality that no other brand in the market has. By doing this, chances are it will be the only thing the staff will remember because it is unique because they have not heard it before from any other brand. In our case, the uniqueness of the Teeling brand is that it is the only whiskey that is distilled in Dublin, it is still family-owned, things that Jameson, Bushmills and Tullamore do not pose.
So imagine Friday night, or any night for that matter, you are a barkeeper at a busy Irish pub, the bar is packed, at least five people are trying to get your attention to order, by waving credit cards, money, underwear, torches, basically anything to annoy a busy bartender and there is a couple sitting at the bar. One of them grabs your attention and says:
“Ok, we are from a land far far away and we want to try something that we haven’t tried yet and that is really good”
Now, since you have some knowledge and you like at least one of the three Teeling whiskeys, which I am sure you will, and you do not have any time to explain every single whiskey you like, there is a big chance that you will recommend Teeling Single Malt for example. You might name two or three whiskeys, quickly, but because you like that Teeling and you know what unique quality the brand has that the customers will love, you will go for it and just say:
“If you haven’t tried the Teeling single malt, you should, it is really smooth and they are the only whiskey that is distilled in Dublin.”
Believe me, that is a quick sell made right there with just one sentence because that is all you have the time for before the thirsty hyenas start howling at you for pints.
In the beginning, I did say that Teeling was the first that showed me the strategy, but by that I mean they were the first that did it the right way, or at least got the closest. The very first experience I had, with a product tasting/knowledge strategy, was the wine or some other whiskey, cannot even remember, which just goes to show you, where I am heading with this. The one thing Teeling did better than the others, that includes big whiskey brands, who are spending an insane amount of money on marketing and advertising, was consistency.
Consistency is what everyone lacks. Especially in an industry like the hospitality and retail, where the turnover of staff is very fast, you need to make sure you do something like tasting every two or three months, keep reminding them, why they should sell your product, why is it better for their customers.
Take it a step further, take the staff twice a year to the distillery as a reward, show them how the product is made, give them a free drink. Do not wait for the management or staff to ask you that they want to try your product, because they would like to know what they are selling to the customers. The staff will sell the products they know, the products they can communicate to their customers, the products they were introduced to, they will not sell something they are not sure if it is good or bad.