The Distillery I Started Taught Me How To Sell Alcohol To People

  • My co-founder and I founded a distillery company in 2017 to reinvigorate authentic flavor in spirits with local grains.
  • I learned a lot about the way customers buy alcohol and discover new brands.
  • Here are some of my biggest takeaways from spending hours getting to know shoppers at liquor stores.

This article is based on a conversation as described. Sean’s Rage, 37, founder of Fox and Seeker Distilled Goods, spends time selling his product in liquor stores. Edited for length and clarity.

More than a decade ago, I became interested in the liquor industry after watching a documentary about a group of winemakers in Sonoma Valley. I had an engineering and manufacturing background that helped me learn to brew at home.

I was fascinated by how you can create different flavors using grains, and I started learning more about spirits. My co-founder and I founded Fox and Seeker Distilled Goods, a distillery company, in 2017 with the goal of reinvigorating authentic flavor in spirits using only local grains.

We sell vodka, gin and whiskey, but what makes our products different is that they are made from scratch in our own distillery.

My role changes from day to day, but I’m mostly responsible for marketing and operations. Not only do we sell through our own tasting room in Texas, we also distribute in the US at retail stories. Since we are a relatively new brand, I spend Thursday to Saturday promoting our spirit at different liquor stores.

We are currently a wholesale company and 80% of our time is spent building our retail footprint, so our in-store tastings can account for 30-50% of our sales each month.

I see a lot because I spend more than 15 hours a week in stores. Here are some interesting takeaways.

Many customers believe in false marketing

The biggest challenge of selling in a store is confronting the marketing myths surrounding a particular style of liquor.

For example, we are constantly asked how many times our vodka has been distilled. People have been misled by other liquor brands’ advertisements that more distillation means better quality, but that’s not the truth. It’s just a marketing gimmick.

Respecting a potential customer’s perception and misinformation while at the same time trying to educate them on liquor production is always a challenge.

Another good piece of advice is to check the label for a production statement as to where the spirit actually comes from. It is illegal to claim that a brand comes from a particular distillery unless the distillation is actually done there.

You meet all kinds of people inside the stores

During in-store tastings, I talk to a variety of people, including famous athletes, aspiring rappers, homeless individuals, and families purchasing reunion supplies. This is probably the biggest joy: You never know who you’ll meet.

But the dark side is people who come because they are alcoholics. They come to me for a free sample and then go and get whatever they can to fix it. It’s discouraging for me.

But not as often as people think. I can say that less than 5% of the people I meet are addicted to alcohol; 5% in-store for the first time to stock up for large lots. Everyone else is somewhere in the middle.

Most of my customers are people I see as in and out or casual shoppers. They usually walk into the store with an idea of ​​exactly what they want. Some are open to chatting and trying a new brand.

Over the years, we’ve begun to see which stores we should focus more on because customers there seem more open to new brands.

Buying behavior is often associated with demographics and trends

In my mid-30s to mid-50s, I’ve generally started to see that people living in both suburbs and higher-density areas are more open to trying new brands of alcohol. However, this audience is often less likely to buy when they first meet us, so it usually takes longer to turn them into a potential customer.

Inflation has affected people’s decision making

Last year, I noticed that with inflation, the purchasing habits of customers changed. Fox and Seeker spirits range from $19.99 to $44.99. People started asking more questions about our spirits to justify the value, whether it’s the size of the bottle, the price, or sometimes they just don’t want to buy another bottle of vodka or gin until they’ve finished the house.

If we enter recession next year, value-driven buying behavior will continue.

In 2008, during the recession, I noticed that people were spending their money on more established liquor brands; people didn’t want to put their money into a bottle they didn’t trust anyway.

No marketing works better than one-on-one conversations

As the founder of a new distillery, no marketing tactic will help you get more sales than being in stores. We are constantly competing with brands endorsed by big names or celebrities. They spend a lot of money on their marketing and we probably can’t match that. There’s also a lot of noise on social media, but after all, the best way to create a new liquor brand is to meet all kinds of customers one-on-one at these stores.

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