How to Run an Effective In-Store Liquor Sampling

Running an in-store liquor sampling sounds pretty easy right?  Simply position a couple of beautiful models to hand out free samples of your product and you’re golden!  

…Not quite.

Just because you are holding a free liquor sampling doesn’t mean it’s all fun and games–you have a product to sell!  You need to see results, otherwise what was the point?  Sure, consumers may now be more aware of your brand, but did they actually feel compelled to purchase your product?  Why is your vodka, rum, whiskey etc… better than the brands consumers already patronize?  What is your unique selling proposition?

If you are going to invest valuable resources into an in-store sampling, we will assume that you aren’t only looking for one-time buyers.  You want to grow your brand, grow your sales and generate return customers.  This is easier said than done, so you need to make sure you set yourself up for success before launching the event.  

As a brand:

Know what you want to achieve  

Before you jump into an in-store liquor sampling, it is critical to know what you want to get out of the event.  This will help you determine a budget, find your target market, select an appropriate location and guide your research.  Before you run a tasting you should have a pretty good idea of what kind of people you hope to target and if they frequent the location you’ve selected.

You also need to know how much product to stock at the sampling so understanding the in-store tendencies will help you gauge foot-traffic for the tasting.  You don’t want to show up shorthanded, but you also need to have a limit for how much product you are willing to sample to maximize your ROI (Return On Investment).

Know your brand

What is your brand’s message?  If you don’t have a clear vision or understanding of what your brand’s overall message is, finding the right Brand Ambassadors to reflect that message can be very difficult.  Is your brand funny, laid back, classy, energetic, youthful, elegant etc…?  Whatever your message is, having clarity in this area will greatly increase the chances of pairing experienced and well-trained models with your in-store sampling.  You need to have Brand Ambassadors that know your product and brand, but how can they if your understanding is not clear?   

As an agency:

Research the product

Consumers are more educated than ever these days so they don’t want to hear the same old, same old.  They aren’t only concerned with how the product tastes–they want to know how it’s made, where it comes from, who are the people behind the labels and if the brand is authentic.  Creating a story around a product is a great way to generate a unique selling proposition.  Some questions to ask while researching the product include:

  • What can this brand say about its product that no other brand can?
  • What cocktails can you make with it?
  • How is it made?
  • Are there unique ingredients that may peak consumers interests?
  • How did the product come about?
    • Where did the journey begin?
  • Are there any prominent social figures that use/endorse the product?

Talk to your customers, not at them

Fostering an engaging brand experience is a great way to draw consumers over to your tasting booth.  Settling by simply saying “want a free sample?” will quickly make your booth seem like just another tasting booth.  You need to make it an engaging experience by going beyond the commonalities of a free tasting.  Ask consumers what they are specifically shopping for, what they are making for dinner that evening, or what special occasion they are shopping for.  

Ask genuine questions and then explain how your product would be perfect for what they need.  Consumers appreciate when you start by asking for their input or their needs instead of being constantly sold to.  Yes, the goal is to sell product, but nurturing sales is a much more delicate creature than it may seem.  Using the same worn out promotional techniques over and over is a great way to get your product lost in the crowd.

For all involved:

Know how to measure event success

What’s the point of running an in-store liquor tasting, or any event for that matter, if you have no way to measure its success?  How will you know if your time, energy and money was invested into something useful or not?   Understanding what you want to achieve with any event is a great start, but having tangible, measurable outcomes for an event is the only way to know if it worked.

Questions to consider:

  • How much product was given away during the sampling?
  • How many sales were made the day of the sampling?  Did you convert 30%, 40%?
    • How did sales from weeks & months prior at this location compare to those that followed the event?
  • How did this event measure up to past events?
  • Did the event draw any media coverage?
  • Was the event shared on social media?
  • Did you provide a way for consumers to give you their email addresses or other contact info?
    • Drawings, contests, newsletter signups?
  • Do you have a method to attain customer feedback from the event?

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