Jackie Huba

Spreading the word offline


Marketers may be obsessed with social media these days, but spirits marketer Maker’s Mark continues to use offline tactics to build loyalty and help evangelists spread the word. 

I’ve been a Maker’s Mark Ambassador for a few years, and last week I received a personalized note card along with a stack of business cards with my name on them as a reminder of my ambassadorship. They are the same cards you receive when you sign up to be an ambassador. The note was signed by President Bill Samuels Jr. It’s very old-school from a company with a lot of old-world charm. 

We interviewed Bill back in 2006 and he told us stories of customers at bars who offer to buy Maker’s for new friends they just met, throw down their Ambassador card on the bar, and say “I’ll get this round. I’m part of the company.” When you give loyal customers the tools to spread the word, and if the opportunity arises, they will.

Listen to our full interview with Bill Samuels and his concept of “marketing without fingerprints” by clicking on the podcast icon.

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13 Responses to “Spreading the word offline”

  1. Mark Combs says:

    One interesting thing we did about 2 years ago is to make a list of all possible ways we can touch our prospective clients (from online, to email, to writing books, speaking, etc). Most of them turned out to be offline….specifically right now direct mail seems to be pretty effective.

    Oh, one other thing that has been awesomely effective for our company is to completely customize our materials to the potential client (their logo, colors, message based upon their industry, etc). Appt ratio goes up 6X

  2. I’m primarily an on-line marketer but…if the campaign needs to build WOM buzz…the only way to do that is offline. I’m thankful to have an ambassador friend who brought this program to light a few months ago…and got me hooked on Makers 46.

  3. Jodi says:

    Just so I understand, do the cards get you free drinks at bars?

  4. I so agree with this! I’ve been a Makers Amabassador for several years and love the program. I wrote about this on our blog a couple months ago. They definitely have a great program model! (http://zephyr47.com/2010/07/makers-mark-ambassadors/)

    Love your blog!

    Brian Hansford
    Zephyr 47

  5. Jackie Huba says:

    Sorry if that was confusing. The cards are just personalized business cards; they don’t get you free drinks. That’s the funny part: these Ambassadors are buying Maker’s drinks for folks they meet at bars just because they want others to try a bourbon that they love.

  6. Tracy says:

    In today’s 3G and 4G world, it’s nice to see companies taking the time to rewind every once in a while to actually spread word about themselves through a much more personal medium. Many marketing firms, this day in age, spend so much time trying to figure out how to better force themselves on their consumers through social media networks, that they often times actually end up over looking those consumers who are actually purchasing their products. When someone has a friend who is enthusiastic about a product, it is much more likely that that someone will try the product based solely on their friend’s recommendation than if the same message were to come from a less intimate medium.

  7. Carl Smith says:

    I love this idea of the ambassador card. Does it have any reference to their website or online media?

    How does the ambassador program work? Not getting free drinks is understandable on a lot of levels, but do they give any incentives? Even if it’s just being part of a special community?


  8. Eric Gohs says:

    I agree 100% that the personal touches like this can make all the difference. While there are a bunch of great ways to do things in the digital space, don’t forget the power of something physical and tangible. We launched a new line of clothing called Lands’ End Canvas last year and have been sending handwritten thank you cards on every initial order – our goal is to help build a loyal customer base for a new brand. And daily, I’ll see a twitpic or a blog post where the customer has actually taken the time to share their thoughts on it. Example from just the other day: http://bit.ly/SocialSonya

    Those are the things they mention to their friends. It does require effort, but it certainly helps create a closer connection with the brand/company that extends beyond the product or service they offer.

  9. Jackie Huba says:

    The Ambassador is a free program for people who are fans of Maker’s Mark bourbon. There are no incentives to join. But you do get on their mailing list, they send you a welcome package with these cards. You also get your name engraved on a plaque that is on a barrel of bourbon in the historic distillery that ages for 6 years. They have a yearly reunion in Loretto, Kentucky and also host regional events. I think the real value is connecting with others who like the bourbon too.

  10. Renee Malove says:

    This is a great post, for so many reasons. First and foremost, the fact that someone got to pull out a business card and say, “Hey, I’m part of that company” is just…awesome. I hope they appreciate what a great team of ambassadors they have!

    We’re primarily a B2B company, and offline marketing is our bread and butter. It’s a great way to reach your current customers and increase word of mouth because you actually get to know them. Maybe not all face to face, although eventually we do get to know our customers on sight, but because it takes place outside of the anonymity of the web it’s something special.

  11. Leslie Banks says:

    I echo what a number of people have shared here, it’s the personal touch of offline marketing that is most effective and builds loyalty. Here’s a personal example. I signed up for Anthropologie’s customer program, Anthro, and I recently received a card offering me 15% off my total purchase for my birthday month. The card came in a black fabric envelope with the constellation of my zodiac sign on the cover, and when I opened up the envelope, the clever greeting was, “What’s in the stars for you Scorpio?” I have photos of the promotion here:

    I know Anthropologie wants me to spend money at their store, but I appreciate the extra discount during my birhtday month. And the extra details in the package reinforce the brand experience that I love about Anthropologie stores.

  12. Eddie says:

    Makers Mark likes that persona of being an old fashioned company, so I would expect their campaigns to fall into line with this ideal. Pretty cool that they gave you an ambassadorship card, however.

  13. Julie-Ann says:

    What an excellent reminder! The fact is offline marketing efforts still matter a whole lot. So, too, do efforts to earn and retain customers. As this piece (http://www.upyourservice.com/learning-library/customer-service-improvement/to-build-your-business-appreciate-the-customers-you-already-have) suggests, hands-on marketing, in the form of good customer service, can go a very long way in building a successful business.

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