Last week I was fortunate enough to head south to Kentucky and tour several bourbon distilleries with a group of bourbon aficionados. That point is crucial to understand. Most of the individuals (10 in our group) who toured together have a very high “bourbon IQ.” They know how it is made, what the differences in mash bills (recipes) are, what aging in barrels does to the products, etc. We toured six distilleries: Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, Wild Turkey, Jim Beam, Willet and Maker’s Mark.

Of the six, Four Roses and Wild Turkey understood us, their target audience, and hosted tours led by bourbon legends and master distillers, Jim Rutledge and Jimmy Russell respectively. Our group loved these tours in particular. Willet offered up a Willet family member, and also treated us well and gave us the most personal tour, while Buffalo Trace offered up a nice “Hard Hat” tour, with a few behind-the-scene surprises and Jim Beam gave us the standard tour by a nice young man who recited the corporate script.

Measurable marketing and advertising, which is really what these “tours” can become, should be about the experience and feel that you leave with. The group I was with understands bourbon and drink a lot of it. After Wild Turkey, the group spent over $1,000, mostly on bourbon alone. That’s one stop, not to mention influencing other people and future purchases. Offering us a tour with a bourbon legend will pay them handsomely in the years to come.

The point is this: In order for your advertising and marketing to be effective you have to be relevant; in order to be relevant you MUST understand your target market(s). Note that they are plural and if you have more than one, you need to vary your presentation based upon who you are talking to. I would say that most of the distilleries we toured knew who the group was comprised of, but not all.

We left Beam with the feeling that they could care less if we ever buy their products; conversely we left Willet with the feeling that they hope we buy more and keep telling their story. Maker’s Mark was supposed to have their president host the tour for us, but they “could not locate him.” We had a great tour guide, but not what we were anticipating.

Yes, the demand is currently greater than the supply for great bourbon, but it will peak, and those that preach to the converted will still turn profits when consumption declines.

Make sure you understand who your customers are, who your prospects are and think about the different ways you can communicate with them to make them feel special, appreciated and make them ambassadors for your brand. It WILL lead to a fatter bottom line.