Twenty years ago, it was common for a sales person to use a demo or a model of their product in the sales process. If you sold truck tires, the sales person may have traveled with examples of the multi-ply rubber to show off the strength of the multi-ply rubber. If you sold camping tents, you may have a miniature version of each tent. Most of that is done on websites today. But, if you sell beer or wine, the demo remains a critical part of the sales process.
On a recent trip to Kansas City, I not only experienced the power of the demo to sell beer, but also got to hear the story of John McDonald and his big idea. John is a carpenter by trade who took a vacation in the late 80’s to Germany and did a little beer tasting. If you remember back to the 80’s, beer makers in America were in a race to brew the lightest beer possible. John experienced some great craft brews in Europe, but could not find them back home.
He decided to create the beer he craved at home. Soon, he had more visitors to the wood working shop interested in his beer than his cabinet work. He decided to make his hobby a career and signed up for a class to become a master brewer. Boulevard Brewing Company opened in 1989 with a few simple goals. McDonald wanted to brew 1,500 barrels the first year and ultimately reach 6,000 barrels a year someday.
He missed his goal the first year just slightly but reached the 6K goal in just five years. This year it will be over 140,00 Barrels. Boulevard is the 16th largest brewer in the U.S., 9th largest craft brewer, 2nd largest in Missouri, behind Anheuser-Busch. But, they are gaining on the makers of Budweiser. Last year it took the largest brewer in America just 10.5 hours to brew as much as Boulevard does in a year. This year that is up to 12 hours.
This is a brand that knows how to get intimate with their customers to expand brand loyalty. The picture you see above is of the smokestack beers, which are custom, creations, aged in barrels and released in small quantities. Boulevard is teaching customers that beer can take the place of wine and should be paired with fine food
Yes, we are getting close to the part of the story where I got the demo. After a thorough tour of the brewery, visitors end with vivid explanations of each beer type as the bottle is held up as a demo and you stand steps away from the tasting room. You are then unleashed on the tasting room to try four of the beers just described. I am a convert. Boulevard has a new raving fan.
John McDonald made his hobby a career and has put thousands of people to work all over the Midwest making, delivering and serving his beer. He continues to serve his community and run a sustainable green business. Consider a demo in your next pitch.
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photo by Katrina Snaps