In Early 2018 a good friend approached me with the idea of craft canned cocktails and proposed that I help join the small team to bring his dream to life. We would all work closely to create a product and brand experience that would elevate the current on the go drinking experience. After a moment of hesitation since I knew nothing about building a drinks business or hadn't designed anything outside of a legal research tools, I jumped at the fantastic opportunity to learn by doing.
My first pressing task was to work with our talented creative director, Sam Muir to ensure that can labels met the legal requirements and we could push the button on a 10,000 can production run before the summer. Product regulations and marketing restrictions for alcoholic beverages meant that we had to be very careful with what we put on our cans.
Thankfully, we managed to meet our legal obligations while creating a bold and exciting in hand experience. We initially did a test run of a 1000 cans and hand labelled them to go out and test with customers, testing for taste as well as brand perception.
To bootstrap and avoid the huge costs of marketing a new product we leveraged our network of connections to festivals, events and London clubs. The company's initial strategy was to create brand awareness and build brand loyalty through being part of these moments of delight. To first experience our products in these exciting environments then buy us when they spot us on the shelves of their local shop. With cans now in hand we went out to do some contextual research.
This was the most fun contextual research I had ever done and it was very enlightening to understand the existing decision making, queuing and buying process in these environments. Following this, with the help of some General Assembly new graduates, we conducted customer interviews to understand customer goals and motivations and validate customer personas. We asked questions about their alcohol/cocktail drinking and buying to identify themes.
With an understanding of our customers and a sales strategy but no structure or key measures in place to benchmark are success or failure, I facilitated an Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) workshop to align the team and give us a steer on our 2019 direction.
Having a great product provides a promising start to a startup but without a clear strategy for customer acquisition and a scalable means of distribution it is very difficult to build a profitable business. With many of our competitors spending tens of thousands of pounds to be sold at festivals and events, then having a dedicated sales team to support bar staff we had to leverage our network and skills to get around our lack of resources. By leveraging Tom our co-founder's past experience of running bars and events and understanding of the pains and goals of bar and event managers we could pitch our product as a solution that would save them money and improve their profits. All while giving customers a better experience through reduced waiting times and a convenient drink to carry around. This approach to sales got us into festivals and clubs without having to pay upfront fees and gave us great exposure to our target customers.