Good. Bad. Terrible. Whatever your experience. You never forget your first. We’re still talking cigars here, right?
I remember mine. It was 2007. I was the National Accounts Manager for a startup social media platform trying to become the next Myspace. We just launched a huge product offering for our platform and were in the parking lot of our office when the boss pulled out a box of Macanudo Hyde Park…hey don’t judge. It could have been a Swisher Sweet.
This cigar was euphoric. It was relaxing, smooth, and made me feel somewhat guilty as I knew my conservative parents would frown on it, even though I was in my early 20s and lived on my own.
It also led me down the rabbit hole of buying my first humidor (thank you Cigar International and your $20 starter kit) and trying to fill it with whatever samplers I could my hands on to figure out what I liked.
Fast forward to 2015, I was running a giveaway for my marketing agency, No to the Quo, offering a box of cigars in exchange for your email to enter the contest. In effort to promote it further, I jumped into some cigar groups on Facebook and found one of the largest groups out there, Cigar Cartel (almost 40,000 members). I made some friends and started to learn about the world of boutique cigars. Tatuaje, Liga Privada, Lost & Found…it sucked me in. I’ve spent the last four years in these online communities and fell in love with the cigar industry.
For the last nine years, I’ve run a full-service marketing agency, No to the Quo, working with companies like Microsoft, Salesforce, Farmers Insurance and hundreds of small and midsized businesses. We’re damn good at what we do, but something was always missing.
In 2018, we began working with a few cigar shops and manufacturers. Small projects. Large projects. It didn’t matter. I loved it. My two passions, cigars and marketing, were coming together and I wanted more opportunities like this.
I started talking with cigar shop owners and manufacturers and realizing that while the cigar industry is a $15B industry, growing 30% year-upon-year, there are no marketing agencies who specialize in serving cigar shop owners and manufacturers.
So in 2020, we’ve created the cigar industry’s best friend in marketing their shops and products.
The tactics that have generated tens of millions of dollars for our corporate clients at No to the Quo work just as well, if not better, for local brick and mortars.
But this agency wasn’t the best fit to serve the cigar industry. They deserved something better. Something made exclusively for them.
Cigarketing is the marketing agency a cigar shop can rely on to get more people in their shop, to sell out their events, to take off their plate the burdens of social media and email promotion.
It’s a good story, but it’s gonna be even better when you come back to thank me for making it yours.
We’re ready to make you the best cigar shop in your city. You ready?
You didn’t launch your cigar line so no shop would know you exist and stay unsold in your warehouse. You don’t wake up in the morning excited to send out emails promoting your next event or knowing what to post on social media that will get more people walking in your doors.
Odds are you don’t know or have time to do what’s necessary to get your name on the top of Google’s search results when you look for cigar shops in your area. And it kills you each time you do that search and see that smug competitor with a poor humidor selection beating you.
Nah, that’s not why you do this.
But it is for us.
We’re the friend you always wish you had when it comes to making you the best cigar shop in your area. We know what Google wants to see and we know how to partner with you in promoting your shop or your product.
And we know you’ve probably been approached by marketing companies before who promise you the world and leave you scratching your head when you got nothing to show for your money at the end of the month.
If you called them up right now and asked them their thoughts on the latest release from Roma Craft or best monster release from Tatuaje, would they know what to say (it’s Jason by the way – oh how I love that Connecticut Broadleaf).
That’s why all our services are offered on a month-to-month basis.
If we don’t help you increase your sales quickly to cover our costs and provide a strong return on your investment, we’ll pack our own bags
Check out our blog for some marketing tips that you can apply right now or
hear our thoughts on what’s going on in the industry.
Making Your Place At the Table Even When It’s Crowded with Lee Marsh
We’ve heard from some of the cigar industry’s leaders in both retail and manufacturing, but now let’s hear from someone who just brought their cigar to market.
Lee Marsh, co-owner of Stolen Throne cigars, joins us in the Roosevelt Room to share his story of how Stolen Throne was born, how their first release, Crooked Crown, sold out within the first month and with no reps or promotional efforts, and how they leverage relationship and service to make waves in the cigar industry.
As one of the hottest cigars on the market, amidst a very crowded market of new cigars being released, Lee gives us his take on how he made room for his brand years before the cigar was ever blended or produced…even when industry vets told him not to create a cigar.
What You’ll Learn
“What’s the number one rule in business – you’re not the customer. But at the end of the day if I don’t love the cigar how can I sell it to you. ”
– Lee Marsh
“When you talking about brand management that’s what you offer – the interaction, the action, and the reaction.” – Lee Marsh
“Branding is the collection of perception in the mind of your customer, something that you cannot control but you can speak into and marketing is the management of that perception.” – Kyle Willis
Building Identity and a Following as a Retailer Online with Brett Fry
Our cigar retailer series gets super practical and real as Brett Fry, owner of Tobaccology in Virginia, shares what goes into building an identity and following for a retailer online.
Brett has leveraged social media to create an incredible community around his shop. He’s built immense trust within Facebook groups and shares what has led to his success and how others can replicate it.
Brett’s real and no-nonsense approach will equip you to know how you ought to spend your time online and how to assimilate into online communities so you start off making the right connections, but also know when the time is to form and grow your own social communities.
What You’ll Learn
“I’m not in this to make a million-dollar in a year, I’m in this because I truly enjoy what I do. I wanted my shops to reflect the life and for me, that’s a comfort. ”
– Brett Fry
“While you are in the shop and being a part of the community there’s a lot of opportunities that arise. If you’re paying attention and mindful.” – Brett Fry
“There’s a lot of great insights and practical opportunity to be able to build greater interaction than just attention with our customers.” – Kyle Willis
Click here to check out Brett Fry of Tobaccology
The Value of Community in the Cigar Industry with Vince Hill of BNB Cigars
As we continue our series for cigar retailers, we hear from one who’s crushing it in building a community of friends and fans all across the country.
Vince Hill manages BNB Cigars in Philadelphia and has helped what would appear as a little shop in Chestnut Hill create a nationwide presence through social media and incredible customer service.
Vince shares how he uses social media to serve customers without having to come across like a guy just trying to sell and how he’s built a great community with consumers, manufacturers, and even other retailers.
What You’ll Learn
“There’s one thing that I love about cigar community, it doesn’t matter about your background, race, ethnicity, where you were born, what your social status is, how much money you make, what kind of car you drive. When we sit together and have a cigar none of that stuff matters.”
– Vince Hill
“The fact that these guys will travel hundreds of miles to come hanging out at the shop and hang out with me that’s the part that I love.” – Vince Hill
“The importance of building relationships and building that rapport so that way not only people just fly away across the country and spent time with you and that didn’t happen overnight, you put in some work through social media channels to build that relationship that they could trust you.” – Kyle Willis
Click here to check out Vince Hill of BnB Cigars
Lovers of the Leaf – Danny Vazquez from Roma Craft
Here at the Roosevelt Room, we’re big fans of cigars and have a passion to help cigar retailers grow their business and better serve their customers.
In this new series, we’re bringing you some of the industry’s top shops and manufacturers on what’s worked well for them to build rapport across the country and how to create an experience in their brick and mortar that is unmatched.
Our first episode features Danny Vazquez, National Key Accounts Manager at Roma Craft.
Roma Craft is regarded as one of the strongest small-to-medium premium cigar companies in the world.
Danny shares his insights in working with retailers across the country on what he’s seen work in being able to sell cigars, promote the boutique lines, and build strong relationships with sales reps so that your brick and mortar gets the attention and priority you greatly desire.
What You’ll Learn
“I’m not a really good sales guy, I’m better like build relationship friend kinda guy.”
– Danny Vazquez
“What I want is a store that already has demand from it’s customers and has a fan that works it.” – Danny Vazquez
“Seeing the shared responsibility and having the retailer give feedback in real-time to know what’s happening, that is monumental in a paradigm shift for me in a retailer perspective having to work with a manufacturer.” – Kyle Willis
When Work No Longer Feels Like Work
“It’s important, that aspect of recognizing the availability of expertise and resources, but we have to have the confidence and willingness to ask for help.” – Kyle Willis (31:50)
Marketing from the Roosevelt Room
Growing a company, and the staff to go with it, is not unlike growing a family.
The phrase “company culture” gets thrown around a lot in marketing circles. But what does it take to build a company that really thrives as its own functional family unit?
This is a concept Andrew Considine knows a lot about from his experience building Small Batch Cigars and its tight-knit staff dynamic.
Building a solid brand, and team, begins with innovation. Small Batch has owned this concept in its effort to shine a spotlight on boutique cigar companies and help them tell their stories. The cigar community is a close community. In fact, Andrew’s online business was birthed when he transitioned out of a tech job asked his favorite local cigar shop about making a website.
From there, the mission became giving small cigar companies a platform and customers unique and excellent service. Word spread easily through online cigar communities without any big marketing push.
Building a strong business requires patience and strategic planning.
“These guys went to my wedding. These are guys that I go out to dinner with. And I think the team that I built, I don’t really view them as employees.” – Andrew Considine. (14:35)
If there were ever a story to echo the adage, “don’t quit your day job,” this is it. Andrew gave Small Batch the time it needed to grow, supported by capital from his other job until the time came naturally for him to fully transition to his new venture. He moved into the new phase confident that Small Batch had grown enough to serve as a solid income source.
The staff of Small Batch is unique. The feeling throughout the company is more like an afternoon with family than a stressful day at work. Cigar shops are most often hubs for conversation, relaxation, and general good vibes, an atmosphere Andrew encourages. In fact, most of his employees began as customers and moved smoothly into their careers.
The barrier between boss and employee is there, but it’s intuitive. Because the company culture is familial and comfortable blending professional with personal, egos are kept at a minimum and knowledge is shared freely. This is also, as it turns out, an excellent way to keep your employees. In the years since Small Batch Cigars was established, they have maintained a 100% retention rate.
Celebrating individual skill sets is the key to a happy staff.
“Part of the secret sauce of what we do is we care about our customers and we care about each other. There’s a balance there.” – Andrew Considine. (28:08)
Within the work environment, each staffer is praised for his individual strengths, in the knowledge that he’ll lean into what he does best and continually improve as a team member. No one is expected to start out perfect, and everyone is empowered in a way that makes initiative easy.
Decisions are a group effort, with employees kept in the loop and consulted about the company’s trajectory, large decisions that need to be made, or simple task delegation. And when someone inevitably drops the ball, Andrew approaches the subject in a caring and supportive way, rather than coming down hard on the person who came up short. When your employees feel supported and cared for, they’re much less likely to bring up issues in the future. The barrier between employer and employee can remain intact, without being overly rigid.
All these components come together to form a team that radiates care, both for the customer and for each other.
This team mentality is definitely unique and may seem like a foreign way to operate a business. However, when you invest time and energy into building a cohesive team, the results will filter down to your customers, creating a brand and business that continually gains success and momentum. Take a look at your team structure this week. Perhaps there are small changes you could make to begin fostering a greater level of healthy connection, and building a team that wants to stand by your business for years to come.
How to Get Involved
Creating a Culture of Raving Fans With Kyle Hoover of Ezra Zion Cigar Co.
“I hate the status quo. What is no one else doing? Where is nobody else looking? That’s what we’re constantly asking ourselves.”
– Kyle Hoover (48:53-49:03)
Marketing from the Roosevelt Room
Building a compelling and memorable brand isn’t easy. Consumers face an endless array of options anytime they make a purchase. To stand out, and create a culture of raving fans, requires an ability and willingness to go above and beyond.
Co-founders Kyle Hoover and Chris Kelly of Ezra Zion Cigar Co. have done what many would consider impossible. They turned a weekend idea into a thriving business while establishing a brand name in one of the most difficult markets to break into. Ezra Zion Cigar Co. is a boutique cigar company that offers coffee, whiskey, and related products to dedicated fans. Boutique cigars appeal to enthusiasts who want something other than the typical big-name brands. They look for products that reflect their lifestyle, interests, and tastes.
“Humility, along with tenacity and drive, propels a business forward.”– Kyle Willis (15:27-15:34)
Successful businesses understand the value of true craftsmanship. They infuse brand ownership into every detail of the products they create. Companies like Ezra Zion Cigar Co. take a hands-on small-batch approach to make the kind of products they always wanted for themselves.
The right mindset is key to creating a business with a culture of raving fans. You need to have the confidence to take risks even when you’re facing huge competition. Every business starts with nothing more than an idea. But desire, passion, and a willingness to learn can turn a single idea into a thriving business.
Entrepreneurs need to become students of the product they want to share with others. The path to business success may be longer than you think. If you’re willing to listen, put in the work, and do what others aren’t willing to do, then you can create something of real and lasting value.
There is no fast track to success. Finding a mentor who can educate and guide you along the journey is an invaluable strategy for building your business. Without the right guidance, business owners rush to market and end up offering an inferior product. Instead, foster a willingness to learn, grow, and become better. Learning from industry competitors takes humility, but it helps you learn from the mistakes of others.
“There are two ways you can learn: Your mistakes or somebody else’s mistakes. I’d rather learn from somebody else’s.” – Kyle Hoover (13:58-14:04)
You turn customers into brand champions by delivering top-level service. When things go wrong, it’s an opportunity for you to exceed the expectations of your customers and give them another “wow” moment. When you listen and respond to their needs, you create a culture of raving fans, and those needs can inform the products you offer in the future. Ezra Zion Cigar Co. began offering coffee and whiskey based on what they knew about their cigar customers. This approach made their business more accessible and communal for their fans.
You grow a culture of raving fans by improving the quality of your product and the customer experience. Successful businesses are always challenging themselves to make something better than before. Figure out what’s unique to you and your business. What is it that makes you different? Use your unique gifts to your advantage so you come out of the gate with an amazing product that blows people’s minds. Look at what others in your industry aren’t doing. What can you do better than the rest?
When you love what you do, it’s easy to build a culture of raving fans because you’re one of them. But you have to take the time to learn and put in the work. Focus on making a great product, meeting the needs of your customers, and making sure they love your brand.