• Abby Myette

Lessons from the Locals: The Cheese Shop of Salem

(originally published to the Business Owner Tide Chart newsletter - November 2019)

When it comes to customers, you don’t want just one time visitors, you want loyal fans.  A new customer may be hesitant to invest in your product or service without first getting a trial run or a taste.  They need to know if what you have is good enough to remain loyal.  Free events are a great way to showcase what you offer with minimal commitment to the customer.  I had the pleasure of speaking with Susan from The Cheese Shop of Salem and learning about the free experiences they offer their customers. 

Every Friday and Saturday The Cheese Shop hosts free tastings.  Usually wine, but sometimes cider or beer, customers can stop in, try a few samples, chat with an expert, and decide if they want to buy the product.  Especially around the holidays, when you may be bringing wine as a hostess gift, knowing your selection actually tastes good is key! Or even if it’s a gift to yourself, you want something you’ll enjoy. 

Tastings at The Cheese Shop have been a great way for Susan and her colleagues to showcase their product but also get to know their customers.  These free events build brand awareness and customer loyalty at the same time. Customers who are stopping by after work get a chance to interact with the staff.  They can ask questions, sample the product, maybe try something they wouldn't normally select on their own. 

After our conversation, I stayed around for the Friday tasting and enjoyed sampling a selection of ciders.  I'm not usually a cider drinker, but a few free samples was a no risk opportunity to try something new.  Plus, Susan and store owner Peter, joined me.  As we sipped we also had the chance to talk.  As a customer of The Shop, I felt appreciated and cared for.  And I really enjoyed the cider! Hosting free events build recognition and loyalty.  In many cases, like at The Cheese Shop, it's a chance to get to know your customers in a more intimate setting.

What opportunities do you have to showcase your product or service to your customers for free?  And remember, this is a time to get to know your customer, too.  People shop small businesses for the personal touch, for the relationships.  Get to know the people who frequent your front door.  Let them know you appreciate their loyalty.

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