Two years ago, my wife and I spent a long weekend in Boston. We used to live in the area’s North Shore, but we were intent on being tourists in our old home town. We visited Fenway Park, the MFA, and got a free tour of the Boston Beer Company, home to the Samuel Adams brand.
We had been fans of Sam Adams for years, but ever since that tour, the only brand you’ll find in our fridge, aside from some old Coronas that just won’t disappear, is good old Sam.
That’s because the tour let us see what gives the beer and brand its identity. We got to crush hops in our hands and smell the fragrance that gives beer a piney essence. We tasted malt, whose flavor strongly resembles Grape Nuts cereal. We met some of the employees, too. They were passionate and hysterical, clearly aware of the enviable fact that they get paid to make and drink fabulous beers every day. They rightly believe they have the coolest jobs in the world.
In many industries and geographies, people are educating themselves on the origins of the things they consume every day. A quick scan of search results on farmers market attendance statistics shows that they are attracting record numbers. The fair trade movement reflects a respect for the laborers behind many of the foods we import. Podcasts, books, and websites exist to help us understand how things work. Here’s a website that lists factory tours in all 50 states.
Let’s bring this trend into the context of your business. I bet most of you work in spaces that have been thoughtfully designed and rigged to serve whatever purpose your company exists to serve. You’ve hired people with specific qualities that will help create loyal customers. You’ve built a brand that they associate with all that your company stands for.
Why not seize on all these investments you’ve made and a market that increasingly wants to understand every step of production by offering your prospective customers tours of your headquarters? Done correctly, it will be more effective than any sales pitch, presentation, or outbound marketing you can do.
Show always beats tell, which is why a well-designed tour is your company’s most powerful selling tool.
If you manufacture things, show them the factory floor and your dedication to quality, safety, and cleanliness. If you provide a service, introduce them to the people who are responsible for creating happy, loyal customers. Let them see the technology you use and how you use it. Americans love origin stories and the entrepreneurs who author them, so explain how your company got started. They also appreciate the transparency that gives companies the confidence to welcome people to the very heart of their operations.
Most of us haven’t given tours before, so to help you get started, treat yourself to some before building your own program. Reflect on what that experience is like through the eyes of a customer, and ask your guide how the company thinks about this part of the customer journey. You’ll probably find people who are very eager to share and give you the tips you’ll need to replicate it in the context of your business.
Getting customers to pay attention to you is harder than ever. Inviting them to get as close to you as they can without working for you is one effective counter measure that can help you rise above the noise.