Adventures in Marketing

Lake County Cigars' dedication to its customers leads to strong sales throughout the year

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There’s the Alec Bradley 100 Box Challenge. The store recently hosted a talent show featuring customers called LCC’s Got Talent. There is the yearly customer appreciation party on Christmas Eve and the annual Christmas cigar breakfast the week before the holiday. And there is the Little Smoke, a two-day cigar celebration in June.

“We get some of the industry’s heavy hitters to come to Little Smoke,” Mary Lynn explains. “The first night is the pre-party, and the actual event is the next evening. You pay
a ticket price and you get all your cigars upfront. You choose a table where you want to sit. Whoever is representing the manufacturer sits with those people all night long, and they
get a special gift from that company that’s worth about $50. You get all your cigars and a $50 gift, the dinner and the opportunity to get the special prices that are available all
night long. It’s a relaxing evening. The manufacturers love it because they have special time with the people who love their products. It’s intimate, but it’s also a selling event. Every event we do is a selling event.”

Those selling events spark strong sales throughout the rest of the year at Lake Country Cigars because the hospitality extended to event attendees is the same shown to any
customer who comes into the store. The Kanes care about their customers so much that they’ve developed a customer advisory board, which consists of representatives from
just about any demographic you can imagine—retirees to millennials, men and women—to assess customer service or recommend improvements or to serve as sounding boards
for ideas Don or Mary Lynn might have.

“We have a lot of millennials on the board,” Mary Lynn explains. “We think it’s important to understand the traditional part of the business but move forward in our thinking. We will lose the boat if we don’t adjust to the next generation of customer. They aren’t like baby boomers or Gen Xers. The business shouldn’t be what we want, but it should be what our customers want. You can’t put your head in the sand and think that the business will be the same next year. Today is what matters, and the customer advisory board helps us move forward.”

Lake County Cigars | Matt MathenyIn addition to creating the customer advisory board, the Kanes encourage their staff, led by longtime manager Matt Matheny, to do whatever they can to ensure all customers have a great experience at Lake Country Cigars. Every customer is greeted within a few seconds of walking into the store. Every employee is encouraged to provide a personal recommendation to a customer’s purchase or remind a customer of an upcoming event.

“We hire a diverse staff made up of women and men, both young and older,” explains Mary Lynn. “They are committed to ensuring great customer relations because we hire only those that love what they do. That’s the key!”

Customer service at Lake Country Cigars is guaranteed by two programs the Kanes call the “Ladder of Satisfaction” and “Without Worry” guarantee. “On the bottom rung are people
who walk in and walk out,” Mary Lynn says. “The second rung is the person who liked the experience, and they will come back when they’re in the area. The top rung is people
who recommend you, and they come exclusively to you. We strive for the top of the ladder on every interaction. Without Worry helps us do that. We always say yes to a customer
request. There’s never a no here because people like to hear yes. We’ll just have to work out some details to make sure it works for everybody.”

Always saying yes to customers, hosting a plethora of interesting events throughout the year, rewarding customer loyalty and constantly reminding customers about special
events at the store are all part of Lake Country Cigars’ success. The store has a fine and wide selection of all the top premium cigars and smoking accessories that any retailer
would be proud to offer, but it’s also got an atmosphere that promotes joviality and community.

“People like to have fun, and they like to feel like they belong,” Mary Lynn concludes. “Lake Country Cigars is just total frickin’ fun.”

This story first appeared in the November/December 2018 issue of Tobacconist magazine.

– Contributed by Stephen A. Ross