Listen Up: Marketing Tips from Gurkha’s Juan Lopez

Listening to and engaging with customers, retailers and experts helps Juan Lopez, Gurkha Cigars’ national sales director, stay in tune with the cigar market.

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You mentioned listening to customers as part of your sales plan. Do you and others at Gurkha look at reviews on Gurkha’s cigars or comments posted about the company online?
It would be impossible to look at every review and comment, but we do try to keep abreast of what our customers are saying. We also try to stay engaged with the Gurkha customer on both positive and negative feedback. We look at every customer’s experience differently, and we try to connect with those customers directly as much as we can.

How is this feedback responded to and incorporated into Gurkha’s marketing initiatives?
We do over 500 events nationwide, and our reps work closely with our retail partners to identify how we can provide a better smoking experience or cigars. We also have a ton of engagement through our social media, and it provides us a direct line to our customers.

Gurkha has noticeably begun to leverage videos and social media in its marketing more in the past year. Is this intentional, and what has been the gain for investing the time and effort in being more present in a digital space?
It was intentional. The videos and social media allow us to show the Gurkha lifestyle and connect directly with our consumers. Images of Gurkha’s exclusive Officers Club Lounge located at our headquarters underscore what it means to smoke a Gurkha.

For any Gurkha product, what’s key to getting that product into the hands of consumers?
We focus on the fact that it is a one-of-a-kind blend using six to seven tobaccos from around the world that have been aged anywhere from 15 to 20 years. The packaging speaks for itself.

How important is the packaging to the overall success of a product?
Kaizad is the innovator that changed the packaging in the industry forever. He made everyone reconsider their packaging when they were displaying their cigars in cedar boxes in comparison to the unique and artistic boxes Gurkha offers.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
“Two ears, one mouth.” It is more important to listen than it is to speak.

This story first appeared in the March/April 2018 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.

– Story by Antoine Reid, an editor and digital content director for Tobacco Business Magazine. You can follow him on Instagram @editor.reid