If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen this photo recently. No, it’s not me with my gin collection. I work a couple of days a week at Ammonite in Lyme Regis, and it’s brilliant for so many reasons.
Some of them gin related.
Does this mean I’m a bad copywriter?
Maybe some of you are thinking “she can’t be much good if she’s having to work in a shop”.
You might not rate me as a copywriter, but I’d say if you’ve based it on the fact I also work in a shop, you’re wrong for a couple of reasons:
- I don’t have to work in the shop, I’ve chosen to do this job. Probably the first time I’ve been an employee for reasons other than money.
- Working in a shop is an absolute mine of information.
Every day is a school day
Tessa Stuart stalks consumers in aisles for a living. I do it a couple of days a week and learn so much from them. They never cease to surprise me.
The customer looking for a gin to drink as shots while watching horror films would not have been in many people’s customer avatars. Particularly as a 40+ woman, working full time as a nurse. That’s a niche market. But it shows you never can tell.
Here’s the key things about working in the shop that add an extra dimension when I sit down and start on copy for client’s copy now.
I tell stories to customers
I love telling customers the stories behind products. They’re not stories I’ve had a hand in, but I still love to tell them.
What I really love is seeing which ones, or which elements, really click with customers. What turns a browser into a buyer. It’s not always what I think it will be.
The reverse is true as well. Seeing the moment the eyes glaze over, and their attention moves on. Could be in the telling of course, but I keep a mental log of those too.
I eavesdrop. A lot!
I love listening to the stories customers tell themselves, or each other. The power of a positive peer review, the egging each other on (that happens a lot around the gin).
No surprise there, but it’s the content of those conversations that’s insightful.
Equally the small shake of the head, the pursued lips, the negative experience, all of them can stop a purchase in its tracks. Watching for those telltale signs is key.
I listen to my colleagues
Everyone tells a story in a different way. My manager, Chloe, is a mine of product knowledge, and I love to hear her talk about products. I’ve learnt an awful lot in a short time from her.
Sometimes it’s not when colleagues are selling, it’s when we’re just chatting. I’m sure lots of businesses have missed having that face to face contact with the people at the front line of selling their products, and it’s one of the reasons account managers can be so important.
If you’re not sure how a product is being received, talk to those on the shop floor. They probably have a view on everything from pricing to design, not to mention taste and descriptions. Don’t just ask the buyers at head office.
I ask the boss
I love seeing the decision making process in action. I’ve worked in the shop with the owner a few times, and we’ve looked at product ranges together. I’ve loved hearing what she’s thinking about, what she’s looking for in a range.
It’s a small store so everything has to earn its place. Looking through her eyes at the things she’s considering is fascinating.
I listen to the suppliers
No, I don’t think this is insider dealing! But hearing how suppliers tell their stories for us to tell customers has benefits.
And I’m not just talking about the samples! Conker Spirits did a fantastic tasting session for the team over Zoom a couple of weeks ago. Good to see technology being used to deliver something that it could be easy not to do in the circumstances.
They sent samples for us all to the shop, and we all joined them from home. I was already a fan, but there’s nothing to beat hearing from the distiller, particularly around newer products. Though I’m afraid the jury is still out here on Bowser Leaf.
I liked some of their sales ideas, which are essentially stories. They’re not necessarily new, or unique, but they have made them their own.
Though I found it fascinating how often I’ve heard people call the brand Onker. One for the designers.
I discover new products
I don’t mean I’m the first one to find them, but because of the shop’s reputation then many small brands in the right product categories are keen for Ammonite to carry them.
For example, Shanty Botanical Vodka is one of my new favourites. I love the story, I love the design, and I love the fact it’s the closest thing in taste to my much loved and sadly mourned Lilliput Gin. Because Ammonite was the only stockist for Lilliput in Lyme Regis, when I hear people looking for it, then I tell its story and then get them to try the Shanty. It’s also the power of getting people to try your product, never grows old. If you’re not sending stock for sampling to a store you’re missing out.
Needless to say, we got through our first stock pretty quickly! And it must be taking off everywhere as we’re on a waitlist for more! For some people it’s the design, for some it’s the fact it’s not like vodka in that it has a myriad of flavours, but it’s not like gin as it has no juniper.
It’s good for my mental health
The life of a freelance copywriter is a pretty solitary one in “normal” times, but I always had my regular coffee shop or co-working space escapes. After pretty much a year without them, spending time in the shop, with people has been a mood boosting experience.
I’m a copywriter, not a starving writer in a garret working on my magnum opus. I like people (particularly people who bring in lovely dogs). I’m an ambivert, and I need the energy of people, some of the time at least.
I think I write better when I’ve had a dose of that, and no, Zoom does not do it for me.
Get back into shops
If you’re stuck for a story, or wondering what to write about your product, go hang out in a shop. You don’t have to be like me and take a job, but go and eavesdrop, watch what people are up to.
It is never a waste of time.
If you’re in Lyme, come in and see what stories we’re telling. Cannot wait for World Gin Day on 12 June. There’s going to be some stories that day!
Judge my copywriting on the writing, but never judge anyone on the basis that they “only” work in a shop. They’re the ones sat on the gold you want to mine. You ready to dig?