Business Building: One Beer at a Time

Client face time is a rare thing indeed – with phone, email, texts and everyone’s tight schedules, people rarely take the time to talk through something in person. If you add a social element to it – spending time talking not just about a project, but what is happening in a customer’s personal life – a meeting becomes near impossible. But BIG INK Display Graphics, located in Eagan MN, felt strongly about the value of time spent building relationships with clients and brainstormed ways to go about making it happen.

“It’s tough,” says Tom Trutna, BIG INK president, “yet a casual, productive, face-to-face interchange is not only most enjoyable but often the most productive. It strengthens rapport and gives someone a chance to tell you about any problems or issues they have, in a friendly setting. You come away knowing more about your customer as a person, which is invaluable, since we view our business partnerships as relationships. Also, you’ll more often hear vital information, like a new project on the horizon, over a glass of beer than in a formal meeting.” The process of getting time with clients has been an evolution for the company. For several years they hosted open houses and happy hours at their Eagan location, but as corporate schedules continued to get tighter, fewer people found the time or wanted to leave the office early, risking being seen as shirking responsibilities. After lower turn out for on-site events, Trutna decided his sales team would bring the happy hour straight to the client’s door.

It started with a used kegerator Trutna found on Craig’s List. He bought it and contacted Minneapolis design agency Mind Spark Creative and had them play with the idea of branding it for a portable happy hour. “Everyone gets excited to work on a beer project; it was easy to get people involved with the idea,” notes Trutna. The final edition, titled “BIG INK’s Door to Door Pour” featured a custom logo with an old world beer label feel. Mind Spark designed graphics for the kegerator, custom beer coasters and beer glasses. The BIG INK production department printed and applied 3M vehicle graphics directly onto the kegerator, creating a branded, portable bar.

In order to get clients excited about the idea of having beer brought to their doorstep, BIG INK sent a teaser email asking “Thirsty?” while revealing only part of the logo on a beer glass. This was followed a day or two later by a mailer that explained the program and invited clients to call to find out more. Finally, someone from the sales team contacted the client to set up an appointment and get input on which beer they preferred – since interesting, local micro-brews are offered for the Door to Door Pour events.

Once on location, BIG INK sets up the kegerator along with a few banners promoting the event and inviting people to stop for a beer. Beers are poured into the custom glasses and set on the printed coasters – which clients can then keep. One banner stand includes an iPad holder that features an interactive shop tour and examples of recent projects. “The iPad allows us to bring our shop and photos to them,” states Trutna, “We highlight projects that might spur ideas for that next job.”

The system has been set up in conference rooms, creative departments and warehouses. “It’s completely portable and really works anywhere,” says Trutna, “but the best part is the goodwill it brings. Afterward, there’s no doubt in our client’s mind that we’re here to listen, collaborate and get to know them and their projects. It’s definitely a lot more fun than just dropping off donuts along with your business card. A glass of beer is much more mentally sticky than a raised glazed; I can’t think of a better business builder.”