It’s common knowledge that part of the mystique of cigar smoking is the camaraderie among smokers. Enjoying a good cigar with friends in a cigar bar or lounge is an activity that, sadly, many cigar smokers have had to forgo during the pandemic. While many online retailers saw sales increase over the past months, smokers have been forced to light up alone or with their “friend bubbles” at home. As an online retailer, you have the unique opportunity to engage your customers and lift their spirits through the fun and excitement of a virtual cigar event. This allows your customers to meet other aficionados, introduces them to new cigars they may not have tried before, enjoy fantastic cigars, share in a “virtual buffet”, and at the same time, generate additional profits for your business.

There are some things to consider to get started. Here’s how to plan your event and get the party started:

  1. Select a theme. For example, should it be casual with a focus on smoking and conversation? Perhaps you choose to partner with a liquor company to host a bourbon and cigar pairing event? Or maybe you prefer to select a particular style of cigar or tobacco-growing region as a focus.
  2. Choose a video conferencing platform. There are many options to select from, including Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. These meeting platforms are easy for you and your guests to navigate and join the party. Many platforms offer some free services, but it’s worth looking into upgrading to a paid version. Some VOIP providers and CRMs include video conferencing with their services or as an add-on. Facebook also recently released Facebook Messenger Rooms. While you currently can’t set up a messenger room from a Facebook Page, any individual with a Facebook or Messenger account can set up a free Messenger Room allowing up to 50 attendees with no time limits. People that don’t have a Facebook or Messenger account can still join a Messenger Room, just not create one.
  3. Decide on party size. How many customers are being invited? If this is your first event, you might want to err on the side of caution and keep your list around 10, so everyone has a chance to talk. For those who want to throw caution to the winds, some paid platforms can even host 1,000 attendees! With larger events, you may want to consider utilizing breakout rooms allowing small group breakouts where people can get to know each other more easily.

While providing incentives for customers to attend your virtual event is essential, you should also offer special purchases only available to attendees. Here are some helpful ideas to help drive attendance and increase your sales:

  • Create a party box of cigars that will be featured during your event. Offer discounted presales of the party box and free admission to the event with the purchase. Some customers may not want to purchase the entire party box, but they may change their minds after hearing feedback from other aficionados who attend your event. If your selection is intriguing and well priced, enough customers should be interested in joining the festivities. During the event, you can promote the party box at a less expensive price than if each cigar were purchased individually yet slightly more expensive than your presale price. This encourages more presales in the future.
  • Have a raffle. The party box can be made more intriguing by including a raffle ticket in each box. The winner can choose a box of cigars you have chosen in advance, a different box of cigars of their own choice, or some other prize.
  • Offer a discount to attendees for future events. It’s important to keep customers engaged, and there’s no better time to promote your next event than during the current one. You could also create a members-only club and set clients up for a monthly recurring membership, including access to members-only events, promotions, etc.

Based on your customers’ response, have as many cigar parties as can comfortably be planned. After hosting a few, you’ll be more familiar with the number of people contributing to the conversation and how many to invite to make sure the optimum number shows up. You can host parties for regulars, newbies, and, of course, seasonal and special occasion parties. So, let the good times roll, and let the bad times go up in smoke!

You must be set up in advance to accept payments for the promotional items you plan to offer and recurring payments for memberships. This requires having a merchant processor that can provide you with flexible payment options. While some reliable processors accept high-risk accounts, not all high-risk processors provide the same features or specialize in serving the cigar and tobacco industry’s needs. An example of one that does is Premium Tobacco Payment Processing (PTP).  As a Premium Cigar Association (PCA) partner, PTP is proud to offer its members the lowest processing rates for the industry, with rates and fees guaranteed never to increase. And, they never require a contract or charge a cancellation fee. If you are, or plan to become, a PCA member, PTP will cover members’ first-year MasterCard registration fee for card-not-present sales.

PTP is powered by Nuvo Merchant Services, a leading credit card processing company with over 30 years of experience in several business verticals, now bringing their expertise and stability to the cigar and tobacco industry. If you are unhappy with your online retail cigar merchant processor, call Premium Tobacco Payment Processing at (321) 972-9838.