Whether you’re just starting out or an established cigar business, marketing is crucial to your business’ success. While marketing is challenging no matter what type of business you have, it’s considerably more challenging for a cigar or tobacco business. Why? Due to a slew of regulations, including those from specific online platforms, cigars and other tobacco products are prohibited from being sold or promoted through paid advertising on Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. There are some workarounds, but they are grey areas. Here’s the good news.  If you play by the rules, are creative and consistent in your efforts, you can successfully market your online cigar business through other means.

Direct Mail

Through good old-fashioned USPS snail mail, you can reach thousands of cigar smokers. You can purchase curated mailing lists from reliable data companies that sell highly targeted email and postal mail addresses. For beginners, we recommend sticking with direct mail. Email marketing, especially using a purchased list, can be problematic if not done correctly. The cost to purchase a list will vary according to the size and criteria used to develop the list. There are established companies such as exactdata.com that can provide lists, including a “Cigar Smokers Consumer Database,” “Cigar Connoisseurs Database,” and more. As you continue communicating with responsive customers, add them to your mailing list and keep growing your list of customers. As we began the article, there are many regulations the industry must follow, and they frequently change. At the time of writing this article, the FDA does not require health warning requirements for cigars and pipe tobacco advertisements, but before September 11th, 2020, it had been required. You may choose to voluntarily comply with these health warning provisions by adding Warning Statements to your mail piece.

Local printers can assist with the design and layout of your piece, including printing each recipient’s address on the mail pieces using variable printing to do so.  To entice someone to open and read your mail piece, you should be creative with the content you are planning to send:

    • Whether you send a postcard or envelope, developing a compelling message to grab the recipient’s attention is critical.
    • A solid promotional offer will increase the response rate, and by using a promotional code, you can better track your response rate;
    • Send information in surprising ways, such as in a tube that looks like a cigar with your message inside

Customer Rewards and Loyalty Programs

Targeting your existing customers with offers and opportunities can yield significant ongoing results. There are several ways your customers can be inspired to purchase more products and encouraged to introduce their friends to your products.

Reward programs – Offer discounts and freebies to encourage customers to purchase your products again in the future. It can be a coupon included with orders, or you may opt for a point system with tiered rewards based on the customer’s purchase history.

Loyalty programs – Offer an invitation to a “Cigar Club” membership.

Special member benefits can include:

    • Members-only discounts and product offerings
    • Monthly newsletters
    • Announcements of new edition cigars
    • VIP invitations to virtual cigar parties
    • Incentives to invite friends and family to join

Cigar-of-the-Month Club

Members who sign up automatically receive a sampling of specially selected cigars. A sampling example could be five hand-rolled, premium cigars, with retail value at a fixed price. Think about offering several options, such as a “Cigars of the World” club featuring cigars from various tobacco growing regions or a “Figurados Club” featuring creatively shaped cigars. To cater to your client’s preferred flavor profile, you might allow members to select their choice from a small selection of cigars each month.

Affiliate or Ambassador Programs

Offer rewards to customers who promote your products to their friends, family, and those within their areas of influence. Whenever they purchase, the referring customer receives a reward – a complimentary cigar, points, credits, etc.

Blogs on your website

Blogging allows you to write about topics of interest, including newly released products, how cigars are made, cigar pairings, the different types of wraps, a day in the shoes of a tobacco grower, etc. Not only does this provide content that your customers will enjoy reading, but it will help improve your ranking on search engines which will also attract new customers to your business. While you can’t sell cigars through social media, you can share your blog articles to your pages and advertise the articles to your target audience as long as you’re not selling products. You can also visit third-party cigar blogs to comment on their articles with a link back to your blogs, or better yet, contact the administrator of those blogs to see if you can write an article for them and receive a backlink to your website.

Virtual Events

Plan and invite your list of customers to a virtual Cigar Party or Smoker event. Encourage your customers to invite friends to the event and provide special offers as an incentive for joining the event. Schedule virtual events at a frequency with which you and your guests are comfortable.

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