Simplifying Warranty Claims Process!

We just simplified how customers can claim a part under warranty. Here’s the new procedure:

  1. Email what part is broken and why warranty applies;
  2. Send the broken part back to iStill HQ;
  3. iStill HQ investigates the part and informs you of its assessment;
  4. If the claim is acknowledged, you get a replacement part for free;
  5. If the claim is not acknowledged, you can order a new part.

Simplifying Parts Ordering Process!

We just simplified how customers can order parts or spare parts. Here’s the new procedure:

  1. Email and specify the part you want to order;
  2. iStill Finance emails you the costs;
  3. After you confirm via email, iStill Finance emails a payment-link;
  4. After payment is received iStill dispatches the ordered part.

Sean’s take on it!

Odin, you are disrupting the industry! I think you should take pride in your honest and transparent approach. It’s where the market is heading and though I’m sure it doesn’t feel like it, you’re rowing with the current.

Your product is an excellent product for craft manufacturers because of the mash, ferment, and flexible distillation ability all in one unit. That’s less square footage to rent, less permits to get, less construction to install. I can honestly say the iStill has saved our company six figures on startup costs alone as compared to traditional equipment manufacturers.


More Sunday Musings!

All of a sudden it struck me: we are making a huge mistake! We? I am making a big mistake. And if we aren’t careful, if we don’t solve it, it may grow out of control. So let’s dive in. Let’s identify the mistake I or we have made, so we can fix it as soon as possible!

Where the shoe pinches? With some distillers needing more support than others. And how we deal with that. A minority of distillers, including some of our customers, needs help with each and every step they take. It gives them comfort to know we are at their side. And – if I think about it a bit longer – we should feel honored to be invited into such an important role. A role of business consultant sometimes, or distilling coach.

For those that reach out to us in that capacity: thank you for your trust and thank you for believing that we can provide help and support. But the more I think about it – which I do because I get more and more requests for help as our organization and the craft distilling industry grows – the less it makes sense. Not the questions, I get those. Not that many want to have our opinions, because it signals how we are perceived as the industry experts. But how WE or how I deal with those questions.

If I keep things small and personal, here is the weird thing I do: I try to answer all of those questions. I try to help those specific distillers, that need more support, sometimes on a day to day basis, by acting as their de facto business consultant or distilling coach. Why that doesn’t make sense? For two reasons.

Firstly, I am not a business consultant or distilling coach. I mean, yeah, I am a MSc in Business Administration, but that’s not why customers do business with us or why distillers in general seek our advise. And, yes again, I (and many of my staff) have a huge expertise on all things related to distilling alcoholic spirits … but that’s not what customers purchased. Instead, our customers ordered a still, a recipe, or a course. And that’s where we deliver!

Our recipes win medals (the ones that matter) all over the globe. Our distillation machines enable craft distillers to make better quality spirit at lower price points. The iStill Distilling University is rated by its students as the craft distilling industry’s leading educational facility.

So … if we don’t offer business consultancy or distillery coaching (and we don’t!), why do we act as if we do? And that question brings us to the second reason why trying to help out distillers that need day to day support on their business and on running their distillery: just like you have your company to run, your distillery to manage, I (or in the broader sense: the iStill Management Team) have an obligation to run iStill. And running a disruptive and fast-growing company like iStill is no small job, no minor responsibility.

As iStill’s CEO I routinely work 60 to 80 hours a week. Our CFO? She works 50 to 60 hours per week, and often more. Our Chief Operating Officer is responsible for the manufacturing of the iStills. Not exactly a 9 to 5 job either, right? The second reason why it totally doesn’t make sense that we try to hold the hands of a minority of customers and distillers in need of sometimes daily, personal support, is that we simply do not have time to do so.

So this much becomes clear:

  1. We do not offer business consultancy or distillery coaching;
  2. A minority of distillers needs consultancy or coaching;
  3. They reach out to us to obtain our insights and get our help;
  4. We, in our willingness to help, step in shoes that are not ours to fill;
  5. Creating a severe risk of underdelivering because of other obligations.

How do we solve this? I mean, writing an iStill Blog post about it is important, and may bolster us in doing a better job at explaining what we can and cannot offer, but that would neglect the questions for help that some distillers have.

So here are my questions to you. How do we, as an industry, help those that need more help, that want support at running their distillery and sometimes even their businesses? We are not equipped to do it, but are there others out there that can provide these services? Are there maybe more experienced distillers, that feel distillery coaching is a business they want to add to their portfolio? Are there maybe successful entrepreneurs out there, that want to give business consultancy and advise to distillers? And under what conditions?

If I add up the questions we get, on a daily basis, there for sure seems to be a market in need of help. Please let me know how you feel you (or the industry at large) could be of assistance.

Important Notice on Distilling Tradeshows!

We like potential customers to know we exist and we want the opportunity to explain the amazing technology we bring to the craft distilling industry. To that end we spend money on marketing.

Basically, our marketing strategy takes two directions. First, we create a lot of free content and share that via the iStill Blog, Distillers Weekly, and via Linked In and Facebook. Secondly, we visit tradeshows.

The online part of our marketing strategy targets generic demographics and regions. It allows us to reach a global audience. We do not have to spent a lot of money on our online campaigns, since we already have many thousands of followers. That makes it a relatively easy and affordable way to reach new potential customers and to explain the distilling solutions we bring to the industry.

The tradeshow part of our marketing strategy is more targeted to specific regions and markets. Tradeshows allow us to reach a specific audience. Since the money and energy expenditure involved in participating at a tradeshow are huge, we tend to only attend tradeshows in our biggest markets or in the market segments we want iStill to penetrate.

Having now experienced how tradeshows operate in the craft distilling industry for over seven years, we are amending our marketing strategy. Yes, online will stay the same. No, the tradeshow part will change. Let’s dive into the why and how.

There are two major reasons as to why we are revising our tradeshow policy. First, too many tradeshows are self-serving and organized by for-profit organizations, that don’t care about you starting a distillery. They rather have you spend that money with them instead. Many tradeshows are preventing rather than stimulating the industry to grow. They are money traps and you are the ones paying the price.

How you can distinguish the bad ones? Here are a few clues:

  • Do they have a medal competition for which you have to pay to participate?
  • Did the number of medals increase with the growing number of paying participants?
  • Is the tradeshow a platform for paid consultancy presentations?
  • Do those presentations leave you more bewildered than before?

The more of the above questions are answered with a “yes”, the more likely it is that you registered for an inferior product. Paid medal competitions are a great source for tradeshow income. The more awards you hand out, the more participants you get (and vice versa). The consultants that perform on tradeshows usually aren’t paid. The paid presentations are another great revenue stream for the tradeshow organizer. How the consultants share in the spoils? They get to baffle you with bullshit, enlarge your problems, and make sure you definitely need to hire a consultant.

How they get away with that? That question is simple to answer: in the land of the blind, one-eye is king. You know less and are in need of information, they pretend to know it all and that’s why you visit and spent money.

Secondly, tradeshows are losing their relevance quickly. In times of the internet, there are easier ways to connect. In times of Covid-19 there are smarter ways to connect. Did you see how all of the tradeshows all of a sudden CAN go online, these days? Interesting …

And talking about relevance … how about tradeshows highlighting – or at least supporting – the technological advancement the craft distilling industry so desperately needs in order to compete with Big Alcohol? We haven’t seen much effort there, as most distilling tradeshows love the financial contributions of legacy still manufacturers too much. Traditional equipment suppliers hate innovation. They are making money of you just fine. Why have that business model disrupted by new technological break-throughs, right?

Having answered the “why”, here is more on the “how”. From now onwards, we’ll only participate at tradeshows that put the industry interests before their own interests. And we’ll only support those that support the technological advancement of the craft distilling industry. To put it bluntly: the rest of them, the ones who’s business goal seems to be to screw you over for their own benefit, well, they can go f*ck themselves.

We have seen too much of the crap that’s going on behind the scenes. From rigged medal competitions (where sponsors get to pick the winners), to thieving organizers (that land sponsorship money, raised to finance traineeships, in their own pockets), to tradeshow hosts that make a living out of reselling your commercial information (while you pay for the entrance ticket).

Our industry deserves better than that. Our industry will get a better treatment than that. What we’ll do, to help achieve that, is this: we’ll start our very own tradeshow. Its characteristics? Here you go:

  • Online!
  • It will be free of charge to visitors;
  • Everybody can participate;
  • Information will be shared free of charge;
  • Customers rank product and service providers based on their user experience;
  • Product and service providers are invited to discount tradeshow visitors;
  • Yes, technological developments will get attention;
  • No, your information will not be used commercially;
  • No, it won’t have a medal competition! 🙂

I feel that we are in a unique position to make a difference and to show the industry how much real value a genuine tradeshow can offer. “A unique position” as in:

  • We have a thriving community with hundreds of craft distillers;
  • The iStill Blog produces content every second day;
  • And sees 50.000 visitors per year, reading well over 100.000 posts;
  • iStill’s Facebook page has over 20.000 followers;
  • And reaches over 1 million people per year;
  • Our website attracts 50.000 visitors per year;
  • With over 200.000 pages being viewed;
  • Our eNewsletter “Distillers Weekly” has 2.500 subscribers;
  • And grows with around 100 new readers every week.

To put things into perspective: our online presences is already way bigger than all the craft distilling tradeshows (genuine and less than genuine) combined!

Give us a few months to set it up. Stay in touch. Share your ideas. Propose our initiative to others that might be interested. Reach out to me directly and inform me of companies that deserve to participate. Service or product providers, that want to help craft distillers advance: email me and let’s figure out how you can participate. And if there is anything I forget, please let me know that as well.

The iStill Tradeshow is coming to town …