How I increased my client’s customer base by 21% (with no paid advertising budget)

When I first started working with Craft Metropolis, a craft beer subscription club, I was pretty sure I’d be unable to fulfill their brief.

They wanted a generous helping of ice-cold prospects to join an unknown beer club and begin paying for beer on a rolling, monthly basis.

I was apprehensive. But I’d recently parted ways with the agency that’d indirectly paid my rent for the past few months. I was dangerously broke. I needed money for food.

So, whilst my brain was screaming the task was beyond my capabilities, I told my new client I knew just what to do.

Then I went back to scrolling through Facebook and thinking about food.

Using boredom to sell beer

When you’re avoiding work, you start to notice things about the people posting on Facebook.

You notice that, between the baby pictures and the food pictures and the hashtags and the fake news, and between the political rants, the humblebrags, the indignation and Netflix trailers, and between the shaky videos, the pleas for likes, the memes and the gifs, people are, actually, really quite bored.

Could Craft Metropolis take advantage of the boredom to introduce themselves and ask people if they’d like to buy some posh beer?

How to get leads and sell to people

In reality, what I ended up proposing was quite simply a digital quiz – with a few calculated bells and whistles thrown in to stack the odds in our favour.

The quiz would challenge people to prove they were beer aficionados.

“Think you know craft beer?” it would begin. We’d do everything we could to call out the aficionados we were targeting.

Those taking the quiz would have to correctly identify a series of craft beers from close-up pictures of their labels. If they managed to do so, they could leave their contact details to get themselves a prize.

The prize would, naturally, be a follow-up offer that could be enjoyed if our prospects joined the Craft Metropolis beer club.

It seemed like it ticked all the boxes (including, as David Ogilvy suggested, making me both nervous and apprehensive.)

Fortunately, my new client agreed.

Earning exposure

We developed the quiz, sent it out to our existing email list and held our breath.

Why our existing email list?

We had no paid advertising budget.

So instead, some carefully crafted copy encouraged quiz participants to share their quiz results (and by extension the quiz) with their social circle.

We knew those on our list would ace the quiz. And we gambled that, given the chance to show off their knowledge in front of their beer-loving digital friendship circles, they’d happily take it up.

So they took the quiz. To our delight, a reasonable chunk shared the quiz. Their shares got their friends taking the quiz and generated the healthy supply of fresh, new leads we needed to get started.

“Can I join?”

The leads came in quickly – and they quite literally demanded to know what their mystery prize would be.

Craft Metropolis is a personal beer club, so we decided against automating the first follow-up email. The emails were to be sent manually, anywhere between hours and days after participants had proven their knowledge.

Of course, the lag meant one or two people contacted us chasing their prize. The prize, by the way, was 4 free beers when they joined the Craft Metropolis beer club.

The stars had aligned. Our new, qualified leads were contacting us and asking to join the club.

Some careful copy

The conditional prize was a point neither my client nor I were overjoyed with. Is it really a prize when you have to buy something to cash in?

The framing, therefore, was crucial. We weren’t offering money off. Nor were we offering discounted beers. Instead, we were offering 4 free beers – as Lester Wunderman would surely advise. Or, as the follow-up email series clarified:

“Get 12 beers. Only pay for 8. Just so you can give the club a whirl.”

Even so, we couldn’t rule out a backlash. But as the results came in, it became pretty clear we needn’t have worried.

A 21% increase in subscribers

The quiz generated a relatively modest number of leads – but then there was no paid advertising budget whatsoever. Even better, the email series persuaded 3.6% of those who took the quiz to join the club.

Oliver Meade, Craft Metropolis’ Managing Director, was more than happy with the results. He thinks I have “…a brilliant way of writing that perfectly captures our tone. Customers love it and it gets results.” 

All in all, the quiz and the email series grew Craft Metropolis’s subscription base by 21%. With the model proven, the quiz is now being advertised profitably across social media.

Of course, there were a few other subtle but calculated pieces to the puzzle.

If you’d like to know precisely what they were, please do get in touch.

Chris Bilko is the freelance copywriter behind Toffee Copy. He still works with Craft Metropolis and has since used different versions of his quiz idea for clients in the wine, whisky and (bizarrely) charitable sectors.  Contact Chris at

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