Marketing can mean the rise and fall of small business. We want it to mean the rise of yours. It is a rocky road and beyond multi-faceted. Through our experience on the ground and in-depth study of market theory, I’ll here offer some signposts.
Business operations and marketing are intertwined. Faced with multiple approaches and varying budgets, choosing a strategy is the first step. Identify your market segment, select your weapons, and go to work. Gather the results, and then adapt.
One of my favorite humans, the dark comic, Bill Hicks, implored listeners, “If you work in marketing, kill yourself.” And he meant it. Some of this stuff you’ll instinctively know, and some will be new territory.
1. Straight up Print Ads
Are there any print magazines left? Digital or print, an ad is an ad. If you have a budget for it, do it.
Beer & Brewing magazine is a great place to advertise (from $350 and up). The BYO magazine is a slightly cheaper option.
If the budget is light, say $100 – $300 a month for marketing. Be strategic and creative.
Local newspapers are great and allow you to target local people.
2. Point of Sales and Tap Art
The fact remains, the best place to reach consumers is at the point of sales. Make your name and tap art dynamic and evoking.
If you can get posters, signs, a card on the table for any kind of promotion, do it.
We want our products to produce an emphatic response in people, no matter how subtle. When they see the art, the tap, it triggers something.
Searching for that feeling again (no not the buzz) they will order the beer again. They will seek it out and try your seasonal offerings.
This is called epistemic consumer value, that is the search for knowledge.
3. Attend Beer Festivals
Beer festivals are the playground for professional brewers, where they meet the customers face-to-face in an exceptionally casual setting.
There is finally time to meet your people in person and tell your story.
Anywhere from 2,000 – 10,000 people may show up to drink until they can’t drink anymore. How does one make a mark?
1. Comb the crowds and parking lots, give out schwag (promotional items) 500 pieces in the least! It can be small
- Posters, Wristbands, bottle openers, USBs, phone cases, cozies, cool useful things.
- Larger, nicer items are sold within the booth itself. Clothes, Glasses, original artwork prints, lights, and electronic items. They stimulate impulse buying.
2. Trade people will come by the booth. Staff combs the crowd, walks up and says hello! Give them a gift and invite them to your booth
- Ask them about their shop, their tastes, their habits and rituals
- For trades people, arrange as many on-site meetings as you can. Sit across from them and talk, ask questions, listen, let them share their experience.
- Ideally, your local agent will be a beverage pro, and will make these sales for you once you leave the area.
3. In each distribution market have 1-2 local people to help: sales-promotional people, adaptable communicators who know the local scene
4. Make the tradespeople welcome
- Have a cooler full of take-home bottles. Invite them into the booth to talk and have a drink.
- Build connections, encourage the managers talk about their shops, discover their needs, their preferences, and peeves.
- Make sure they walk away with leaflets, posters, gift items to share with their employees and customers.
4. Sell at Local Farmers’ Markets
These are great to give an exposure of your brand to local people. Give them a taste and take the time to chat with them.
Display merchandise and build relationships.
Understood that alcohol permits are tricky things mostly anywhere, but you needn’t sell, nor officially serve beer to promote it at a community level.
5. Build Yourself a Website
Nowadays, a website is the bare minimum.
Have a website to send people to when they want to know more about you, your brewery and your beer.
A website is a great way to showcase your mission, your values and… your beers of course.
It doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. Actually, a simple website can be built for very little money. For less than $10/month, you can easily create a basic website on Wix or Squarespace.
6. Optimize Your Google My Business
Equally as important as having a website if not more, a Google My Business account will help you tell Google what your company is and what it does so they can show you in the Search and in Google Maps.
If someone is searching for a brewery or a craft beer bar, you want Google to feature you.
For this, you need to develop your GMB account and fill up your profile as detailed as you can.
Add photos, description, opening times (if retail available), reply to reviews and questions. The more data you give to Google, the more space you’re likely to occupy.
95% of people search on Google daily, so you cannot afford to miss this one.
Did I mention it was free?
7. Give a Shot to Google Ads
Yes, a Google My Business account will help Google to show you, but if you’re competing with another 30 micro-breweries in the area/ region, chances are you won’t stand out.
As the budget allows, you should do Google Ads in the search or in my opinion even better in Google Maps.
For a few dozen cents per click (prices will vary according to many factors), you will appear in front of everyone else.
8. Post on Facebook
You kind of have to be there. In the past few years, Facebook has stopped showing businesses posts for free. Meaning that unless the user goes on your FB profile, you won’t be shown in their feed.
I wouldn’t advise you to advertise on Facebook because it has become pricey and if you don’t target your audience well, you’ll perhaps waste your money.
But Facebook is still the #1 social media monolith, so you need to be there and post regularly. I’d say a couple of times a month is enough.
9. Be Active on Instagram
On Instagram, the reach is arguably higher than on Facebook, so it’s still worth the effort. I’d say it’s the best social media platform at the moment to showcase your brand.
Post nice photos and Stories of the beers, of the brewery, of the customers enjoying your beers, of the events you’re attending.
The secret with Instagram is to actually use the App. IG wants you to stay engaged as long as possible and they might reward you for it. So go interact with other accounts. Like, comment, share.
10. Don’t Forget The Review Apps
Untappd, BeerAdvocate and RateBeer. Your beers need to be on those 3 review apps.
Whether you like it or not, your customers will review your beers anyway so you’d better take control of your narrative on these apps and fill up your beer descriptions.
Explain what’s in the beer, how it’s made, and any other mythical details. People love to read those when posting their review.
Don’t hesitate to interact with your customers by leaving a little comment on their review. Just a “cheers!”, “santé” or “prost!” will do!
This user generated content is meaningful free advertisement for your brewery, so take advantage of it.
11. Invite Clients to Leave You a Review
Reviews in today’s world are everything. They can boost or kill a business.
But your beer is great and everyone loves your brewery, so there’s nothing to worry about…correct?
Be careful not to be that pushy person asking for a review only 30 seconds into the conversation but do try to push it a little.
In order of priority, ask them to leave a review on:
- Google (yes, yes again)
- Facebook (make sure you opened the review section)
12. Find Brand Ambassadors
Find 25 (your number here) brand ambassadors- Initially we find them through the brewery’s inner circles, and their employees.
At the French Broad, we called them apostles.
Modeled after the “Hahn White Beer” Word of Mouth Marketing – WOMM campaign, (a large Australian producer) these guys will organize social activities, get-togethers, and parties where your product will flow.
The ambassador will talk about the beer, speak about the beer, with signage even. It need not be an Amway pitch. It can be done in casual conversation.
This is the beauty of the WOMM campaign; it will have an instant effect as people are naturally elated and excited about the holiday or social gathering, and the effect of their beverages.
It creates an emotional connection.
WOMM campaigns are associated with influencer strategies in which products are placed with persons who are expected to use, share, and talk about the product with their friends and family; these persons are known as brand ambassadors, buzz agents, or product seeds. (Groeger, 2014) However, they differ from influencers in that they are primarily face-to-face and occur in everyday life and interaction.
These ambassadors will use Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, Tweet, Insta-whatever app it, so many times, say 25, at so many locations and build up credits- credits they can redeem at the brewery for merchandise.
In many states, breweries aren’t legally allowed to give away beer, but there are ways to show appreciation to the ambassadors.
13. Create an Emphatic Response
Emphasize and connect with music.
One of my early projects, FBBC began a music program back in 2005 and began to have live bands nightly. It greatly helped our cash-flow and made us a very popular early evening spot. Musicians also become ambassadors.
Music provides social energy and a vehicle by which creators and audience express their life experiences.
Beer and music have been conjoined since the earliest epic poems and sagas were written.
Embossed on the shield of Achilles, in Homer’s, The Iliad, were vineyards, verdant farms, lords and ladies dancing and making merry, while music was played to the delight of all. Music reflects the human experience in a sublime and emotional sense, creating the emphatic response that brings life and vitality.
Sponsoring music festivals and creating live music experiences will be an active part of your promotion, building your brand. A brand is nothing more than a mental representation of a product in the consumer’s mind. (Murray, 2013)
Irrespective of my or Bill Hick’s feelings about marketing, it is requisite pure and simple. Find a way that works for the company and reflects the founder’s values. This is key. If the marketing does not reflect values, then it risks an empty and ineffectual ploy. That would make Mr. Hicks right!
Reach Out to Us
KMB Consulting can assist you in all of your challenges, large or small. Brewers need support and input. It is an artisanal craft, refined by years in the brewhouse. It is also an uncommonly specialized business.
Interested in a start-up or expansion? From conception to construction and pilot brews, we have the experience.
Today’s brewers have puzzles that need a fresh perspective. I’ve walked in your shoes. I know the victories and struggles that come with the brewer’s life.
Reach out to us. No problem is unfixable.
Applied Beverage Tanks Inc.
KMB Consulting has partnered with one of North America’s top equipment producers, Applied Beverage Tanks – (ABT). Since 1992, ABT has engaged the North American brewing industry and now supplies breweries and distilleries worldwide – in over 30 States and 13 countries. With every single one of their clients as a reference, their work speaks volumes.
I began his relationship with Jim and Alan (of ABT) in 1999. KMBC is a direct line to their desks. Or feel free to call them. I assure you the prices will be exactly the same.
Please share the customer code, [email protected], to facilitate communication.
Groeger, L. B. (2014). Word-of-mouth marketing influence on offline and online. Journal of Marketing Communications, 21-41.
Murray, P. N. (2013, February 26). How Emotions Influence What We Buy, The emotional core of consumer decision-making. Psychology Today, p. electronic.