The craft beer movement is continuing to grow at a breakneck pace. According to The Brewers Association, this is almost certainly the first time the United States has crossed the 4,000 brewery barrier since the 1870s. The rate at which new breweries are opening is only accelerating with even more predicted to open their doors in 2017. While the growth of the craft beer market, in general, is booming for craft brewers, it’s also becoming harder and harder to stand out. Effectively marketing their beer is one of the biggest challenges new craft breweries face.
With marketing budgets being composed mainly of hustle and elbow grease, craft brewers are in constant search of low-cost, high ROI craft beer marketing strategies. One of the easiest and most effective to implement is using beer festivals and tastings to draw in new customers. Just showing up isn’t enough though. You need to have an effective craft beer marketing plan in place to draw attention, tell your brewery’s story, and turn tasters into long-term customers.
You’ve certainly been to your fair show of beer festivals and tastings. Though it varies depending on the beer festival, most breweries do a poor job of standing out in their presentation. In many cases, the booths all look the same with a foldout table, a couple of jockey boxes for serving the beer and a banner hung behind the pourers.
However, the breweries that really succeed in promoting themselves are doing much more. They have craft beer marketing strategies and techniques for how they present their brand at tastings and festivals. I’ve seen tastings where brewers drove a van into the building and had the van set-up to serve beer. At others, I’ve seen pourers painted head to toe in body paint to stand out. There’s plenty of creative ways to do it, but in the end, you need to draw people in to taste your beer.
With some events featuring hundreds of different booths, attendees won’t be sampling all the available options. You need to present your brewery in a unique way that makes sure they’ll be sampling your beer. One way to do this is with unique and creative props or images that express something unique about your brewery. Just throwing up a banner with your brewery’s logo isn’t going to differentiate you. What makes your brewery unique? Bring something to show your uniqueness. Another effective way of drawing attention is using a custom booth or serving space. Instead of just having a foldout table, a custom booth can draw more people in.
Tell Your Story
Getting people to your booth is the first step. The next is getting them involved in your brand. Sure, you need to have good beer. But with over 4000 craft brewers and growing, there’s a lot of good beer out there. In order to stand out, you have to create an experience around your beer that resonates with people.
Craft beer drinkers respond to small, passionate companies with unique stories. Festivals give you an amazing opportunity to have one-on-one conversations between your pourers and the people you’re selling to. Successful craft brewers understand that one on one marketing is the most effective way to grow their brands. They obsess about crafting a unique story and telling it to consumers in a way that resonates and takes them from one-time tester to passionate fan. Dogfish Head, now one of the largest craft brewers in the U.S. tells their story and the story of their beers through videos about each of their beers with founder Sam Calagione. The videos expose Calagione’s “off-center” personality. The same personality pervades the whole brand and Dogfish had built a passionate following among off-centered people.
For craft brewers in earlier stages, there’s the opportunity to build this connection live and in person at beer festivals. Use your booth’s appearance to communicate what makes your brand unique. Have your pourers tell the story behind your brand and beer. If you use a unique ingredient or style of brewing that sets you apart, find a way to feature and display it.
Create Brand Advocates and Customers for Life
Case studies have shown the power of brand advocates and long term customers on helping small companies grow. Loyal customers increase profits by generating buzz around your brand and becoming repeat customers. This is even more true for craft brewers than most types of companies. Craft brewers succeed by thriving in their local market and expanding slowly into neighboring regions. They create passionate fans and brand advocates that just won’t shut up about their brand. Just like with other products, consumers are much more likely to try a beer recommended by a friend than one they see advertised. This means
This means engaging customers that have just tried your beer and keeping the conversation going. At beer festivals, there’s a few cost-effective ways for breweries to do this. One is to take the interaction online. Offer an incentive for tasters to connect with you on Social Media or your blog. You can offer an inside look at your company that keeps the story going and engages your customers. You can also offer brewery tours or offer a discount to come to your brewery for a tasting. If you’re planning on serving at any events in the future, tell them about it and invite them.
If you’re planning on serving at any events in the future, tell them about it and invite them. Every loyal customer you create can have an exponential effect on growth as they spread awareness to their friends, family, and coworkers.
As a craft brewer, you don’t have the marketing budget to build awareness through expensive media channels like TV and radio. What you have is good old fashioned hustle. More importantly, what you have is a unique story and the ability to create a one of a kind experience that gets people talking about your brand and spreading it to their friends. By developing an effective strategy for using beer festivals to convert craft beer drinkers into raving fans, you can develop a cascading effect that gets your beer into the hands of people who may never have heard of your brand otherwise.