As a craft brewer, marketing is one of your biggest challenges. I’m betting that, like almost all craft brewers, you didn’t get into this business because you were passionate about marketing. You got into this business because you’re passionate about brewing the best beer on Earth. (Good news though, this is step 1 to any successful marketing strategy. Unfortunately though, in an increasinlg competitive and crowded market, it’s only step 1.) There are many craft brewers that have great products but are struggling to succeed in business because they don’t know how to market effectively. As the number of craft breweries grows, it’s even more important that you successfully market differentiate your brewery and your beer. Traditional “big brand” marketing and advertising that major brands (think Budweiser and Coke) is extremely expensive and the return isn’t very obvious or good unless it’s done at a MASSIVE scale. The common marketing trait that successful craft beer brands is that they utilize guerrilla marketing strategies and tactics by focusing on stuff that actually produces returns.
Is the Marketing Baked In?
Before we dig in to specific tactics though, it’s gut check time. What’s the first step to successful marketing for craft brewers? Great Beer. Brewing great beer is what I like to call “baking in the marketing” for craft brewers. If you have a great product, your customer acquisition costs will go down and the long term viability of your brewery will go way up. It’s expensive to convince people that crappy beer is good (ever wonder why Budweiser and similar brands spend so much on advertising….). If you’re making great beer, the marketing gets a whole heck of a lot easier. First time tasters are a lot more likely to keep coming back for more and, if you tell your story effectively, (more on that to come) they’ll start tell all their friends. And that’s where the magic happens Like I said before, odds are good that you’re crushing the first step of effective craft beer marketing by brewing great beer. So, let’s get to the nitty gritty…
Point of Sale
The first step is the most obvious. It’s also arguably the most important. Distributors are always asking for POS pieces. In order for distributors to sell, they need the tools that they’re familiar with and that’s POS. While you can distribute yourself in your local market (as long as it’s legal in your state), that’s both time and resource intensive and as you grow you’ll need to move to working with distributors which means POS investment. We recognized the importance of point of sale pieces and designed a jockey box cover for use at tastings, festivals, and other events.
Craft a Compelling Story
One of the key marketing advantages you have as a craft brewer is your genuine passion about your beer and your company. People relate to this and people buy from brands that they trust and that they can relate to. As Simon Sinek relates in his book, Start with Why, people make buying decisions based on emotion, not logic. This especially true with products like craft beer – authentically conveying your a compelling story about your beer doesn’t just sell beer, it creates loyal customers and brand advocates.
Start a Conversation
Once you’ve crafted a compelling story, you have to get these conversation started though so people can learn about your story. In the early days of most breweries, this is done in person. That means beer festivals, tastings, off-premise events, and on-premise events and promotions. These aren’t just opportunities to distribute your product. They’re opportunities to tell your story and get others involved in your story.
Talk with the “influencers”
While starting the conversation with as many people as possible sounds like the right strategy, you have limited time and resources (and a lot of those are going into brewing great beer!) so you need to focus on having those conversation with the right people. As consumers, we’re MUCH more likely to take a recommendation from someone we know personally. No form of marketing is more effective than a personal recommendation from someone that we trust. Have you ever spent hours online researching a product, reading reviews, reading the spec sheet and figuring out the perfect choice – only to have someone you trust tell you afterwards that you should have bought the competitors’ product instead? Even if you know that your friend has no qualifications or hasn’t done nearly as much research as you, I bet you still second guessed yourself. This incredible trust that we invest in people we know is something that you can leverage as a craft brewer by targeting people that are “mini-influencers.” These are people that are seen amongst friends, family and colleagues as “the craft beer guy (or gal).” People trust them to make those kinds of recommendations. These are the types of people that you can reach at tastings, festivals, on-premise promotions. You have an opportunity at these events not just to get your beer infront of them, but to involve them in your brewery’s story. Support and encourage their passion for craft beer. Involve them in your brand with brewery tours and behind the scenes looks. To many craft beer aficionados, your story and your brewery’s story is truly inspiring. Many of these afficionados probably have had dreams of starting a craft brewery themselves. If you can make them feel like they’re a part of the brand then you’ve not only gained a customer, you’ve gained a brand advocate that will go out and grow your brand for you.
Going Viral – Taking it Online
We’re at an amazing point in history in terms of how technology lets us tell our story. Once you’ve crafted your story and mastered telling it in person, modern technology lets you do it on a massive scale. The internet and tools like blogging and social media lets you tell your story online at incredibly low cost. One of the best examples of this in the craft beer world is Dogfish Head and their founder – Sam Calagione.
For each beer they have, they’ve produced a video of what goes into it. It’s apparent the passion and thought that has gone into every single one. You don’t need fancy production teams to do this. You need a smart phone and some passion for your product. I bet you’ve got both on your person right now!
How We Can Help
We recognized the importance of POS displays for craft breweries and released our jockey box cover with the goal of helping you better tell your story and, ultimately, sell more beer. Collapsible and customizable, it allows you to put your brand, story and icon in front of you customers at beer festivals, tastings, and both on and off-premise events. Click here to see how our jockey box cover can help your brewery or watch the video below to see the Jockey Box Cover in Action: