How your craft beverage business can reach consumers
With 8,000+ breweries, 10,000+ wineries, and 800+ cideries throughout the United States, your craft beverage business needs a strategic plan to stand out from the crowd. You can’t grow a devoted customer base with only good products (although it helps!). Loyal customers are created by providing exceptional customer service and building a genuine connection.
Before targeting existing and prospective customers, you need to understand who your customers are and what will keep them coming back time and again. Sit back, grab a drink, and let’s dive right in.
Understanding Your Customer
Running a business, you meet people from all walks of life. Some of your guests come and share stories of their adventures, while others prefer to fly solo as they sip on their craft beverage. While every customer is unique in their own way, your audience can be split into three types of drinkers: new or ‘novice’ drinkers; social drinkers; and craft beverage enthusiasts.
Even with the craft beverage industry’s rise in popularity over the past few years, there are plenty of new drinkers you’ll encounter that have an inexperienced palette and don’t know what they like to drink. These drinkers aren’t as invested in the craft beverage process, likely tagging along with a friend, and will need more guidance during the selection process.
Use this as an opportunity to educate them on your business, your craft beverage offerings, what industry-specific terms mean, and what makes your business stand out. The craft beverage industry can be extremely overwhelming to a novice drinker, and this is your opportunity to make trying something new a little less intimidating. Ask them their favorite flavors, point out a few of your favorites, or share the most popular items on the menu to help guide their decision — and if available, recommend they order a flight to sample multiple offerings.
The more satisfying you can make their experience by personalizing their options and helping them discover a tasty craft beverage, the more likely they are to turn into an advocate of your brand and products.
Unlike new drinkers, social drinkers regularly visit local breweries and wineries with their friends and family. While they know a decent amount about the craft beverage industry, they are always looking to learn more and try new types of craft beverages.
Keep in mind that social drinkers aren’t brand-loyal, which is why they’re the perfect clientele to share your mailing list or loyalty program with. They’re constantly out and about visiting breweries, cideries, and wineries, so you should give them a reason to return to your business and become a repeat customer through promotional offers, loyalty programs, and regular communications!
Craft Beverage Enthusiasts
Craft beverage enthusiasts are the real deal and can probably win any round of trivia focused on breweries, wineries, and cideries—but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to learn more about the craft beverage industry! Guide them through your product selection as needed while building up a relationship between them and your business.
These drinkers are the ones you want to become an advocate for your brand. Host an event? They’ll show up with friends in tow. Have a can release coming up? They’ll be the first to pick some up. Holding a cider naming contest? They’ll do whatever it takes to win. Keep them satisfied and you’ll have a loyal customer for life.
5 Marketing Tactics to Build a Loyal Community
With the craft beverage industry becoming more competitive by the day, an effective marketing strategy is an absolute necessity. Drive customer engagement with these five proven marketing strategies:
1. Get Personal on Social Media
What’s the vibe that you want people to relate to your business?? Your guests visit your business to relax and have a good time — and your social media presence should reflect that! Successfully using social media will help you build connections with your customers and motivate new followers to visit. Think about this: 90% of Millennials, 78% of Generation X, and 48% of Baby Boomers are active on social media. What are you doing to successfully connect with this demographic?
Now more than ever, social media plays a critical role in how your business is viewed by your younger consumers. With the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, consumers crave communication and information about safety protocols, updated hours, socially distant or virtual events, and more. Social media allows you to safely connect with your customer and build your relationship, even while socially distancing.
When creating your social media strategy, you should:
- Schedule posts regularly – Social media is a numbers game. The more the post, the better your chances of being seen. You should be posting on your story multiple times a day and on your page one to three times a week.
- Spotlight people – Feature your employees and your customers on your social media feed. Highlighting your employees will help your followers build a relationship with your team and your brand. Sharing what your customers are doing and posting user-generated content will create a sense of FOMO with your audience.
- Create organic content – Content creation doesn’t have to be a time consuming or costly process. When a new product is being released, snap a photo of the product, your team packaging up or selling the product, and customers picking up or consuming the product. Your consumers crave authenticity — they aren’t judging you for not using professional photos!
- Carefully select hashtags – Hashtags are an easy way to expand your audience. When using hashtags within your social posts, your post will appear on the page of that hashtag. This allows your brand to be found by like-minded individuals that might not be following your social media page.
Your social media presence should be true to your brand and provide a personal touch—no one wants to see stock imagery day after day! Create a fun, relatable online brand and you’ll be rewarded for it.
2. Host Events for the Local Community
Studies have shown people will consume more food when indulging in alcohol, so you might as well give the people what they want! If your space allows, invite local food trucks to your business for a monthly or weekly “Food Truck Friday” or similar event. Holding events with local vendors is an easy way to provide extra value to your loyal customers, while simultaneously bringing new customers to your establishment that are fans of a particular food truck. You’ll also receive some free publicity from the food trucks when they share the event with their customers!
3. Stay Top of Mind with Emails
As a business owner, you don’t have extra time or money to throw at random marketing initiatives. You need a strategy that will get customers in the door – we have the solution. Consider this: 92% of online adults use email, with 61% using it on an average day.
Sending regular email newsletters once or twice a month is a cost-effective way to drive engagement and stay top of mind with your customers by sharing what’s happening at your brewery, cidery, or winery. Are there any new can releases? Is there an upcoming food truck event? Are you hosting a wine and cheese pairing? While all these tidbits can be shared on social media, email marketing isn’t based on an algorithm and ensures your news is delivered directly to their inbox — making it an extremely cost-effective solution.
The first step to sending effective email marketing campaigns is having a targeted email list. Organically grow your email list by:
- Adding a newsletter signup to your website
- Collect emails from customers making a purchase
- Use social media to gain subscribers
Following these tactics will help you get you directly into the inbox of your target audience. Once you have your email list, you can begin reaching out to your customers. To do this, you’ll need to create your email newsletter using an email platform. While MailChimp, HubSpot, and Constant Contact are some of the biggest names in the industry, we recommend scoping out a few more options and reviewing all their packages and offerings to find the ideal choice for your specific needs.
4. Boost Your Online Presence
Think of your website as a 24-hour sales rep. It should be able to provide prospective customers with everything they need to know, including:
- Hours of operation (i.e. business hours, when facility tours are run, etc.)
- Locations and addresses
- Craft beverage menu (and food menu, if applicable)
- Calendar of upcoming events
- Frequently asked questions
- Links to social media channels
- Contact information
Once your website is in a good place, it’s time for the fun part — getting featured in industry-related publications! There are plenty of publications out there that cover the craft beverage industry. Find a few that relate most to your brewery, cidery, or winery and reach out if you have an exciting release or big event coming up. Working with influencers is another way to increase brand awareness because they can directly reach an untapped portion of your target audience.
Don’t forget to reach out to local publications specific to your city. Is there an online resource everyone in your city uses to learn about restaurant and brewery openings, upcoming community events, and anything and everything going on in your area? This localized exposure will surely impact your bottom line!
5. Build Customer Loyalty
With repeat customers, it’s much easier to predict how the release of a new product will go. Giving your customers the ability to sign up for a monthly club or allocation ensures you’ll have steady cash flow with each release—limiting the amount of time spent on selling the product to local shops and finding distributors. You can embrace the subscription model in one of two ways:
Ensuring regular and guaranteed income, a subscription model allows you to build stronger relationships with your customers and bring in repeat business. With a beer, wine, or cider club, your customers can:
- Semi-annually, quarterly, or monthly shipments
- Receive regular newsletters with exclusive content
- Earn discounts on new releases and repeat orders
- Get access to exclusive events and new releases
A craft beverage club allows your business to stay connected with your consumers while bringing in increased sales.
More exclusive than a monthly membership, an allocation makes it easy for businesses to promote their products to a select group of customers. With allocations, you’re able to target specific customer groupings, such as your highest volume buyers, customers in a certain service area, or historical order preferences. These customers have the opportunity to purchase select beer, wine, or cider that isn’t available to the public — but there is limited stock available and the discounted rate is only for a limited time.
Allocations are a great way for businesses to tailor offerings to the customers’ preferences, create a sense of exclusivity, solidify relationships with their customers, and build continuity sales.