The secret’s out, everyone: Today’s consumers can’t get enough craft beer. In the past decade or so, the craft brewery industry has exploded. From 2008 to 2018, indie brewers went from producing 8.5 million barrels of beer to 26 million, according to reports. In that same time period, the number of craft breweries went from 1,500 to more than 7,000 in the United States.
With the industry landscape more popular (and competitive) than ever, marketing is a tried-and-true way to make your brewery stand out. These nine tips will help you develop a strong marketing strategy, no matter your budget.
1. Get noticed on social media
If you’re only posting up-close shots of your latest canned variety or your open hours, you’re not leveraging social media platforms as best you can. People follow companies on social media because they want to stay on top of the latest news developments and get a glimpse of the ethos behind the brand.
Sure, maybe your beer is refreshing, but what’s the process for naming a new one? What does your brewery space look like? Who are the people working hard behind the scenes? Your social media pages are great places to put all this on display while, of course, staying true to the aesthetic of your company’s branding. (And, if you’ve got even a bit of a budget, turn some of those high-performing posts into targeted social ads to attract new fans.)
2. Partner with local businesses
Industry vets know that word of mouth is one of the most effective marketing tools around. Widen your organic reach by partnering with local restaurants and businesses. This doesn’t just mean they stock your beer at their establishment, although that’s a big plus. You can get creative, like offering to “sponsor” their next big event or fundraiser by way of donating some beer or offering a discount.
If you also host events at your brewery, you can consider partnering with local vendors for a preferred vendor program. This way, you can refer these businesses to clients for an event at your venue and vice versa.
3. Be active in your community
The odds are that your city has a plethora of community events happening on any given weekend, whether it’s an outdoor festival, a weekly food truck park, or something in between. Check out your local alt-weekly paper, chamber of commerce calendar, or coffee shop message board, and see what events are coming up.
You can add a note on these dates in your Tripleseat event calendar for team awareness. Then, reach out to the coordinators and see if they still need vendors or sponsors. Even if it’s too late to participate, you can still keep these annual events on your radar to make sure you’ve got a booth, a keg, or a cooler at them the next time around.
4. Focus on what makes you unique
There are a ton of craft breweries dotting the landscape these days. The secret to success? Standing out. Do you work with local artists on label designs, or use a rare ingredient for your summer ale? Boom, there’s your angle. But even if you don’t have one obvious factor that sets you apart, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.
Like we said before: people flock to brands that show their human side. Think about the journey to create your craft brewery. There’s almost no chance the road was identical to someone else’s every step of the way. That makes you unique, and it’s worth touting.
5. Launch a newsletter
We get it: running a brewery takes serious time, and you don’t have a lot to spare. But making the effort to create a brief newsletter, even if you only send it once a month, can have a major impact on your business. Case in point: For every $1 spent on email marketing, approximately $32 to $44 is made in return.
There are a few tactics that’ll help ensure your newsletter is successful. First, think about what you want to say, and what you think readers want to know about. Even if you don’t have a big new release to announce, you can refresh readers about your latest offerings. You can also include info about tour options, and keep people posted on where they can buy your beers around town. Make the subject line catchy (but appropriate). Don’t forget to include all your social media links at the bottom. Lastly, add hyperlinks in case people want to know more about anything you mention.
6. Consider hosting events
Odds are, if you host brewery tours, you can also host live events. Even a themed night, like a weekly “yappy hour” where patrons can bring their dogs to your brewery, can help generate some decent buzz. Take a look at your space. If you have an area that would be conducive to even a small gathering, it’s a great opportunity to also market yourself as a venue for others to host their own events. Got a patio, and outdoor lawn, or enough space for a few tables or high-top tables and chairs? Even better.
If the idea of launching an events program is overwhelming, don’t despair! Joining an online directory — like VENUES by Tripleseat or EventUp —is one of the most beneficial ways to get your brewery in front of brand-new patrons searching for a nontraditional space. For most of these marketplace websites, you simply create a venue profile, add in your photos, details, and sample menus, and ready your team to speedily respond to incoming leads. You can even take things a step further by creating and sending out a simple, informative event packet.
7. Highlight what makes your brand fun
Brewery brands with the most effective marketing strategies don’t take themselves too seriously. After all, beer should be associated with having a good time — kicking back, laughing, and being with people you enjoy.
Don’t be afraid to flex some creative muscles. Repost (with permission) a tagged photo someone posted of your latest brew next to a dog on a sunny patio. Snap a shot of someone enjoying one of your libations at the beach. Is it one of those food holidays, like National Ice Cream Day? Post on Facebook how great your coffee stout pairs with a scoop of Rocky Road (with a great photo, of course).
8. Connect with industry publications
There are a ton of publications out there covering the craft beer industry, from Bar Business Magazine to Good Beer Hunting and plenty more. Reach out to these publications (or their editorial staff members) and tell them who you are, what you do, and what sets you apart. The odds are more in your favor for a positive response if you add in a timely hook that’ll make covering your brand newsworthy.
If a writeup isn’t in the stars, you can always inquire about web or print ads to help spread the word about your offerings. Outside of industry pubs, it’s also worth looking into local publications. If these periodicals put out special issues or features about the beer or food-and-beverage industries, that’s a potential extra dose of exposure.
9. Leverage a PR firm
If you have the marketing budget, hiring a PR firm is a near-guaranteed way to get your name out there and drum up more business. They can put out press releases when newsworthy developments hit, like releasing a new iteration or expanding your space.
They can also put your name out there as a source for reporters covering the craft beer scene. These pieces almost always need experts to quote, and your PR team should be able to promote you to these people and outlets as a key player worth knowing in the industry.
There’s no magic formula to ensure your business’s success. But, as long as you churn out products you’re proud of, stay true to your company’s mission, commit to great customer service, and do what you can to spread the word, you’ll be in a position to keep business a-brewin’ for years to come.
Once you start generating awareness and bookings for your brewery, take a look at how Tripleseat can take your private events to the next level. If you’re not a Tripleseat customer and you’re interested in learning more about Tripleseat’s features, schedule a demo at your convenience to take a closer look.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on the Gather blog and written by Caroline Cox.