Craft your business with the same care as your beer
As a brewery owner, you’ve spent your life working on recipes and perfecting unique flavors. Now you share them with the world by crafting them and sending them to stores, distributors, and restaurants. Your taproom allows the community to gather and enjoy your creations. Your craft beer brings the community together. At least that’s how you envision it.
The craft beer market has exploded, going from less than 4,000 in 2014 to almost 7,500 in 2018. Consumers have more choice than ever when it comes to finding quality and creatively made beer. For brewers, however, this means massive competition and advertising clutter to push through. It’s not easy to get a craft brewery to take hold, so what can you do to set yours apart?
1. Invest in Employees and Managers
Offer good pay and benefits as well as knowledge, training, and education. Your employees will feel like they have a stake in the brewery’s success and — above all — feel valued as a contributor. Even something as simple as training tasting room servers to say “Hello” and “Thank You” to guests will dramatically increase the number of customers you have returning time and again. Show your employees that you care about them, and they’ll have no problem with that small but crucial task.
Education and training transform employees into experts. Well trained staff can tell when beer has gone bad and identify specific issues with flavor like oxidation and diacetyl contamination. They understand different beer ingredients, the varied styles, and essential skills like pouring a beer correctly. Whether you help them through certification programs like Cicerone or create training courses on your premises, producing knowledgeable and passionate employees can only help.
2. Support Loyal Customers
Customers want to feel like their loyalty is reciprocated. Start by getting to know them. You can study the demographics of craft beer drinkers as a whole, but getting to know YOUR customers is what matters. Once you understand who’s buying your beer, you can better cater to their interests.
Loyalty reward programs are a great place to start. Offer food, games, and entertainment, which give your customers value beyond just the beer you brew. And listen to them. Giving them a sense that their opinion matters shows they’re valued. If customers provide negative feedback, see what could be improved. Thank them on social media or internet reviews. Host customer appreciation nights. Anything you can do to show your appreciation for your customers will pay off.
3. Communicate Frequently and Transparently with Stakeholders
Who are your stakeholders? Your customers, employees, investors, suppliers, state agencies, regulatory boards, the general community, and even the media. Basically, anyone who has a stake in your brewery is a stakeholder.
Suppliers need to be treated fairly and communicated with often. State agencies, who make the laws and regulations that allow your brewery to exist, should have no question about your ethics or standing. As for the community and the media, give them a reason to distrust you, and you can watch your profits disappear or even face severe backlash and boycotts. Social media is a phenomenal tool for advertising your business and staying connected, but it can also create trouble if not used carefully.
4. Give Back to the Community
The best way to show that your brewery is a boon to the community is to give back.
- Donate to Charity: Perhaps you could donate a portion of your profits, whether from seasonal or one-time brews or general profits. You can also donate supplies and material goods to shelters and resell stores.
- Offer Your Space: Nonprofits often don’t have the money to even rent event space. Offer your space during off-hours for special events.
- Special Events: Hosting events like races, community walks, or concerts, especially as fundraisers, brings the community together.
- Employee Volunteering: Encourage your employees to volunteer at a local shelter, engage in a cleanup at a park, or any activity that gives them a chance to represent the brewery as a positive force for change. Also, lead by example. You should be volunteering right alongside them.
5. Enter Competitions
Entering competitions is a great way to get your beer in front of a wider audience. However, it’s not as simple as just sending off your beer to a competition and hoping for the best. There is strategy involved and sound advice to follow:
- Fill Out the Form Yourself: No one knows your beer as well as you do. This is not a task to delegate to an employee who may or may not have a good grasp on the specifics of the beer you’ll be entering.
- Enter Your Best Beer: You might be tempted to enter your entire range. Pick your very best, and only enter that.
- Don’t Send Old Beer: Enter fresh beer. If the beer you enter is stale, it will not win.
- Use a Good Shipper: Use a shipping service that knows how to ship beer. If your beer sits in a hot truck for days on end, it’s going to get ruined.
6. Upgrade Marketing
Specific, targeted marketing doesn’t have to feel like you're shoveling money out the door. There are plenty of low-cost ways of spreading awareness about your brand.
- Social Media Ads: Targeted ads on social media are inexpensive, especially since you can target them to your core demographics.
- Radio: Advertising on the radio is far cheaper than television, and you can even buy entire segments on talk shows.
- Influencers: Getting your beer in the hands and pictures of social media influencers may cost you nothing more than giving away a 6-pack to the right person.
- SEO: Search Engine Optimization means gaining control of your brewery’s web presence. Create a Google My Business account to make sure all business info is correct online. Supply your website with helpful information like a current, easy-to-read menu, events calendar, and a well crafted About Us page — you might even consider writing a blog.
- Email Newsletter: Whether people sign up on your website or they gave you their email some other way, perhaps at an event, a newsletter is a great way to stay in touch as well as offer value through coupons and giveaways.
7. Invest in Good Equipment
Your equipment should be reliable and easily serviceable. Fillers, cappers, and labelers all must work together seamlessly. Your employees should be well trained on how to use them and even perform some simple repairs and maintenance, but you should still expect that the manufacturers of your machines will service them in a timely manner.
When you’re buying equipment, you must also make sure that each machine can feed the next in your production line. Machines that are semi-automatic or fully automatic also mean less room for human error. Some operations, like labeling, really should be left to dedicated equipment. Labels that are crooked or fall off easily will hurt sales. A little more money and planning spent on the front end saves huge amounts of money on the back end.
Protect Your Brand & Eliminate Waste with Perfectly Placed Labels
We want your brewery to succeed. From brew ingredients to perfectly placed labels, we hope that everything you put your time, energy, and money into will showcase your brand quality. Believe it or not, the smallest things can impact potential buyers' perceptions. Misapplied labels can reflect poorly on your brand, and in turn, affect sales. Buying the right labeler for your labels and packaging line can help you speed up output, keep labels looking sharp — plus prevent waste and frustration.
That's why we've created The Brewer's Guide to Craft Beer and Microbrew Labeling Equipment. It contains insights on labeling best practices, what to look for in a high-quality labeler, and how to choose the right labeling equipment for your needs and output goals. Be sure to also check out our labeling machines for the craft beer industry for machine spec and benefits.