For many (myself included) the idea of running a craft beer business is a dream. Fascinating chemistry? Creative freedom? Getting paid to taste delicious beer? Yes, please.
But we aren’t alone. In fact, some studies suggest that the number of breweries operating in the UK has almost doubled in the past five years. This could be part of the reason why many assume that the craft beer gold rush is over…it is true that we have seen market growth slowing in recent years.
But has the opportunity to start a craft beer micro-empire really disappeared? We think not. We are now seeing the market level out. This means entry is becoming more difficult.
Sure, this sounds bad…but it isn’t. It means those who want to succeed are forced to focus on quality. Quality of the product, quality of the brand and indeed the quality of their customer service.
We can’t help much with customer service or the product (although we are more than willing to taste test). But branding and marketing is our thing. Here is our guide to marketing your craft brewery.
Craft Beer: The opportunity
You would be forgiven for thinking that the craft beer trend has had its day here in the United Kingdom.
Yet recent figures from SIBA (The Society of Independent Brewers) have shown some surprising findings in the independent brewery space. For example, 2018 saw growth in artisan beer production of 0.8%. A modest increase for sure, but we have also seen some not-so-surprising shifts in consumer habits and perceptions:
“45% of consumers are happy to pay more for genuine craft beer.”
“24% of consumers would be more likely to visit a pub or restaurant if it had a good selection of craft beer”
“16% of consumers would consider switching where they do their shopping based on the craft beer selection a supermarket offers”
Although the same report also highlighted a 5% decline in people drinking beer more than once a week (from 26% in 2017 to 21% in 2019), the combined figures go to show that as a general rule consumers are drinking less beer, whilst simultaneously demanding better quality.
When it comes to marketing there are options. LOADS of options. So it can be difficult to know where to start.
Getting the right marketing mix for your craft beer business is a fine art which will take some time and testing. Here is how to get started:
What does your brand stand for?
We won't go into too much detail here about branding, as that is a whole other topic for a whole other time. But the fundamentals are incredibly important from a marketing point of view.
Unless you have a clear idea of who you are as a business and what you stand for, it will be impossible to generate any consistency in your messaging. Ultimately this will lead to confusion from your audience and will make it very difficult to build the sort of rapport you need to grow.
Successful craft and micro-breweries have powerful brands that their customer base can buy into.
Your messaging/brand will stem from your core values. These can include anything from sustainability to delivering unusual flavours or even simply being rebellious (see Brewdog).
Get your messaging right before you start launching your marketing. If you need some support in creating a vision, mission, values and messaging statement get in touch email@example.com.
You won’t be surprised to see social media on this list. But just ‘doing social media’ won’t do much for your brand. A solid understanding of social media strategy, including organic and paid-for social media, is crucial for success.
The first question to ask yourself when considering social media (or any digital marketing for that fact) is what do you want to achieve. Simply posting on social is unlikely to benefit you much. Ask yourself:
Who do you want to reach?
What do you want them to do?
Of course, delicious craft beer is for everyone (over 18). But developing a more specific idea of who you are marketing to will help focus your efforts. Take for example a typical target audience for a craft brewery:
Age: 22-45 (although a growing audience in the 18-21 space)
Interests: Sustainability, Local Food & Drink, Socialising
Social Media Platforms
Taking this into consideration you can start to work out where those customers attention might be. Trying to reach the above audience may see you focusing on certain social media platforms. For example, with an estimated 42 million users in the UK, Facebook is a no brainer for the majority of businesses.
Instagram is often overlooked for craft beer producers. However, with roughly 59% of internet users between 18 and 29 using the platform it offers access to a huge proportion of a growing customer base. The platform is also becoming increasingly popular with an older audience, with 33% of internet users between 30 and 49 also using the platform. Instagram also lends itself to such an artisan trade as craft brewing. Allowing breweries to tell visual stories (brewing process, branding, community content etc).
Other platforms should also be considered carefully. Twitter is widely used by businesses, however, with engagement on the platform dropping drastically resources may be better spent elsewhere. Snapchat is certainly a powerful visual platform, yet with a much younger audience, it is unlikely to be that useful for in the craft beer space.
We may hate it, but selling directly to pubs is not as profitable as it used to be. We are seeing a shift for craft beer consumers drinking less, higher quality beer at home. For this reason, it is now more important than ever for craft breweries to develop strong relationships with retailers. LinkedIn may not seem like a natural platform for a craft brewery, but it can be a powerful sales tool. Although the majority of the effort on LinkedIn is likely to be from a personal point of view (sales managers), having a strong business page will support sales efforts online.
Call to action
So, once you have worked out who you are trying to target and which platforms you are going to use to reach them you need to work out exactly what you want them to do….
…ok, this question sounds pretty dumb…we want them to buy beer right?
Well yes, but the likelihood of someone seeing some of your social media content once and then becoming a loyal customer is pretty low. Instead, you need workout which actions are valuable to your business. These may include:
Visiting an online store
Joining a mailing list
Following you on social media
Digesting a particular piece of content
Calling the brewery
When developing your call to action, you need to take two things into consideration. Firstly, you should not be looking for a direct result with every post.
In fact, the majority of your posts should be informative or entertaining with no call to action (adding value). As a general rule, we use the 80/20 rule…for every 8 educational/entertaining posts we will include 2 ‘direct sells’. The 80% isn’t just wasted content, it is promoting engagement, building brand value and driving traffic to your profile…which should be geared for your valuable action.
We won’t deny it. Although organic social media is a powerful and worthwhile tool…it’s a slow build. In fact, commercially savvy platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are making it increasingly difficult to earn substantial reach on their platforms.
Why? Because of money…and lot’s of it. Facebook reportedly made $16.6 billion in ad revenue in Q4 of 2018.
Clever use of social media ads offers some substantial advantages to craft beer businesses. It allows you to reach your exact target audience with the right message at the right time…something which can be tricky with organic social media tactics (although you stand a better chance if you follow our tips above).
The advanced targetting on Facebook and Instagram ads means you target by demographics, interests and behaviours. So, in the case of a craft brewery, you could target men in your local area, aged between 22-45 who are interested in craft beer. You can even filter based on those that are engaged online shoppers, increasing chances of a purchase being made via your ad.
Social ads are particularly powerful when you have a key or new message to push. For example, to make a lot of noise about a new beer release or an upcoming event, paid social ads can be a great way to get that message in front of the right people in a timely manner.
Some industries are seriously blog-heavy. Take digital marketing for example…this certainly isn’t the only digital marketing blog out there (but it probably is the best). I would be shocked to visit a marketing agency or platform website and not find some form of a blog. Other industries see very few blogs being created – craft beer is one of these.
Blogging may not seem an important part of promoting your craft beer business. But this isn’t the case for two key reasons:
The majority of consumers love craft beer for the ‘art’. By creating a blog it enables you to position yourself as a leader in the craft beer space and educate your customers on why your products are so great…all without being too sales-y.
Consumers often turn to Google to find new and interesting craft beers to try…a regularly populated blog does wonders for your search engine rankings.
Blogging can take a number of forms:
Written (like this) – great for SEO (search engine optimisation) and keeping your website fresh
Vlog (or video blogging) – not always as good from an SEO perspective, but great for engagement, brand building and visual storytelling
Micro-blogging – writing mini-blogs on platforms like Instagram is a brilliant way to build your audience and boost engagement…but again this isn't quite as good from an SEO point of view.
Influencer marketing has taken the digital marketing world by storm. This has led to a bit of a free for all or as many in the industry call it ‘a shit show’. With so many options and news about fake followers, it can all be a bit disheartening.
But chill….we have your back.
Let’s be honest. A photo of Kim Kardashian sipping your beer is a bit irrelevant and wildly improbable. Influencer marketing doesn’t have to mean cringe-worthy celebrity ‘endorsements’. Instead, we suggest targetting the following types of influencers for your efforts.
The term micro-influencer means different things to different people. For example, in the health and fitness space, an Instagram influencer with 30K followers may be considered fairly ‘micro’. However, in the craft beer space an influencer who has a specific interest may have a much smaller number of followers…let’s say 5k for example.
Working with these influencers can be a great way to tap into the community, spread noteworthy news and even develop professional content which can be reused across all your marketing materials. In the case of working with micro-influencers, you should take time to make sure they are a good match for your brand. You must also allow them creative freedom to ensure authenticity throughout their content.
Brand advocates should be the bread and butter of your marketing strategy. Although there is a lot of fluff around what is meant by brand advocates, we prefer a simpler definition… 'very happy customers'. By creating delighted customers you are increasing the chances of positive word of mouth.
But this is just part of the equation of brand advocacy. It is all very well creating happy customers, but without giving them something to shout about it is unlikely to have much of a positive impact on your craft beer business. Doing this is actually quite simple. Here are a few ideas to help promote brand advocacy:
Run events (beer tasting, tours, gigs etc), collect your own content and ask attendees if you can share their content…using an event-specific hashtag is a good way to do this.
Make your product noteworthy. However delicious your beer is…it’s still brown liquid…this is where branding comes in. Creating awesome packaging, glasses, pump clips and even merch is a great way to give your brand advocates something to shout about.
Reward awesome content. By providing an incentive for those that create great brand-focused content, you turn your top customers into brilliant (and cost-effective) content creators for your brand.
Go above an beyond. Sometimes it as simple as being good at your job…great customer service often leads to great online content, especially in the case of online reviews.
Craft Beer Marketing
Craft brewing is an exciting space to break into. For those that have the drive, there are huge opportunities to create an awesome business that can be highly profitable. However, in such a competitive space, marketing will play an increasingly important part in successful craft beer breweries. Using a smart combination of social media, SEO, influencer marketing and brand advocacy will position your business for future success.
Owain Williams, Founder of MAKE IT MANA, has a passion for craft beer. Having spent two years helping grow a small brewery in the Midlands, Owain has since developed an expertise in digital marketing.
As an agency, we have experience in working with up-and-coming breweries helping them to tap into the power of social media, growing their reach and increasing profit.
If you are looking for marketing advice for your brewery business. Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org