The craft beer market is booming! It has become a $22.3 billion dollar industry and continues to grow (even while overall beer sales have remained flat in recent years).1 In 2015, there were over 4,000 craft breweries in the US, doubling from roughly 2,000 in 2011.2 While this is great news for the beer industry as a whole, it also means competition is heating up!
Not only is your brand competing with other independent craft beer brewers, but big beer companies are acquiring large numbers of craft breweries at a rapid rate.3 These beer behemoths have big money and a strong distribution network behind them. We know you can brew a good beer, but if you don’t want to drink it alone it’s essential to plan out your own craft beer marketing strategies and stay ahead of the game.
In order to compete and grow, digital marketing is a must.
Because consumers like to align themselves with craft brands, craft beer companies have a slight advantage over big beer. When it comes to craft beer marketing, digital marketing tactics are a cost effective way to enhance your advantage and promote your brand without breaking the bank. Using social media, email marketing, SEO, and a sales-focused website allows smaller companies to make themselves known (and sought after) in a digital world. If done right, digital marketing can help connect your craft beer brand with the right consumers turning them into loyal customers.
Here are our 5 digital marketing musts that should be part of your craft beer marketing strategy:
1. PROFESSIONAL BRANDING AND PACKAGING
Okay, okay – technically this does not fall under digital marketing, but we think it’s worthy of mentioning here. Craft beer marketing actually begins with design. Known for creative branding and packaging, the competition on the shelves in the craft beer section of your local grocer is fierce. Your brand identity and packaging design needs to be spot on and professional from the start to maintain a competitive edge. Your brand identity should also form a foundation you can base your continued marketing efforts on both in the virtual sphere and with face to face interactions.
Tips to get you started:
- Hire a professional design studio and branding consultant
- Create a style guide so your digital marketing efforts remain consistent and reflect the vibe and tone of the brand you’ve established
2. A SOLID WEBSITE
Just as brand identity is a baseline item essential for success, so too is a professional website built to grow your business. In this day and age, a simple brochure website will not suffice. A successful craft beer marketing strategy includes a website with interactive features built to engage your audience and drive sales. Your website should be developed with conversions in mind. You may not be able to sell craft brews directly to consumers, but you can convert consumers into customers using your website as a tool.
If you want your website to become part of your overall craft beer marketing strategy it should be able to:
If you are not capturing leads, how will you convert a consumer into a customer? Install an email sign-up plugin with a special offer attached. It can automatically connect to your MailChimp or ActiveCampaign account.
Track and analyze activity on your website
We suggest using Google Analytics to track the following:
- The number of visitors to the site daily and how long they stay
- Demographics about your visitors
- How people are finding your site (Google search, alternate website, social media, etc.)
- What content is the most popular? Set up separate product pages so you can see which products resonate the best with your audience. This gives you valuable information that can be used as part of your decision making process.
Give visitors a clearly defined way to purchase your product
There are store locator plugins for WordPress that allow your audience to search by zip code to see what stores and restaurants carry your product. Making your inventory available to consumers is mission critical! If potential customers can’t find your product in stores they won’t be able to purchase it.
Optimize for search engines (SEO)
If you haven’t set up the right keywords and solid meta descriptions on every page of your website, it’s going to be very difficult for potential consumers to find you through search engines like Google and Bing. On-page search engine optimization should be a priority when building your site and should be evaluated on an on-going basis.
Having a blog on your website is a must. Creating good content on a regular basis and promoting it through social media and email marketing drives traffic to your website and provides you yet another opportunity to convert leads into sales. Creating content also helps your website rank higher with search engines like Google and is a great opportunity recognize those special influencers and advocates of your craft brew.
Packaging sells and so does photography. Investing in a professional photographer and product stylist is money well spent. These photos can be used on both your website and social media; they can also become part of your overall branding package. With camera-ready smartphones in the hands of many, everyone has become a photographer, and a critic. Sub-par photos online are considered out of touch and now thankfully, are easy to avoid.
3. EMAIL MARKETING
Here’s the thing. Social media is great, but it can’t be the only thing you rely on to drive traffic towards your brand. Social mediums (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) have algorithms to ensure quality content enters into users’ newsfeeds. They limit the amount of promotional content (anything coming from companies/brands) that shows up. In reality, most of your posts go unnoticed by your audience on social media, unless you are paying to boost them. You need multiple approaches to reach your audience online, posting just isn’t enough.
Cut out the middle man!
Okay, maybe not completely, but in your digital marketing arsenal, you need a medium to speak directly to your customers without the limitations that social media can bring. That medium is email marketing. Email marketing gives you the power to connect directly with your consumer base when you want; there’s no rolling of the dice and no algorithm to go up against. Email marketing also provides insightful analytics describing exactly how your audience is interacting with your content. It can track how many people are clicking through to your website and how many people are reading your emails. You can even A/B test!
Start growing your list. Today!
If you haven’t yet, make email marketing part of your craft beer marketing strategy and start building a consumer list today. In the digital marketing world a strong list is indispensable. Make it easy on yourself by adding an email capture form to your website; there are lots of services like MailChimp and ActiveCampaign that make it simple to build, grow, and track your email activities.
Think you don’t have enough content?
Believe me when I say, you DO have enough content. Here are some simple things you can offer via email marketing:
- Cocktail recipes that include beer
- Food recipes that include your beer
- Great beer pairings
- Special offers/coupons
- Highlight and pay homage to those retailers/restaurants that carry your beer
- New product releases
- Videos showing your beer being made (an inside look or how-to)
- Don’t oversaturate with too many emails each month, subscribers will become passive.
- Make sure content is valuable to your consumers.
- Track, analyze, and adjust accordingly. Use the data to your benefit.
- Don’t put your email account at risk. Follow the SPAM rules. Email marketing has very different rules/laws than direct marketing. The SBA has a quick primer on email marketing laws.
4. SOCIAL MEDIA CAN BE YOUR FRIEND
Here’s the thing. Social media is great. But you can’t rely solely on social media to drive traffic to your site. Social mediums have algorithms to ensure quality content in users’ newsfeeds. They limit the amount of promotional content (anything coming from companies/brands) that shows up in newsfeeds. The reality is that most of your audience is not seeing your posts on social, unless you are paying to boost posts.
As I mentioned, social media is great, but does have some limitations. When used in conjunction with other digital marketing efforts, and updated regularly with original content, it can be very beneficial. Just keep in mind that the main purpose of your social media campaigns should be to drive traffic to your website and increase sales. To do that it’s important to post only things you think your audience would be interested in and would be more likely to share with others.
The best ways to engage your audience on social media:
Use great photography
Social media is made for foodies and craft brew connoisseurs. People love craft beer photography — especially on Instagram. This is a great way to engage potential consumers without feeling too “salesy.” This is also another reason it’s important to have professional photography that represents your craft beer. Great photography also helps you connect more professionally with well known influencers online that can help build a brand following.
Promote blog content
Anytime you blog, you should be promoting that content on social media. Blogs are intended to inform and engage your audience and social media is a great way to push that content on multiple platforms hitting more than just your core group of believers. Blogging is a reciprocal relationship; if you share a blog on social media you think people might enjoy, that author is more likely to do the same for you. If you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours right?
Share great content from like-minded folks. This will only help build your network and increase your traffic. Again, virtual content sharing is reciprocal and people are influenced to share your product info in their own circles if you are doing the same for them.
Do you have promo products (think pint glasses or chalices) that you could give away? Set up a contest on social media to gain followers and start conversations.
5. PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEOGRAPHY
With visual social media platforms like Instagram dominating the internet, using beautiful photography of your craft beer is a great way to get your brand in front of new viewers and engage your current audience.
Short videos to share your story
Short videos are also a great way to share your story online and enhance your craft beer marketing efforts. Do a short virtual tour of your facility or show how your beer is made. If you are doing something fun in-house (a live band, book reading, contest, staff outing, etc.) post a short video of it. The more your audience can feel connected to you and your brand the more likely they will become loyal customers and brand advocates.
- Create a mood board to determine the style of photography for your craft brew
- Hire a professional
- Invest in a high quality camera/video camera for quick daily shots
- Post often and stay consistent with your messaging
Your brand identity and story should be at the heart of your craft beer marketing strategy. Craft beer drinkers love a strong history and want know who you are, where your beer came from, and how it was developed. Digital marketing tactics like social media, email marketing, and a high quality website provide you with an outlet to make your beer known to the world, to share who you are. Loyal customers will not only like your beer, but also believe in what your brand stands for and your background. Remember to stay consistent in your message across all digital channels and don’t be afraid of being “real” with your audience. Real is exactly what they are looking for. For more information about craft beer digital marketing please visit our site here.