For many breweries, especially as the microbrewery boom continues to grow, a majority of your sales will be through the front door. This will make for a highly fragmented and very competitive marketplace. Not only is competition from the front door great but if you plan to have product in the liquor stores, you face a great battle there as well. Don’t think beer is becoming another commodity? Think about the 1000′s of brands from around the world you are competing against. The key to being successful is how well you do your brewery marketing.
Before even considering starting make sure to do your market research in your local area. If there isn’t one nearby is there enough interest to support one. If there is already a brewery nearby what are you going to do differently and is there enough interest to support both.
With this in mind, it even more important to know your target market and create an atmosphere and brand that they enjoy. Despite what many brewers who are into the art of beermaking, it isn’t so much about the beer as it is the experience. While the beer has to be good, and most breweries make a good beer, a huge portion of your market will want to drink the stuff that is pretty uninteresting to to those of us who are in the craft. Keep in mind what your customer likes, as many a brewery went out of business making the “best” beer and not catering to the customer. It doesn’t matter how right you are, if you plan on staying in business, you better lean to market your brewery and make what the customer wants.
Many breweries, especially those that compete for local sales are terrible at marketing. Most breweries don’t know who their target market is (well lot’s of people like to drink beer right?), what category they are in or how to become the leader in that category and also ignore the trends in the beer business and target market.
To market your beer a good starting place is to have a story and reflect on the source of the ingredients. Don’t focus too much on the how you make the beer, after about 2-3 sentences, 99% aren’t really paying attention (sorry for those who have spent so long making great beer, but it’s true) . Relationship marketing is where the great breweries excel. Remember people could take considerable time to connect and buy from you or go down the street to the liquor store. If you can give the customer a great experience and get to know them when they come to your brewery, you are more likely to have them come back and buy your brand from the liquor store too.
To market your beer effectively, you need to figure what is your angle as a brewer and how to differentiate your product from others on the shelves. People are more likely to try a beer if there is a compelling story or angle they have. From there, the product has to be be good but nobody is going to pull your product off the shelf is the branding, pitch and packaging aren’t compelling. Consider this warning. Many brewers focus on the technical part of making the beer. They make a great beer but if you don’t spend a lot of time up front developing your story and image to stand out to the consumer you will become another “best kept secret” which really means your marketing sucks. It doesn’t need to be gimmicky, but it needs to stand for something. Most of us as brewers don’t know anything about marketing. To be successful in business you need to find others who are great at what they do while you do what you are great at (hopefully it’s making great beer). I’m not talking about hiring a relatives sister who is taking a marketing class at college. I’m talking about spending money to have an advertising agency do it for you. Spending this money now can avert disaster later.