As advisors to the craft beverage industry, we help craft producers drive tasting room traffic, broaden their reach and capture new sales. One of our signature deliverables is a Market Study, which is a high-level look at a brand’s above-the-line or general marketing efforts. We approach discovery of your beverage brand as would any contemporary customer, using digital and social means to research before making the decision to commit. The team will then examine the different areas of your brand story that are worth sharing, a valuable aspect of today’s shopper experience. Each aspect of those experiences can be scored and weighted relative to their importance in the process. These measures combine to form a brand’s storytelling index which is used for addressing opportunities for a brand to further differentiate their marketing efforts and achieve next-level performance.
the basics – first impressions
When you meet someone for the first time, you immediately form an opinion. It’s natural to make snap judgments on whether or not they’re interesting, educated, attractive, worth your time…any number of different criteria that are important to you. It’s then up to them to either prove or disprove that. Brands are no different: when we see a beverage label on the shelf, hear a story second-hand or view a social post shared by a friend, we quickly decide whether or not to invest energy in learning more.The following are best practices for creating a positive first impression with your website:
- Use an age gate: if you’re promoting alcohol, prompt visitors for a legal purchase age for their country in the format MMDDYYYY before viewing any page. Visitors should only be prompted once per session. For more information, please consult your legal counsel.
- Design for mobile: your customers will find you on their mobile device…but how long they stay depends on ease-of-use, snackable content and quick calls-to-action.
- Streamline navigation: organize your content into no more than 5-6 major categories (subs are okay). If your site has a lot of content, it’s good to enable keyword search at the top of every page. It’s common for the logo to be used as a home button.
- Feature lifestyle photos: help guests see themselves enjoying a visit to your tasting room. Always ask permission to use photos taken of customers.
- Highlight your beverage offerings: show what’s currently available on the homepage using label visuals and short copy with links to more detail.
- State why you’re in business: it may seem obvious to you, but in the crowded craft beverage industry customers won’t spend the time to understand how you’re different from everyone else. Often called a Mission Statement, let them know what you stand for so they can decide for themselves how much attention/energy to give you.
getting crafty – digging into the details
Once you’ve gotten their attention with a differentiated storyline and arresting visuals, it’s time to pay off your website visitor’s curiosity with high-impact content. It’s counterintuitive, but less is more when it comes to explaining why they should care about your brand. Concise copy, bullets and 15-30 second video clips deliver short-burst edutainment versus long-form dissertation. Consider the following tips for inviting your customer into your brand story:
- Leverage product pages: bring the product to life with copy that reflects personality and generates energy and interest. If you have an extensive product line, try to group similar offerings (core and seasonal items, for example). Using sensory and other data points helps visitors find a beverage that’s interesting or familiar.
- Celebrate product visuals: what formats are available? Glass bottles, cans, kegs or other sizes? Outside of the tasting room, this helps customers know where else they can find your beverage. Often accompanied by a map or other means of finding a nearby retail location.
- Develop a virtual facility tour: let them know what to expect when they visit. Use photos of the tasting room, video of the team and other behind-the-scenes footage that can’t be found elsewhere. This is an important emotional connection point for visitors.
- Share your philosophy: talk about the Why behind your beverage, including favorite styles, sourcing local ingredients, relationship with the community, etc.
- Recruit: if you’re looking for help, celebrate the team culture with photos and descriptions of the role(s), benefits and perks. Working for a craft beverage producer is a dream job for a lot of people!
behind-the-curtain – engaging and sharing
Have you ever recommended a product even before purchasing it yourself? For example, if you’ve said, “I’ve never been there, but I hear good things about this restaurant,” you’re not alone. It’s not uncommon for customers to place such value on what they hear from friends or experience second-hand that they actually become an advocate for a brand they have yet to experience. Those brands often have a caché or myth surrounding them that is bigger than the product itself (think Zappos or Maker’s Mark). While there is no formula for striking gold like this, there are a couple tried-and-true ways to encourage ambassadorship for current and new customers, all of which lean into transparency:
- Encourage reviews: it’s important to allow visitors to rate the beverage and share with others. This should be enabled on-site as well as with Facebook and other ratings services. Don’t be afraid to post the critical as well as favorable comments!
- Display your social feed: this is perhaps the timeliest content available on the site, with a combination of brand- and user-generated (although moderated) posts. Similar to lifestyle photos, social posts help new customers see themselves enjoying your tasting room.
- Highlight social channels: make sure it’s easy for visitors to find you on social. The website will provide more detailed information, while social accounts will help show more of the energy and brand personality.
- Enable social sharing: more than just a link to your Facebook or other accounts, this feature is specific to the content being viewed. Visitors can share a link to product and other information directly to their social accounts for all of their fans/followers to see in their own feeds.
- Allow for real-time dialogue: installing an app like Facebook Messenger or Drift encourages real-time chatting with website visitors during business hours. This immediate customer service channel goes a long way to build goodwill with fans and followers.
- Send a newsletter: email is not dead! In addition to timely, topical social posts, having a regular newsletter is another inexpensive but highly-effective touchpoint for customers.