Over the last week we’ve walked a number of craft beverage brands through store options to help quickly enable to-go, curbside and local delivery orders online. Owners and managers told us during our complimentary video conferences that online ordering was only part of the marketing challenge. They wanted to know what they can do with a lean team to support and engage their fans and customers during the pandemic. In this email we discuss setting up video events for your brand:
We have also expanded our offer to meet with brands via video conference to discuss these and any other topics, free of charge. We want to make sure everyone is comfortable with their marketing strategy during this crisis.
first, why marketing is important during crisis
There are a number of ways your brand can respond to the crisis: business as usual, focus on the customer or go quiet. Business as usual is NOT recommended because this will appear callous and insensitive to the current situation, both for employees and customers. Businesses in every industry will be impacted in the short-to-mid term if not longer, so continuing to do strictly promotional marketing will be off-putting to customers who are looking more for reassurance from your brand than product benefits. Now is also not the time to go quiet with your craft beverage customers. Many are at-home, sheltered in place and trying to adjust. They want value-added content that helps them exert some level of control over the uncertainty of their daily lives.
If your tasting room is still open, start with social, email and video content that tells customers how to do business with you. Then highlight brand values, attitudes, and your contribution to society in an honest and authentic way. Find ways to support the local community and areas of interest to your customers, like using social platforms to promote musicians, chefs, artists and others in your area affected by COVID-19. Be one of the businesses that rises up to support the industry, like Codi Manufacturing of Golden, CO, who is currently offering free mobile canning to local breweries in need. Or simply entertain, inviting followers and fans to join you for a [virtual] experience from home to break up the monotony of their day. This is where we will focus our recommendations today, highlighting some creative thinking from brands like yours to continue to engage customers. Because when social distancing is no longer mandated, customers will remember those brands that went above-and-beyond to help them feel “normal.”
Most craft beverage brands have Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. But very few currently use them for hosting live events. There are probably good reasons for this, like the production team is nervous in front of the camera or perhaps the technology is intimidating. Now is not the time to shy away from live video – your remote customers want to see you. While many states have restricted or eliminated social gathering in tasting rooms, business owners are increasingly being allowed to continue basic operations and offer shipping, to-go or local delivery. Even if you’re working with a reduced staff, anyone with a smartphone and social account can share a behind-the-scenes experience with customers.
Here are 10 ideas for engaging social media followers from inside your facility:
- First-person walk-throughs
- Highlight to-go/pickup/delivery procedures
- Show how team members are coping (don’t joke about COVID-19)
- Shadow the production team
- Capture the packaging process or show available to-go inventory
- Showcase work being done on the facility during downtime
- Tell stories about your brand, owners and team
- Introduce office pets, however stay away from broadcasting children in your facility
- Live stream a team whiteboarding session around planning virtual events
- Have some fun, like music and dancing in the empty tasting room, tricycle races around the production floor, etc.
Instagram Live and Facebook Live both offer the ability to broadcast video from your phone in real-time. Benefits of these platforms include: exposure to your current followers as well as new audiences; ease-of-use; and the ability to archive/replay video content. They differ from video conferencing solutions like Zoom, Skype and GoToMeeting in how people interact: attendees can like content and comment in real-time while two “presenters” at most can share the [split] screen at once. We’ll walk through a more interactive scenario next with hosted happy hours.
hosting a happy hour
In the past week we’ve seen an explosion of craft beverage brands quickly shifting from physical to virtual events for their customers. Those that dove in early realized there’s no playbook or model they can reference to get this right the first time around. But that didn’t stop them from putting an event out there, executing to the best of their ability and learning how to do it better the next time. Customers now more than ever will be forgiving of unscripted content, wi-fi issues and technology challenges.
When you’re ready for a more interactive experience than a virtual tour of your tasting room, it’s time to organize a happy hour for your fans. Now is your chance to create an excuse to drink craft beverage and invite your email newsletter subscribers, social media followers and everyone within earshot to join you for the fun. Uninspired? Consider the following 10 reasons why it’s 5-o’clock somewhere:
- Watch a movie together (check out the Netflix Party app)
- Make up the words to a [silent] movie, Mystery Science Theatre 3000-style
- Rock out with a local band virtually
- Remember paint and sip nights? Add a fluffy little cloud online!
- Enlist a yoga instructor for [social distance] poses
- Bingo, themed trivia or game nights
- Talk shop with the production team
- Cooking with or pairing beverages
- Host a book club, enthusiast group or guest speaker of interest to your customers
- How-to on making their favorite beverage at home
The possibilities are endless. Now is not the time to be worried about whether or not your happy hour is “on-brand” or something you’ve done before. Giving your fans and followers an outlet that is entertaining is most important. You don’t, however, want to promote overconsumption, get too political or spend time talking about COVID-19 response. Attendees are there to have fun.
For two-way video conferencing or group chats we like Zoom Meetings. If you don’t already have a Zoom account, it’s free to sign up and you can host a meeting with up to 100 participants for 40 minutes. Happy hour video can be recorded and archived for the future (makes for great social and other content) and you or your participants can screen share. Paid packages start at $14.99/mo and give the host additional time for the happy hour (up to 24 hours, that’s a lot of drinking!) plus additional admin features. To start, we believe the Basic package for free will help you get comfortable with hosting and you can grow from there. Not sure how to get started? We’re happy to help walk you through setting up your first happy hour!
organizing a private/paid tasting
Are your customers interested in a more intimate experience with your craft beverage from home? The same Zoom video conferencing solution that is used for larger group happy hours can scale down to allow a team member to entertain a small handful of guests for an educational tasting. We’ve seen this executed in a variety of ways, but at a minimum it requires attendees to have access to the beverages being discussed. Craft beverage brands have moved quickly to “package” like products in a thematic way (think verticals, regional relevance, styles, core or seasonal offerings, etc.) and sell them online. Shipping is an option for some, while most brands are taking advantage of relaxed regulations around to-go, curbside and local delivery. Then, beverage in-hand, you have a captive audience for learning about your brand directly from the source. For those sheltering in place for the next 2-4 weeks, hosting a small group tasting may be the perfect entertainment for an evening. Our recommendation is to keep the overall price reasonable: we’ve seen some cases where wineries are charging $400-$500 for 6 bottles of wine and an hour with the winemaker! The idea is to continue engaging your customers first, which may mean reducing your margins to move product in the short term.
tips for live video
If you’re new to live video or just want to make sure to use it appropriately during this crisis, here are some do’s and don’ts for your craft beverage brand: