Have you noticed how awkward things are lately? Take a step back and look at your team interacting with tasting room visitors. Are they reluctant to enter? Are there still some signs of hesitancy? Or is everyone just over it and ready to get back to normal?
This isn't an email about vaccination, loosening mask requirements or the politics of COVID-19. How you put the current CDC, state and local guidelines into practice is a business decision only you can make. However, how you message what you're doing this weekend is a critical step towards your post-pandemic rebound and should not be overlooked. We've got some ideas and watch-outs to help with any last-minute planning:
How does proper holiday messaging make your craft beverage business more discoverable?
If you don't think the awkwardness is real, consider how people greet each other nowadays: little-to-no eye contact, barely a smile (if unmasked) and hardly a word. You don't have to be a psychologist or marketer to understand that the period between COVID-19 and "back-to-normal" is going to require relearning communication and interpersonal skills. We have to, otherwise we'll be stuck with, "I'm fully vaccinated," as our default conversation-starter…read on for ways your craft beverage business can help get us out of this rut!
welcome your guests
Your communication over the next couple days have to be crystal clear about what a visit to your business looks like. For many drinkers, this is the first holiday celebrating out in public in over a year! Use THAT customer as a filter for whether your social posts, emails, signage and other notifications go far enough to welcome all guests to your tasting room. Start by removing any ambiguity around COVID operating procedures so your drinkers aren't left guessing:
|Update the COVID-19 procedures page on your website (or remove if no longer applicable).|
|Use pre-shift meetings to notify all team members on current mask, cleaning and other protocols. Use bulletin boards or other messaging to remind/reinforce.|
|Role-play scenarios that could result from COVID-anxious guests, large gatherings or other potential challenges, empowering team member response.|
|Post signage in entryways and throughout the detailing any mandatories/guidance for guest-team member interaction.|
|Now is NOT the time to remove hand sanitizer or other safety precautions: if it's there, your customers will use it.|
Beyond the basics, we've brainstormed a list of messaging ideas to help you rise to the top of your customer's consideration set this weekend:
|Memorial Day Strategy|
|First, show respect for active, retired and deceased military personnel. Consider a discount on purchases if you don't already provide one.|
|A video greeting from the owner would go a long way toward welcoming guests.|
|Consider a responsibility message. Discourage drinking and driving by encouraging ride sharing options among friends.|
|Update your hours of operation on Google My Business, Bing, Apple Maps Connect and Facebook.|
|Make sure any QR codes link to the correct food and menus.|
|Post at least daily to your social channels about drink specials, music and other live events.|
|Tag relevant food trucks, bands and other businesses in your posts for increased visibility.|
|Design an email with tips to help customers plan for the weekend, including a stop at the tasting room.|
|Show photos that reflect the current environment: indoor table and bar seating; dog-, family- and bike-friendly; covered outdoor seating; games; etc.|
|Highlight your to-go options and packaging.|
|Promote your upcoming schedule of summer releases to encourage guests to return soon.|
|Now is the perfect time to update your website and provide a discount for online pre-orders.|
|Consider bundling to-go and merchandise purchases. After a year of Zoom calls and leisure wear, your drinkers are ready for a refreshed wardrobe!|
|Profile your team members on social and web – it may be the first time your guests have seen their favorite team member in a while!|
|How about recording a couple videos behind-the-scenes with your production team? What will they be doing over the holiday weekend?|
|What dish pairs perfectly with your craft beverage this weekend? Think outdoors and grilling.|
|Highlight your range of options – from non/alcoholic to functional to caffeinated and everything in-between – to appeal to the widest audience possible. While you're known for craft beverage, your guests will bring friends if there are options for everyone.|
Be sure to assign at least one team member to monitor social and email channels over the weekend. Potential guests will be asking questions that they want/expect responses to in near real-time to help them make plans. The more responsive your business is to these requests, the greater the traffic this weekend and momentum leading to a post-COVID normal!
what not to sayYour customers have put an incredible amount of pressure on this holiday to deliver relief: from stress, [remote] work, politics, homeschooling, worrying about health/wellness and even grappling with death. So, it's only natural that you will want to help drinkers see the bright side of what's ahead, post-COVID, starting this weekend. Keeping your messaging in-check is just as important as painting a pretty picture, so remember not to:
- Overcommunicate the pandemic. Stick to operational updates, mask requirements, capacity, reservations or anything related to your current state of business.
- Promote public discussion around your handling of COVID-19. Where possible, take public conversations private/off-wall.
- Message the end of the coronavirus. It's still here. To boldly talk about "beating COVID-19" looks foolish.
- Joke about the virus. The past year, masks, social distancing and the toll COVID-19 has taken on us is not funny.
- Play the victim card. No one wants to hear how you and your team have been impacted by the pandemic.
- Falsely align with a social cause. There are a host of racial, political, cultural and other causes that have gained the world's attention this year, in addition to COVID-19. Don't jump on the bus if you haven't genuinely supported these organizations.
- Overshare. Absolutely do not share any internal communications with team members. Use the filter of, "what if the press got ahold of this memo?"
- Promote [excess] gatherings. Fine to communicate that you're open at 50%, 75% or even 100% capacity, but you don't want to be sharing photos of guests in large crowds where a little bit of distance isn't even possible.
- Promote COVID-19 as a theme. Stay away from drink names, food specials and events with the pandemic at its core. Team members and guests may find that offensive and in poor taste.
The point is not to second-guess your messaging this weekend: moreso, it's an opportunity to get it right, reassuring guests that your tasting room is worth visiting. Then, once they arrive, the service you provide will far exceed their expectations, making the [year-long] wait worth it while level-setting their next visit.
These are guides.