Owners and managers pinged us after our last email saying their paid advertising wasn’t driving traffic to their tasting room:
“We’re boosting social posts but it’s not working.”
“Local radio is expensive and not targeted enough.”
“Search engine marketing doesn’t do sh*t.”
These brands are doing exactly what is needed right now: aggressively going after new drinkers. So why are they coming up short? Why isn’t their paid advertising resulting in sales?
Spending money against tired marketing leads to tired results.
“Tired marketing” can mean visuals that don’t engage the senses. Copy that doesn’t evoke emotion in the reader. A tasting room that doesn’t invite [new] drinkers to gather. And drinks that quite frankly aren’t unique or special. It can also be taken more literally: your team members are tapped out. The person responsible for social media has writer’s block. Your tasting room manager isn’t thinking creatively about bookings. There’s a general lack of energy in the place.
Just reading that last paragraph FEELS heavy…like all the air has been sucked out of the room. Hopefully your business isn’t to that point yet! If so, we’ve got some quick recos to help breathe life back into your marketing. But first we have to recognize when our paid and organic efforts aren’t landing with customers.
indicators your marketing is tired
It’s tough to be objective when it comes to your craft beverage business. There’s a lot of pride there. You and the team have built a business and customer base up over time. The liquid is solid and your tasting room is welcoming to guests. You may have even invested in media to help get the word out about your brand, like social, digital and public relations. How will you know when that’s no longer working to drive sales? What red flags should you be watching for?
Most owners and managers would say they have a “gut feel” about their business. If you want to take the subjectivity out of it, consider the following metrics to identify tired marketing tactics:
- Sales: plain and simple. How are you trending month-over-month, year-over-year? COVID-19 is an x-factor for certain, but don’t pin poor marketing performance solely on the pandemic.
- Traffic: fewer tickets on your busy nights means you’re telling a less-compelling story than your competitors.
- Engagement: social posts aren’t performing at the same rate, with a drop-off in Likes, Follows, Shares and other actions.
- Press: your competitors show up more regularly in local and industry news.
- Website: fewer hits, less time on site and more bounces/exits are clear indications your website isn’t capturing drinkers’ attention. Not sure how to tell? Google Analytics helps track and report web activity and can be easily added to your WordPress, Shopify or Wix sites.
- Reviews: drinkers aren’t talking about your beverages on review sites, or they’re checking in to your tasting room less frequently.
- Turnover: losing employees is never easy. And marketing isn’t solely to blame when it happens. But generally-speaking, your team will stick around if they’re making money…which is a direct result of marketing driving traffic to the tasting room.
- Market share: what are your competitors doing to grab share of your region’s craft beverage business? Depending on the size of your operation, you may have access to industry or retail data to help measure this. Otherwise, a quick drive-by of your competitors on a busy night shows your relative ranking.
Once we’ve looked at your business objectively, we can identify the marketing tactics that are in need of a refresh!
time for a marketing refresh
The fall is typically when craft beverage clients come to us for housecleaning-style projects: new websites, press about competition wins, strategy around upcoming events, etc. The timing makes sense: sales were likely at a high point during the summer and they’re trying to keep momentum into the colder months. If their marketing is tired, it’s even more challenging!
A marketing refresh starts with giving yourself something to talk about. This isn’t easy for some owners and manager because it’s tough to take a step back to see what’s new and exciting to drinkers when you’re in the thick of it. Or you don’t want to come across as bragging. Whatever your reasoning for NOT telling the world about the great things happening at your facility, it’s high time to unleash your inner storyteller:
- Reskin your website: happy with your web content, but itching for a new look? Most Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress and Shopify feature themes that can be switched out and customized in a matter of hours, not days. A great way to build on the work you’ve done to-date with your website without completely starting over.
- Get team members involved: empower your team to be more active in marketing your tasting room. Consider sharing social posting responsibilities, emceeing events and creating new drink recipes.
- Enter competitions: winning a medal at a local, regional or national competition is a point of pride for the Production Team and a marketable moment for your business.
- Sponsor events: expose your beverage to new audiences by serving in new venues! Consider local events that reflect your brand vibe and donate product, time/staff or money to participate.
- Switch up your social strategy: try something new! Think of a seasonal theme for posts that might resonate with your fans/followers, like fall flavors, soccer/football, back to school survival, etc. Post on a different schedule than you might be used to: for example, post 4 out of 7 days to disrupt the routine.
- Market your meeting space: your tasting room is a gathering place for like-minded customers who do other things besides drink 😉 Time to promote your facility for business meetings, family gatherings and community events!
- Go behind-the-scenes: we love when businesses open the curtain to reveal how the beverage is made! Post social, video and blog content around the process, the people and the product.
- Think grassroots: do people in the area know you exist? Have you introduced yourself to your neighbors? It takes time, but walk the area, invite local businesses to visit and donate drinks for a nearby apartment community mixer. You’d be amazed at the awareness a handful of BOGO coupons will generate!
- Be charitable: research a local charity that aligns with your core values, and pledge to donate a portion of sales or host a benefit event. If you’re already working with a charity, it’s in-bounds to talk up your efforts on social and in press releases: it’s not seen as bragging if you’re giving back to the community.
Feeling good about stories you can share about your craft beverage business? Great! Now let’s make sure your team has the tools (and the energy) to get the word out.
find marketing efficiencies
Sounds like a stuffy organizational chart with boxes and labels and arrows? Nah, that’s not practical for craft beverage businesses. What we’re talking about is the age-old saying of working smarter, not harder. That is especially true nowadays where competition is cutthroat, resources (time and money) are limited and being first-to-market with news sets your brand apart.
We’ve brainstormed a list of tools to help your team maximize their storytelling. Some are free, some cost money, but all meet the criteria of multiplying the reach/exposure of your content while minimizing upfront effort:
- Website: use plugins like Blog2Social (blog entries auto-posted to social channels) or Smash Balloon (social content and livestream video displayed on website) to create content once for multiple outlets/audiences. Paid and free versions.
- Social: Sprout Social makes it easier to manage content calendars, listening (what competitors are up to), publishing, tracking and reporting on social engagement. Paid version.
- Email: any tool like Constant Contact, Klaviyo, SendGrid and others will work. Our team likes MailChimp for its website integration, journey mapping and other Customer Relationship Management (CRM) capabilities. Paid and free versions. Also check out any post-by-email capabilities of your CMS system, like WordPress.
- Ecommerce: if you sell wearables and other items on your website, have you considered publishing your non-beverage/merchandise catalog to Google Shopping, Facebook Marketplace, Amazon and other sites? Plugins like Codisto for Shopify and Google Product Feed for WooCommerce/WordPress automatically list [allowed] products following a quick setup and integration. Paid versions.
- Collaborations: working with another drinks producer not only creates a never-before-seen beverage, but exposes you to new audiences who are keen to follow like-minded brands!
- Press: nothing beats a curated list of journalists, bloggers and influencers who are friendly to your business and category. But if you’re actively writing and distributing press releases (you know we’re big fans) and want to get the story out to a broader audience, consider PR Newswire, BusinessWire and other syndication services. Paid, and slightly more involved.
- Video: lately we’re liking the idea of livestreaming events to help build awareness for smaller, local tasting rooms. With a $400 GoPro and a strong Internet connection you can stream music, trivia or other tasting room activity directly to social media and your website. Because Google, Facebook, YouTube and other sites favor live video above all other content, your in-person event is promoted to new audiences and customers. Give Restream.io a try for posting once to multiple live channels. Free and paid versions.
- Tasting room: this is the low-hanging fruit to help tell your story! Decorations, lighting, acoustics, signage, exterior…all elements of the customer experience that help market your craft beverage business to new and existing customers! Don’t forget the subtle messaging opportunities on printed or electronic receipts, e-menus, wi-fi logins and QR Code landing pages.
There are any number of ways to wake up marketing for your business. The point is to try to be objective; identify what’s working; and help set your team up for success. Interested in learning more, or have your own success stories to share? We’re all ears!