Small businesses often rely on in-person engagement to connect with customers and drive repeat business. Here are our secrets for continuing to connect even without the face time.
As the industry shifted to a completely digital world, the human connection gained through serving your guests a fresh beverage quickly felt like a distant memory. Winning over repeat business with your carefully designed space or the local musicians that play week after week doesn’t work if everyone is stuck at home. But the beauty of our modern technological society is that human connection is not lost (though it is different). It’s time to get crafty and engage in a whole new way.
Now’s the time to ask yourself: What delights and excites your customers? Which special releases brought customers to the Brew-Thru? Have you invented a quarantine special for your food menu? What can you take from this experience to thrive in the new normal?
Consumer Behavior: Track & React
Taprooms and brewpubs have been shuttered in most places for about a month now which means you have a month of data to dive into. If you aren’t yet reporting nerds like us, try it! There’s a wealth of information to learn from right under your nose; the trick is knowing which questions to ask.
Study your sales and get an idea of what quarantine consumer behavior looks like. Your customers are probably behaving vastly differently than they were a month ago. Ask yourself:
• What is selling most?
• What is selling in the largest quantities in a single transaction?
• Are more sales coming from online orders, call in, or walk-up?
• Who keeps coming back and buying from your establishment?
Use your own data to research consumer trends and improve your sales by giving your quarantined loyalists what they’re thirsty for.
At the end of March 2020, the Brewers Association partnered with Nielsen CGA and surveyed 1,200 consumers from New York, California, Florida, and Illinois. The survey results were analyzed alongside Nielsen’s own RestauranTrak data on over 10,000 alcohol transaction sales from varying point of sale outlets. They found that a quarter of takeout and to-go orders included alcohol—reportedly because of discounted bundles. Of the craft drinkers surveyed, 34% percent said uniqueness was a factor for a specific drink choice. Nielsen CGA stated, “What really sets out craft drinkers when choosing what to drink, is the drink being unique. This is also a top factor for choosing alcohol takeout and delivery.”
The takeaway: people love to take home exclusive offerings.
With cash flow concerns prevalent in the industry the thought of offering a discount might give you pause, and rightfully so. Consider creating unique packages that leave both you and the customer with a win. For example:
• Fill up growlers of limited release items that are usually only available in the taproom.
• Future discounts. Offer a coupon to be used in house with every case or 4 pack crowler purchase and bring customers back in once your doors reopen.
• Send your customers home with more by dropping a koozie, coaster, or sticker in their to-go order as a ‘Thank you’ (and a repeated reminder of your awesomeness).
• Create packages that include mixed goods and a little something extra, like this example from Buckstin Brewing Company:
Gabrielle Blanco, one of the co-owners of Buckstin Brewing Company, told us about how their take home pizza kits were exactly what the people wanted during the stay-at-home order, “I saw some pizzerias doing “pizza kits” to-go with all raw dough and the toppings, but since we get our dough already par-baked, it was super easy for us to start offering these…We attach a small sheet of baking instructions and where to tag us in their photos. These blew up!” With every purchase of 2 kits, the customer also received something extra like pretzel sticks or a pizza cookie kit, a perfectly easy stay at home activity for the family.
Limited edition products are great—but how do you tell your guests about them? We’re all using the internet as a lifeline right now, so you can be sure customers (and potential customers) are Instagramming their latest beverage run. If you draw them in and engage, they can be your biggest asset in earning and retaining new business!
Here are some ideas on how to creatively communicate with your existing customers while meeting new ones.
1. GO SOCIAL, AND OFTEN!
Tag, comment, repost, and share whenever you get the chance. People want to buy from businesses they trust—build that trust by sharing your humanity and sparkling personality on social.
Even if you have a small following now, your followers have a whole slew of other followers that you can reach. Repost an awesome image someone else took of your product and tag them to show appreciation. These connections make up the webwork of the digital era and allow new relationships to blossom.
If you’re new to social media, don’t stress. There are tools out there created to help you get going. The Brewers Association created a free kit to get people excited about beer. Download from the BA here.
2. EXCLUSIVE PACKAGES FOR SOCIAL FOLLOWERS
It’s probable that each of your communication outlets target different groups of people. Maybe your grandmother LOVES Instagram while your 22 year-old cousin only communicates by email. Take your discoveries from your consumer research and use them to hone in unique deals for each segment of followers.
Denver Beer Co. out of Colorado certainly knows what’s popular with their fans and created these gems:
3. CALL ON YOUR FOLLOWERS
Call upon your customers’ creative skills—it not only gives them a focal point for their creativity, but it also earns you a customer for life.
Pontoon Brewing Company out of Georgia asked their artistic followers to take a stab at creating a new label. The winner earns a sweet prize and Pontoon scores a rad label. Win, win!
4. USE HASHTAGS
Hashtags allow your beautifully curated content to get discovered by new followers. Anyone who searches for or follows, say #DrinkBoulderLocal, will see your post with that same tag.
Developing a hashtag unique to your business also allows you to connect with your customers and encourage them to engage—ultimately growing your community and creating a brand following. Like how Troegs Brewing out of Pennsylvania created the #troegsathome tag to follow their fans’ at-home enjoyment of Troegs beer.
Troegs saw every post with the #troegsathome tag and reposted them to highlight the creativity and support of their community.
5. EMAIL MARKETING
Don’t forget about all of the email addresses you’ve collected over the years! Email newsletters are the bread and butter of 21st century marketing techniques and shouldn’t be underestimated. Use email to:
• Send customers your menu, especially if it’s changing regularly
• Tell them about events you’re hosting, like virtual trivia or stay-at-home dance parties
• Show customer appreciation
• Share your story
Under The Sun Eatery & Pizzeria promoted a limited curbside togo menu during the shutdown:
6. INVEST IN YOUR WEBSITE
Make your online store front and center of your website! People are more likely to fill up a cart when they don’t need to search long for a way to order to-go.
Updating your website also builds trust with those who are unfamiliar with who you are. With the right online set-up, new customers will picture themselves in your space and feel the vibe of your establishment; they get the idea of who you are without even stepping foot in your tasting room.
7. PARTNER IN YOUR COMMUNITY
Team up with your fellow local establishments (not just other taprooms and brewpubs). Check in with the bookshop next door or the yoga studio across the street. They might have a different fan base than you, and provide an opportunity for both of you to connect with a new crowd.
Breweries, cideries, meaderies, distilleries, and all the other craft makers in-between makeup the heart of your local community. However you choose to market your business, the most important piece is that you continue to put your craft out there.