Brewery marketing: how to market beer

The brewing industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States of America. While this expansion is great for the industry and the economy, the crowded marketplace makes it even more important to differentiate yourself and find authentic ways to grow your brand loyalty.

To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of the top brewery marketing strategies. Take this foundation, adapt it to your brand, and leave a lasting impression on your audience. But before we explain the strategies, let’s know what the brewery’s marketing strategy is.

What is a brewery marketing strategy?

A brewery marketing strategy is a step-by-step process of promoting your brewery to the general public. This strategy will serve as the foundation for the expansion of your company.

Consider this strategy to be a way of wanting to not only make a good first impression but also present your brewery’s identity in such a way that potential customers are enticed to try your beers.

Begin by asking yourself important questions such as, “What is the unique selling point of my brewery?” What was my driving motivation for opening a brewery?. These are the kinds of questions that will shape your marketing strategy and help you infuse your personality into your brewery’s brand identity.

Everyone has to start somewhere. Marketing is one of the basic services your business requires to stay afloat. Whether you’ve been in the craft brewing industry for years or you’re just opening your taproom doors, marketing is one of the basic services your business requires to stay afloat. But don’t dive in without a strategy — that’s a no-no. This guide will assist you in developing your own marketing strategy from beginning to end.

A picture of how brewery marketing can be applied to the beers in kegs.
Brewery marketing

How to market a beer

  1. Identify opportunities and challenges
  2. Determine your mission and goals
  3. Determine your target audience
  4. Plan out your product offering and strategy
  5. Pricing policy
  6. Branding your company
  7. Promotional strategies

Identify opportunities and challenges

Taking the first step is often the most difficult part, but before you do, you should know where you’re going and what will get in your way.

The brewing industry experienced consistent growth until 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, but all indicators point to a rebound. While expansion is exciting, it also means more competition. If you live in Vermont, which has the most breweries per capita in the United States at 15.4, you’ll have to work a lot harder at marketing than you would in Mississippi, which has 0.6 breweries per capita (last in the country).

Fill out a SWOT analysis for your business using the list of considerations below. A SWOT analysis identifies your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This will help you understand where you stand in the market, what you’re doing well, and where you need assistance.

  • Location
  • Capacity/physical space
  • Budget
  • Number of employees
  • Product availability
  • Quality of products
  • Community partnerships
  • Channels of distribution
  • Competition

This is by no means an exhaustive list of factors to consider. It should, however, get you thinking in the right direction.

Determine your mission and goals as a brewery marketing strategy

You can set your mission and goals now that you’re confident in your abilities and eager to improve. Concentrate on what distinguishes your taproom and what will (or already does) attract customers.

It’s a cliche, but many people do vote with their dollars, and choosing one brewery over another is no exception. Consumers were four to six times more likely to trust, champion, and purchase from companies that defined a strong purpose, according to the 2020 Zeno Strength of Purpose Study. How will you define the mission of your brewery?

You should also consider what concrete goals you have for your company and how marketing can help you achieve them. For example, you may want to increase your revenue by $500K this year or produce 5,000 barrels. Consider your ultimate goal and make sure you have a solid marketing strategy in place to help you get there.

Create an elevator pitch for your company. Consider how you want to communicate with potential customers. Potential employees? Partners or investors? This “pitch” should be brief and focus on your company’s mission. What would you say in 30 seconds if someone asked you about your brewery? This pitch will be something you can use to help recruit employees and customers and establish your new marketing strategy.

Determine your target audience

Understanding your audience and their needs is just as important as understanding your company’s needs. However, before you can understand these needs, you must first define your ideal customer.

Setting one specific group as your business target may feel strange at first. After all, you want as many people as possible, right? Sure. However, your brews are not for everyone. They should be designed with a specific consumer group in mind. Consider how some breweries cater to young people while others cater to families.

If you’re having trouble identifying your ideal customer, you have a few options for gathering information. First, consult with your front-of-house and sales personnel. They are the ones who interact with customers on a daily basis. Inquire about what people like, dislike, and why they come to your taproom or order your beer. This could be done in a face-to-face meeting or through an anonymous survey to gather feedback from employees who may not want to say it aloud.

Customer personas are an additional component in defining your target customers. These personas give your ideal customers names, faces, and stories.

A brewery, for example, in an up-and-coming neighborhood populated by young people is likely to attract a young, salaried crowd with pets but no children. You could say that your ideal customer is Christopher, who works in finance from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and likes to come on weeknights after working out at the gym. Perhaps they stay for two rounds but aren’t big on food.

It can also be beneficial to find images of who you believe these people are. Seeing faces will help you imagine the types of content, atmosphere, and beers that your customers will enjoy the most.

Plan out your product offering and strategy

This is one of the best beer marketing strategies because your physical products are an important part of your business. They represent your brewer’s mission, values, and what you care about producing.

No two brewers are the same. Some people want to make extremely popular, award-winning flagship beers. Others would rather get creative and release new beers every month or seasonal special releases. Make it yours, whatever your speed is.

Consider your signature beers for a more consistent brewer. These staples, whether IPAs, porters, or something else, should be consistent, tasty, and unique to your brewery.

The specialty brewer should devise a strategy for determining which special brews will be included in the lineup on a regular basis. You could specialize in one type of beer, mix it up depending on the season’s ingredients, or do something in between.

This isn’t a game, though. You should consider your strategy in comparison to other brewers.

Assume you’re opening a taproom in a town with three other breweries. One is known for its stouts, another for its pilsner, and the third for its porters. What are your options now?

If you prefer consistency, consider flagship products that are both unique and popular. If you find yourself in the situation described above, perhaps it’s time to look into IPAs that can help you get started right away. Sure, your environment will set you apart, but so will having unique products.

Another thing to think about is whether you’ll stick with beer or branch out to include seltzer, non-alcoholic beer, or other beverage options.

Consider:

  • Would this method of diversifying your product offering be beneficial to your brewery?
  • Are gluten-free options frequently requested by customers?
  • Do your customers want to have the option of something sweet?
  • Do your customers seek out the most recent alcohol industry trends?

If you answered yes, this could be a good move, especially if your competitors haven’t yet jumped on board.

These products can be introduced in a variety of ways. One obvious option is to make it yourself. Good Robot Brewing succeeds in this, even branding their housemade hard seltzer as “the fizz.” This also gives Good Robot another seasonal item to play with (a marketing idea in itself).

Partnerships are an excellent way to provide something to your customers that you cannot produce on your own. Furthermore, they may be able to connect you with another local maker, which would be a win-win situation for both of you.

Pricing policy

You can set the prices for each brew now that you’ve established your product offering. It takes time, passion, and the best ingredients to make beer, so you want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

First, take into account your taproom pricing versus distributor and retailer pricing. Retailers will mark up your product before it reaches their shelves. So, consider what price would be sufficient to cover your costs and make a profit, but keep the customer in mind. If you price a six-pack for the retailer at $14, they’ll most likely mark it up to $18-$19. Great if customers are willing to pay that! If not, it may be worthwhile to take a lower profit on wholesale pricing because distributors tend to buy in bulk, providing you with more consistency than individual purchases.

The formula is much simpler in your own taproom. First, consider the cost of brewing a batch of beer. The raw materials are necessary, but remember to account for labor, overhead, and the cost of running your tanks.

Consider what your desired profit margin is. How much do your competitors charge for a comparable product? This should not be your only consideration, but it is crucial. You might be able to charge 50 cents or so more than your competitors, but not $2 more for a standard beer. You have a little more leeway with specialty brews. Smaller batches plus greater exclusivity equals a higher price tag. Furthermore, data from the National Retail Foundation show that consumers are paying more for seasonal products each year.

Don’t be afraid to rethink your pricing strategy. As time passes, you may need to adjust your prices to keep up with demand, the cost of raw materials, paying for quality labor, and so on.

Do whatever it takes to stay in business and competitive. If customers are leaving your taproom because of the high prices, perhaps you made the wrong decision. Otherwise, do what needs to be done. Customers anticipate gradual price increases in the future.

Technology can truly be your ally in this situation. Don’t make things harder on yourself than necessary. Business management software can help you understand your costs and calculate margins, among other things.

Branding your company

  • Positioning
  • Look, Feel, Design
  • Messaging
  • Evaluate

One of the most exciting aspects of implementing a marketing strategy is branding your company. It can also be one of the most difficult.

Positioning

Brand positioning is defined as how your target audience perceives you in their minds. Is it your service that distinguishes you? Your distinctive seasonals? Your fantastic event venue? Consider what distinguishes you from the competition and capitalize on it.

You should think about what you are known for as well as what you want to be known for. Is there a chasm? If so, how will you repair it? Should you change your mind?

Look, Feel, Design

Customers will decide whether or not to visit your taproom based on how you present yourself visually to them. However, it may be the deciding factor.

Your brand’s visual representation is critical to establishing your overall aesthetic. Consider your target audience’s interests and why they keep returning to you. Are they looking for a cozy atmosphere complete with twinkling lights and live music? Or are they looking for a fresh, modern, and up-to-date experience?

Another hot topic in the craft brewing community is label design. The art on your cans or bottles, like your logo and website branding, is another way to establish the look of your brand.

Some brewers may decide to feature local artists on their cans. Others may prefer to keep it traditional. Both of these approaches can be effective; it all depends on what you value.

Messaging

Have you ever heard the expression “how you speak to yourself matters?” The way you speak about yourself is important. Brand messaging conveys your “voice” across all platforms. Everything from speaking engagements to advertising and social media can help you build rapport with your customers.

When developing this voice, keep your overall brand and target audience in mind. Do you want to be more casual or formal? Are you going to share personal stories or stick to business? Consider what is important to you and your company. Do you care deeply about social issues? Helping out local charities?

Think about your mission. Was there anything in particular that inspired you to open your brewery? Make use of this in your messaging. Slackwater Brewing in British Columbia, Canada, claims to make beer for people who appreciate nature. This is clear from their offerings, the content they post, and the topics they discuss. Posts like the one below may appear insignificant, but they serve an important purpose: branding.

Evaluate

You can’t grow unless you learn from your mistakes. After you’ve spent some time developing your brand and all of its facets, evaluate your efforts.

Are you attracting the customers you desire? Are your current customers returning?

Congratulations if you answered yes to these questions! You’ve devised a precise and effective positioning strategy.

If not, return to the drawing board. Speak with your customers. Are they pleased with what you have to offer? Who are you in their eyes? These questions will give you a better idea of where your brand’s positioning should go.

Promotional strategies

  • Social media
  • Newsletters
  • Website
  • Events
  • Partnerships
  • Advertising online/in print publications
  • PR relationships
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Invest in Google and Facebook Ads
  • Promote deals on Groupon
  • Buy local radio Ads
  • Create a customer loyalty club for your brewery
  • Be an active member of the community

There are so many great options for brewery advertising that it can be overwhelming at times. Whether you hired a marketing director or are figuring it out on your own, it never hurts to lay out all of your options and focus your time, money, and energy on the strategies that will bring people and dollars through the door.

Social media

Maintaining your social media feeds with unique and useful content is one of the most effective ways to keep your customers informed about your brewery business.

Don’t be afraid to experiment! Close-ups and product shots are always nice, but if you want to grow your following, mix in some fun posts about company culture, behind-the-scenes processes, industry news, and even great follower-created content (as long as you have permission.) If you want to see more activity on your brewery’s content, don’t just post – like, comment, and share across social media platforms.

Newsletters

We understand that running a brewery takes a lot of time, and you don’t have much of it. However, even if you only send a brief newsletter once a month, making the effort to create one can have a significant impact on your business. For example, for every $1 spent on email marketing, approximately $32 to $44 is returned.

Email marketing is a low-cost way to keep customers informed of new products, upcoming events, and other important company news. Starting an email newsletter can help drive traffic to your website as well as your social media accounts.

Begin by collecting emails from customers who have already provided them, and then find creative and enticing ways to ask customers and website visitors to sign up. Many businesses provide an incentive upon sign-up, such as a 10% off coupon code, or keep a clipboard on hand at in-person events for attendees to provide their information.

There are a few strategies that will help ensure the success of your newsletter. First, consider what you want to say and what you believe your readers want to know. Even if you don’t have a major new release to announce, you can update readers on your most recent offerings. You can also include information about tour options and where people can buy your beers in town. Make the subject line appealing (but appropriate). Remember to include all of your social media links at the bottom. Finally, include hyperlinks in case readers want to learn more about anything you mention.

Website

Not everyone may consider this one of their “brewery marketing strategies,” but rather a location where customers can learn about the products, hours, tasting room details, and so on. Your website should be a living document with useful, up-to-date information. Every piece of content you put on the web or in print marketing should aim to entice the viewer to take action, which should often be to visit your website, learn about you, and explore everything you have to offer online. Once there, they can learn about upcoming events and releases, subscribe to newsletters, buy apparel, and connect on social media.

Events

If you host brewery tours, chances are you can also host live events. Even a themed night, such as a weekly “yappy hour” where customers can bring their dogs to your brewery, can help generate some buzz. Examine your surroundings. If you have a space that would be suitable for a small gathering, this is an excellent opportunity to market yourself as a venue for others to host their own events. Have a patio, a lawn, or enough room for a few tables or high-top tables and chairs.

Partnerships

Word of mouth is one of the most effective marketing tools available, according to industry veterans. Partner with local restaurants and businesses to expand your organic reach. This does not simply imply that they stock your beer in their establishment, though that is a big plus. You can be creative by offering to “sponsor” their next major event or fundraiser by donating beer or providing a discount.

If your brewery also hosts events, consider forming a preferred vendor program with local vendors. This way, you can refer clients to these businesses for an event at your venue and vice versa.

Establishing relationships with influencers is a great way to capitalize on the new craft brewery trend and spread your brand’s message to new audiences. In exchange for a product or two, social influencers may be willing to post about your company. You can give them a few products to try and review, as well as a discount code for their followers to use, and watch the new interest pour in.

To avoid any negative PR effects, you should likely enter into a written agreement with influencers or require that their posts be approved by a member of your team before posting.

Advertising online/in print publications

There are numerous publications covering the craft beer industry, ranging from Bar Business Magazine to Good Beer Hunting and many more. Contact these publications (or their editorial staff members) and explain who you are, what you do, and what makes you unique. If you include a timely hook that makes covering your brand newsworthy, the odds of a positive response increase.

If a write-up isn’t in the cards, you can always inquire about web or print advertisements to help spread the word about your products. Aside from industry publications, look into local publications. If these publications publish special issues or features on the beer or food-and-beverage industries, that’s an additional dose of exposure.

PR relationships

Hiring a public relations firm is a nearly guaranteed way to get your name out there and generate more business if you have the marketing budget. They can issue press releases when newsworthy events occur, such as the release of a new iteration or the expansion of your space.

They can also use your name as a source for journalists covering the craft beer scene. These pieces almost always require experts to quote, and your public relations team should be able to promote you to these people and outlets as an industry key player worth knowing.

There is no magic formula for ensuring the success of your business. However, as long as you produce products you’re proud of, adhere to your company’s mission, provide excellent customer service, and do everything you can to spread the word, you’ll be able to keep business brewing for years to come.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Create a Google My Business account to help your brewery’s website rank higher in search engine results pages. This gives you some control over how your business appears in Google searches and allows you to ensure that all of the information listed is correct.

The next step is to optimize your website. Make your menu or product selection easily accessible from the homepage, link to information and tickets for upcoming events, and use every bit of copy to demonstrate what sets your craft brewery apart.

If you have the time, you should also conduct some keyword research and start a blog. You’ll see the benefits of SEO and set your business on the path to becoming a trusted source of information if you consistently produce content that your customers are likely to be searching for.

Invest in Google and Facebook Ads

Many consumers decide where to go for a drink based on an online advertisement or post, or a simple Google search. Investing in paid digital advertisements is one way to ensure that your company appears in front of new eyes and on the right results pages.

Do some preliminary research, and you’ll be reaching out to potential customers in your target demographics where they already are – on their phones and computers.

Promote deals on Groupon

Groupon is a marketing platform that allows companies to advertise deals and discounts to consumers. While advertising on Groupon isn’t particularly profitable in terms of direct profits (they take 50% of each purchase), it is an excellent way for smaller, local breweries to raise brand awareness and attract new customers.

Buy local radio Ads

Radio advertising is a more traditional route with lower costs than, say, television advertising. Make sure the radio station you choose to work with has a target audience that matches yours, and shop around to ensure you’re getting a good deal.

Create a customer loyalty club for your brewery

Create a customer loyalty program to entice customers to return to your brewery again and again. You can choose from a wide range of loyalty programs based on your company’s brand, target demographics, and resources.

What matters is that you give your customers what they want, whether it’s a punch card, a gamified coupon app, or a store credit card.

Be an active member of the community

Gain local recognition by becoming more involved in local causes and activities, as appropriate for your business.

Your brewery can co-sponsor community events and fundraisers or collaborate with restaurants and businesses to host events in your own space. You can contact local organizations and chambers of commerce to find ways to collaborate and contribute.

FAQ on brewery marketing

How much do breweries spend on marketing?

There are currently over 8,000 beer manufacturers in the United States, with an annual advertising budget of approximately $1.6 billion. The top five companies spend 93 cents on the dollar of that $1.6 billion.

How do you promote a brewery?

1. Get your name out there on social media.
2. Collaborate with local businesses.
3. Participate in your community.
4. Concentrate on what makes you unique.
5. Start a newsletter.
6. Consider organizing events.
7. Highlight what makes your brand enjoyable.
8. Make contact with trade publications.

What is the target market for breweries?

A microbrewery’s target audience is typically upscale, well-educated, and more interested in flavor than quantity.

A video on brewery marketing and how to market beer

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