The world of craft beer continues to thrive in the United States, and it’s not hard to see why. The demand for unique and local beers is growing and the market has become a competitive space. For the first time in history, micro-breweries are competing neck to neck with big names like Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors. This means smart brewery marketing approaches are almost as important as making incredible beer.
There is strength in numbers, and the numbers tell us lots of people are interested in brewing their own delicious beers for profit. If you’re interested in opening your own brewery, there are a lot of things you need to figure out beforehand. Here are our top 10 tips for start-up breweries and brewery marketing to help you get off the ground effectively to start making and selling delicious craft beers.
1. Make Sure You’re Passionate
This one is a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. Because, if you don’t have this in spades, tips 2-10 don’t matter at all. Running a small business is hard and takes a lot of time and energy. Often for way less pay than most of us can make elsewhere, especially in the early years. Your passion needs to be your fuel and guiding light when times get tough and when times are great.
Keep in mind, there is a lot more to running a successful brewery than making great beer. So, if that’s the only part you’re passionate about or interested in, it’s important that you surround yourself with experts (or get smart yourself using credible and relevant resources) in the other areas that are critical to starting a successful business. If that already sounds overwhelming to you, pursuing brewing as a serious hobby is a great option.
2. Determine Costs Realistically
Depending on how big of a brewery you want to open, costs for getting started can run into the millions. So, be realistic when it comes to your goals, timelines, and ability to fund your plan. When it comes to funding your dream, there are a range of options to consider. From self-funding to soliciting friends and family for support to kickstarters to business loans to seeking investors and more. Whichever route you take, do your research and trust your gut.
Starting any business costs a lot of money, and lots of unexpected fees and expenses can pop up along the way. Be prepared to spend a lot before you make a lot, especially when it comes to your brewery marketing plan. Speaking of…
3. Brewery Marketing Basics: Create a Brand
While creating a brand takes a lot of work and often some deep soul searching, this is the fun part! You will need to identify your brand story, brand voice, and build out your brewery marketing plan and budget. All of that work should come well before any tactical marketing work, such as finalizing your brand name, logo, or social media handles.
4. Identify & Understand Your Target Consumer
This should also be an early decision in the start-up brewery process and it’s one that many craft makers skip over to their own detriment. Deeply understanding your target audience to ensure you know who you are talking to and how to best communicate with them can provide your small business with much needed focus. Why is this so important? Because you don’t want to waste money or other precious resources! Trying to talk to everyone or not knowing who your brewery marketing is attempting to convert wastes a lot of precious time, money, and people resources.
Ready To Build Your Brewery's Marketing Foundation?
Our Craft Alcohol Marketing Bootcamp covers everything you need to know to to help you market your craft alcohol business. It covers everything from social media strategy, to tasting room traffic, to paid advertising.
We even have a 3-course bundle designed to help you get started with your marketing plan, budget, brand story, voice, and target consumer work.
Only now, once your brewery marketing foundation is solidified, will you be able to intentionally and smartly determine what the right portfolio of brews are for your brewery. Yes, even if you knew the exact kind of beer you wanted to make when you first started this journey…once you better understand your own brand and target consumer it’s important to revisit this fundamental element of your brewery.
5. Decide What Kind of Beer You’ll Brew
This leads us into the next fun and tasty decision–deciding what kind of beer you’ll brew! Maybe you want to be a brewery that makes all kinds of different styles, or maybe you focus primarily on wild fermentation or sours or ancient styles of production or beer infused with fresh fruit purees to create unique and exotic flavors. The options are endless! So, it’s important that it is a conscious decision closely connected to how your brewery marketing will come to life.
Once you decide what direction you want to take your brewery in, you’ll be on your way to getting started.
6. Essential Equipment
You can’t open a brewery without these essential pieces of equipment. Preaching to the choir here, I know! A few of the big, important things you’ll need are listed below.
- Cooling system
- Storage Tanks
- Fermentation Tanks
- Cleaning Equipment
While certainly not every single thing you’ll need, these are important tools that you can’t brew beer without. And remember, even the equipment you plan to use should be tied to your brewery marketing plan.
Planning on being known for your barrel aged beers? Then it would be a missed opportunity to not think about what your barrels will look like on tour and how you want that experience to come to life for your consumers. Passionate about experimenting with unique or ancestral brewing methods? This will impact the kind of equipment you want to invest in to fit your brand ethos. Will your brewery be an open concept where guests can see your equipment at work? If so, aesthetics matter!
7. Identify Your Brewery Marketing & Business Goals To Make Profits
Once you’ve gotten your feet off the ground and you’ve started brewing batches, you’ll likely be ready to start making profits. If only it were that easy, right?! An important step to getting on the path to profitability is goal setting.
Setting goals for your overall business and marketing is something that should be done early and revisited often. If you don’t know where you’re going it’s impossible to get there. Start small and work your way up to the harder to achieve dreams and goals. For example, if you’ve done well selling locally and are ready to grow, it’s likely time to consider partnering up with a distributor. Distributors can help you expand your market and sell to larger audiences, although it’s important to note that your brewery marketing to make the most of that distribution is still up to you.
8. Open a Taproom to Build Community & Drive Sales
If you want to attract customers and build a solid following, consider opening up a taproom for people to try all your new brews. You can host events and it’s a great way for your small start-up brewery to connect with the community.
Some breweries even smartly use their tasting room for market research, only releasing experimental brews there and serving them up with a fun feedback form to help them determine what their target consumers like best and are looking for in the future! This can also help you decide which experimental beers should turn into flagship beers down the road.
9. Digital Marketing For The Win
When it comes to marketing tactics there are many to consider, but digital marketing is a must in today’s market. This includes creating and effectively leveraging a website, building a mailing list, and creating social media profiles. When it comes to social media, make sure to start out with only a few social media platforms that best meet the needs of your business otherwise you risk spreading yourself too thin, leading to sub-par results. All three of these digital platforms allow you to easily connect with your community about upcoming events and inform people about new beers, while inexpensively reaching a national audience as well.
Get Ready for a Long, Exciting Journey Ahead
There is no doubt that start-up breweries require a lot of time, energy, money, and planning to get off the ground. This is definitely not a get-rich-quick scheme, and you may not see a legitimate profit for over a year or longer. As long as you have patience, passion, great beer, and a solid foundation for all of your marketing your brewery will become successful.
If you’ve been brewing batches of beer for your neighbors and friends and you’re ready to make a business out of it, you’re in the right place. Follow these tips, explore our Craft Alcohol Marketing Bootcamp, and join our private community of craft makers to talk marketing with others in your shoes. All of these resources will help you on your journey to becoming a successful owner of a craft brewery.
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