In crisis, people unite and work together for the greater good. It gives one faith in humanity, despite the severity of the situation at hand. In the early days of the pandemic, the importance of community was revealed across the board, demonstrated within our industry amongst breweries and distilleries and their loyal customers. Fast forward a bit over 3 years and we find much of the population again in crisis, this time, a financial one. Unlike a pandemic, or a natural disaster, the cost-of-living crisis is perhaps less end of world feeling, but highly stressful none the less.
Is there a way that your business or workplace can not just survive this difficult time, but act as a beacon of light to customers who are also feeling the same things? Recognise the role your brewery or distillery has played in improving peoples lives, and list them out. Then give yourself a pat on the back! Once the back patting is done (felt nice hey?), think about how you can continue to do this for your customers. Let’s be real though, we’re all feeling the pinch. While we might have lofty ideas of a nation wearing big frothy grins after drinking your nationally distributed beer, the reality is likely to be a little different for most independent craft beverage businesses at this point in time. So what CAN you do? What is in your sphere of influence to do REALLY WELL? In many cases with the resources at hand, it means you will have to shrink that sphere so you can do the thing properly. And that means focusing right down, on our own backyard. I hope to give you some practical, cost-effective takeaways by the time you finish this read that will help you, your business, and our industry ride this wave into a brighter 2024.
If you have a tasting room, or brew pub, you have the advantage of getting face to face time with the locals. Don’t waste this opportunity, make sure you and your staff are not only offering them a fantastic experience, but also asking the the right questions. Nothing like a bit of customer feedback to get ideas flowing for your next campaign or offering. Go further and reward your regulars. You could offer a free taste of a new beer, offer anyone within a certain postcode a deal on merch and/or take away beer combos. In giving a little to your regulars, they become ambassadors of your brand. Make sure they know your brand story, but also that you know them and that they feel heard, needed and cared for. Your space should be a place that encourages connection, collaborations between not only yourself and your customers, but between the customers themselves as well. This creates community, and as mentioned above (and in a previous article) the power of community in trying times is priceless.
Engaging locals outside of your regulars plays an important role in building community too. Offer up your space to local groups that align with your values, perhaps the local sustainability group needs a space to meet once a month? Or a bookclub, or sports team etc. Get in touch with these groups and say gday, they’ll appreciate the effort. For the price of an email or phonecall you’ll likely get not only returning customers, but an ‘in’ with parts of the community you may not have reached yet. Same goes with local collaborations, is there a cool local business that aligns well with your values? Could be a candle maker, an eatery or a bike shop, doesn’t matter. If they have a good social media presence, get together and make something beautiful! Take advantage of each other's audiences, and your reach will go further.
Back to the sphere of influence, you can also think of this as your distribution radius. How far makes sense within your budget to not only distribute to, but have effective marketing in these areas too? Distributing into areas where you can’t afford marketing to encourage sales doesn’t make a heap of sense. Shrink that sphere down so you can afford to give your beers the promotion they deserve at point of sale, on premise or off premise, or through tastings and events. Map out your sphere, and cover everything you can within it with your brand. Claim it through signage. Own it through POS. Figure local messaging that the locals will relate to. Encourage them feel ownership over your brand. Give the locals something to be proud about when they drink your incredible product and visit your tasting room.
You may have heard the term ‘hyper-local’, and having a hyper local focus is a great way to look after your locals, but also promote your local area too. More and more people are valuing experience over ‘things'. When people travel, they want to have an authentic experience of the place they are visiting, and when you produce your product inhouse, you’re off to a great start. If they see your marketing about the place, your backyard ownership will be prevalent already. Go further, get your hyper focus goggles on to come up with a truly local offering. Have your brewers or distillers source local ingredients unique to the area. Promote menus that use local or native ingredients, hang local indigenous artwork, play local music, throw locally inspired events. By using local, you are supporting your local community, and they will in turn support you. Not only that, but you can offer and promote a genuine local experience to visitors, which is something that big business simply cannot compete with.
According to market research, in 2023 consumers are looking for value. Not just value for money, but value for time, despite the economic climate. If you can offer a unique, hyper-local experience whether it's through your tasting room or through your packaged product, you will have built yourself a sturdy ship that is fuelled by the support of your community. Your ship will be strong enough to weather this storm, and sail onto into what we can only hope will be a brighter future. So go ahead and own your backyard, work within your sphere of influence and celebrate what is uniquely you.