By: Lewis Barbera – Vice President, Sales
There are currently more than 7300 regional breweries, brewpubs and microbreweries in the United States. Even during difficult times, the popularity of the craft brewery continues to grow. For many home brewers and beer aficionados, the prospect of owning and operating their own brewery is a dream come true. It’s an opportunity to expand their personal recipes that they have refined over the years as a hobbyist and share them with a wider audience.
Making your mark within the industry is not an easy task to accomplish. Perfecting your craft is an important start in staying relevant. But satisfying your regulars and marketing through word of mouth is just the beginning. It’s the additional, day-to-day business details that become so incredibly important. Maintaining your brand and ensuring that it reaches the widest audience possible will help you to stand out in a crowded market.
One of the benefits of owning and operating your business is the freedom associated with developing its brand. From the name to the logo, this is an opportunity for you to work closely with your business partners to establish something catchy and unique, while also cutting through the clutter and staying top of mind with your customers. But once you’ve picked out your colors and have come up with a memorable catch phrase that highlights your craft, what’s next?
In today’s market it’s not uncommon to promote your brand through a variety of related products. Whether that’s pint glasses and coasters, umbrellas, signage or an oversized Jenga set reserved for outdoor events, merchandising your business in creative and unique ways is critical. But there are numerous moving parts that inevitably get in the way. Working with your local Kinkos and your cousin (twice removed) to help with the graphical design will only get you so far.
Properly sourcing your merchandise is an indispensable asset to your overall brand marketing initiatives. Working closely with a partner capable of assisting with the delivery of your products can make an immense difference in your day-to-day operation.
Understanding the ins-and-outs of product sourcing often includes first-hand experience in knowing what works and what does not. These conversations can help steer you in the right direction, while also shielding you from potential missteps. Promoting your brand with a Point of Sale (POS) system capable of delivering the best return on investment (ROI) in a growing market will help you to realize even greater success.
Traditionally, craft beer has primarily been sold on-premise. The experience of enjoying a freshly tapped beer while socializing at your local brewery is one of the reasons the craft beer industry has stayed consistently strong. When combined with ongoing marketing and merchandising efforts, off-premise sales has the strong potential to develop into an additional sales and distribution plan.
Some beer aficionados might argue that traditional retail sales takes away from the uniqueness of the craft beer experience and no longer differentiates itself from large national brands. However, retailers are very much in tune with consumer preferences and will always be looking for opportunities to emulate the success of on-premise craft breweries through off-premise sales.
It’s important for every craft brewery to take the steps necessary to continue promoting their name and their brand. As such, there are several opportunities worth considering for an off-premise strategy:
• Stand Out in a Crowded Space: Whether you’re positioned within a local liquor store or the corner grocer, make sure your branding is prominently displayed and catches the eye of every customer. Proudly present your most popular beer or newest recipe on shelves, stackers and corrugated risers that clearly exhibit your branding. Make sure the colors are bold and vibrant, and that the wording can be read from across the aisle. Take pride in your craft and give it the attention it deserves.
• Small Idea, Big Impact: Even the smallest idea can have the biggest impact when it comes to branding and product marketing. Sticky shelf talkers, ceiling danglers, window clings and floor placements. Make it so that no matter where the customer is looking, your brand is sure to grab their attention. And it’s not always about how big of an impression you make or how much real estate your branding utilizes. A strategically placed logo can help even the most undecisive beer drinkers make the right choice.
• Your Fans are Your Biggest Advocates: Don’t overthink it. The practicality of the idea often becomes the biggest win for off-premise business. Let your fans do the “heavy lifting”. Selling a variety of tote, lunch coolers and brown paper bags, each with your branding clearly identified for everyone to see, is a great way to continue getting your name out there. Used at work, on vacation or attending any number of social events, your biggest fans will be promoting their favorite beer without ever saying a word.
• The Signs Are Everywhere: Chalk-based A-frame menu boards. LED light boxes. Laser cut, digitally printed hardboard wood. What do all these different types of signage have in common? They’re the most classic form of beer advertising you can think of. People of all ages collect them and prominently display them in their homes, garages and on the walls of the businesses they own. They catch your eye, make a statement and get you thinking about one thing, and one thing only – BEER!
Having access to your own, business-specific e-commerce website is an opportunity to more effectively manage your growing list of products. When conveniently organized by category, a robust e-commerce solution is more likely to yield an increase in the number of merchandising orders placed. By providing your sales group, wholesalers and consumers 24/7 virtual access to your products, you’re removing yourself from the time-consuming difficulties and headaches of manual maintenance and upkeep.
An effective e-commerce portal is not only a reliable source for managing your inventory in an organized fashion, it can also be seamlessly updated to accommodate for new products and inventive promotional efforts. Including pre-order windows and making them available to your distributors will help to better gauge the potential success of your latest product promotions before taking the plunge and jumping head first into a new initiative.
Planning for the upcoming year’s promotions, brand launches and seasonal programs is an important function critical to the ongoing success of your business. Having access to online ordering is a great resource to take advantage of when working toward upcoming events. Providing your distributors access to your ecommerce site makes the process of managing and expanding your brand a seamless activity.
However, maintaining your inventory and shipment data can often be challenging. Working from a comprehensive and reliable report – one that details the data needed to drive a successful program – saves time and increases productivity, allowing you to focus more on your craft. Accessing these reports, whenever needed, makes the process of future inventory planning and promotional efforts even easier and more sustainable.
Space is a commodity. You’ll never have enough and will always be needing more. When owning and operating your craft brewery, you’ll quickly realize that as more of your space is consumed by branded merchandise, less will be available for that essential, behind-the-scenes equipment – brewing systems, canning lines, tanks, fermenters and more. Working with a total fulfillment partner opens up the possibility of maintaining and safely storing your merchandise stock.
At its core, inventory optimization and supply planning answers the question about how much merchandising inventory should be carried. Working with your fulfillment partner, you’ll be able to better understand the complexities of supply and demand and more accurately identify inventory targets. By maintaining appropriate levels of merchandising stock you’ll greatly reduce the chances of inventory obsolescence, thereby freeing up capital that can be applied elsewhere throughout your business.
Fulfillment partners often include consignment opportunities, giving you the option to store your products offsite while still retaining ownership. As the products begin to ship, you’ll be able to track how much inventory sold and work closely with your fulfillment provider on the transactional details.
When tied directly with your unique e-commerce platform you’ll have even greater flexibility and control over the number of products sold, understand when and how they have shipped and be able to effectively report – from week-to-week and month-to-month – for better management of your business’s overall expenses and profits.
Pre-orders are also designed to increase profitability. Utilizing your fulfillment partner’s expertise in identifying products that are best suited to both order windows and the make-and-ship process, you’ll capitalize on an effective solution to the POS puzzle. This pre-order option provides greater overall flexibility when planning for upcoming events and seasonal placement.
Whether it’s the account manager, sourcing, logistics or warehouse, the various touchpoints of a fulfillment team provide the support needed to effectively operate your business. Their focus is helping you maintain yours. In doing so, you’ll have greater opportunities to further pursue your passion.
A committed support team should be analyzing your POS operations on a quarterly, bi-annual and annual basis, and provide feedback to assist with any changes that may be needed. Their long-standing relationships within the industry are designed to support your needs and ensure that your business realizes continued success.
Your merchandising efforts are directly connected to establishing your brand and helping your business thrive in an increasingly competitive market. Aligning yourself with a reputable fulfillment program will assist you in meeting the goals you have established for your business. When done well, your brand will realize the greatest potential to reach more customers and leave lasting impressions.