Online marketing tools like social media, blogs and websites present a cost-efficient opportunity to proactively market to new audiences and connect with your existing customers in a way that deepens relationships. Here are few key ways all craft brewers can manage their online presence.
Plan your online marketing efforts by the “actual” calendar
Building an online presence (and subsequently managing it) isn’t about posting random thoughts or images on social media, or writing the occasional blog post. Like traditional marketing, managing an online presence requires a planned strategy that coincides with the lifestyle and online search behaviors of your audience at highly relevant points in time. In addition to analyzing your website’s metrics (including which site pages generate the most traffic, and where visitors originate from) consult Google’s Keyword Planner to identify which search terms and phrases people use to find your site and those of your competitors.
In order to integrate those keywords into the foundation of your online content, plan an online editorial calendar for your brewery to build consistent messaging through blog posts, social media updates and promotions, strategically coincide with festivals and local celebrations, national holidays and a subject matter that is top of mind for your audience, based on time of year. For example, financial issues and dieting tend to be popular New Year’s Resolutions. Although those topics may not seem related to craft beer, leverage the timely subject matter to develop relevant online messaging, including featuring the quality of your brewing ingredients and processes, to demonstrate value. Because summertime involves vacations, that time of year may present an opportunity to build engagement by incentivizing customers to snap images of where in the country they’re enjoying your beer to share on social media (and identified with a social media hashtag you provide to organize the campaign).
Proactively be a part of social media conversations
A key aspect of managing an online presence is two-way communication with your audience that occurs as real time as possible. Establish a Google Alert for your brewery name (and names of private-label products) to know when and where you’re mentioned online. Take a similar approach by adding those names to automated social media monitoring tool feeds so you’re notified when a customer mentions you on social media. Then, respond appropriately and quickly. Be creative about ways to engage your audience based on their hobbies and interests, which may have nothing to do with craft beer, too. For example, Heineken established its foothold as the number one beer brand in social media by being creative about its online relationship with its fans. In one highly successful YouTube campaign called “The Candidate,” for example, the beer brand put unsuspecting candidates through a mock interview; it then shared the humorous videos on YouTube, engaging its fan base to vote on a winner for the top prize of a job at Heineken.
Respond to every online review
According to a survey by Zendesk, 88 percent of buyers are impacted by online customer service reviews. If you don’t have an established business presence on popular online review sites like those powered by Yelp and Google, establish your profile and consistently ask customers to share their feedback about your brand. In a March 2013 Forrester Research study, nearly 70 percent of respondents said that they trust a brand or product recommendation from another consumer, compared to 32 percent who said they trust the information a company presents about itself online. Invest in cost-effective tools that monitor activity on online review sites so you can immediately respond to both positive and negative comments. Harris Interactive’s Retail Consumer Report indicates that 18 percent of unhappy customers can be transformed into loyal customers by being acknowledged.
Managing an online presence may be cost efficient, but it requires proactivity and strategy to prove impactful. Ensure that basic professionalism exists anywhere your brand is online (logos display properly, hours of operation, contact information and marketing messages are consistent), but experiment with different ways to speak to your audience so you can measure what moves them to respond. Every online activity that you test (and learn from) will teach you more about your audience, and how to grow your craft beer business further.
About the Author
Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a mobile credit card processing firm offering merchant account services. She has more than 15 years experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management, marketing and also serves on its Board of Directors.