Stop the Madness!
There’s been a lot of chatter on the interwebs these days. Macro Breweries are being the bullies in the in the school yard again. They bought up a few guys that were willing to sell. Again. The big hoopla was about two main stories though: Wicked Weed Brewing “selling out” and AB InBev swinging their proverbial dick around by choking off the supply of South African Hops to the world – a veritable “I’m going to eat all the cookies so you can’t have any!” I agree. This all sucks, and it changes the industry. But you know what? Everything is going to be okay.
Like any industry, the Craft Beer industry changes. Especially when an industry like this one experiences great growth, you’re going to see changes, developments, and failures. It happens a lot, take a look at any industry. This is nothing new. But do you know what? Out of change, development and failure, comes creativity, innovation, and growth. Sometimes you need one to get the other. It’s science. well, more accurately it’s business. The point is this is nothing new.
If Big Brand Beer is going to be a punk and take away your lunch money what do you do? Stop eating lunch? Hell no. You find a way around the bully and eat your lunch at the table with the cool kids. Craft Beer isn’t going anywhere. Yes, it sucks that they took away your hops or they’re trying to squeeze out your distribution. But the beauty of being a Craft Brewery is that you are small. And agile! You have the ability to react to changes in the market as they happen. You’re in direct contact with your customers and you know how to reach them (or at least you should). You don’t need to hire a focus group, research industry statistics, have lengthy marketing meetings or spend millions on expensive campaigns. This process takes months, sometimes years of planning just to make a decision. You can accomplish this decision in a day. Tell me how this isn’t an advantage.
As a Brewery, you should have a strong awareness of how you need to react to changes in the industry. If you’re unsure of what you should do start with a quick “Gut Check”, take a look at your 4P’s of Marketing:
Is your beer good? Quality consistent? Do people come back for it or search for it in the store? First and foremost, you’re going to have to have a quality product that is worth buying. No one says it has to be the best beer ever made, but it has to at least have a unique quality that makes you stand out from the competition.
How does your price compare to the competition? If the price you charge is higher or lower than the value that your customers believe they are getting, it’s going to make them think twice about buying. This is a bad thing.
What strategies are you using to get your message out to your customers? These can be as simple as spending time on a social media campaign or as complex as buying ad space online, in the paper, on the radio, on TV or anywhere else.
How are you getting your product to your customer? Is there a pinch point that you need to get around? Do you need to explore other avenues to get your beer in the hands of your customers?
All these aspects are important and can be focused on more or less depending on your overall business strategy. You may have noticed by now that you cannot operate on the “If we build it they will come” model anymore. Making good beer is not longer all you need to be successful. Great marketing is what is going to give you longevity in industry and defense against Big Brand’s shenanigans.
Remember to Breathe
So if you’re worried about Big Bad Macro Beer gettin’ all up in yo Biznass, take a deep breath. Reassess your strategy and carry on forward. Things are not as bad as they seem.