How to Get the Most out of Beer Festivals: 5 Tips for Breweries

In January Stokey Beer Festival kicked off 2017 with what looks to be the biggest year yet for beer festivals. With the largest craft beer festival in the UK taking place last week with Craft Beer Rising, and so many more to come, we look at what breweries can do to stand out above the noise and engage with their audience in a way that leaves a lasting impression online and offline.

Beer festivals offer brewers the opportunity to engage with a captive audience of trade buyers, beer fans, writers and bloggers. This is experiential marketing at its finest and gives breweries the chance to connect with the brewing fraternity, showcase their best sellers and new releases, broadcast their passion, tell their story in creative, memorable ways, and hear what people think.

Beer festivals aren’t a purely offline affair. No event is anymore. We now live in a permanently switched-on and connected world, which means that everything you do at an event will be photographed, videoed and shared. That said, many breweries are missing the opportunities that the digital world offers. If you want to be part of everyone else’s conversation about your brand, you need to jump in and get involved.

With some creative thinking and simple online approaches, here are 5 ways you can drum up interest, drive footfall to your stand and engage with your audience digitally – before, during and after your event.

1. Social Media: Tell Everyone - and Then Tell Them Again

As soon as the list of breweries is announced by the event organisers, make sure that you are posting regular updates about the festival on each of your social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, YouTube, etc.). Use short video stories to pique curiosity in your stand, film the journey and stand set-up with time-lapse video. Put your feature brews in the spotlight to build up interest in tastings, and encourage people to attend the event by promoting links to festival ticket sales (don’t forget to tell people where your stand will be and why they should visit).

During the event, your visitors will become your digital marketers. Result! They’ll be recording and reporting everything about the event through their own social feeds so you’ll need to consider what you can do to be part of that conversation and how you can make your stand, people, products and brand as visually appealing as possible.

Ideally, you want your stand to do the talking while you’re busy chatting to buyers, offering tastings and taking sales. Think about how your beers are presented and what interesting backdrops you can use (Instagrammers love a good backdrop) and actively encourage people to take photos, selfies and videos. Promote a #hashtag associated with your brewery that customers can use when posting photos, which will enable you to monitor engagement. You can incentivise this with a prize draw or gift.

2. Email Marketing: An Oldie but Still the Best for Personal Engagement with Fans

Blow the cobwebs off your email because this channel is still a popular one and often overlooked by craft breweries. Email continues to be one of the most effective digital marketing channels used by consumer brands, and works incredibly well when combined with a social campaign to raise awareness of your attendance at a beer festival.

Use email to invite your existing contacts to your stand as soon as event details are announced – and give them a reason to do so.

You can also capture email addresses prior to the event through pre-festival promotions on social media (offer festival tickets in a prize draw, free merchandise, discount vouchers, etc.) as well as encouraging visitors to sign up to newsletters, future events, prize draws, etc. on the day.

Beer festival attendees are your prime captive audience so building a database should be a top priority. You’ll want to continue marketing to buyers, fans and customers long after the event.

Keep sign-ups simple. If you’re gathering addresses on the stand, use a tablet and an app such as Campaign Monitor. It’s quick and easy for you and your visitors to use, and can be immediately integrated into your next email campaign without any additional inputting of addresses.

Butcombe Brewery Spin The Wheel Email Capture

Butcombe Brewery used a Spin to Win game enticing festivalgoers to hand over their email addresses.

3. Fully Integrated Point of Sale to Build Your Contacts and Sell More Beer!

Footfall at beer festivals is huge and you’ll want to encourage as many people through your stand as possible on the day. This means that you’ll need to run like a well-oiled machine. Don’t cut back on conversation time with visitors but do find ways to process sales as efficiently as possible.

Consider using mobile Point of Sale (POS) systems that are fully integrated with your stock and sales reports. There are many options to choose from but we’d recommend either iZettle or Shopify.

iZettle is popular with breweries. The initial setup cost is relatively low (£59 for the card reader), but there is the slightly higher transaction cost of 2.75% vs other options. Whilst it’s easy to use it does lack in inventory management.

Shopify POS, on the other hand, fully integrates with your existing Shopify online store’s inventory, and allows you to understand your sales on a deeper level. Features include data capture and synchronization with email campaign tools like Campaign Monitor, which allows you to follow up after sales and encourage repeat business through future email promotions.

“We inventory and weigh every keg between sessions. We know exactly how much beer we went through, which will help with next year’s planning. I want to have about a 20% buffer. We’ve developed a formula for how much beer we’ll need, we never want more than 6-10 people in line at one time.” - Cameron Collins, Organiser of BrewHaHA

4. Promote Your Online, Offline, Everywhere!

There are about 150 breweries attending Craft Beer Rising this year alone; 71 have been announced so far for Beavertown’s Extravaganza, and 36 for London Craft Beer Festival. That’s a lot of breweries for attendees to remember (especially after a few samples), and some heavy competition to stand out against.

As we said earlier, your stand needs to be as visually captivating as possible. You may have the best tasting beer at the festival but you’ll need to look good first. Be creative with artwork, banners, merchandise and bags. Be bold and be different.

Moor Beer caught our attention with their flashing sign - simple but effective!

Craft beer fans are often collector-types so create something special for the day. Whether that be a limited-edition label or a goody bag packed with exclusive offers, consider offering gifts and merchandise. I, for one, love a good rummage through my merch goody bag after a festival and as much as I love stickers and coasters, I wouldn’t be averse to buying a bottle opener, a lapel badge, beanie, T-shirt or more beer (obviously) - especially if there was a special offer.

Fruli handed out caps at Craft Beer Rising which boosted awareness of their stand

Don’t be afraid to go old-school and include a flyer or mini-brochure. A craft brewer’s story is what makes them unique so give your fans something to read that showcases your personality and products while they enjoy their brew. Just don’t forget to include your web address, social media handles and hashtags with incentives for them to follow you, visit your website and give you their email.

Remember, festival visitors are your marketers. Get them carrying your branded bags, wearing your merchandise, drinking your beer and telling the online world about their experience with your brand.

5. Continue the Journey on Your Website

Every touch point with your brand after the festival needs to remind your audience why they chose to engage with your brewery further. If your website isn’t consistent with the experience your fans had at the event, or with the stories on social, you’ll lose their interest.

Whilst the same style of communication isn’t the same for each platform, the journey you take your audience through should follow a similar path.

Your website needs to be as savvy as you were on the stand. If a fan showed interest in a particular beer, it should suggest similar products, just as you would in person. Your site should encourage sign-ups and point visitors to other areas of the site where they can learn more. The longer your website visitors stay on your site and the more they read, the stronger the relationship they have with your brand.

Bonus: Download our Beer Festival Checklist for Breweries

This outline gives you an idea of what you can be doing to build relationships with beer fans and connect with them better at beer festivals. We've also created a handy Beer Festival Checklist that you can print out and use to help you make the most of each festival. From the planning beforehand to the post event communications, and everything in between. Just fill in the form below and we'll email you a download link.

If you have any questions or ideas on how we can improve our checklist or this article, leave a comment below or contact us.

Request your free Beer Festival Checklist for Breweries

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