There is no one model for success in the beer industry, but the best breweries share common traits. Knowing what factors indicate a successful brewery will help you pick winning brands to drink, to sell and to build relationships with. The more you associate with strong brands, the stronger and more authoritative your own brand becomes. Occasionally, you may even catch a rising star that will elevate your expertise in the eyes of your customers.
Passion and Creativity
If the people behind the beer aren’t excited about what they’re doing, chances are no one else is either. The strongest brands have a living, breathing energy that seems to emanate from their products and people. Their communications and shelf flyers have a bit more flair, their events are a bit more inspired, and their salespeople are genuinely passionate about sharing their product with the world. This positive energy compounds over time, and more people take notice.
The beer itself should also be exciting. Unless a brewery truly brews the best lager or hefeweizen, there will need to be a differentiating factor in the production process. Perhaps the lager is brewed with rye, or the hefeweizen has the banana and bubblegum esters cranked up to eleven. These in turn allow for more creative marketing, all of which combines into beer that sells.
You never want to have a customer doubt you because of who you carry. Your reputation is tied to those you associate with; therefore, it’s important that you follow industry news and trends. Do your research to make sure you’re comfortable associating with a brand. Back your friends, but don’t be afraid to drop a brand if it comes out that the brewery abuses its customers or employees or if its business principles differ greatly to yours.
On the side of positive press, breweries that give back in an authentic manner are doing the grassroots work that builds loyal local followings, and loyal locals are the foundation upon which solid reputations are built. This is also a strong indicator of quality business leadership and accountability. Businesses with plans beyond simply making a buck generate natural goodwill and brand equity and indicate leaders with a clear vision. Their good decisions will positively impact their retail partners.
Focused Marketing & Branding Efforts
Though the end game for brewing is consistent quality flavor, the first battle is fought upon retail shelves. Two beers of the same quality will be judged on other factors, like how they look, or even something as simple as a memorable name. Choose “winning” beers that make an impression. They are more likely to move before the “Best By” date, and outside of your own personal feng shui, the product on your shelves is the best decoration you’ll have. Further, an educated consumer will be able to gauge your own knowledge and interest by your inventory. If you keep up with the latest in beer trends and “whales,” your hardcore craft consumers will identify with your store.
Another easy way to gauge a brewery’s marketing acumen is to check their social media and website. If it’s updated regularly with quality images and content, it demonstrates a recognition of what drives sales, as well as how to grow a brand over time.
It has been said that “how a person does one thing is the way they do everything.” So, if a brewery makes good beer, that means they’ve got good people behind it, and good people are attracted to reputable, honest organizations. A product speaks volumes about the business that makes it. Of course, from a consumer standpoint, what is good is generally more likely to sell, so you’ll want to make inventory decisions as objectively as possible and choose what is truly the best.
Again, an educated consumer will quickly sniff out a retailer that has been “bought” by a specific organization. Friends are great, but you never want to become a servant to any one entity. Remain independent and objective.
Pick any element of a beer business, and reliability will apply. Do they communicate with you in a reliable manner? Are their products delivered on time, and are they reliably consistent in quality? Is the product always fresh? Are their core products locked, and is their seasonal calendar guaranteed?
A yes to each question would indicate a brewery on the pathway to success, with strong leadership and employees in place. A no to multiple questions points to a lack of business maturity and represents a possible liability for your own business.
Why It’s Important to Know
To know any of the above, you’ve got to do your research. Talk to customers, distributors and brand reps, check social media and news outlets, and of course, sample products.
If you don’t know who and what you’re selling, you’re missing opportunities, creating liabilities, and at best, shooting from the hip. Every bit of knowledge you gain increases your chance to build customer loyalty, decreases the likelihood of a costly mistake and generate more revenue. Your customers will judge you by the brands you carry, so if you keep winners around, you too will likely come out on the winning end.