There are more than 5,300 breweries in the United States right now. And, according to the Brewers Association, 5,234 of them are craft brewers.
Unlike the big beer companies, which can buy Super Bowl commercial spots and their own teams of horses, craft brewers typically reach their audience the old fashioned way — at beer festivals.
But even that’s getting harder as the number of beer festivals and the number of breweries who participate in them grow. There are hundreds of beer festivals every year in the United States alone. And some of those festivals are huge! For example, the Great American Beer Festival (coming up this week) features almost 4,000 beers from nearly 800 breweries.
With that much competition, how can you stand out from the crowd? Here are 5 tips to attract more people to your booth. After that, it’s all up to the beer.
1. Build buzz in advance of the beer festival
Especially at large festivals, smart festival-goers plan their trip in advance. Make sure you’re on their plan of attack by starting to build buzz as early as possible:
- Add the festival to the events calendar on your website
- Write a blog post about the festival and what beers you’ll be pouring
- Spread the word on social media using the official festival hashtag
- Put up posters and distribute postcards at your brewery
- Reach out to local bloggers and media
2. Customize your booth
You’ve been to these events before. You know what most booths look like — a banner with the brewery name, a jockey box on a table, and a couple of people standing around looking hopeful.
Beer festivals can be fabulous marketing opportunities, but only if you actually do some marketing:
- Put your beer cooler on wheels. Everyone else will have a boring booth. So, why not upgrade to a tantalizing truck? A refrigerated mobile cooler will attract attention, give you a large space to display your logo, and also keep your beer cold without you having to spend half of the festival hauling ice. They’re also easy to DIY — click here to learn how.
- Spice up your signage. What will you be pouring? Your offerings for the day should be clearly visible, even from outside your booth, so people know what’s on tap. A sign is also a great way to answer their questions (e.g., “What’s the IBU?”) quickly so they can decide what they want. This is especially effective when beers have unique or themed names that tasters can’t help but try! For example, what Star Wars fan could resist Wit’s End Brewing Company’s Belgian-style “Luke I am Your Pater”?
- Brand everything. This is the time to open the coffers for things like branded hats and t-shirts. If people have to look in their programs to see what booth they’re standing next to, you’re doing it wrong.
- Give away some swag. Attracting people is only part of the battle. You also need to make sure they remember you afterward (keeping in mind that they will likely have consumed a lot of beer). So, give them something to slip into their pocket or purse and rediscover the next day — coasters and stickers are good, free tasting coupons are great!
3. Provide snacks and water
With hours of tasting to get through, food and water are a beer drinker’s best friend. You don’t have to go crazy in the food department, but even crackers or pretzels will help you draw a crowd. For extra fun, grab some ribbon and encourage festival-goers to create their own beer festival pretzel necklace.
And providing water is just a nice thing to do, especially if the festival rules don’t allow patrons to bring their own water to the event.
4. Learn about your neighbors so you can make recommendations
One of my favorite things to do at a festival, whether it’s for beer, wine, spirits, or food, is to find an exhibitor I really like and then ask the staff what other exhibitors they recommend. I’ve often planned entire festival visits this way, and it’s led me to products I might never have tried otherwise.
By taking the time to network and learn a little about the breweries exhibiting around you, you can become a source not just of great beer but of great beer information. This will help you build trust and boost your reputation as an expert in the local beer scene, which, of course, you are.
5. Offer a post-festival special
Aside from great beer, there are a few things every beer festival-goer loves: getting a discount on great beer and winning free great beer-related stuff.
Give them what they want…and boost your business as well.
After you serve your patrons your delicious beer, collect their email address so you can send them a post-festival special, like a free tasting at the brewery, a percentage off a purchase, or the chance to win something fun (free beer, t-shirt, etc.). Once you have their email, you’ll also be able to add them to your lists for newsletters and other digital marketing efforts.
Do you have anything to add? If you run a brewery, we’d love to hear some of the ways you ensure you stand out from the crowd! And check out what’s happening at some of our favorite craft breweries: Four Corners Brewing Co. in Dallas, TX, and Saints Row Brewing in Rockville, MD.