Building Community – Why Its Important

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Building Community – How You Do It & Why It’s Important.

written by Pat La Jeunesse - Founder Got Beer Stuff

When you and your partners first started to build your brewery from a dream to a reality, you all put in countless hours working out all the details, You began by doing your due diligence, attending seminars, and trade shows, visiting countless independent breweries, tasting lots of beer and asking tons of questions.  You spent agonizing hours working out the finances, determining what rent, equipment, supplies and payroll would cost.  You worked hard getting grass roots support and investors for your new business venture and then you scoured the area to find just the right location that offered the perfect mix of ambiance, space, affordability and that feeling you get when you just know this is the right location to launch your dream.

Now the real work begins as you seek an architect for floor and back room plans, hire a contractor to manage the build out, purchase your equipment and get your licensing.  Then there was the time devoted to picking out the décor, the furnishings, the glassware, the fixtures and on, and on, and on. Lest we forget, there was the time you spent in group brain storming sessions trying to come up with a business name, the business logo and all the marketing trappings that go with that.  Of course, once the creative juices were flowing and you had what you thought was the perfect business name you hired an attorney to check and make certain that the name you liked was free and clear of trademark issues.

In total you spent somewhere between 2 to 3 years working on all these details before ever making your first batch of beer and opening for business.  That was a yeoman’s task, but you accomplished it, hats off to you…take a proverbial bow.

But wait…I think we forgot something! How much time was spent thinking about the most important element of our business, without which we have no business, your customers!

How you treat your customers (your new community members) when you open for business will determine whether, you keep them coming back.  Customer retention is the magic potion and determines a successful business from a failure.  Here are two critical facts, not myths.

  • Acquiring a new customer is anywhere from 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.
  • According to Bain Researcher, increasing customer retention by just 5% can boost profits by as much as 25%–95%. They first published a study in the Harvard Business Review in 1990 and a follow up study on e-commerce ten years later which again verified the results.

With these facts in mind it is critically important that you take your community and your customers very seriously from the first day and everyday going forward.  “So, how do I as a small business owner build community?” Here are some strategies every business, large or small, should consider trying out.

Start by creating a brand identity (and brand values) that are unique and stand out. Be bold, share your passions about your business, you need to activate peoples’ emotions.  Your beers, your food and your taproom experience must deliver value and be consistently reliable. Your customer service must be responsive.

Even as you’re in the build out process of your brewery you can start creating community. You do this by sharing your stories, your challenges, your opportunities and your vision. You answer questions and engage potential patrons online. You post tips and frequently asked questions. You take pictures and videos and show your progress as you’re building the business.   You will also want to go beyond the four walls of your brewery.  Start engaging at a new level by participating in local community events, charities and conferences, as well as hosting your own events and workshops.

The Role of Social Media - In today’s digital world it’s quite easy to develop and engage with your community.  First and foremost, have a verified Untapped account for business.  Untapped has latterly thousands of the exact people you want drinking your beer.  The Untapped audience is entirely made up of people heavily engaged in the craft beer movement. With the Untapped for Business tool you can automatically tap into this pool of millions of craft beer lovers and for a modest fee of $50/month, there are lots of great resources available that you won’t find anywhere else at ten times the money.  I like to say that Untapped is like Facebook on steroids for craft beer drinkers.  With a single click you can update your Untapped profile, send push notifications about new beers or events, and update your website, Facebook page, and your menus.

You also want a good Facebook presence and be certain to make regular posts (no less than three times weekly) add a cross link to twitter and be sure that you also manage an Instagram site as photo sharing is extremely popular.

Need help managing all your social media?  There are tools available to help with that like Hootsuite  and Zoho the all in one social media tool.  While it’s critically important to post frequently and to vary the type of content you are sharing it’s equally important to measure and analyze what is working and what isn’t.  Unfortunately, this is where 90% of small business owners drop the ball.  They never take the time to analyze what they are doing and fine tune it to get their community more engaged.  I always advise owners to find a family member of highly valued employee to manage your social media activity and data analysis. Don’t ever outsource social media because no one outside of your business knows enough about the goings on at your brewery and when they do, they are too slow to get information out soon enough for it to be impactful.  Whoever you pick to manage social media should be given ample uninterrupted time and make certain that they are doing it on the clock.  Their success has a tremendous bearing on the success of your overall success.

Email Marketing – there simply isn’t a more cost cost-effective means of engaging with your audience. If you don’t have a regularly scheduled email newsletter/blog, it’s like buying a high-performance sports car and putting it up on blocks in your garage because you don’t want it getting street dirt.  E-mail marketing remains, by far, one of the most effective ways for a business to reach its customers and prospects, as well as to develop a community. Remember this, when people give you their contact details, they are interested in in you and want to stay abreast of you and your brewery.

Another thing to keep in mind is patience. Building your community takes time.  People need to develop a trust in your business and understand its values. They need to see the brewery in action, and they must be given something to believe in. This only occurs through regular and consistent posts and stories.

Local Charities - One of the best ways to speed up the community-building process is to participate in, and sponsor, existing local community events.  Be cautious as you will quickly be inundated with local charities looking for sponsorship or donations.  Try to select charities or events that you know are also supported by your patrons.  Not certain what those might be… just ask. Ask patrons to drop a suggestion of a local charity that they support in a bowl and each month draw one out and let folks know who suggested it my naming them as the charity’s patron at your brewery.  Also, be certain that the charity you support is a registered 501-C3

Once you have identified the local charity of the month:

  • Make certain everyone is aware of who they are – Email announcements, blog and social media posts, signage in the taproom.
  • What they are about – assume most people aren’t familiar with the charity so briefly describe who they are and give credit to your patron who suggested them.
  • Explain what your customers can do to help – Come up with some way of determining who the charity get rewarded ($2 from every crowler sold, 2% of all sales over a three-day period, $1 for every flight sold, etc.)
  • Set a goal and post results – A simple chalk board in the taproom and occasional emails or social media posts will keep you patrons aware, interested and hopefully motivated to participate.
  • Take credit for your efforts – Ask a representative of the charity to stop into your taproom for a check presentation and send a picture of the event out on social media.

If you really take the concept of building community within your brewery to heart, the results will speak for themselves.  You will see increased engagement in your community’s social media hangouts. Your community members will be enthusiastically sharing, re-sharing and responding to your output.  The result, of course will show up in your sales and profits. If you’ve successfully built an engaged and loyal community, you will see the results in the loyalty of your members eager to support and patronize you.