By Clare Goggin Sivits On October 10, 2022

6 Real World Marketing Efforts to Bring People into Your Tasting Room

It happens every single day. Distillery tasting rooms open their doors, ready to welcome visitors and serve samples of craft spirits. Customers come from all over — across the country or maybe just down the street — to get a taste of their favorites. But how did they discover this gem of a tasting room? A well-rounded beverage marketing strategy reached them.

A customer sits at a table near a copper still in an otherwise empty distillery tasting room waiting to try craft spirits or cocktails.
Customers need to see a craft spirit seven times before making a purchase or visiting the distillery tasting room.

When we say well-rounded, we’re talking about more than just social media, website, email, etc. It takes more than just a digital presence to draw people through your door. Even a really well-honed digital marketing plan won’t find all your potential customers. Digital marketing is absolutely crucial but it’s also important to deliver your marketing and your message to your audience directly — wherever they may be. That could be grocery stores, farmer’s markets, festivals, your street or even the local airport. Catch their attention and draw them in IRL — not just online.

The truth is consumers need to experience your message at least seven times before they choose to buy — or even try. Those seven touchpoints need to be diverse in order to make contact with those potential customers.

To help you reach all potential customers outside of your digital marketing efforts, here are a few ways to diversify your liquor marketing efforts.

1. Bring Your Spirits To Your Customers

Customers can’t taste your product online. It’s a fact. So if you’re not doing real-world tastings at grocery stores, liquor stores, farmer’s markets or wherever, you’re missing a key element of your marketing strategy.

The very important first step is to acquire distribution as soon as possible right after you’re crafting spirits. With spirits on shelves at retailers, both on-premise and off, it adds another touchpoint where customers can experience your brand, adding to that seven you need to get them to buy. Or visit your tasting room, in this case.

When customers taste samples of your spirits, they are far more likely to buy your product. It’s also a way to surprise and delight grocery store shoppers, farmer’s market visitors or other potential customers just going about their day. When they stumble upon your tasting, you’ve already made their day.

Add to that delight with a free taste of spirits and you’ll be on your way to building a customer for life. Offering freebies to a consumer triggers a feeling of obligation. This is known as the reciprocity principle. After a brand gives something away to a customer, that customer feels an obligation to reciprocate. In the case of a distillery, that customer might hunt down the tasting room to fulfill that obligation.

Additionally, tastings have been shown to spark word-of-mouth marketing among an audience. Someone who tasted your spirits for free talks about it 20 percent more than they would otherwise. That means with each sample of gin or whiskey you distribute, you’re gaining a vocal brand advocate.

2. Get Your Name Out There

Plastering your name across a billboard, on a bus stop or along the side of a kiosk at the airport gets your messaging in front of even more people than an online display ad. By purchasing these ad placements, you insert your craft spirits into your customers’ real lives. As they’re walking to work, driving down the highway or hoofing it to baggage claim after they’ve arrived home, they’ll see your brand’s name.

Large advertising displays that offer enticing messages subtly remind customers that they’d rather be having a cocktail or tasting a spirit. This can also be achieved through flyers that you can leave at hotels or with a concierge, brochures to add to the stands at local hotels, or free tasting cards to hand out at bars. If done well, the ad, flyer, brochure or other physical marketing piece delivers information about your location directly to their psyche. It counts toward that rule of seven and pushes your customer one step closer to the door of your tasting room.

As you consider where to place your outdoor ads, it’s wise to take location into account as well as size and style. Make sure you purchase ads that display in locations high-trafficked by your target consumer. Maybe it’s a neighborhood populated by your customers or an interstate exit that draws a lot of similar consumers. Choose wisely so you can align your real-world targeting with your digital advertising targeting.

3. Bump into Your Customers at Events

Customers like to go to events out in the real world and take a break from their screens for a bit. To reach more of those customers, learn about events they’re already attending. Perhaps they are sports fans or maybe they’ll attend an upcoming festival. Whatever the event, find out how you can invest in sponsorship and get your brand name in a program or splashed across a banner. It allows you to get in front of an audience ready to have fun without having to throw an event yourself.

Some sponsorships are relatively low maintenance, allowing you to pay for that name placement and gain a little extra recognition from attendees. Other sponsorships may include attendance and participation. The latter of these gives you an added opportunity to get your spirits directly in front of event attendees. So long as the event allows it, you may even be able to stage a tasting for a limited group of eventgoers. As we mentioned, that’s a great way to activate brand advocates in the real world.

4. Support Your Customers’ Communities

When customers believe that a brand shares values with them, they’re more likely to support the company. A brand can certainly list its values on a website but actions speak louder than web copy. That’s why it’s wise to create initiatives that benefit your community and relevant organizations that support the community.

This type of community involvement often involves donations or fundraising. Brands may choose to donate a portion of profits from the sale of a product. Other times, they may host events meant to raise money for an organization. In other examples, brands may volunteer time to support community efforts, like beach cleanup or recycling materials.

Whatever community involvement your brand chooses to partake in, it’s important to tell that story. This may mean returning to that digital marketing to publish a blog post or distribute a press release that really communicates what your distillery has done to enhance the community.

5. Let Customers Advertise for You

Turn your customers into walking billboards! They’ll be far more attractive than the search ads you’re bidding on through Google. This may start out simple with T-shirts that feature your logo. If you want to really ensure that your customers wear those shirts around town, choose trendy colors and designs that will lure them in.

It’s also a good idea to broaden those merch options, maybe add hats, beanies or water bottles to ensure that there’s a branded piece that fits into each of your customers’ lives. Taking the extra time to plan out that merchandising plan could weave your brand into your customers’ daily agendas.

6. Partner with Other Brands Your Customers Love

Online, you may be able to work in some cross-promotions with complementary brands. Perhaps you’ve run an Instagram giveaway with a glassware company. You can build on that work by materializing a real-life partnership that puts your brand physically in front of those partners’ customers.

A good place to start with real-world partnerships is with neighbors. Team up with local breweries or wineries to share cross-promotional efforts across each of your tasting rooms. To build on that, consider teaming up with destination marketing organizations, such as Travel Oregon or Visit Seattle. These groups have a vested interest in making local businesses successful so they’ll definitely help send customers through your doors.

Cultivating those connections and following all the other suggestions above will ensure that you’re getting your brand in front of customers seven, eight, or maybe even ten times, enticing them to your tasting room more and more.

If you’re interested in adding to your digital marketing plan with real-world marketing efforts, contact us. We design merchandise, brochures, ads, sandwich boards and much more. These are excellent additions to a beverage marketing plan that we can also help you with.

Clare Goggin Sivits

As a marketer with a strong writing background, Clare Goggin Sivits has worked in the beer, spirits, and wine industries for nearly a decade. She oversaw digital marketing for a small wine startup as well as a craft brewery and distillery with a nationwide footprint. A Florida ex-pat, Clare now lives in Portland, Oregon, and continues to write about craft beverage marketing and the industry as a whole.

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