For growing breweries, standing out is the ultimate challenge.
You know your beer is better than just about everything else in the cooler -- the key is getting people to try it. That’s why the in-store sampling event has become craft breweries’ bread and butter. Not only does the perfect tasting event put your beer on shoppers’ lips right before they head to the cooler, but it can go a long way toward solidifying your relationship with new accounts.
To help you get the most out of your next tasting event, we broke down an event put on by our friends at Down the Road Beer Co. Not only do they brew great beer in a competitive market, but they put on more sampling events than any other Boston-area beer company. Here’s a peek at what makes their tastings so successful.
Time to get your event on the calendar! Friday evenings have the most predictable traffic at liquor stores, so you’ll have to plan a few months in advance to get on the retailer’s schedule since competition is fierce for Fridays.
One pro tip is to schedule a tasting a few months out every time you open a new account, since they can help solidify relationships and boost sales during those important first few months.
Don’t wait till the last minute, pack up your car well in advance of the event. That way you’ll have time to get extra product or marketing materials if you run into any shortages. Start with your products. Only pack varieties/flavors that are available for purchase at the store where you’re headed.
Have a bunch? Grab your most popular, crowd-pleasing product (these days perhaps an IPA), as well as a couple new or limited edition varieties customers might not have tried.
Besides your products, pack up some stickers, fliers, and other marketing materials, some sampling cups, and a big bucket you can fill with ice. And be sure to wear some branded swag!
Once you park, go find the store manager and say hello. They’ll set you up with a table, and that’s a perfect time to ask where you can get some ice to fill up your bucket (they usually sell it at the store).
Load the ice bucket up with beer (shoppers want to try it cold!), and put the cups behind the bucket so shoppers don’t try to pour their own.
Finally, line up one can of each variety in the front so everyone can see what you have to offer.
It’s finally showtime! Have a go-to phrase ready to invite shoppers to taste some of your beer. Emphasizing the words new, local, and free tends to work. Whether people are just walking in the door or already waiting at checkout, don’t hesitate to offer a sample to everyone who comes into the store (it’s why you gave up your Friday night)!
As the event unfolds, keep your table tidy and your beer in plain view -- plenty of people will hang back and read your labels before committing to a sample, so the easier you can make it for them the better.
You might need to ask the retailer for more ice as time passes.
Once you get someone to stop at your table for a taste, you have an opportunity to influence a sale. Start by asking what type of beer they usually enjoy, and pour something similar. Position the rest of your selection as a flight - they’ll be more likely to try a couple that way.
As they work their way through the varieties, take the opportunity to teach people about the different beers, your brewing process, or about your brand in general. The more someone identifies with your story, the more likely they are to support your brand with a purchase.
Shoppers will probably ask you additional questions about the store, so be prepared to politely let them know you work for the brewery, not the retailer, and direct them to someone who can help them out
When someone’s engaged in the tasting, get ready to help them make a purchase. Start by asking which of the varieties was their favorite. Once you have an answer, offer to go get them a cold case out of the cooler.
By walking them back to the cooler yourself and putting the case in their hand, you maximize the chance that they’ll follow through on the purchase.
If your table is too busy to leave, simply describe in detail where they can find your beer in the cooler. If you’re available later on and see that they haven’t yet picked up your beer, offer to help them find it at that point.
Clean up your table and ask the store manager what they’d like you to do with your trash and leftover ice. If you have a few extra cans left over from the sample, consider leaving them behind for the store staff. It’s a great way to build rapport and get them to act as your brand ambassadors in the store.
Make sure your beer looks great in the cooler and on the shelf before you head out. Pull product out from the back if you need to fill space on the shelf, and offer to place a replenishment order if you notice any SKUs are low.
Finally, be sure to connect with the store manager and say thank you on your way out!