Third-party tours increase your marketing potential without increasing costs.
As the craft beer, craft cider, craft spirits and wine industries grow, it can be harder to get noticed and get new people to try your products. Third-party tours bring new customers right to your tasting room or taproom. The keys for you are to provide a memorable experience that converts those customers into lifelong fans.
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First, you’ll need to get on a tour. Start by finding local tour companies and pitching what you have to offer, says Karen Hamilton, communications director for Lagunitas Brewery. Lagunitas’ Chicago location is actually the meeting place for the Chicago Brew Bus tours, allowing people who get there early to spend a little extra time in the brewery before the tour officially starts, looking around and purchasing merchandise. Their original location in Petaluma, California, is a common stop for North Bay Brewery Tours.
Be up front about the capacity you can handle on a tour and in the tasting room. Also be clear about whether your staff will be able to host a tour or whether you’d prefer to keep that group in the tasting room only. Some tours provide tour leaders who can take the group through your location, and some need your staff to be on hand to work with the people who are on the tour.
If you have special availability to private VIP tours, let the tour company know. Many of them specialize in providing custom experiences to patrons, such as after-hours tours or special food pairings.
Be sure to share what makes you unique. Chad Brodsky, who runs DC Brew Tours and several other tour operations throughout the east coast, says one thing that makes a tour stop really special is when “the founder will come out and tell how they got their passion going.” These personal stories will be key in getting on a tour and in giving each tour patron an interesting fact to remember about your business.
Once you and a tour company have agreed to work together, keep in constant communication. Patrons have a limited time in your establishment and you need to make sure you offer them the best experience possible. Be clear when they will arrive and how many people will be on the tour so your staff is prepared to get going immediately. Chasta Feller, experience coordinator at Kentucky-based Mint Julep tours, informs her tour stops if anyone on the tour is celebrating a special event, such as a birthday or anniversary so they can be prepared.
Also ensure that you have adequate merchandise in-stock. Purchasing souvenirs is a big part of a tour experience, especially for tour patrons from out of town. Growlers are also important, as patrons may want to take home their favorite beverage from their tasting experience.
Finally, continue to offer new experiences to tour patrons. If you’re brewing a test batch of beer, share it with the tour. Show them the new equipment you just installed and explain why it’s helping you make a better product. Talk about your expansion plans and when you’ll be opening your next location. This helps each tour patron feel special and increases the chance they will remember you the next time they’re in a store looking for a delicious craft beer, cider, spirit or bottle of wine to purchase.