Well, we talked about branding a few weeks ago. Hand-in-hand with branding is the idea of connecting with your fans. This is an area that musicians are really struggling with. In an age where files containing minutes worth of music are essentially free, how do you get someone to actually pay for your content?
Mike Masnick over at Techdirt suggests this super-handy formula: "Connect with Fans (CwF) + Reason to Buy (RtB) = The Business Model". In support of his "mathematical" model he references Trent Reznor who proposes some great steps for bands to make sure they have the support necessary to promote their b(r)and. Most of it is music-centric - although my favorite is not:
Have your MySpace page, but get a site outside MySpace - it's dying and reads as cheap / generic. Remove all Flash from your website. Remove all stupid intros and load-times. MAKE IT SIMPLE TO NAVIGATE AND EASY TO FIND AND HEAR MUSIC (but don't autoplay). Constantly update your site with content - pictures, blogs, whatever. Give people a reason to return to your site all the time.This hits just about every one of my biggest online pet-peeves: Myspace (seriously? does anyone use Myspace anymore?); flash (try to visit a flash-based site like, say, this one, on a Blackberry - how's that working for ya? If you can't be seen on an iPhone/Blackberry, you are not relevant. period.); intros/load-time/autoplay (if your customers have to wait, they're going to leave - and for the love of GOD WHERE IS THAT GODDAMN MUSIC COMING FROM?! MAKE IT STOP!!); navigation (keep it simple and drop the cutesy references - seriously, a disco ball?! WTF? A disco ball is NOT a navigation item); out of date content (there's no excuse for it - I'm looking at you practically every brewery in Wisconsin).
But I like Masnick's formula: CwF + RtB = Business Model. The advantage with the beer industry is that the primary good doesn't have a marginal cost of $0; as of yet, it still costs money to transfer a unit of beer. But still ...
Connect with Fans: Who are your fans? And I don't mean in a general "beer drinker" kind of way. I mean specifics. Not "who do you think your fans are", but who ARE your fans. What age groups? What gender? What do they do for a living? Where do they live? What, specifically, are their interests? Not just "music", but what kind of music? Not just "sports", which sports? What do they do with their expendable income? How does this differ for you than for other breweries? Are you in front of them or with them when they are doing these things? Why not? Think outside the box - beer sales are not just made at grocery stores, liquor stores and restaurants.
Reason To Buy: There needs to be a reason to buy your beer over a different brewery's. What is that reason? "Ours tastes better" is not a reason. Sense of community (not just local community, but a more global "common interest" community, as well), luxury, experimentation, relaxation, and, yes, partying, are all reasons.
This formula is not the same for everyone. What works for Tyranena won't necessarily work for Pearl Street or Rush River or Lakefront or New Glarus. Moreover, your product isn't just your beer - it is your brand. Do your fans like country music? Why aren't you having country music at your brewery? Do your fans golf? Why aren't you sponsoring golf outings? Are your fans environmentally conscious? Why aren't you selling them (or giving them) re-usable shopping bags? Are your fans homebrewers? Why aren't you holding homebrewing competitions (ps. mad props to The Grumpy Troll for this***)?
*** "'Ten Lords a Leaping' this is the first beer from the Madison Homebrewers and Taster Guild contest we held in March. Four top beers were selected and the one that sells out the fastest will be the grand prize winner. The first beer on tap is a very hoppy beer. If you like Liberty Pole and Freedom, you will love this beer. Check it out! Cheers, Doug"