Expert Topic The Best Ways to Make Your Brewery Website Stand Out (and be Helpful)

Having a well built and easy to navigate website is critical for brewery owners. It’s the portal many will use to find your business, to learn about it, and to connect with your brand. To do it right, there are several things to keep in mind.

All About Beer editor and ProBrewer contributor John Holl spoke with Chris McClellan, a beer industry consultant, and Advanced Cicerone® who’s spent nearly two decades in the beer business in commercial strategy roles, including tenures at Magic Hat, Guinness, and Torch & Crown in Manhattan. He runs The Brew Enthusiast, his brand strategy and digital consulting practice.

He offered insights into what makes a good website stand out among the rest.

John Holl: How important is it for a brewery to have a robust web presence?

Chris McClellan: It’s incredibly important. It’s one of the hardest working tools that you don’t notice is working hard for you.

Your website is the backbone of a lot of your business. It’s your marketing engine and your sales engine for your brewery, whether you realize it or not. Every channel that you want to access, all of the audiences that you want to access, everybody’s going to reference your website at some point.

Your website is the entry point for a lot of the hospitality business. If you’re running a brewery, your website points people in the right direction, it gives them a vibe that tells them whether you care or not and it’s doing so much hard work in the background, especially if it’s built correctly. It needs great imagery and great copy. If it’s clean, if it’s concise, if it looks like some effort was put into it, you’re good. It doesn’t have to be overly expensive.

I am an advocate of clear, concise, powerful copy and great imagery. But it doesn’t need to be super fancy, it doesn’t need to be overly elaborate, it just needs to work well. Because if I’m a consumer, I’m going to go to your website and look for information about your events. About your taproom, about your distribution. I’ll look at your portfoliom about who you are, and why I should patronize your business.

Your website is the warm handshake that introduces you to people out there and keeps them coming back for more. A great website can do so much for your business. And some of the clients that I’ve personally worked with, their websites are garnering them 10 to 15 leads per day, especially on private events, which are hugely lucrative and important part of a lot of breweries business.

All these cold leads just come straight through the site, because they have a fantastic private events page that shows all the offerings and what they can do. And it gives them all the information that they could possibly want, to hit that contact button and reach out and ask for more information.

It’s a business development tool. It’s a marketing tool. If it’s not accomplishing that job, it’s a useless tool, and you should get rid of it or get a better one.

John Holl: How important is it to have the vital information easily findable? I think most people just want opening hours, to know what is on draft right now. The basics. How important is it to just have that stuff without making people hunt for it?

Chris McClellan: When I’m building sites for clients, and when I’m talking to them about their general marketing strategy, I ask them to think about it in business units. You’ve got hospitality, distribution, you might have a direct to consumer aspect. How can we make sure that all those business units and channels are covered appropriately on the site so that people can get the information they need and either action on it, contact you, or purchase something? It goes back to the toolkit. Making all the obvious stuff obvious and readily accessible is very, very important.

John Holl: What should brewer be thinking about if they are ready to add on new features like direct-to-consumer shipping, or even adding an online shop?

Chris McClellan: First and foremost, just make sure it vibes with the current site. When you get into the psychology of marketing, the psychology of design, the psychology of getting people what they’re looking for make sure it’s cohesive with the rest of whatever it is that you’re doing.

Spend a little bit of time and be thoughtful about that. And then make sure that it’s accessible. If you’re adding a merch shop, for example, you want it to be important to your business, make sure that you’re willing to invest the time to both build it and then manage it properly. The small details are important. Make sure it’s cohesive, and just make sure that user experience is doing what it should be doing.

John Holl: As far as upkeep what’s best practices for long term?

Chris McClellan: It’s the pilots checklist. It’s the SOP that you put in place as the person who manages the brand, whether it’s the marketing person, marketing director, or in a lot of cases for small breweries, the owner. You need a set process in place that says, hey, if I make this change, who needs to know about this change? You need to have that workflow or that process in place every time that says, “hey, if we have a new beer coming in one week, what do we do about it? If we have an if we have a new update to our operating hours, who needs to know about that update, Instagram, update, Yelp, update the website, update this, update that.”

If you’re a business owner, and this goes more into business strategy, it’s about making sure that you’re focusing on the business results. And if the results are “I want this to happen, because I’ve done that”, you need to keep that in mind as you’re making changes. And it’s not difficult.

John Holl: Any last thoughts on a website as an important tool in that toolbox?

Chris McClellan: Generally speaking, just going back to what we initially said: don’t ignore it at all. Don’t think that this is something that you can put on the back burner, because this is the age of great SEO and the age of trying to find customers and the age of a mature craft beer market.

This is the most competitive the business has ever been ever. It’s never been harder to get share of mind. And so, the takeaway is simple: make sure that you’re investing in your brand, you’re investing in your communication and your customers. Make sure you are driving value. The website does a lot of work for you as long as it’s built well, correctly maintained. and thoughtfully approached.

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