SMB Marketers Need to Start Thinking Like Craft Breweries

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If you have even been within 10 feet of a bar or beer isle in the last few years, you’ve probably heard the term “craft beer.” Craft beer refers to beer produced by smaller, often independent breweries, and it is quickly making it’s presence known in the U.S. beer market.

In 2011, craft brewing saw growth of 13% by volume while overall U.S. beer sales were down an estimated 1.3% by volume. Not bad for a small business product!

This trend toward smaller craft breweries is part of a much larger shift in consumer tastes away from large corporations and impersonal products. Consumers are willing to pay more for products from companies they feel like they know — companies with a personality and a story.

This trend should be encouraging for small businesses. The SMB market is the alternative to the faceless corporations and has the ability to produce marketing that is genuine and has real personality; marketing consumers are craving. However, SMBs aren’t spending their time fighting off large corporations pretending to be small businesses. Many are spending most of their time mimicking and pretending to be a big business.

Seriously? Why are we so focused on being Bud Light when we are already something so much better? We are better than Bud Light!

Why are we so focused on being Bud Light when we are already something so much better?

SMB marketers are in a position to capitalize on the characteristics of their businesses that may have once been viewed as flaws. It’s time to step up and own these elements of SMBs and deliver marketing that consumers actually want.


Consumer tastes are changing quickly. Outbound marketing strategies are becoming a thing of the past as consumers become more and more desensitized to the messages pushed on them each day. Inbound marketing has become the new dominant strategy, with earned media and content strategies successfully building relationships and earning consumer trust. Large businesses are spending billions to make inbound work for them, but SMBs already have a huge head start.

SMBs don’t need to spend big to create personalities and a story for their brands the way big business does. The story is already there, SMBs just need to tell it! Share your struggles and success with your audience. Share your mission and what drives you. This honesty and authenticity will help to make your brand more trustworthy, and trust is the foundation of every relationship.


Big business marketing is pretty boring. They are working under tight guidelines and regulations. This is especially true when it comes to beer. How many ads can you really target at tailgaters? SMBs lack the budget for national ad spots and traditional media buys. This forces marketers to think outside the box.

SMBs are ideally set up to pursue new, exciting marketing ideas and tactics. You should be pushing the traditional boundaries, taking risks, and setting the trends for larger brands to follow. Before your next campaign, think about using a new channel or pursuing a new strategy that will differentiate you from the competition. The risks are lower and the rewards greater. Think bigger!


Anyone that has seen a local brewery grow into a successful business probably feels a connection to that brand. Small businesses have a story and a connection to their neighborhoods, cities, and states. When marketed well, consumers feel as if they know their community’s small businesses and share a connection.

This is a tremendous advantage SMBs have over their competition. Don’t be afraid to show your people and personality. Give your audience a look behind the scenes and showcase the people behind your brand. Take advantage of opportunities to participate in local events and causes. Although the short term gain of these events is limited, the long term relationships and connections are a significant advantage over larger companies.

The craft brewing movement is bravely breaking from the norm set by traditional larger breweries, and consumers have responded with overwhelming support. Craft breweries are standing up to big business and trying to be something different, something better. If their bold message, strong values, and devout followings are not enough to inspire your marketing, then their snowballing financial success should definitely get your attention!

Do you have any additional thoughts on craft brewing or SMB marketing? What’s your favorite craft brew? Let us know in the comments below!