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The first round of COVID closures left many of Pennsylvania’s smaller beer, wine, and spirit makers both shaken and stirred. But despite the unexpected upending of the industry, some forged ahead and were able to find creative new ways to keep business flowing, even when the taps were turned off. By shifting attention to their digital brand stories in the absence of greeting faces at the bar, brewers, winemakers, and distillers used their websites and social media to keep patrons informed and engaged, and they opened up new sources of pandemic-resistant revenue, such as takeout, online sales, and curbside pickup.

Many small businesses are quickly realizing that using this digital strategy to build brand awareness and, more importantly, brand loyalty is a smart move regardless of the economic climate. With the fall and winter months approaching with uncertainty, now is the perfect time to begin investing in a stronger digital presence and making better use of your website and social media. To help your small beer, wine, or spirits business take its first steps toward creating (or revitalizing) your digital destination, here’s some advice for where to start.

Solidify your brand story.

The goal of creating a digital destination is to give your customers a familiar place to go when they can’t be at your establishment. Creating that familiarity requires a strong brand story, and strong brand stories are more complex than you may think. Don’t mistake your logo or a label for your brand story. It’s much more than that. It’s your atmosphere and your attitude. It’s how your patrons feel when they’re sitting at your table or standing in your tasting room. Your values, your passion, your reason for being in business—these are all part of your brand story, and they form connections with your patrons on an emotional level. It’s these connections that they’ll be looking for online, and you have to be sure to deliver.

Black Forest Brewery in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, is a good example of a small brewer that’s building a solid brand story online. According to the website, the idea for this little brew biz came from a father and his sons while they were backpacking along a trail. That trail became the name of brewery in honor of the place where the idea was born. This brewer offers great history, appealing photography, and an easily navigated website, plus active social media that takes full advantage of video and gives patrons multiple ways to engage.

Recreate the real-world experience.

To turn your business into a digital destination, you need to reimagine the customer experience of your establishment using digital tools to create new ways of connecting. Consistent designs, engaging content, and attractive photography and video are all key components, and all should be in line with your brand story. Use your website and your social media outlets to feed your customers’ desires to engage with your brand and to provide an experience that’s the next best thing to being there in person.

With a strong brand story carried throughout its website and social media, Waltz Vineyards in Manheim, Pennsylvania, has seamlessly replicated the history and atmosphere of its multi-generational farm and vineyard while also sharing its love of the science of winemaking with its followers. This winemaker shares its full flavor through appealing photography, engaging video, and a satisfying user experience that’s complemented by an easy-to-use e-commerce interface. Overall, this little vineyard does an exceptional job of consistently telling its brand story and engaging patrons across all digital platforms while also keeping its options open when economic conditions fluctuate.

No Need to Wait for Disaster to Strike (Again)

There’s no reason to wait for another shutdown or economic downturn to begin building your brand in this way. These lessons in creating a digital destination for your customers are practical and applicable for nearly every small business, and when done well, they can build brand loyalty and open up new streams of revenue even in some of the most challenging conditions. Don’t look at it as creating an emergency alternative. Look at it as an enhancement or an extension of your business that allows your customers to stay engaged with your brand whether your doors are open or not.

Read more about marketing strategies that can improve your efforts.

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