Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cater to women with your tasting room

I'm not talking about how women are hugely important as leaders and consumers of craft beer. If you need to catch up on that conversation check out these great posts here and here.

Women loving your brand = $$$. So what can your brewery do to establish and maintain a strong female following?

Involve women. Every aspect of a brewery needs female influence, but especially the brewery's public face. Your tasting room defines your brand and builds relationships with customers. Here's how secure a loyal female base.
Enthusiastic and friendly dirndls
Get your staff right.
Each server has their own segment of customers they connect with, so stack your team to engage wide range. Bartending at 24, I resonated with women 28-60, men 35-70 and moms with young kids. I passed younger customers to servers that ensured they had a great time. Together we appealed to nearly everyone. Aim to represent a mix of genders and cultures. A diverse team behind the bar ensures professionalism and customer comfortability. A great serving team appeals to women because everyone feels welcome. Women want a bar they can take their mom, a date, and their transexual coworker.

Use neutral language.
Don't allow staff to say “hey guys” to group of women decked out in their best. Ladies spend effort into looking nice so make sure it's appreciated. Mixed gender groups should be called “folks”. If in doubt, just say hello and welcome. Women are age sensitive. I suggest banning 'miss', 'madam' and 'girls' from tasting room as these can send a wrong message. Unless you're southern, avoid using 'ma'am'.

Hire quick moving extroverts with personalities.
You must greet every customer. If the bar staff is swamped at peak times, hire a greeter to help with overflow. A pint takes about 10 minutes to drink if sipping. That's 10 uncomfortable minutes if your bartender can't start a conversation with a solo lady. A good pub staff notices lone beer drinkers and gives them extra attention. Why? Because that customer patronizes your bar entirely for craft beer.

Host women specific events.
Beer education events engage customers and help to build a market. This works for both genders, but it's especially important to host women exclusive events. Create and promote frequent women only beer education events and tastings. Women feel more comfortable learning in female only groups. Take away the gender divide and focus on socializing and your beer. Women attach having a positive experience with their friends to beer and your brewery.

Partner with women specific charities in your area to raise money and awareness. The tasting room can serve as a public outreach space for any type of charity you support. Make sure to include those with important market segments.

Host women in brewing industry events.
Keep your business intimately tied to the female professional brewing networks to capitalize on their ideas and influence. Winning female customers is ultimately about doing something good for women with your business. Hosting a professional night for women in brewing shows you support women in all aspects of the industry. Pink Boots Society works to get women involved in craft beer as professionals, tasting judges, and educated consumers. They host national meetings and offer scholarships for brewing school. I encourage breweries to contact PBS to learn more about offering networking and mentorship events. 

Offer pairings.
Wine has made huge gains in the US largely to efforts to push this beverage as the food partner. Push your craft brews as everyday luxuries that enhance meals. Pairings infuse beer culture and appreciation into the tasting room experience. Established and neophyte customers alike can try beers in new ways. I've had success with cheeses, chocolates, ice cream, and dried meats. Dessert and beer pairings showcase beer's diversity as a food companion and resonate with women.  

Keep track of what they like.
Women's preferences in beer vary so ditch your biases. Do not hand a female customer your “girliest” or lightest beer without asking what flavors she's interested in. Also, keep track of gender when it comes to style. Recently I raised my eyebrows to a marketing guy when he proposed a male focused style description for a porter. To his surprise between 30-50% of that porters sold in the tasting room went to ladies. Words accompanying a beer may not turn off female fans, but it shows our (wrong) assumptions about who's drinking what.

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