No advertising, no sponsorship – just great service, fabulous content and live engagement via social media. We are delighted to present our latest Valuable Content Award to the brilliant BeerBods team.
From shed to business
BeerBods’ founder Matt Lane had his first experience of beer at a youngish age, at his dad’s pigeon racing club. When he got to university he was drinking quality old man’s ale when most of his peers were necking snakebite. Matt took on the challenge of educating them to drink better beer. He set up a beer club in his garden shed and held weekly tasting sessions of independent ales. His friends loved it. What if he could use the internet to make that shed his business?
In 2011 Matt set out on his mission to turn the beer club into a fully-fledged online business. He diligently wrote a list of what was needed, then decided to forget all but the last item – ‘find customers’. On a shoestring budget he put up a one page website describing the beer club idea with a call to sign up if interested. Good people tweeted about it and 250 people signed up in 24 hours. He had customers! Admittedly he didn’t have stock, a warehouse or even a license – but he did have a great idea and an audience ready to buy.
BeerBods was born. Membership grew steadily, fuelled not by pots of advertising cash but by social media and ‘decent content’ <- Matt’s words, I’d term it GREAT.
Here is the BeerBods story, with masses of ideas to inspire us to create the type of marketing that customers adore.
A beautiful digital business model with content and social at its heart
The BeerBods model is beautifully, enviably simple:
- Sign up for membership at just £3 a week.
- Through clever logistics, you and all other members receive the same bottle of independently brewed ale every Thursday evening.
- Matt and colleague Gordon post a review of the beer on the BeerBods website.
- You and your friends post your own review, rate it and share your thoughts on the beer via social media, text or email.
- A lively and often hilarious debate ensues.
- Everyone has fun and that’s infectious. More members join up and the fun continues. Genius.
For BeerBods, content is their differentiator, focused around sharing the stories behind the week’s beer and the joys of running and building the business. Matt and Gordon use social media for live tastings, promoting these on Twitter and Instagram every Thursday. No advertising, no sponsorship, not typical marketing – just great service, fabulous content and live engagement via social media.
“ Without social media we wouldn’t have a business. Our social is about conversations, in real time. I don’t even see it as marketing, but it works that way – just discussion that attracts.”
Growing a community that loves what you do
Great content and social media is built in to the BeerBods model and it helps to attract, grow and serve a very happy community of beer lovers. It’s an approach that has attracted 1000s of passionate subscribers in a few short years.
In 2013 Matt realised they were on to something as a business. He decided to go for crowdfunding to raise the investment needed to develop. At the time, BeerBods’ crowdfunding was the world’s fastest ever – over £150K in 36 hours! All investment came from their subscribers, who took an equity stake in the business. Now that’s an engaged community.
BeerBods’ customers spread the word for them, and Matt and team give them tools to help them do just that, with posters, flyers, and even stickers for rubbish beer.
“Recently we started sending our subscribers guerrilla marketing packs; a bunch of goodies that make spreading the word even easier. In the last few days we’ve seen people handing out flyers at beer festivals and framing posters to put up in their local pub. For every newbie they sign up, we give them both a free beer. It’s not a lot but it’s just our way of saying thank you.”
Social media channels and approach that works for BeerBods
“Twitter initially worked best – it’s just right for our audience as our marketing is about conversations, real time. Facebook seems less real time, so it hasn’t worked for us. Our audience are predominantly lefty, middle-aged 30-50, predominantly male but not all – so again, Twitter is perfect. Instagram has been absolutely brilliant for us in recent years too – its visual, more honest in a way. You can’t make photos up.”
The BeerBods boys have toyed with other approaches such as Twitter and Facebook advertising. It just didn’t feel right when they tried it. Matt comes from an advertising background. He can see that online advertising is plummeting in terms of the return it generates. As a form of marketing for BeerBods it felt unsustainable.
“Giving our marketing budget to our customers beats pissing it up the wall on advertising any day of the week.”
What’s the future of marketing for BeerBods? The decision is to do more of what they’ve always done – use great content and social media to add value to their community – but to do it even better. Look out for greater, more creative and community-focused content.
Takeaways for your marketing
- Go out and find customers first, even before the business is launched – “Like oxygen for your ideas” as Matt says.
- Build the business around a bigger cause, a mission (We have one simple aim; to get more people drinking better beer). Know why you do what you do and you’ll attract people who believe in what you’re doing and why.
- Work out how to use your content and social media to provide a value-added service around what you sell – not just a tag on to sell stuff. Make it an integral part of what you do as a business every day.
- Help your audience to spread the word for you – give them the tools.
- Use social media as a window into your business – show who you really are.
A beautiful business powered by fabulous content and connection. Congratulations Matt, Gordon and the BeerBods team. We love what you’re doing. A well-deserved Valuable Content Award is on its way in the post.