What Your Distillery Can Learn from Going to Tradeshows
There was once some wise individual who said something to the effect, “Just shut up and listen, will ya’.” It’s good advice for life, and it’s something that can work for craft distillery tradeshows as well. Sure, tradeshows are mainly about self-promotion and getting distributors, restaurants, and other vendors to notice your fine spirits. After all, you need to get people to buy your liquor to make money. There is more a distillery owner or manager can do other than promoting their brand, and that is watch
One of the greatest things about the craft distillery movement is that there are so many new ideas flowing out of it. People are putting new twists on liquors no one had thought of yet, and reviving old techniques that were nearly lost to the ages. Many of these are unique to a region, but they could be adapted or modified for your distillery. Ideas are contagious, in a good way, and you might end up catching some of your own. When you are around people passionate about what they do who are sharing their ideas, it tends to spark the imagination of others.
There is a difference between new ideas and trends. Ideas are just thoughts, some with potential, while trends are things already affecting and driving the industry. Maybe one of these trends is something your distillery can or already is doing. It would be unwise for a distillery to try and jump on every trend that comes around. It simply can’t be done. That said, knowing what the new trends are can go a long way to knowing how to adjust your marketing strategy or production schedule to compensate for them.
Who you can be Friends with, and Who You Can’t
Just to make it clear, the big-time distilleries are not going to be your friend. Their corporate rep may like you personally, and even respect you and think the liquor you make is amazing, but they are not your friend. To them, it's all business, and they would crush you under their heel without a second thought while wearing a friendly smile the whole time. The way they see it, your craft liquor is the reason the shelf space dedicated to Jack Daniels, Crown Royal, and the like has shrunk. And they want it back.
Other craft distillers are another matter entirely. The operations close to you might be competition, but the love of the craft might mean they see themselves more as friendly rivals than. Not that that’s guaranteed. They may want to crush you too. Distilleries that aren’t in the same market as you might be willing to talk, and even share some tips and ideas. You never know.
How to do Things Right, and How to Recover When You Don’t
It doesn’t matter how much you studied, prepared, and planned before opening your distillery, if you are new to the business, you will make mistakes. This applies to every distillery past, present, and future. Talk to them, find out what they did, what they wish they would have done instead, and ask how they handled it. Experience is the best teacher, even if it comes second hand at times.