A 2020 Self-Reflection on Indiana On Tap: Who We Are and What We Do – And Don’t Do

A 2020 Self-Reflection on Indiana On Tap: Who We Are and What We Do – And Don’t Do

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

The philosopher Bertrand Russell once said, “In all affairs it is healthy now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” To Indiana On Tap, this means that not only do we reflect on what we are doing and how we do it, but we must also make sure that the public and industry understand what we’re all about.

It’s a good idea from time to time to re-affirm what Indiana On Tap stands for and tries to do for the Indiana craft beverage community. We do this through our actions on a daily basis and by occasionally talking to everyone directly about the things we do and don’t do, and the goals for which we aim. This is one of those occasions.

Our purpose and goals. Our mission is to increase the quality and value of the craft experience for drinkers, while at the same time increasing the brand recognition of all Indiana craft beverage producers and sellers.

image credit: Indiana On Tap

For the drinker, we want you to know what producers/sellers are out there and what they stand for. We want you to have good experiences when you visit establishments or get a drink at a bar or store. Finally, we want to make you a more knowledgeable craft fan, able to know what it is you like, why you like it, and how trends are moving in the industry.

For breweries, distilleries, wineries, and restaurants/bars, we are here to tell your stories and help you build a relationship with the drinker. The more that customers know about you, the greater likelihood that the two of you will connect, and the stronger that connection will be. We help drinkers find you and patronize you as often as possible.

Lastly, we like to think of ourselves as supporters of all kinds of Indiana small businesses. We regularly write about people making their living at the edges of Indiana craft beverages and encourage people to support their work. Our festivals bring in local artists, local musicians, and local food vendors. Our events also involve the local businesses as sponsors of events and increase their connections to the craft beverage drinker population. We may work primarily in beer, but we our goal is to lift up as many Indiana small businesses as we can.

Our Methods. We’re a company, so we do have a profit motive in an effort to keep the lights on. But how and where that profit comes from can still be to the benefit of producers, drinkers, and our company all at the same time. We hope that our two customers, 1) drinkers and 2) producers/retailers, see the value that our programs and activities add. We believe that they both gain more than they invest in Indiana On Tap.

We visit and tell the stories of Indiana’s craft producers. Yeah, our job really sucks. image credit: Goshen Brewing

a) Indiana On Tap never approaches breweries, wineries, distilleries asking for money. If a producer wants to host a festival, we can talk about how we can help, either by marketing it or organizing it. If a producer or seller has a specific marketing campaign in mind for an event, we can talk. But we don’t monetize on the producers/sellers unless it was their idea and they approach us.

Along these same lines, we don’t offer any type of online advertising model (ie. banners on our website or ads on social media). Producers have asked about doing that, but we need the public to know that we support all producers, not those who pay us – so we don’t do that at all. It’s just not who we are.

b) We have products and services, for sure, but one of the main mechanisms for helping the producers/sellers is to tell their stories and spread their news. Articles, Indiana On Tap Jobs, social media posts, the brewery map and event calendar – we don’t make money on any of these, but they are important for our mission.

c) We don’t take money or merchandise in exchange for writing about a producer. EVER. When we visit an establishment, we pay for what we drink. If we wear a T-shirt from a certain place, we purchased it. When we travel outside Indiana and take Indiana beer to give away, we buy that beer here before we leave. No one will ever be able to say that the reason we wrote something nice about someone was because they paid us or gave things to us.

The Ways We Enhance Experiences. Indiana On Tap has tried to develop many outlets to help both drinkers and producers/sellers of craft beverages.

image credit: Indiana On Tap

1) Tasting Society Marketplace. This membership and rewards program pays off greatly for both craft fans and craft producers/sellers. We worked closely with the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission to legally create this program and structured it under their guidance.

We never charge breweries/wineries/distilleries/bars/restaurants to be a partner in the program, and they are in complete control of their offers. The only cost they incur is the ‘cost’ of their offers when a group comes in to redeem a deal, but by that time they’re in the establishment, often for the first time. Dollar for dollar, there’s no better ROI than participating as a Tasting Society partner for free.

Our surveys indicate that 42% of TSM visits are first time visits, that the TSM member brings two people with them (1.9 people to be exact), and that they spend 10-12x the price of the average offer on each visit. Plus, the TSM partner receives constant marketing via their logo and a direct link to their website on the Indiana On Tap website and app. The TSM single-use electronic gift certificates incentivize members to get out and visit new places. A great experience will then bring them back again and again, and they’ll send other people – we’re just happy to make the introduction via our program.

For our TSM members, the cost of the yearly membership is dwarfed by the >$1500 worth of offers from around the state. We have had members redeem more than 100 offers in a year without really making a Herculean effort. Plus, we include other rewards for TSM members – very affordable small tasting events, bottle shares, free or reduced tickets to 12-15 events a year, giveaways of swag or tickets, and meet-ups. This program is a great pay-off for the drinker and seller alike.

2) On Tap Tickets. While this is an important part of Indiana On Tap, On Tap Tickets is less visible than other things we do since it is operated as a separate, but Indiana On Tap owned company. On the event attendee end of the spectrum, we want ticket buyers to have a seamless, simple, and easy to understand experience when purchasing tickets to events. However, On Tap Tickets is really geared toward providing a valuable service for event organizers. It doesn’t cost the organizer anything to use the platform, yet they get so much more than just a place to put their tickets on sale.

image credit: Indiana On Tap

An On Tap Tickets event is marketed to anyone who has ever purchased a ticket from a previous On Tap Tickets event and who has opted in to receive information about other events. Instead of hoping that potential attendees find your event, an On Tap Tickets event finds potential customers. In print and digital forms, an estimated 660,000+ people will learn about an event – both the general public and people who have already demonstrated a willingness to buy tickets to these types of events.

It may take just five minutes to set up an event and pay-outs can be done almost immediately – but one of the biggest values associated with On Tap Tickets is for future events. Our first-of-its-kind Marketing Intelligence Report is a unique feature within the events industry (and it took a lot of time and a lot of money to build). It’s sent out to the event organizer within 48 hours after their event ends and provides analytics on their ticket buyers (as a whole) and the patterns of sales (don’t worry, all individual ticket buyer information is anonymous, private, protected, and never for sale). The visual data presentation of each Marketing Intelligence Report will make future event marketing smarter, more targeted, and more effective for the organizer. There’s nothing else like it and it’s all free.

3) Festivals. This is an aspect of Indiana on Tap that pays off for more than just the craft beverage community and their fans. While we work to make these events affordable for everyone, it is the small businesses and other entities in the towns/cities who really benefit. Local musicians, dance groups, food trucks, artists, and small businesses are always a part of the festivals, and this increases their visibility within a section of the population that has money to spend and is willing to spend it. We never charge artists or food vendors to come to one of our events, which I guess is unusual.

We try to pay competitive stipends for breweries and encourage all vendors to sell packaged product at the events, but we do understand that there is an expense for them to come to a festival and we appreciate them for it. Our job is to bring in enough attendees and make their experience good enough that drinkers are more likely to seek out participating vendors, either on a trip to their location or to buy their product in the stores or restaurants. Helping them build a relationship with potential customers and drive business to them is something we take very seriously.

Anderson on Tap is coming up on Sept. 5th. Twenty-five craft vendors and a a great downtown location. Get tickets now. image credit: Indiana On Tap

Indiana On Tap also works hard for our festival partners. Most of our festivals are put on by cities (they own the events and hire us to operate them as they wish). They use the festivals to show off their location, recruit residents and businesses, and generally make people more aware of what they have to offer. Anderson, Lawrence, Lebanon, Rushville, etc., we aim to put on the best event we can in order to give people a positive experience in their city or town.

4) Articles/social media posts. We often say that our reason for existing is to get the stories and news of Indiana craft producers and sellers out to the public. We want to help them build relationships with their customers, because an invested customer is a loyal customer, and the way they become invested is to understand a producer.

In order to achieve our goal, we travel and we buy. Our trips around Indiana brings us to new places and old places; everyone has a story to tell. We write their stories and news, as well as write about beer in general to build a better beer drinker, one who wants to explore, to go find new experiences, and have a connection to those places.

We encourage craft beverage fans to tell us what they want to hear from us and we want Indiana breweries, wineries, distilleries, and restaurants to send us their news and ideas for stories. Like I said, it’s why we’re here.

The interior of Ale Force One. image credit: Indiana On Tap

5) Ale Force One – The Indiana On Tap Party Bus. People who have booked a trip on the bus know what it has to offer and what a good time it is. Duncan, your host, will take you where ever your party wants to go and when, with the added of benefit of a fridge and draft system so you can drink along the way. The possibilities are endless – around town, around the state, you name it.

Music, fun, a knowledgeable driver who enhances your trip, this is a great way for drinkers to have a great time, and just another way that Indiana On Tap drives traffic to Indiana craft beverage producers and sellers. But that wasn’t the way it started out; the bus was originally just there for us to take to events. After getting the “Can we rent this out” question a few hundred times, we changed the structure so it is a completely separate company. It had to be legally registered in the state to operate as a party bus (no easy task), but you wanted it, so we did it.

6) Event calendar and brewery map. As part of our efforts to increase the bond between craft producers and their customers, we have developed the most up to date and comprehensive calendar of craft events and the most extensive map of craft beer outlets (breweries/craft centric bars and restaurants). As we delve more into artisan spirits and wines, we will likely expand to have maps of their locations as well – is this something you, as our readers, would be interested in?

7) Information/Advice. As a result of our travels and talks with all kinds of craft producers in and out of Indiana, we have seen a lot and learned a lot. What’s more, we know many people who know many things. This has led to people in and out of the industry asking us for advice or information about things with which they have questions or items/people they may be seeking. Go ahead and ask – we may know the answer, but more likely we know people who’ll know.

image credit: Indiana On Tap

8) Indiana On Tap Jobs. This is a new venture for us, an effort to connect people in the craft beverage industry with their future employees. Join this public Facebook group and find a job or post a job in the craft beverage industry. It’s especially important as we come out of the Covid-19 era, but should be of benefit well into the future.

Conclusion. So that’s what Indiana On Tap is all about in 2020. We are proud of what we do for Indiana craft beverages and we’re proud of the way we go about our business. We feel that everyone with whom we interact gets more out of their relationship with us than they invest, and our goal of growing the Indiana craft beverages raises all boats, including many not even involved in this industry. If you are a drinker, help us to help you learn more and enjoy more – tell us what you want. If you are producer/retailer, same thing – help us grow your business. It’s why we’re here.

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