Lifting Spirits in 2020How Big Thirst Marketing implemented a new eCommerce system for a craft distillery in less than a month.
“COVID closed in all around us. But our nimble and innovative partners like Big Thirst Marketing made all the difference between sink or swim. They were highly instrumental in the massive growth we’ve achieved this year.”
– Heather Greene, CEO of Milam & Green Whiskey
Milam & Greene Whiskey initiated ambitious plans for 2020…
Milam & Greene Whiskey planned to expand its footprint in bars, restaurants, and whiskey lovers across Texas. They had planned a detailed market strategy by harnessing more traditional methods to reach consumers by hosting whiskey tours, live samplings, whiskey seminars, and bartender engagement events. Then COVID 19 hit, and everything changed.
Big Thirst marketing partnered with the distillery team to dig in deep to change how we marketed the distillery starting with developing an online strategy that picked up where live tastings left off. That strategy included a digital strategy that enabled the whiskey to be purchased curbside, shipped nationwide, and be more easily found at the newly landed national retailers. Big Thirst Marketing bolstered these robust digital campaigns with aggressive PR to help Milam & Greene to become one of the nation’s fastest-growing craft whiskey distilleries.
Our agile team of experienced and strategic PR, digital, and social beverage enthusiasts knew that Milam & Greene has a fantastic story, team, and excellent whiskies that consumers adore. We just need to get the whiskey in their hands.
1. Plant the seed with PR
We revised our ambitious PR plans for Milam & Greene Whiskey in 2020 to help them pivot their stories and focus on the core elements of what makes Milam & Greene worthy of attention. What once was planned for a state-wide publicity tour became a focus not only on their products like the limited edition grain-to-glass “Distillery Edition Bourbon,” but also a showcase of the dream team of Heather Greene, Jordan Osborne, Marlene Holmes, and Marsha Milam.
2. Curbside Pick-Up
To repair the decline of their tasting room sales caused by the state-mandated closure, and to work in compliance with the TABC prohibition of direct to consumer shipping, we enabled e-commerce on their existing website (we were in the process of rebuilding their entire site) for all of the portfolio of whiskies. Now consumers can pre-order whiskey for a safe curbside pick-up at the distillery in Blanco, Texas.
3. Store Locator
In January 2020, Milam & Greene Whiskies were only available in Texas retailers. The previous website listed Texas retailers via an outdated store locator plugin that broke the UX experience for all mobile and desktop users. By implementing a new online store locator and continuously working with the Milam & Greene Whiskey sales team to update their latest retail locations throughout the US, national retailers are now easily found. California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Oklahoma, New York, Washington D.C., and Wisconsin retailers now carry the Milam & Greene brand.
4. Nationwide Shipping
2020 accelerated the demand to find a third-party eCommerce company. Members of the Milam & Greene team worked tirelessly to prepare routes to market in numerous states, navigating an insanely challenging patchwork of state laws and regulations. With a lot of heavy lifting, the Milam & Greene team quickly opened sales and distribution channels. Once this intensive legwork was complete, the Big Thirst Marketing went to work to secure the right eCommerce partner. We partnered with the Milam & Greene finance team to vet and reviewed various potential vendors, propose a final solution, and implemented that solution. Nationwide online ordering and fulfillment was ready, just in time for their new website launch.
5. Launch Re-Designed Website
At the beginning of 2019, we created a new website, benmilamwhiskey.com. With the introduction of the Milam & Greene Whiskey brand in September of 2019 and the need to adapt the site to better-fit consumers’ needs in our new reality, we set out to completely reimage the site in 2020. We worked with Sarah Baumberger Photography and graphic designer Jennifer Muller to pull together the beautiful elements to design and build the new site that not only reflects the elegance of the bottle labels but also has rich new functionality to streamline the process for people to find and purchase the whiskey. On November 19, 2020, we launched a new website and shipping functionality. In less than a month, they sold dozens and dozens of cases of whiskey to completely new customers in 36 states.
6. Roll-Out Email Marketing & Digital Advertising
We began collecting email contacts for Milam & Greene Whiskey in 2019, waiting for the right time to begin email marketing campaigns. By 2020, the list had substantially grown, and it was time to launch the Milam & Greene bi-weekly, “Distilled Notes,” eNewsletter. With beautiful photos, videos and informative content, it is already gaining praise from Milam & Greene customers. On average it has earned a 50.16% open rate and 13.63% click rate. The food and beverage industry averages for retailers is 18.39% open rate and 2.25% click-through rate.*
As retailers began to take on the Milam & Greene label, we’ve started advertising on social media platforms to target demographics in zip codes surrounding those stores. The beauty of digital ads is that we can use the extensive data from the eCommerce system to fine tune our audience targeting and see exactly how effective the ads are at driving conversion.
7. Enjoy Watching the PR Grow from Seeds to State-Wide and National Press
Shifting the sales objectives for a focus on Texas to nationwide sales necessitated the same shift in our PR strategy. We have been fostering relationships with journalists at national publications for years. They often rely on our team for story ideas, concepts, and quotes. We aren’t a company that just sends press releases. Every day we convey our clients’ enthusiasm, their products, and their stories to the press. We plant the seeds for fantastic articles. That level of involvement with the media coupled with high-profile, media savvy clients, and outstanding whiskey is a killer combination to get outstanding coverage.
* From: “Email Marketing Benchmarks and Statistics by Industry,” Mailchimp