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2018 Year in Review – First, a Look Back at 2013

Business of Beer Don Littlefield

2013-Group

We now spend a lot of time as a company to try to fully understand our guests and work to improve the experiences that they have with us. In order to have the best information, we have built systems and procedures to collect and use this data. Let’s take a look back to 2013 to see how little we knew just five years ago.

2013 was our first full year of operation as The Maine Brew Bus. During that entire year, we operated our only bus Lenny as we didn’t buy our second bus until after Christmas.

Our schedule at the time consisted of three different tour offerings, the Local Pour tour which was offered on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of the month. Another tour called the York County Bounty ran an opposite schedule on the 2nd and 4th Fridays. If there was a 5th Friday of the month, we did not actually have a tour scheduled.

Our original flagship tour is the Casco Fiasco which ran every Saturday (back then for a 6-hour period of time) and featured a full lunch.  That design became our most popular tour and remains so today.

All tour offerings in 2013 fit on the back of a brochure.

With this schedule, we could have run about 100 public tours that year. The reality is that only about one-half of the tours that we scheduled actually had enough guests to operate. So maybe 50 tours overall.

Throw in a handful of private corporate tours and some special tours, and maybe we ran 65 tours during the entire year.

The point is, we don’t actually know how many tours we ran that year.

The number of guests who took our tours in 2013 is 1,042. This we know from a report that we ran after the year was over.

We currently have 125 people in a folder in our e-mail provider marked Customers 2013.  But looking at that folder, there is no additional information such as how the guests found out about us, what tour they took, how old they were, or even where they live – either by state/country or by zip code.

Also, we were not really watching what our guests were purchasing when they visited the different places that we would bring them. We didn’t realize that having a procedure to track these additional purchases would prove to be beneficial to our operations and also to our partners.

I know this wasn’t happening – it was Zach and I working on nearly every single tour that year.

We weren’t really paying attention to our public reviews, either. In fact, our first ever review on TripAdvisor came in June of that year.

Our very first TripAdvisor review was in June of 2013.

But we quickly saw that TripAdvisor would be a great way to get the word out about us. If the guests had an amazing experience, then they would tell others and would also make plans to return.

By the time the year was over, we had gathered 70 reviews.  Within a couple of years, we had 400 reviews and had become the #1 TripAdvisor activity in Portland. 

We really didn’t do much in the way of marketing either. We did post some things on social media, sent a few e-mails, and attended a few local beer festivals. The assumption was that we would be a fun activity for beer lovers who live and visit Portland.

At that point, we hadn’t really grasped that we were becoming a desirable activity for visitors to Maine coming from outside the state. In fact, we didn’t attend a festival or event outside the State of Maine until February of 2014.

Our booth at the 2014 Rhode Island Brew Fest in Pawtucket, RI.

A lot has changed since those early days, and one area that we are constantly improving is the collection and business usage of data and analytics.

Our systems and procedures allow us to use this information in an intelligent way to operate our business. And over the next several blog posts we will share with you the methods that we have and a lot of the information that we have gathered.

Here are the topics we will be sharing with you through these posts:

  • Guest Compositionwho are they, how old are they, and where do they come from?
  • Tour Informationhow many tours, how many miles, and where did we go?
  • Partner Revenuewhat is the amount that we paid to our partners for the visits, and how much did our guests spend during their visit?
  • Guest Satisfactionwhat percentage of guests were returning, how many were referred to us by others, and what did they think about the overall experience?
  • Marketing and Outreachhow many people do we reach through social media, e-mail, website, and festivals and events?

We hope that you will enjoy the information that we have to share. It certainly powers us to do a better job Driving You to Drink Local.

The first post in the series is all about who our guests are and where they come from.


Don Littlefield is the General Manager of Brew Bus Tours. In a previous career, he worked as an overnight data supervisor for UPS. He enjoyed an Apostrophe IPA from Some Brewing in York, Maine while preparing this post. Twitter @BeerinME