Back to THE BEER IN ME

2018 Year in Review – Marketing and Outreach

2018-Marketing

We know that we can amaze and delight our guests once they are on the bus, but how do our guests first find out about us? Do they learn about us at an event, discover us when searching for things to do, or directly by word of mouth? Let’s take a look at our marketing and outreach for last year.

Note: This is the fifth post in a series looking back at our tour operations during 2018. Click to read the previous editions:

Hosting 15,000 people over the past two years on our various tour options does not just come automatically.

Yes, we are based in a tourism-driven town that is popular all year long. Visitors flock to Maine’s largest city by the millions to learn about our rich history, walk along the cobblestones and bricks, and shop in a diverse array of local businesses.

But mostly they come here to eat great freshly-caught seafood that is creatively prepared…and drink our amazing locally-crafted beer, wine, and spirits.

I know this first-hand as I serve on the board of Visit Portland, our Destination Marketing Organization that was previously known as the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

And I also know that in order to market your product or service, you really should define your customer – the one you directly attempting to sell to.

Two cruise ships visit Portland in May 2018.

So let’s first look at information collected about all visitors to Maine from professional companies surveying both first-time and repeat visitors to the state.

The latest report estimated that 31.3 million visitors came to the State of Maine during the summer last year (May through August of 2018). 12.1 million stayed overnight, and 19.2 million people came for just the day.

Source: Maine Office of Tourism Visitor Tracking Research Summer 2018 Seasonal Topline. Click to read more.

We will look a little deeper at the overnight visitor to Maine (since after one of our tours one should really have a place to stay for the night).

The overnight visitor was an average of 39 years old, they stayed an average of 3.7 nights generally in paid accommodations (75%), and 87% of overnight visitors originated from Mid-Atlantic (51%) and New England (36%) regions. Within the New England region, the majority of visitors came from Massachusetts (17% of all visitors).

Their top interests in visiting Maine were food/beverage/culinary (61%), touring/sightseeing (53%). and shopping (49%). These numbers are similar for the day visitor to Maine, with shopping taking higher precedence for that group.

Of course, Maine is a big state with a tremendous amount to offer. Even if Portland is not their primary region to visit, many others make sure to stop into Portland for at least a day or two while they are in the state.

Not everyone visits the Greater Portland region when they come to Maine, but an estimated 6 million people a year do.

This October 2018 article in the Portland Press Herald discusses beer tourism impacts.

So it’s probably no surprise that our own guest demographics very closely match the visitor profile generated by this survey and analysis.

Our marketing efforts are mostly focused on attracting the prospective guest long before they get to Maine. And this is primarily accomplished through the use of social media.

Through frequent social media posts, we are able to entice prospective guests with content about our tours and the people who conduct them.

Facebook (6,001 likes as of today) is where most of our content is shared, including our blog posts, photo recaps of tours, upcoming beer festivals we are attending, and other unique events. The majority of our fan interactions are currently on this platform.

Next up is Instagram (4,929 followers), where our best photos and videos are shared.

Our drivers and guides are often taking candid and group pictures during the tour, and they submit them to us for consideration for inclusion in our social media marketing plans.

In a moment captured on a small set of steps by Tom Major, our lead tour guide Paul is looking at the color of the beer sampled at Lone Pine in Portland.

I personally look through all of their photos and make cropping edits as well as lighting or color corrections as needed. I will generally also add a brand logo as a watermark.

It might take a week (or maybe a few) but I really try to get the best ones out there with a fun caption.

We are very active on Twitter (4,260 followers) as well. This platform is heavily used in the beer industry, and since I have my own “Beer News in Maine” account (@BeerinME) I am often on Twitter and have fun interacting with our fans there.

If you don’t currently like or follow us on all of these social media platforms, now is your chance!

Over the years we have built up quite a number of e-mail contacts. This is a combination of our past guests who opt-in, people who want to receive our news, as well as people we meet at beer festivals and events. We have over 26,000 segmented contacts in our system, and we try to send out information about our tours in Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island to our fans once a month.

Our newsletter from November 2018.

If you don’t currently get this information, consider signing up for our newsletter here.

Our website is where our prospective guests learn more about our tour itineraries and have their questions answered about our company. They can see our full schedule for months at a time and also look at our TripAdvisor reviews. There is a tremendous amount of information available for our guests to know as much as possible before they book their tour.

We work hard on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) so that when visitors have decided that they are coming to Portland, Maine and start searching they will find us. Check out this search for “Brewery Tours Portland Maine”.

Users from the U.S. on The Maine Brew Bus website during 2018. The most were located in Massachusetts (25,466 users), followed by Maine (21,890) and New York (10,241).

Over 90,000 users conducted 130,000 sessions and viewed over 500,000 pages on their way to booking tours with us.

But we also understand that we have to keep letting people know that our company exists. Especially people that are newer converts to craft alcohol products.

Our vendor table at the Craft Brew Races in Portland in 2017.

So we set up vendor displays at 31 beer festivals and travel events last year that attracted nearly 50,000 people to attend. 16 of those events were outside the State of Maine, so that gave us an opportunity to promote not only our brand but also our various partners and the idea of visiting Portland directly to an estimated 4,500 attendees at those events.

Another area of outreach is through our charitable donations.

Our FeedKids campaign raises money that is then used to help end child hunger in Maine. Click to learn more.

In November of 2017, we began a program to designate $1 from every booking to our non-profit partner Full Plates Full Potential. Since that donation program began, we are proud to have donated $2,326 to help with their FEED KIDS program.

We also receive appeals all the time to help with fundraising efforts for community-based non-profit organizations. Often we are able to help out. Last year we donated tour gift cards with a total value of $14,250 to those various efforts.

There is a lot that we do in our marketing and outreach efforts to remain in front of our fans and also our prospective guests so that we can be an option during their next visit to Portland.

The final post in this series looking back at 2018 is a recap of all the information we gathered, and how we plan to use it to grow our business in 2019.


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 a Blizzard of 78 from Wormtown Brewery while preparing this post. Twitter @BeerinME