What are you selling?

I can still hear my MBA marketing professor pounding the lectern and asking, “What are you selling?”  Recent discussions with craft brewers and distillers prompted me to revisit this fundamental question.

Beer.  I know.  You’re selling beer.  Great beer.  Or maybe great distilled spirits, or an awesome car, or environmentally sound carpet cleaning, or whatever product or service you’re marketing.  And at the surface, that is in fact what you’re selling.  But that’s not all.

I was presenting to a major craft brewer’s marketing, sales and brewing team a number of years ago.  During a break, I asked those still around the table, “What are you selling?”

Predictably, the quick answer was “beer.”

“Yes, and what else?”

“Craft beer.”


“Great craft beer?”

The responses kept coming, mostly in the tone of a question, all of them modifying beer:  hand-crafted, environmentally responsible, flavorful, authentic, best ingredients, genuine, sustainable…the list went on.

“And…?” I would continue to ask, channeling my marketing professor.

Finally, not wanting to wear out my welcome, I offered my own response.  “You’re selling a craft-beer experience.  And as a result of that experience, drinkers are connected in community around your beers.”

A few seconds delay, and then a collective “got it.”


Before you can begin to market your beer, your brewery, or your story, you need to comprehend what you’re selling.  Sure, you can focus on just selling beer.  When the world was not saturated with craft beer options, just selling craft beer met with considerable success.  But look at the brewers who have risen to regional and national prominence.  Sure, they sell great beer.  But in addition, the best took the time to create an experience, and tell their story in a way that formed a community around their brewery and brands.

Whether you’re a nano-brewery just starting out, or a large national brewer, your success will be impacted by your ability to create a great experience.  And if you do it right, you’ll build long-term loyalty and affinity among a growing community of drinkers who will not only connect with your story, but make you a part of their stories as well.

What are you really selling?  And how well are you selling it?


John Mann (@beermktguy)

John (13)

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