Beer, Brains, and Beauty: How Kat Latham from Johnson City Brewing Company handles Business and Marketing in a Competitive Craft Beer Industry
Once a month, I blog about an amazing woman who excels not only in Business but in Marketing & Social Media. Read below to learn more about Kat Latham: wife of Eric Latham and part-owner of Johnson City Brewing Company, and mother to two young daughters (under the ages of five) in Johnson City, TN. (Take notes! Great tips/tools for every business owner below!)
Disclosure: I’m not a beer drinker. I was not paid with beer or compensated for blogging about Kat Latham or the Brewery. I blogged because she is amazing friend and an exceptional marketer/business owner, you can learn a lot from her.
Valentina: Why do you think marketing is important for small biz?
Kat: Marketing is essential for small business survival – the “big” businesses out there have a good bit of cash at their disposal to promote and advertise. In order to compete and let people know you even EXIST there has to be a focused marketing plan in place to best utilize your resources and give your business a fighting chance against larger companies.
Valentina: When it comes to promoting the brewery, what are some best practices you recommend online and face to face?
Kat: Social media is a MUST. We utilize Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and our website. By far, Facebook is our largest audience but Instagram and Twitter are slowly closing the gap. It would be nice if Facebook was a bit nicer to the little guy – you have to pay to play there. Post boosting is not optional anymore – it’s a necessity. I see a triple return on posts that are boosted versus non-boosted posts.
We do our very best to keep our website up-to-date, relevant and informative. Some folks believe company websites are becoming obsolete with the advent of social media but at least three out of five customers who come in comment that they “saw that information on your website” which is a huge motivation for making sure the website is the best it can be. It is also important to be connected to relevant outside apps and websites. Sites like Trip Adviser (where we are currently #1 out of 27 “Things To Do” in Johnson City) manage to send us quite a few customers. We thank them for that by recommending folks go online and leave a review (helps Trip Adviser with their business and helps us move up in the ranks). We also encourage folks to review our beers on Untappd and Beer Advocate apps. The more your name is out there, the more business you will see. We believe in ensuring our customers have an excellent experience in our tap room and work very hard to make that happen. I feel that this has made a big difference in returning customers and referrals – not to mention the quality of our online reviews. Online reviews can actually make or break a business – especially a small one. Reviews should be monitored and responded to if the comment requires a response – and, as always, no matter what is said about you or your business, your response should be classy. Always. No exceptions.
Other than online marketing, we have chosen to be a member of the local Chamber of Commerce, donate items and/or gift certificates to charity events, participate in festivals and special community events that give us face time with folks who have yet to discover us or who maybe need to experience us one more time before becoming a dedicated customer. We have done some minimal advertising in the local newspaper and magazines but have found that our budget does not allow for much bang in these publications. The next best thing is to try to get your name in the paper as a story 🙂
Valentina: I often see the brewery on the local paper and on TV. Any advice for small business owners to get the media attention that you get.-
Kat: It greatly helped our chances at being in the paper and on tv by being the first brewery to open it’s doors in Johnson City since Sophisticated Otter back in the 1990’s. We also made certain that we were sending out press releases and responding promptly to reporters’ inquiries. Showing respect for their deadlines and being as accommodating as possible didn’t hurt either. My advice is to continue to push the envelope with your business – be innovative and don’t be afraid to tell people about it. The only way you will get the attention you are looking for is by bringing attention to yourself first. The reporters can’t read your mind and need to be informed about all the exciting things your company is doing – so speak up!
Valentina: If you blog (please answer) – Many small businesses are intimidated with blogging, do you have any advice for getting started and advice for maintaining blogs?
Kat: No time for blogging 🙁
Valentina: What is your secret to balancing your time with your business and your family?
Kat: Still figuring that one out – most of the time I feel like I am doing one more than the other and then experience enormous guilt for neglecting either the business or my family depending on the week but I think that is normal. I am far harder on myself than anyone else and am much less tolerant with not performing at 120% (my normal accepted operating level LOL). I find that there are times when I just have to lay down the line and say “This time, right now, is for (fill in the blank).” I also do my best to figure out both my personal and professional goals for the week and make every effort to achieve them. Sometimes that means taking the afternoon to play with my kiddos at the park and then working until 2am to finish a project or work on the books for the brewery. This is a crazy system but it seems to be working for me for now. I realize as well, that my children, who are both under four years old, will not be this little ever again and that they need my husband and I now more than at any other time in their lives. This realization, more than any other, shapes how I spend my time and designates the sacrifices that have to happen – at least for the time being. It helps that people who are involved with the brewery understand and accept that we are a family, first and foremost, business owners second. That – and we work really hard so when we do take a little time off for our kiddos it is well deserved 🙂
Valentina: The craft beer business has become very competitive, what do you do to stand out from competitors?
Do you have a plan, for scheduling posts on your social media platforms? Do you do them individually or do you sit down once a week and schedule them all out? If so, please let us know which apps do you use?
Kat: The craft beer business is competitive but it is unique in that the more breweries you have in the area, the more of a destination location you become and the better all the breweries do as a whole. People want to travel to one location and be able to visit multiple craft breweries within a very small area. I call it taproom hopping. The key for each individual brewery is to create products that are unique, interesting, and/or delicious in order to ensure your spot on the brewery crawl. We do our best to cultivate a reputation for innovation, quality and just plain quirkiness – so far it has served us well.
I post to social media approximately 4-6 times a week. Usually I am posting about an upcoming event or what is happening in the tap room that night. Occasionally I post about fun things happening in the brewing world or to show our support of other local small businesses. I do each post individually because the apps that have been touted to disperse your message over multiple social media outlets usually don’t disperse to all the outlets I use. It is easier for me just to crank it out myself – usually 8 minutes worth of time. Not bad and I know I am reaching the audience I want.
Valentina: Any other secret that you know that could empower other women that will boost confidence in their own business?
(How do you do it all?)
Kat: If women (or men for that matter) want to boost confidence in their business, they have to start by boosting confidence in themselves first. Customers, investors, financial institutions, vendors – all are buying into the owner of the business, not the business. Be the very best person you can be, and others will see that and respond to it. Also, last but not least, kindness should never be underestimated.
Johnson City Brewing Company (JCBC) was founded in March 2014 by a group of home brewers and craft beer enthusiasts. We celebrated our grand opening on Saturday, October 25th, 2014.
Our regular Tap Room Hours are Thursdays 5pm-9pm, Fridays 5pm-10pm, and Saturdays 1pm-10pm.
The core of this group first got together in 2009, when Eric and Kat Latham formed the Peyton Street Beer Club. Eric and Kat would invite friends, family, and even strangers over to taste home brew and craft beer from around the world. Great conversations ensued (as they usually do after a couple of brews), and there was always a story behind every beer.
When the Lathams moved to Johnson City, Tennessee in 2011, they began looking for a good place to set up a brewery. Finally, in 2014, the stars aligned and Johnson City Brewing Company was born.
Johnson City Brewing Company is located in historic downtown Johnson City, Tennessee, which is surrounded by the beautiful foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Come by for a visit!