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Guided Tours

Using live infotainment as a marketing tool

A group of people are visiting a brewery.

Let me show you!

Those who manage to turn a guided tour into something fun and exciting – instead of it becoming just a boring advert for their company – will be able to turn their visitors into new brand ambassadors. We'll explain how it works.  

The best things are saved – as is often the case – till last. Looking as excited as children on a school trip, a group of adults step into the brewery’s reception room. Who’s going to sit where? After three-quarters of an hour of listening to the tour guide, everyone has a lot to talk about. But above all, is there finally going to be some beer to taste now? Yes, there is! And better still – not just one, but many. It’s time to taste the brewery's range of beers. And lo and behold, now that the visitors know where beer comes from and how it is made, the beer tastes better than ever before! After they’ve experienced what hop pellets smell like when they crumble them between their fingers (“incredible”, as most people confirm), after they’ve been allowed to look into the shiny mash tun, and after they’ve stood in the middle of the clattering bottling plant watching the conveyor belts in amazement. So, raise your glasses and “cheers!” – here’s to a great tour and an unforgettable brewery visit.

This is what it looks like when a guided tour is a complete success – for everyone involved. By managing to turn a brewery visit into a real experience for your guests that they will remember fondly, you’ll have a priceless marketing tool in your hands which is good for your brand’s consumer awareness and reputation.

If you’re able to inspire visitors during their tour, you’ll be left with much more than just their entrance fees and any revenue from the brewery’s on-site bottle shop. When visitors really appreciate the tour, it’s a real bonus: they go on to tell their friends about their experience and recommend the brand to others. The key phrase here is ‘viral marketing’: also known as ‘word-of-mouth’ or ‘buzz marketing’. 

This is how to offer a perfect guided tour

Besides having a well thought-out concept, the most important thing is your own attitude. You need to have a strong desire to entertain and surprise your guests, and to give them an unforgettable and exciting day. If you really want to enthral them, then you’ll succeed in the end. 

On the other hand, if you regard your guests and guided tours as an annoying disturbance to normal business and you only make a minimal effort, then this is sure to come across in the tour. This could lead to no reaction at all from your guests or, if you’re unlucky, you could even end up getting negative PR. 

“Hello”, in a range of different dialects, “great to have you here!” is the opening line of the brewery tour at Feldschlösschen brewery in Rheinfelden, Switzerland. Their wide range of beer and brewery experiences go far beyond classic brewery tours, making the most of everything they have to offer and their heritage-protected, enticing location. When this opening line is said sincerely, it’s a big step towards having a successful tour. But things actually start earlier than that. You will only be able to tempt people to visit you if you manage to charm them right from the outset and arouse their curiosity with the right photos – whether this be on your website or via other forms of marketing. It’s not just about choosing the right wording, you also need to have  easy and convenient booking, a personalised service and the right ticket price. It’s not necessarily right to make it ‘cheap’. Instead, it’s more crucial for expectations to be in line with what’s being promised. 

Almost theatrical

At the end of the tour, the beer is tasted in the cosy ‘Stüberl’, which is where the tour began an hour previously, and where every beer starts out. The visitors bravely scramble into the threshing room, standing there between all the sacks of malt, surrounded by dust and the smell of grain. “Ahhh,” they say as they learn that malt doesn't grow in fields. “Ohhh,” they say when they’re shown a mill and the expert explains how the grain isn’t ground, but rather milled. Following conveyor belts, the group pushes on further into the brewery – along the same path taken by the finished beer. 

A successful tour is like a theatre show: it needs a script, a professional stage and compelling actors. What you show your guests and how you show it to them will determine whether they’re left inspired and transformed into new brand ambassadors at the end.

However, you shouldn’t play with the facts. The buzzword of all marketing specialists – authenticity – is what counts. Many things need to be well thought out when you’re developing a tour concept. Question number one: What makes you unique? In other words, what do you have that no one else does? And what can you show visitors that they haven't seen anywhere else? 

Then you can start planning out details of the tour’s content, for example, do you want to show historical equipment or not? On the one hand, that equipment shows tradition and experience, awakening memories of the ‘good old days’ for older visitors and making it possible to convey manufacturing processes in a simple and vivid way. On the other hand, that equipment could suggest that you’re stuck in the past, it’s not exactly interactive, and people might actually think that it’s inauthentic. Of course, nobody at the brewery is still using a wooden mash paddle, but things can be just as difficult if you choose to show the active brewing equipment instead – a walk through the ‘real’ stages of modern production is more authentic, but it’s not as visually appealing.  The worst case is that visitors get negative associations and think of your beer as being completely factory-made and mass-produced. Having visitors in the active plant rooms can also interrupt the daily processes – and also risk contamination, accidents and theft. 

Once the ‘stage’ is set, you need to make sure the actors are good. Monologues and lectures from the guide are not very effective. Conversation, discovery and collective learning are better. So that it doesn't get boring, the tour needs alternating phases of attention and relaxation, it always needs to be surprising and – last but not least – it needs to include interesting stories (see the ‘Storytelling’ box).

A good guide

In other words, the guide needs to be professionally competent, has to present their knowledge with wit and charm, and must be able to adapt to the audience. A bus company with day tourists might find some things exciting, but sales agents and traders might find the same things boring. You have to prepare differently depending on whether you’re expecting a group of older gentlemen or a school class trip. The tour guide should be patient when it comes to questions, and react confidently to unexpected interjections. 

The Feldschlösschen brewery even has a variety of programmes to cater for different visitors. In addition to the usual brewery tour, for example, you can book the Sommelier Tour and be introduced to ‘the art of tasting’. Or you can take the Sustainability Tour to learn about how the brewery uses its waste heat to supply the power grid, and see how it generates solar power on the roof. At the Glaabsbräu brewery in Seligenstadt – in southern Hesse, Germany – there is a ‘Master Brewer Tasting’ where you have the chance to taste their own beers and also those from other breweries! If you want more action, book the ‘Horse-drawn Wagon Brewery Experience’ or perhaps the ‘Magic Brewery Experience’, which is a guided tour with a magic show.

The Sasse distillery in Schöppingen – in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany – staggers its range of tours. For a first impression, there is the one-and-a-half hour Introductory Course; if you have three hours, you get to know the art of distilling “with all its finesse and secrets”; and if you have a whole day, you can help out in the workshop and “be your own distiller”, including heating up the still, milling wheat and malt, and producing the crude and pure distillates. 

The end of the tour, as I said before, is when the best bit comes: a tasting session, a visit to the on-site shop, or maybe a little freebie to serve as souvenir of the experience and the brand. This could be a small bottle of one of your products, or it could also be a decorative certificate to commemorate the guest’s participation, for example. Or even a photo. Creating a photo stop with a suitable background for your visitors will put you ahead of the game – and immortalise your products on numerous smartphones. And that's exactly how customer loyalty and smart marketing work. It's all quite simple really, isn’t it?!



Storytelling

For the heart and mind
Raw ingredients, brewing processes, hectolitres... During a guided tour, your guests are learning facts, facts and more facts. To ensure that these facts and the tour guide providing them are remembered in the long term, they should be packed into exciting stories. In marketing jargon, this is called storytelling.  

A good story needs...
- vivid details and figurative language
- suspense and excitement
- specific comparisons
- classifications within a larger context

To help with understanding, you need...
- visual aids/graphics
- plenty of things to touch/smell/look at
- anecdotes and things with a wow effect

The guide should...
- be able to guide the target group in a personalised way
- avoid long monologues
- involve the guests
- encourage questions and provide short and friendly answers
- bring the uniqueness of the company to light