Building on Value in a Down Market
Recently, I had the chance to see a documentary on a small beer company: Shiner Brewery. In a little town (population 2,070) outside of Austin, Texas, 96 of the residents work at Shiner. Today Shiner is in 41 states and parts of Mexico, but in 1989 this 100-year-old company was about to go out of business. What happened is the focus for all of us this month.
In 1989, Shiner was producing 40,000 barrels annually and just about ready to close its doors. New ownership came into the company and today Shiner produces over 400,000 barrels of beer a year. How did the new owners change the fortunes of this little company? First they seized on the brand of Shiner, a quality beer made by small town America. Secondly they began marketing Shiner and establishing the brand.
Marketing? So many people think they have to stop marketing especially in a recession. Shiner’s new ownership walked right into the recessionary period of 1989–1991 and began to market their brand.
Henry Ford said it best: “A business that stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.”
Shiner executives understood that their efforts would take time. Marketing for a quick result is just like the temporary high of drugs. You’re going to need another fix. Instead, Shiner controlled their growth in order to sustain the quality of the product. Fast growth results in cutting corners and a poor product. Consistency to your brand and quality will build long-term lasting results. I see companies changing their logos, their message, the colors, jump in and out of promotions, etc. Entrepreneurs, by their very nature, will grow bored with projects; they are always seeking something new. Consistency, however, builds trust and trust will build loyalty. The cost of always having to find new customers is way too high and that is one of the results of promotional advertising.
Marketing is association, so pick your media sources, business organizations and charities wisely as the association with each will speak to your customers about you.
Shiner focused on the details because it is the small things that make the big things happen. Make sure employees know the details and with laser focus be sure to execute them every day. Vision is needed so people know where you are going, but if you stay in the vision your business will never execute properly. Vision itself has no details; it’s the execution and implementation by people that lead to success.
Shiner did something that most people would consider unthinkable. They raised their price in the market instead of dropping it to try and fabricate sales. This helped to establish their place in the market. More customers doesn’t equate to more profit. Well- paying customers at the right price will establish your place in the market properly. Then you must focus to sustain that place in the market. Every decision you make along the journey needs to be in alignment with your brand and character.
You must embrace your identity. Locally, I think Ron Jon has done one of the best jobs in America of embracing their identity. Ron Jon markets a lifestyle and they do a great job of marketing their home. Shiner executives did not try to change who the company was, instead they embraced the identity of the company and used it to elevate the brand nationally. You must do the same for your company. Don’t be tempted to be something that you are not.
Which leads to the last point of success for Shiner Brewery: don’t just say it, be it. Be wary of those who have to tell you who and what they are instead of just being it. That old adage that actions speak louder than words applies to business, too. If you can establish a product or service that brings value to your community, you can have a successful business. If you constantly have to defend your product, chances are you’re just hiding the fact that true value