Niche community engages with classes, tastings, and partnerships.

Braeden Bumpers is a proud craftsman of fine spirits and co-owner of McClintock Distilling Company. The unique market niche they’ve developed has this small business on the radar of thousands of liquor enthusiasts. Braeden reveals how he fosters audience and community engagement through partnerships and social media (including Instagram contests — hear how Catoctin Breeze Vineyard also uses these!), and how offering entertaining and informative distilling classes has increased his customer engagement and benefitted his business.

Though a young company, McClintock Distilling is rooted in history. Situated in a historic building in Frederick, Maryland, McClintock is named after 19th-century inventor McClintock Young. Braeden takes Young’s innovative “spirit” to heart; McClintock is the first and only certified organic distillery in Maryland. Braeden centers his niche marketing strategy around their farm-to-table values, top-shelf products, and industrial aesthetics.

Space reflects brand

For Braeden, his location in the community and the building space are important in marketing his business converting visitors into customers. McClintock is nestled in bustling downtown Frederick, within walking distance (a key feature for a place that sells alcoholic beverages) to restaurants and other downtown intrigues.

Their shiny, airy, industrial distillery has inspired them to host weddings, bands, shows, and other events. They serve their spirits and custom cocktails to eager guests. Braeden claims that “a lot of what we’re selling, even during day-to-day operations, is the experience of being here.” 

“Space reflects brand, so the more you can make your attraction or venue space pop, the more people in the area will want to come right to your door!”

Make community connections

Word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful beast we can’t always control, but by becoming a well-connected, valued community member, your attraction will be that thing locals tell tourists they have to do.

Braeden has his eyes set on being an ingrained and renowned business in the community. He partners with local organizations, non-profits, and farmers. McClintock is a member of the Maryland Distillers’ Guild, establishing their credibility as a distillery and providing an avenue for them to create and sustain relationships with other craft distillers. Rather than compete with other independent distillers, Braeden sees more value in cooperating with them to go up against big-time national and international liquor companies that have billion-dollar marketing budgets.

Educate your customers in your industry

Braeden was surprised by how many of his visitors were excited by the idea of taking distilling classes at McClintock. To him, offering these classes to his guests is a way to grow a passionate niche market in the craft distilling community.

“We want to grow people’s education so they know what they’re buying, and generally, if they know what to look for, what to taste for, when they’re shopping around for spirits, it’s good for our industry.”

Classes also provide guests the opportunity to get hands-on experience in the production process in McClintock’s space. People can see the gin, vodka, and whiskey being made on social media, but nothing beats coming in and getting to make it yourself. Students learn about and take part in the distilling process under Braeden and other distillers’ expert guidance and instruction. Offering these classes establishes McClintock’s credibility and authenticity. It brings guests “behind closed doors” into what goes on in the distillery, and how they can be a part of it, which in turn builds customer loyalty and engagement.

“Our goal was to make it so that your average consumer can understand and see what’s actually happening every day down here at McClintock.”

Tips for using niche marketing to build an active and loyal audience

  1. Invest time and money into the style and aesthetics of your venue’s building, open it up to the public, and host events! Remember that your space reflects your company brand.
  2. Post behind-the-scenes photos and videos of your day-to-day operations or company culture on social media. Encourage followers to compete in contests related to your product or service! Social media marketing always works best as a dialogue, not a monologue.
  3. Partner with and support other local startups or non-profits to unite against huge legacy companies. You’re in this together, after all.
  4. BONUS: Think you have something cool to teach your audience about your industry? Try offering fun and informative classes as a way to meet and interact with people! A little education never hurts anyone, and it’s a unique way to establish your credibility and build customer loyalty.

About the featured small business owner: Braeden Bumpers is one of the owners and head distiller for McClintock Distilling in Frederick, Maryland. He has almost a decade of experience in alcohol production and has won dozens of awards for his spirits, including a double gold “Best Gin in the World” at the International Spirits Competition.