Craft beer is relatively new in New Orleans. Here’s how the founder of NOLA Brew Bus showcases the city’s best breweries.
New Orleans is a city known for its cocktails, unique Cajun cuisine, rabble-rousing nightlife and music. Now, after a century hiatus, it may be known for its craft beer, too.
New Orleans was the beer capital of the South until prohibition forced everyone to put their glasses down. After prohibition, restrictive beer laws in Louisiana limited the growth of breweries. When beer laws changed in 2014, “The Big Easy” been able to reposition itself as a craft beer hotspot.
No one was more stoked about this change than NOLA Brew Bus founder Matt Marsiglia. NOLA is a niche tour company that offers walking tours and bus tours to visitors looking to experience the burgeoning craft beer of New Orleans.
By 2016, there were four exciting breweries established in the city. “It was just the perfect storm of me loving New Orleans and craft beer,” Marsiglia says. “Some buddies of mine and I were at the grand opening of the fourth brewery and we were like, ‘we should do a brew bus now.’”
NOLA Brew Bus positioned themselves to be the go-to company for helping beer lovers find the brews they love by providing beer tours to local breweries. Breweries loved the operator, too, because they were able to connect with beer-loving travelers who perhaps didn’t know about beer options in New Orleans.
Break Free of the Tourist Track
Brew Bus currently has two buses with limo-type seating. One holds up to 18 people, and is used for private groups, and a smaller one holds 10 people, which is used for public tours. Public tours leave three times a day, 11:30 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., and a typical tour visits three breweries in three hours. Tours are all-inclusive.
All of Brew Bus’ brewery partners are in local neighborhoods, which help visitors break free of the tourist track and see lesser-known parts of the city. “This gives us a chance to talk about the rich history outside of the French Quarter,” says Marsiglia, adding that the historical aspect of the tour makes for a richer, more engaging outing.
A Symbiotic Relationship
NOLA Brew Bus’ relationship with the breweries they rely on is symbiotic.
The tour operator brings breweries business; the craft beer innovation provided by the brewers offers an interesting tour for visitors.
Marsiglia says it’s easy to maintain this relationship with Brew Bus’ brewery partners because they’re great personal friends with the brewery owners. “We actually hang out on our off time,” says Marsiglia. “They’re in our local neighborhood, we have lots of facetime, they’re our friends on and off the clock.”
Marsiglia tries to extend such authentic connection to interactions with customers.
“We really focus on just getting the best experience possible and focusing on our customers talking about us when they leave our brewery tour and leave the city,” he says. “We really want to make their trip with us the highlight of their trip to New Orleans. We try to embody everything that New Orleans is, but also add a little craft beer into the experience.”
How NOLA Brew Bus Gets Customers
NOLA Brew Bus’ first strategy to land customers was to create engaging content to release on their social media and website. The company’s YouTube channel is replete with engaging videos that help sell their tours.
“In 2016 our content was king,” Marsiglia recalls. “If you could just produce enough content your business would be seen. What I’m seeing now is there’s just so much content , it’s being oversaturated, ours is being lost in the weeds.”
So he had to re-evaluate if all the energy being spent on producing this content was really paying off in the current paradigm that the content helped create.
“The key to our business growth is word of mouth,” Marsiglia says, “There are so many ways to market in 2019, but word of mouth is still number one in our eyes.”
Matt’s business partner and now wife Jessica operate NOLA Brew Bus together. They understand that what they are putting out there is themselves. Their seasoned perspective is part of the product customers want to pay for. They aren’t just selling beer. They’re selling what they love to others with a mutual passion for it.
“It’s really about the unique perspective that we have on the city. For the three hours we have people on the bus, they don’t have to think about anything except for having a good time,” says Marsiglia.
This doesn’t mean Brew Bus solely uses their passions and authenticity to win the day. They also take digital measures to ensure travelers interested in checking out the beer in New Orleans find their company.
Garnering positive reviews on Google is important for their business. For example, Brew Bus always sends follow-up emails to guests asking for Google reviews, which has led the operator to have a 4.9 out of 5 on Google’s information panel. This tactic has led the company to enjoy 99% of sales from their website.
This percentage may soon change, as the company recently signed up with four OTAs including TripAdvisor, Expedia, GetYourGuide and TripShock to widen the breadth of their sales.
“If we do stuff that we love, then it’s never working a day in your life,” adds Marsiglia. He shifts the NOLA Brew Bus into drive as he readies for another day living out his dream.
Interested in meeting more passionate tour operators like Marsiglia? Register for the next ARIVAL event, ARIVAL Berlin 2020, where networking and connecting with others is easy. Register before Nov. 30th to score Super Early Bird pricing!