From Breaker Boxes to Beer Barrels
How an Albuquerque Small Business Harnessed the Power of Digital Advertising
For Denise, small business ownership is nothing new. Brought up in the 1960s and 70s, she spent a great deal of time helping her parents reclaim a South Valley property today known as the Red Horse Bed and Breakfast, an Albuquerque treasure. Through the inn’s ongoing renovations, a spark ignited between Denise and the family’s electrician, Randy, her future husband. In 1991, she joined his company, DRB Electric – that’s when she really hit the ground running.
Armed with a marketing degree from Arizona State University and six years of bookkeeping experience at her dad’s accounting firm, Denise helped DRB Electric grow into a competitive force in the Albuquerque market. By 2007, DRB partnered with CAT Stores to build a 6,000-sq.-ft. building, and had grown to nearly 90 employees strong. Today, they remain a local powerhouse.
DRB Electric’s approach to advertising was (and remains) just a little old-school. “You have to consider the audience you’re trying to reach,” says Denise. “If I’m after the homeowner who occasionally needs electrical servicing, I need to find out how to make sure they think of only us when they need help.” To remind folks that they’re still around, DRB runs Google ads and sends out the occasional email or printed flyer, but their best avenue is word of mouth.
In 2015, the Bakers expanded into the beer brewing and restaurant business. Catapulting into a wildly different industry called for a drastic re-thinking of their typical marketing strategies.
TWEETS, TOASTS, AND TIMELY TEMPTATIONS
After decades of using more traditional marketing practices, how did Denise pivot into the digital marketing space for Rio Bravo Brewing Company? “You have to be resilient,” she says. “Have an open mind to a new way of doing things.” Also, she stresses, understand that every age group is different. “The key is to look, listen, and learn.”
Rio Bravo Brewing has a commanding social media presence, promoting everything from weekend events to new brews and food specials. With a solid marketing strategy, growing followers doesn’t have to be a pain. “I’ve learned the hard way not to crowd people’s social media feeds,” Denise laughs. “They’ll get the message the first time!” She also recommends crafting succinct, on-topic content with a specific customer type in mind. “At DRB, we’re trying to reach homeowners and businesses. At Rio Bravo, we want to get the attention of 20- to 40-somethings. So, we’ll post our Instagram updates just before the lunch hour or around 4:00 p.m. – right around the time they’re trying to decide what they want to do with a free evening. We also utilize email and LinkedIn to promote our event spaces for business meetings, retreats, and fundraisers.”
Their strategies are working: Rio Bravo Brewing Company is among Albuquerque’s award-winning microbreweries. In March 2022, Rio Bravo was the sole New Mexico microbrewery to win an award at the Best of Craft Beer Awards in Bend, Oregon, claiming a silver medal with their Dice Roll IPA. All of their success wouldn’t have been possible without help from family, the community, dedicated employees, and financial institutions that believed in their dream, says Denise.
Both Denise and Randy are proud SLFCU members. “Randy’s mother worked for Sandia National Labs and retired after 40 years there,” Denise recalls. “Because of her, Randy started his membership at age 14.” Denise and their five children are now all Credit Union members, and their family goes to SLFCU for their financial needs because the Credit Union has had their backs through the tough times.
“Anytime we’ve needed funding, we found it easiest to go through SLFCU,” Denise says. “Big banks tend to have harsh benchmarks and operate in black and white terms. Credit Unions listen to your dreams, your goals… they’re interested in what you’ll do for the community.”
As for Denise’s next goal? “To contribute to the community in any way we can,” she says. “Whether it’s through philanthropy, event hosting, or otherwise – we work not only in our community… we work with it.”
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