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50 Back one of 10 selected for Deluxe marketing program

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PEPPERELL — Small business service provider Deluxe Corp. has selected 50 Back Brewing Company for Project REV 2012.

REV is a nationwide program that gives 10 small businesses access to Deluxe’s services for a year and $15,000 worth of marketing product. After Deluxe called, notifying 50 Back they had been selected from a group of more than 1,200 applicants, co-founder Kimberly Rogers said it was amazing and that REV has been an exciting experience every step of the way.

50 Back was born on Memorial Day 2010 after Rogers and founding partner Paige Haley decided on a way to support combat veterans: beer. Rogers’ father was an Army veteran and police officer and Haley had relatives and close friends who served. According to Haley, both of them liked to brew beer and decided to start a brewing company that donates half of the proceeds from sales to veteran’s charities.

They spent that Memorial Day weekend delivering their first shipment of 50 Back American lager to local stores in Pepperell, Westford, Acton, Ayer and Groton. Up to now, social media and 50back.com have been their largest marketing fronts, but they also utilize a public relations company that has gained them attention on local and regional media outlets.

Currently, 50 Back is carried by about 150 retailers across Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas and Maine.

“Our product is out there, although somewhat sporadically,” Rogers said. “I think the concentration of military bases in other states creates the demand.”

There is an extensive demand for 50 Back lager. Rogers says that she receives daily e-mails from stores in states including Virginia, California and Arizona, but the company currently lacks the resources to begin operations so far-flung. Because of the company’s size, Rogers says Deluxe recommends they concentrate locally first.

“We are going to build up a base here and then expand out while supporting the states we are already in,” she said. “Once we get the word out in Mass, we want to duplicate that nationwide.”

Playing off their online presence, 50 Back will also be introducing a quick response (QR) code on coasters and other promotional material. Using a smartphone, customers will be able to scan the QR code and access a soldier appreciation app. According to Rogers, the app will allow users to post a personal message of appreciation to a servicemen and ‘buy them a beer.’

“Each check-in will register with us and when we have accumulated a significant number of purchases, we will deliver beer to troops,” she said.

Marketing of this sort is focused on the actual customers, Rogers said, rather than social media or retailer-based strategies. To bolster this, Deluxe will also be providing 50 Back with t-shirts, coasters, bottle openers and other promotional materials. 50 Back will be receiving web data like search engine tracking and site traffic analysis too, as well as a monthly e-newsletter that subscribers can get through e-mail.

Alongside those, Deluxe is also extending invitations to workshops and seminars about business plans, web site design, logos and other marketing topics. Last December, Rogers and Haley attended the Project Rev kick-off in Kansas City where they met other Project REV participants. They include a Marlboro-based landscaping company called Gardens Are, Inc., a security services provider from Maryland, a running and walking specialty store in St. Louis, a Denver-based sausage company, gourmet sauce chefs, a metalworker, an engineering consultant and more.

Come march, they will be going to a seminar in New York City for Martha Stewart’s small business group Dreamers into Doers. Stewart will be the keynote speaker and Rogers says they will be exploring the various aspects of her show, magazine and other operations. Locally, 50 Back is getting assistance from the Concord SCORE Chapter, a national nonprofit dedicated to educating business owners and helping small businesses start, grow and succeed. Rogers said the group has a certified CPA and a former CEO.

Project REV has shown results, too, according to Deluxe Vice President of Brand and Media Relations Laura Radewald. She said last year’s participants collectively doubled their sales, despite the economy.

“Deluxe selected 50 Back Brewing Company as a 2012 program participant because it is typical of so many businesses across America that have a fabulous product, but don’t have the marketing expertise to ensure its success,” Radewald said. “We are excited to help them grow, and are inspired by their mission of giving back to our troops.”

She added that growth of small businesses like 50 Back Brewing Company is critical to an economic recovery, and by exploring Deluxe’s offerings can help expand customer base and increase sales.

“We couldn’t believe we were selected for this, what Deluxe is giving us is so valuable,” Rogers said. “It’s going to help us in our marketing three four, five, ten fold, and show us what works.”

As for other expansion ideas, Rogers says their flagship American lager is a “middle beer,” and gives them flexibility in expanding their product. She says 50 Back could introduce a darker or lighter beer in the future. The five charities they support are the USO, Homes for Our Troops, The Ahern Family Charitable Foundation, Massachusetts Soldiers Legacy Fund and America’s VetDogs — Veteran’s K-9 Corps.

“We want to be making a significant impact on these charities, so we are not taking on new charities right now,” Rogers said. “We’ve been able to develop close relationships with our current charities.”

Like the proceeds they donate, Rogers said at events they spend fifty percent of their time talking about those charities.