What are the ways a winery can market that a brand cannot? Both have value, and some people are loyal to brands and don’t care if that brand is made by a winery that owns vineyards, has a tasting room, and makes the wine in their own cellar. They may even be able to keep the price lower than the wines made in a true winery.
But one thing they usually cannot do is make a wine in a unique style, with a unique taste, from the grapes you cultivate on your own property (or are reserved for you vintage after vintage from the same block on the same vineyard).
Many wines really do taste alike, or at least quite similar. That may be fine for those who just want a wine with dinner or a party and don’t really care what it’s like. Your wines will reflect what you enjoy in a wine and want to share it with others. Where you get your grapes, what yeasts you use to ferment the wine, what varieties may go into your blend, how you blend various cuvees, where your oak barrels come from, the age of your barrels, how you toast them, how long you age your wine. Your wine will taste different from another winemakers simply because of each decision you make at each step of the process.
And some people do care about this. So your wine is different. But now you have to get it to people. And this is where marketing comes in.
What’s most important?
- good grapes
- good winemaking skills
- good marketing
- good customers
Answer: 4. But you won’t get them unless you already have the other 3 in place. So the correct answer is really all 4. But we leave the first two to you.
How do you market your wines?
Do you have a tasting room? Or a place where people can taste your wines? If you have a tasting room of your own, can you offer tours, private tastings, wine and food pairings, trips to the vineyards? Do you have knowledgable employees who not only know your wines, but can tell when to talk about them in detail and when the visitor just wants to find good wines? Do you offer Direct to Consumer sales, not just to people in your own state, but to all states where it is permitted?
What you want to do is to develop a personal relationship with your visitors who are all potential customers. But it’s the relationship that will make them valuable customers. It may be obvious, but ignoring or being rude to tasters will not gain you the customers who you do need to sell your wine. Not just today’s customers, but their friends, their families, the people who read your comments online.
But you can’t rely on just that. Events, competitions, social media, restaurant lists, tasting rooms, online and print wine reviews are all important.
You need a business plan
Business Planning includes:
- Tactics, both long-term and immediate. Immediate can bring in cash, long-term can help you stay in business. Making good wine is obviously an important step. But it is not realistic to simply say “if I can’t sell the wine, I’ll drink it myself.” Cute, but no. You are in business. You want to stay in business. If it’s a hobby, fine. Then just make the wine and head to the beach. But first, ask yourself why does your winery even exist? Will people be better off now than they can have your wine? In what way? A unique taste? A lower price? Greater availability (even if just local)? If you have no answer to this, then you need to find one.
Know your audience Know who your customers are and what they are looking for. Who already buys your wines? Restaurant goers? Aficionados? Bargain hunters? Then decide if you want to just market to them or market to additional audiences.
A key difference in how you treat each sale
Are your sales transaction-based or-customer based?
- Transaction-based means you only think about how much money you have made on this one sale.
- Customer-based means you think about how much money each customer spends over time. While each sale is important, a loyal customer is worth far more.
- March to a different drummer. If you are doing what everyone else is doing, then you may very well be 100th in line. Create wines from lesser-known varieties. Think Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Viura, Mourvedre, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Tannat, and so many more. Visit a restaurant or store that specializes in French wine. Offer a steak house your Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, since they already have 100 Cabernets on the list.
- It’s not just about making a better wine. They say make a better wine and the world will beat a path to your door. Um, no it won’t. Perhaps that applies to mousetraps, but you can’t simply wait for the world to discover just how great your wine is. A great Wine Spectator rating can help, but you could be old and gray before they get around to writing about your wine (and who knows what they will say anyway). You should become active yourself in the selling of your wine. You can hire a marketing firm (and in many cases you should), but don’t just sit back and let them do all the heavy lifting. Work with them.
- The Magic of Social Media. (This page intentionally left blank. There’s no magic to it. It’s hard work.)
- But Social Media does have a purpose. There are things you can do with social media, but it is definitely not magic. Think of social media as your tasting room where you engage in friendly chat. You don’t just sell. Would you greet a visitor to your winery with the words “Hi there. Get our Merlot. Now 20% off if you buy a case.”? Just talk to them in a friendly manner. Be excited and glad to see them online. And if they ask you a question, answer it.
We can list all the appropriate social media apps (including wine-specific ones) here. But it might very well be outdated by the time you read this. However, since we are paid by the word, we’ll just say Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Periscope, Drync, Delectable, Cellar Tracker, Hello Vino, Wine Societies, Snap Chat, Yik Yak, Vivino. And there are more. You don’t have to do all of them. Well, you do, but obviously there are limits. Choose yours.
- Start up a wine club. No need to explain this here, since you already have one. Right? Right?
Wine marketing is not new. But many methods to achieve success are new. It’s up to you to learn them and apply them (or hire an individual or a wine marketing firm who can work with you). There are 8,000 wineries in the US. Who needs yours when there are 7,999 others to choose from?