The 90 Day Wine Branding Workout

By. Neil Williamson, Grumpy Marketing Guy

Brand awareness is at the core of most good marketing programs.  Whether you call it mind share, recall ability or awareness, the sales reality is people like to buy things that they have a positive feeling about.  That positive feeling may be nothing more than an faint memory that they remember the name perhaps the brand itself generates a positive tone.  Most of the wineries I talk to have a basic understanding of branding, often they get the set up right but fail in the follow through.

The big question is why?

Much like establishing and maintaining a vineyard, a brand requires a significant commitment to make it successful.

These days branding can include not only name generation, label design, signage, public relations, e-mail, advertising and other sponsorship supports but also includes social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Yelp and whatever is next.  The good news is that these are very learnable skills the bad news is they are time consuming without direct return on investment.

Just as you would establish a spray program in the vineyard, the best tool for starting your branding efforts is an old fashion calendar.

If your goal is increased visits to your retail room, look at your busiest month; what would it do to your bottom line if you doubled visitation that month?  Do you have the infrastructure (and the wine) to support such visitation and sales?  If yes this will be our target month.  If not, your goal should be to extend the month to eight weeks (Sept-ober).

For this example we will use a winery event as our foundation event and build a 90 day branding calendar based off that date.

For scheduled social media posts, I prefer to create each account’s own rhythm with posts.  I also encourage my clients to link their social media accounts so that when one is updated they all are updated (tweetdeck is a popular tool for this).  I usually schedule updates for the start of the day so that if something topical comes up I can post it later in the day and not upset the built in rhythm of posts.

I often create a type of post for each day in addition to Wine Wednesday, I may include a wine quote on Monday, a vineyard update on Tuesday (during the growing season), a cellar update on Thursday and a wine recommendation with pairing on Friday.  Don’t forget the power of images.  People love to feel like they know where their wine is coming from and who is behind it.  Tell the story of your winery through these methods each and every week.

With your scheduled posts entered and ready to rollout, there is a need for earned media (publicity that you don’t pay for).  As a marketer, I encourage clients to be strategic in their anniversaries.  If your winemaker has been with you for seven years, schedule a special event in the retail room during your busiest month (it really doesn’t matter that he was hired in February seven years ago).

Coordinate your wine releases with media releases and special tastings in the retail room.  Well written media releases from good sources become content for blogs and newspapers.  I generally advise sending one media release a month.  While I have broken this rule when the event is newsy enough, it is a good rule of thumb.

The branding schedule therefore needs three media releases going out Day 1, Day 31, Day 61.

Anytime you send a media release, rewrite it to be appropriate to be a newsletter to your e-mail list. Email recipients love that they got the news as an insider before it appeared in the paper.

I also work to schedule local radio interviews starting Day 61 through to the event.  Owners, vineyard managers, tasting room manager and winemaker all make interesting spokespeople (but require some level of spokesperson training).  If the foundational event is newsworthy I would also include a media advisory that goes out via e-mail to your media list on Day 83 and on Day 89.

The foundational event also needs some paid advertising support.  In terms of media buys, I tend to shy away from television and glossy magazines as I do not see them delivering the value for the buy right now.  I like local radio and local newspapers.  I also have had good success with targeted Facebook advertising.

Before you get to Day 100, draft a post mortem memo highlighting all the things that went well and went poorly.  Include any discernable data regarding how guests learned of the event.

Looking over this list it is clear why many wineries fall short on their wine branding efforts — it is a great deal of work.

The benefits of properly feeding and nurturing a wine brand is the same as such efforts in the vineyard and equally worth the time.

Neil Williamson

Neil Williamson, the Grumpy Marketing Guy, is the President of The Trellis Group LLC a marketing consultancy focused on East Coast based wineries.  He can be reached at trellisgroup@earthlink.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why I am Sweet on Your Wine Portfolio

By. Neil Williamson, The Grumpy Marketing Guy

Imagine walking into a home improvement store and all of the hardware and tools were only available in metric sizes.  In this example it is clear the home supply store is ignoring a significant potential market that demands US/Imperial tools.  Now look at your wine portfolio, does it reflect consumer demand or the owner’s personal preferences.

Often when I am meeting with new winery owners they have a limited scope of their wine portfolio.  In every case, I ask, beg, cajole them to include at least one “sweet” wine.    Interestingly, when clients take this advice, it almost always becomes their best seller.   Why?  As your winery will likely offer a number of dry wines for the roughly 50% of the wine drinking public that prefers a dry wine and you force the sweet wine drinker to choose the one wine you have made for that population cohort.

Recently my vision on this was tested by my philosophical position regarding be true to your identity. I was chatting up a Virginia winery owner about his vision for his new wine portfolio.  He did not like sweet wines but recognized the consumer demand for such product, his decision was not to make a wine that he would not drink but to make it at the far edge of his sweetness tolerance.  The resulting 1% residual sugar wine is consistent with his winery vision (and palate) while providing a sweeter wine for that percentage  of the wine consuming public that only buys sweet wines.

Master of Wine Tim Hanni (who spoke at a number of Virginia Wineries Association seminars this year) has written a treatise on Why Wineries Owe Sweet Wine Drinkers and Apology.  Hanni draws on recent research indicating that people are genetically predisposed to prefer sweeter wines based on the arrangement of their taste buds on their tongue.

In the end your wine portfolio should represent not only who you are but also who your customers are; if you only make wine you like, you may ignore significant potential consumers and sales!

That’s why I am sweet on your wine portfolio!

Respectfully Submitted,

GMG

Photo Credit: Kobalt-USA

Why Wineries Should Charge Their Highest Retail Price in the Tasting Room

By. Neil Williamson, Grumpy Marketing Guy

Over the past couple of years there has been a great discussion about where wines in tasting rooms should be priced.  There are some who believe the tasting room is like a “factory outlet” store and should have the lowest prices anywhere.  Based on the title of this post you can see that I fall in a different camp.

If you have your wines in distribution, whether you are distributing them yourself or not, the retailers are a primary sales channel.  The retailers are your partners.  Why would you undercut your partners?

Please let me explain.

The shop owner perspective – When you, or your distributor attempt to place the wine with a wine shop (or grocery chain) price will be a key issue.  If you are a local winery you may have a leg up on getting attention but one of the first questions will be “What do you sell it for at the winery”.  In the shop owner discussion you are competing with every other wine that is available in distribution.  If you are 5 miles away and selling the wine $3 cheaper than he/she can, why should you get a placement in the shop?

The customer perspective – In the retail shop, your wine must compete with all the other wine in the establishment.  If  a customer has been a guest at your winery and purchased your Chardonnay for $21 and sees it at their “regular” wine shop at $17.99, they perceive increased value, as they enjoyed the Chardonnay at $21.

The Grumpy Marketing Guy perspective –  Wine purchased at the winery provides the winery three profit margins (producer, distributor, retail).  If we accept that guests that visit the winery like wine (not a big leap) and regularly shop for wine somewhere other than the winery, then capturing all three profit margins maintains your pricing integrity in all channels.  In addition, it helps build credibility with your retail partners.

It is important to recognizing winery guests are wine lovers who have a variety of only your wines to choose from during their visit but its all your wine.

Important exceptions

  • Multiple bottle/Case discounts – just as your retail partners have such discounts you should as well usually at 3, 6 and 12 bottle increments.
  • Inventory Issues – there are times when a wine does not move in the market and you have a significant inventory, creating a special price for such wines as needed is a great idea.
  • Festival Pricing – I encourage wineries to play with their pricing at festivals.  If you are sold out of a wine at the last festival, bump it up a $1 a bottle see if it still sells out.  If something was a slow mover drop the price $2 as a festival special.

Wine prices at the winery should be designed to recognize the significant capital costs you have in the winery and to capture the maximum revenue the market will bear.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, GMG

Photo Credit: Winecountry.it

 

How Mystery Shoppers Can Improve Your Business

By. Neil Williamson, Grumpy Marketing Guy

The term ‘Mystery Shopper” has been around for at least twenty years. The concept behind mystery shopping is rather simple; how do your employees (or you) honestly interact with customers.  While there are companies that do mystery shopping for a fee, I have found some of the best mystery shoppers are friends of mine who are not known to the client or the client staff.

Doesn’t the use of a mystery shopper mean you don’t trust your staff?  No.  Frankly when I have presented the results from the Mystery Shoppers staff are often horrified at the manner in which their actions were perceived.   With the advancement of Facebook, Twitter and Yelp! having a consistent customer engagement strategy is critical.  There are many individuals who will spend a great deal of time blogging about their experience in your establishment.  These too are teaching moments; but I’d rather control the discussion with a mystery shopper program.

How to build the shopper program — with your staff.  No one likes surprises so go over the goals of your customer engagement program with the staff and see if they agree.  If not, revise the metrics of the program.

Here are a few sample metrics based on a winery tasting room setting:

Were you greeted on arrival in the tasting room?

Were you informed of the tasting fee prior to tasting?

During the tasting did the staff seem knowledgeable about the wines?

Were you given time to taste each wine?

Did the staff provide the history of the winery?

Were you informed of upcoming events?

Were you asked how you heard about the winery?

Did the tasting staff seem interested in your wine journey?

After tasting were you given the opportunity to retaste?

Did the staff ask for your wine order?

In preparing your wine order did the staff confirm with you the wines before placing in the case/box?

Were you thanked for your purchase?

Was your checkout handled efficiently?

Was the tasting room busy?

Was the tasting room adequately staffed?

Overall how would you rate your visit (1-10 scale)?

What could be improved?

Once you and your staff determine the metrics to be used and you let them know you will be using a mystery shopper, you will see improvement in your customer engagement.  I usually bring in the mystery shopper 2 weeks after the staff has signed off on the metrics.

After the mystery shopper files their report (usually an e-mail with the questions above answered and other comments i.e. tasting room staff wearing low cut blouse, taking phone calls, kids running in tasting room, etc.)  I take the results to the tasting room manager and discuss in a morning meeting and then chat with all the associates over lunch.

This team methodology allows the manager to have an opportunity to determine how to best use the information to generate better customer engagement.  Usually better customer engagement results in increased sales.  And really isn’t that what marketing is all about.

Respectfully Submitted,

GMG

Image Credit: Truliant Federal Credit Union