The Top 10 Winery Promotional Tools

toolsThe winery/brand owner has a variety of tools at their disposal for promoting their product and sales. But some are more important than others. Some are critical to the success of the brand. These are your Top Ten Most Important Winery Promotional Tools.

You have no other tool that will more often represent your winery, both in your presence and out of your presence, than your wine. And when I say your wine I mean the liquid in the bottle, the packaging and whatever message you choose to deliver on your packaging. Your wine will show up in places and in front of people you never imagined it would, and in many cases you won’t even know it appeared there and in front of them.

If the winery’s owner or winemaker makes a poor presentation in public, you’d better figure out a way to put another face on your business. Perhaps more than most other types of businesses, the small to medium-sized winery is heavily dependent upon the whether the owner or winemaker possesses a bella figura in public. How these representatives of  the brand carry themselves, how they present the product, how engaging and inviting they are when standing in front of potential customers and clients…few things are more critical to the success of the brand.

This may not sound like a “tool” to you, but without a well-defined, well-understood and easily communicated message that you can relay to everyone in every way, I promise your public relations and marketing efforts will drift. And when your marketing and PR efforts drift you lose important opportunities for sales, you confuse customers, and you confuse yourself and others working on your brand’s behalf. Write it down. Flesh it out. Test it. Know it. Teach it. Then deploy it in everything you do and in every way you can.

It wasn’t the case when I first began working in the wine industry, but it sure is now. If you are selling a super premium priced wine, the chances are good that the consumer or trade account that buys your wine or visits your property or is considering buying your wine or visiting your property will carry out their due diligence by visiting you website. It better be attractive, possess an intuitive navigational order and provide the information the web visitor is looking for…because moving on to another option is as easy as a click of the mouse.

Though this won’t necessarily be a critical PR tool for the growing number of “virtual wineries” and property-less brands, the appearance, feel, atmosphere and welcome mat at the wineries that do possess a piece of land can immediately set the tone for the visitor. This is important because the likelihood that a visitor to your property will become a big buyer and a big evangelist for your wines and brands is much greater than for those who drink or encounter your wine without having stepped on your property.

Nearly every small to medium-sized winery will make a special effort to reach out to their consumer customers directly. It might take the form of an email or a printed letter. It might be in newsletter form, allocation letter or new release announcement. Whatever it is and whatever it does, this particular tool is critical to your sales and branding success because it is your primary messaging and branding effort for those most likely to support you. If it is bland, sloppy, inconsequential, un-engaging, offensive or boring…you fail. And this is not the tool you want to fail with. This is the tool that keeps them coming back. It’s the tool that reminds them why they were enchanted. It’s the tool that reminds them why your wines must be part of their life.

You don’t have one? Not good! Be that as it may, your “media list” today may include writers, editors, bloggers, social media influencers, Soms, retailers. It includes those folks more likely than others to tell your story to a wider audience. It’s the tool that, when used wisely and judiciously, expands the reach of your brand. Coddle it. Keep it up to date. Place notes in it about the people on the list. Most of all, use it. Give your brand the chance to be introduced to a wider audience.

The appellation association where you reside is the trade association you ought to know, be a part of, support and use. If your local trade associations are doing their job, they are helping you tell the meta-story of your world. By working closely with these associations you’ll find you will be introduced to trade buyers, media and customers that otherwise would never have known your brand and wines. Partake in the promotional tastings. Travel with others from the association on media trips. Fund the association to assure they can do their job. Participate in the governance of the trade association. Most wineries don’t take nearly the kind of advantage of this tool as they should.

I’m not nearly as convinced as others that intensive use of social media is as profitable as others in the industry preach. But I’m not so blind that I don’t see the benefit of judiciously and regularly participating in the ongoing conversation that is always happening on the various social media platforms. The best reason to engage in the use of Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and other social media tools is because your customers are. Create a social media plan that is workable, that can be carried out given the time you have to commit to it. Hire someone to help you put the plan together if you must. But make the effort to be part of the ongoing conversation about your wine, your industry, your region and your issues. It will help promote your wines and brand.

If your staff (tasting room personnel, marketing director, vineyard manager, national sales manager, etc.) isn’t on board with your mission and doesn’t represent you and your brand enthusiastically, fire them! These are your representatives 24/7. If they understand the brand messaging, if they understand your mission, if they are moving along the same path as you, they will be amongst your most important assets. That means you need to train them, educate them, listen to them, trust them, unleash them. But they must be on board.


8 Responses

  1. Susan DeMatei - February 22, 2013

    Hi Tom, great article. Would add a strong vote for your customer mailing list to be added. From the DTC perspective, after a wine, winemaker and brand, you need to start building a mailing list above all else. Clearly you use DTC tools, press, a Tasting Room and Social Media to do that. But care and attention to the cleanliness and organization of your consumer list, disciplined collection and updating of names and frequent and thoughtful contact is an early step in building a brand with consumers. Wouldn’t you agree? Cheers!

  2. Tom Wark - February 22, 2013

    Susan: YEP….It’s a key tool. But, I didn’t include it because I was thinking more along the lines of communication/branding/PR tools. But without the consumer list, you can probably pack it up.

  3. Leeann Froese - February 22, 2013

    Great post, Tom. We are aligned, as this is along the lines of the types of project advice / consultation, and then communications I do on behalf of my winery clients here in BC. I love the fact that your image is a toolbox, as I am constantly preaching that there is no one tool, but many, that wineries must ‘carrry in their bag’ in order to have a strategic and integrated approach. I like your post because these 10 items are not intuitive to everyone. Very helpful. Cheers.

  4. Rob McMillan - February 22, 2013

    Tom –
    Perfect alignment with something I say often: Digital is not a strategy. That seems to confuse people. There is a feeling in some camps that a digital strategy is signing up for your own URL and a Facebook page. In reality nothing has changed in 30+ years. The most important asset is your client, and the most important sale the second. Digital and everything else is a tool that supports a marketing strategy. Digital in and of itself does nothing alone.

  5. NEWS FETCH – FEBRUARY 25, 2013 | Wine Industry Insight - February 25, 2013

    […] The Top 10 Winery Promotional Tools […]

  6. Carl Giavanti - February 25, 2013

    Tom, I love the toolkit metaphor and use it often with my clients. You’ve listed the tools at a winery’s disposal. To stick with the metaphor – The kit itself is the marketing and action plan which contains these tools. Additionally, there are maintenance requirements – tracking and analyzing the results and adjusting or sharpening them.

  7. Bill Skrapits - February 28, 2013

    Excellent article and the lay out in bullet points hits them home. All great points, but I branding and the tasting room especially resonate. A cohesive and well-defined branding message is key to creating a “imprint” on the consumer, media, distributors, etc. Conveying your story, not the technical details of making your wine, but the interesting, unique story that makes your wine/winery special is what defines you from everyone else. And the experience at the tasting room, especially if you are a winery in a trail of other wineries, is extremely important. When the visitor goes home, does he go home with a bottle of your wine in hand? When remembering the day, does he have the fondest memories of your winery? Good stuff!

  8. Michael Borboa - March 3, 2013

    Great list of information here. My thoughts are when ever poissible the winemaker/owner must build a genuine connection with each and every customer that they have the priveledge to meet. Interject your passion about the wine, impart your story with genuine interest in your customers views. Ask them what it will take to keep them for the long haul. Get them to tell your story to thier friends and make sure to give them the correct contact information. Make them feel like they are now a member of your family and that everything you do is for thier personal satisfaction as a wine enthusiast.

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