By Kristie Sheppard
Marketing your small winery can seem overwhelming and challenging, especially for those of us with small shops with just one, or maybe a few employees. During harvest, there is never enough time to even think about marketing. Then by the time you get everything else done, from bottling to distribution, it’s almost harvest again! However, you know creative and customer-focused marketing is critical to the success of your winery.
Adding a few simple tools to your marketing toolbox can assist in strategically and successfully promoting your wine brand. Even just a minimal time investment pays huge dividends.
- Know your audience. Defining your target audience is the first step in effective marketing. Analyze and organize your current customer base by categories, such as millennials, baby boomers, women or wine drinkers who are new to enjoying wine.
- Define your message. Determine a key message to connect your brand with each group of ideal customers. The messages should be clear, direct and consistent to resonate with potential customers. For example, if your millennial audience group is interested in scores from Parker, make sure your messaging includes your recent ratings.
- Get to know the media. Sending a press release about your upcoming winemaker dinner to the local food and wine critic without building a relationship with him/her will appear self-serving and may get pushed aside. Build a relationship with wine writers and influencers. Read their stories, engage with them on social media platforms and share their stories. Are you getting ready to promote a new wine and want some press? Invite the writer to a private tasting before the release to allow for personalized face time. Prepare materials in advance, such as photos and background information, to make packaging the story easy for the reporter.
- Engage on social media. Social media used to be about likes and followers. Now, engagement determines success—how many people are seeing the post, what day of the week and time of day are the most people seeing it and are they actually liking, sharing or commenting on that post? Engagement is a two-way conversation. The best way to get engagement is to give some as well. Scrolling through your social media feeds for 10 -15 minutes per day looking for like-minded brands, wine influencers and your customers so you can comment, like and share their posts, will show your investment in the industry. Social interaction creates an awareness of your brand with audiences, who may become followers or customers. Social engagement will keep you in the minds of your customers and strengthen your consumer-producer relationship.
- Let the label tell the brand’s story. If your wine is in retail shops or on display at a restaurant, the packaging is your most valuable asset. You need a label that stands out from the crowd, but also represents your brand and identity. Make sure your key message is translated into the label through visuals or text.
- Utilize influencers. Invite top wine influencers to a tasting. Do your research to make sure chosen influencers are appropriate for your brand and region.
- Participate in tasting events. For most small producers, providing complimentary cases of wine to a special event may put a big dent in your potential sales, but don’t underestimate the value of attending these events. Yes, you will definitely get people who are attending just to get intoxicated, but you will also get serious wine drinkers and media. Many tasting events host a trade/media hour prior to the general public, which is your opportunity to meet media face-to-face and make a lasting impression. Find out what reporters and influencers have attended in the past and ask fellow wineries if they have participated and what their thoughts are.
These cost-effective and simple tips will be the start to successfully marketing your winery.