By Carl Giavanti, Carl Giavanti Consulting
Hear me out. I know winemaking is important, but the wine sales game has changed dramatically. Covid-19 tasting room closures have proven this. See the preceding article written at the beginning of tasting room closures back in March, 2020 – Covid, Community & Commerce.
If you doubt the premise of this follow-up article, there are several things I would ask you to consider:
- The Covid-19 pandemic proves that the survival of your business is not predicated on making premium quality wine, but rather, marketing and selling wine in new and creative ways
- Competing on limited production quality wine is no longer the point of difference is was 25 years ago. Wine production expertise, regional experience and enology technical advancements have leveled the playing field globally.
- The Tasting Room model of the last 20 years is antiquated and over-subscribed
- Large distributors will continue the consolidation of shelf space and retail presence
- “Branded” wineries with marketing strategies, staffing and budgets are competing with family owned wineries who have real characters and stories behind their products
- “Celebrity” wineries with funding and influence are competing and have real people behind the brands (Cameron Diaz, Kate Upton, John Malcovic, Bon Jovi, C.J. McCollum). The list goes on…
- Professional online wine marketing organizations will sell more wine than you can in your tasting room and to your wine club, even if the quality is not equivalent
- Providing personalized experiences is how to compete with branded and corporate wineries
Stop thinking you are in the winery production business, and start believing you are in the wine marketing business. Your competitive advantage is that consumers are supporting authentic brands that resonate with them. You are real characters. Characters with great wine and stories to engage consumers. The Branded marketing companies can’t compete with that, and you can’t compete with them unless you have a significant digital presence and online marketing strategy, even though the quality of your wine is superior.
If you are a small producer, let’s concede that financial resources are limited, and really you can’t compete with well-funded marketers. However, you can provide something they can’t – an emotional connection with your brand – by delivering exceptional personal experiences, albeit at a value-added price points. Rather, turn your focus to doing a better job marketing and selling than everyone else in your own space. This may seem counter to the collaborations small producers have established in their regions, and with the support of regional and AVA associations, but at the end of the day we’re talking about competing and survival, in business. Find an elegant and egalitarian way to do it.
In fact, to take this one step further, your tasting room is no longer the only key to your consumer direct business. Your website is, and your target market is expanding beyond those that can visit you in person. Imagine if all businesses were limited to selling product to customers onsite and in person. It’s not a business model that still makes sense. Create a sales strategy as if you were an “online only” wine business with no brick and mortar. I would urge you to do three things: 1. Identify and profile your ideal customer. Create similar audiences and target market to them, and
request introductions to their like-interested friends 2. Look at your online stats by using website analytics to segment and target your online marketing 3. Continue your virtual wine events to capture and expand new out of state audiences, and support club members who live outside your region. There is a largely untapped opportunity to expand online revenues, grow followers and use contemporary technologies that consumers embrace
Having an onsite tasting room is a bonus, but don’t rely on visits and club signups only. How can you convey that in-person experience and share your unique brand stories online? I think this will be our biggest challenge. The answer is about marketing. Actually, it always has been.