Winery Photography – Why it’s SO Important!

Note: this is the full length article. A shorter version of this ran on April 1st in Oregon Wine Press: https://www.oregonwinepress.com/the-bigger-picture

Professional photography can be expensive – anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars – which explains why a client of mine recently balked at the suggestion they hire a professional photographer and build a multi-purpose photo gallery. “iPhone photos are good quality, why can’t we just use those? Are photos so important? Do people really care?” They are, and they do, I offered.

Image based marketing is important because people are reading less. Photos with captions and Instagram posts have taken the place of winery blogs. Newsletters with real winery news are replaced with fast facts and images of events and wine promos.

When working with the media, know that writers prefer to focus on their written interviews and appreciate knowing that the winery has invested in high resolution photography, as their editors typically require photos with proper attribution. Most Online publications do not have photographers on staff and often rely on writers to take or source photos, while Print publications will request high-res large file size images to run with articles.

I talked to Jason Kaplan of Jason E Kaplan Photography about the importance of high-resolution quality photography for wineries. “Wineries can build their brands through storytelling. Images are so important to creating narratives that create an emotional connection to the business. This could be especially true for properties that host events. Even for ones that don’t, people like the opportunity to look behind the curtain and see how things are actually done.” Well said.

I also wanted perspective from a designer and developer, so I asked Shery Rice of Greenhouse for comments. “Consumers don’t always recognize when they are seeing a great photograph. But they know instinctively when they are seeing a bad one—they cannot personally connect with the image and are not inspired to further interaction. The production value of your photography makes a subliminal statement to consumers about how you value your own offerings and leads them to the next unconscious steps in assessing whether or not to pursue your brand further.”

For the reasons stated above, I suggest the following. Photos should be high resolution, and formatted for print, website, and Instagram/social media.

  1. Photo Gallery on the Website – add this page to Main Menu or in the Website Footer. You can use these categories or folders to organize – Seasons, Harvest, Crush, Vineyard, Aerial photos, Winery, Tasting Room, People, Events, Club, Winemaker dinners, etc.
  2. Photo Gallery on the website Trade & Media page – same as #1, or use an anchor link to #1
  3. Dropbox – share link to winery approved photos for use by qualified media – all of the above plus logos, bottle shots*, label images, shelf talkers, headshots and other winery assets

Someone should be assigned to curate this Photo Library which includes items #1, #2 and #3. Marketing will draw from these winery images (owned media) for email newsletters, social media posts, event listings, advertising, print collateral, and the list goes on.

If you decide to work with a photographer, be sure to obtain the original high-resolution image files for print collateral such as logos and labels. The highest resolution are vector files which are completely expandable to any size. Image files in a .TIFF format are also very high resolution and ideal for enlarging an image, and .JPG or .JPEG work well for websites and social media.

Photo resolution and file size are very important, and they vary depending on whether you will be printing, enlarging, using on website or posting on Instagram and social media. Be sure to ask a professional photographer for guidance. I suggest you ask for images in three sizes – print, website and social media. Also ask if image size, aspect ratio and color space can be adjusted and if there are additional fees.

It’s also important to have the rights to your own photos, so attribution goes to your winery instead of to a photographer. This is something you would need to discuss and would only happen for paid engagements. It is less likely that a professional photographer will give you rights if they are doing a pro bono shoot or trading their time for wine. It is also a lot safer to own your own image media than using other people’s social media post images, even though they exist in the public domain.

*Note: Bottle shots are a specialty shoot and should be done by a professional in a studio. I prefer transparent background. I also like vintages removed using Photoshop, which makes the bottle images reusable. Evergreen photography is good.

This article originally appeared in Oregon Wine Press, the April print and digital editions: https://www.oregonwinepress.com/the-bigger-picture

CARL GIAVANTI is a Winery Publicist with a DTC Marketing background. He’s enjoyed 11 years of winery consulting. Carl has been involved in business marketing and public relations for over 25 years; originally in technology, digital marketing and project management, and now as a winery media relations and communications consultant. Clients are or have been in Napa Valley, Willamette Valley, and the Columbia Gorge. (www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.com/Media).

 

 

 

Winery Trade-Show Strategies

Trade Show Attendee Strategies

Rise to the challengeTradeshow season is coming up soon. Conferences usually last more than one day, so how to come out of the conference energized with ideas to grow your business? Unless you are visiting to purchase something specific (more on this later), here are three things to focus on during winery trade show – Promote Yourself and Your Brand, Market Research and Networking.

Promote Yourself and Your Brand – establish yourself and your winery business as a leader. You do this by offering information and assistance to your peers, and being participative during the trade show. This will also help you get Media exposure if it arises; requests to be a future panelist, which highlights your areas of expertise and further promotes you/your brand; and opportunities to participate in winery and industry associations. The other benefit of being active versus passive it that you’ll feel energized and recharged with new ideas and initiatives.

Market Research – you go to these shows and so does your (winery) competition. This is a prime opportunity to gather intelligence and best practices ideas. The payback for offering info is getting new ideas, techniques and emerging trends in return. Issues with stuck fermentations? Treatments for blights and bugs? POS and inventory issues? Thoughts on new legislations? How are they selling so much wine online? Is social media still working for you? How are you getting those scores and wine writers reviews? You get my point; now be sure to ask.

Networking – make friends with other winery principles and managers (also wine industry suppliers) that can help you. Don’t be afraid to initiate conversations – “First time at this conference?” “What do you hope to accomplish?” – that’s why people attend these types of events. Give some thought to your 20 second (or less) elevator pitch. Who you are, where and what you do, and what you’re hoping to get out of the trade-show. Note on boorish self-indulgent conversations – they happen! Don’t be afraid to gracefully leave. Your time is valuable. Make a nice comment about them or a comment on the conversation, then exit stage left. But, never burn bridges. I’ve been amazed over the years how someone of little interest has come back around in a valuable way.

Why not conduct business meetings during show breaks? Find new dealers and vendors to establish long term relationships. You will eventually need their help, products and services in the future. I find it helpful to immediately make notes on the back of business cards as follow-up reminders.

Note to Winery Staffers: if you are an employee being sent to the conference, this is not a paid holiday, but an opportunity to learn, network and report back to management. Establish up front goals for research, education and market intelligence. Setup a meeting to report back your findings and recommendations.

Logistics and Tactics – download and print the show agenda and attendees lists. Identify and highlight (yes, use a marker pen if you must) which “must do” classes and sessions to attend and which speakers you want to talk to. Schedule yourself and stick to the schedule. Download the trade-show mobile app. Use it to automate what’s noted above, identify attendees to seek out, initiative chatroom and feedback conversations using appropriate confab #hashtags. Our nature tendency is to kibitz with established wine business friends, taste wine and relax. Resist this and stay on plan. This is your investment of time and how you outpoint your competition. Take an end row seat in the middle of the room. This enables you to see the entire audience for influential and information contacts. It also provides easy regress when you need it.

Who else is attending the show? Highlight those contacts who have the most value and make a short list to refer to. What is it that you’d talk to them about? You’ll see them throughout the show and can spontaneously strike up a conversation. To do that, arrive early in the morning and hang out at the coffee and water stations. People will arrive relaxed and conversations are easy going. Be there early for breakfast and introductions. Look around the room and see who you want to speak to and sit with them. Stay late for wine tastings and social activities to make more connections. When “winesense” turns to nonsense, beat feet back to your room and get some shut eye in prep for tomorrows events. Review your contact notes and action items while memory still serves. Working out early in the morning and arriving top of the day’s agenda puts you one step ahead.

Plan on purchasing something? Consider your most pressing problem or need. Is it related to grape growing, wine making or marketing and selling your wines? Once you identified 1-2 business needs, decide if you have budget and what the time frame is to acquisition. This will help you have a business discussion with vendors, and acquire good and competitive information about their products and services. Should you make a purchase commitment at the show? This can vary based on whether you are offered a “Trade-show Only” deal that evaporates as soon as you depart the floor. Having spent many years in sales I know that these deals can be reconstructed or re-negotiated later. My strategy is to politely decline but give the salesperson your card and ask them to follow up after the show. It’s their job after all to do so. This puts you in a better negotiating position and not subject to artificial “sense of urgency”. You can also evaluate and leverage competitive offers without the strain of show deadlines.

Trade-Shows can be fun, educational and insightful. It’s one of those times during the year when we can visit with and learn from our peer and subject matter experts. It’s up to you to make the most of the opportunity. Oh, and if you see me at an upcoming conference, please be sure to say hello and ask what my goals and strategies might be!

10 years of Winery Consulting – What I learned

A Wine Marketing & PR Perspective

I was asked recently how I got started in the wine business. My experience is not unlike many small producers who transitioned from other business lives, learned on the job, but had the determination necessary to be successful. I am fortunate and appreciative to have worked with over 50 wineries in some capacity, initially as a DTC marketing consultant and starting in 2012 as winery publicist.

Marking 10 years doing anything is milestone, especially in the wine business given the pace of change we’ve seen. Wineries continue to recreate themselves by embracing marketing best practices and technology innovations. The pace of change has picked up with no end in sight. The one constant we can all bank on are relationships. If you’re a publicist, it’s the relationships you develop over a long period of time with writers, media outlets, winery and travel associations and occasionally with other publicists and marketers. If you’re a winery, relationships that matter most are with your customers, staff, wholesalers, other service providers, and the wine community. Going forward I’m guessing that people will continue to matter most, followed by product and wrapped in good marketing and brand promotion. Here are some general observations related to small production wineries in Oregon, over the past 10 years.

2009 – The way things were

  • DTC marketing – a relatively new channel for small producers with little distribution. Focus on tasting room openings and wine clubs, starting mailing lists, email marketing and social media
  • We’re farmers – most common response to queries about marketing plans
  • Marketing plans and consulting services – those were for real businesses! And, we used to sell out in past years!
  • Paid Content – print advertising is still widely used for winery promotions
  • Wine clubs – not as prevalent – 70% had some form, many needing revision
  • Websites – many wineries upgrade to WordPress and other content self-management systems
  • Social media was a new thing – common responses included – It’s not for us. Do I need to do this?
  • Holiday weekend sales were legendary – reports of $15,000-$20,000 weekends were common
  • Staffing – Few hospitality managers and very few digital marketing managers
  • Brand Building – relied on distributors. Distribution mix to DTC was 80% to 20%
  • Distribution consolidation – started with 2008-2010 recession. Small Wineries phased out of markets. Focus turns to smaller cities and regional markets. Much effort expended on market trips
  • Wine quality – still varies by producer. Collaboration on techniques is improving uneven quality
  • Media Coverage – wineries are occasionally being discovered. Active media outreach is minimal
  • Great recession ceases in 2010-2011. U.S. stock markets reach record high. Confidence, optimism and new investment returns

2012 to 2018 – It’s getting competitive

  • Owned Content – wineries focus on updated websites, blogs, social media, news, photos, videos and designed collateral
  • Regional, AVA and Tourism Associations – emerge as marketing organizations with enhanced budgets from new member dues, grant funding, fundraising
  • Experiential marketing – became a thing around 2015, which leads to hiring of hospitality, tasting room and club managers as the new standard in tasting room staffing. Multiple “experiences” offered
  • Winery specific software – facilitates target marketing and customer relationship management. Development of applications and technology create opportunities for hospitality staff to customize customer experience and interactions. Website analytics allows tracking of activities and results
  • Competition – new vineyard planting and winery brands proliferate due to factors including changing weather, quality and integrity reputation, and significant outside investment
  • Channel Mix – is evolving to 20% Distribution and 80% DTC
  • Wine quality – quality is a “point of entry” for consumer sales, and is widely accepted due to production experience, collaboration & technical advances
  • Media Coverage – wineries recognize the need to stand out in a crowded marketplace, and recognize brand building as their responsibility, although take a passive approach to promoting themselves. Winery associations offer members exposure to media activities, contacts and inquiries.

2019 until?

  • Branded versus Grower-Producer – the influence of winemaker personalities will diminish as well-funded large wine groups out-spend, out-price, and out-market small brands
  • Consumer visitation – becomes longer and more focused. Extended visits equate to less tasting room traffic, as people stay longer, visit fewer wineries but have higher quality experiences. Conversion rates increase, although less traffic equates to fewer opportunities for club sign-ups and new digital subscribers
  • Wine Club Retention – remains as issue as consumer have much choice and are gaming the system. Loss prevention becomes strategic for DTC management
  • Online Sales – this DTC sales channel has much underrealized potential. More wineries will activate eCommerce programs as an additional revenue source, and to manage customer contacts, interests, transactions and history. The overall customer relationship will be highly managed
  • Staffing – scarcity of trained and qualified staff is an issue, whether within the wine industry or hospitality industry. This calls out the need for sales automation and technology investment
  • Digital Marketing – 2019 and beyond will see the hiring of digital marketing managers as the most important role, in coordinating all marketing functions with a focus and emphasis on e-commerce.
  • Media Coverage – the need to develop “Top of Mind” awareness becomes apparent. Wineries will begin to add communications professionals to staff, at least in a part time role. Active media outreach and brand promotion campaigns will be coordinated with digital marketing staff
  • Channel Mix – some producers give up on distribution and moved to 100% DTC

These are halcyon days for the wine business. Who knows what the next economic cycle will bring? Consumers have disposable income and purchases of $80-$100 bottles are not uncommon. Update and invest in your business now, while the going is exceptionally good.

 

 

It’s the Second Visit that Matters!

Almost anyone can make a great first impression

Andy Blue of Tasting Panel Magazine, in his November 2017 editor’s letter about new restaurant openings noted the importance of first impressions. He refers to those consumers who endeavor to visit restaurants immediately after their openings as “Samplers”. They love being early on the scene, asking their friends if they have yet visited this or that new restaurant and then enjoy bragging rights as first responders by sharing their ratings and recommendations. The window for restaurants according to Andy is about 60 days, after which the “Samplers” lose interest and move on to the latest shiny food scene entrants.

What happens then?

In a dynamic and robust market, if the restaurant hasn’t made an exceptional and astounding first impression the “Samplers” will not revisit. They have moved on and may never be back. I remember the old rule that you’d try a restaurant 2-3 times before coming to a conclusion, but maybe it wasn’t as competitive then, the news cycle was longer, or the economy wasn’t as healthy as it is today.

So how does this apply to your winery business?

We all know the adage – there is only one chance to make a great first impression, so I won’t go into detail about all the things you must do today to impress customers and deliver a premium experience. However, I was recently surprised and disappointed after visiting an urban winery and tasting room with friends. I wasn’t familiar with their wines or location so I was excited about the outing, and didn’t call ahead or mention my industry affiliation as a winery publicist.

Our visit inspired this article and reminds me that if you can’t make a good first impression, the second visit is a non-starter. Here’s what didn’t happen 1) No greeting from staff or owners when we arrived 2) No menus for almost 5 minutes 3) No water was offered (although food was available to purchase) 4) Wine lists arrived without any explanation of the wines, many being proprietary blends with unfamiliar names 5) No one asked if it was our first time here in which case an introduction and explanation would be warranted 6) We waited another 5-10 minutes to order. 7) And the final straw… the owners were fiddling with their music system, selecting LPs to play (they do have good taste in music) and never took a moment to stop and introduce themselves, which would have mattered. I think you get the picture.

So what about that second visit?

We left having enjoyed the wines and our conversation, but unanimously agreed we wouldn’t return. There are too many other wine bars and tasting rooms that get it. This applies to your wine business because good wine and a hip venue are no longer enough. Exceptional and astounding customer service (however that relates to your brand) is required.

It’s the return visit that matters. Recurring revenue streams are built when new consumers have been pampered and indulged and decide to bring their friends and family. This is when they give you give you permission to market to them, buy your wines and join your wine club – because they can relate to your brand. You made them feel special. If you are interested in becoming an exceptional customer service winery business, please read What is your Tasting Room Strategy? Have you communicated your strategy and tactics, and choreographed it with your staff? If not, do it soon lest you be forgotten.

CARL GIAVANTI is a Winery Publicist with a DTC Marketing background. He’s going on his 9th year of winery consulting. Carl has been involved in business marketing and public relations for over 25 years; originally in technology, digital marketing and project management, and now as a winery media relations consultant. Clients are or have been in Napa Valley, Willamette Valley, and the Columbia Gorge. (www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.com/Media).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does Social Media Help Me Sell Wine?

The Ultimate Question. The Ultimate Answer?

Engaging in social media is like having your own PR department. I like to call it Consumer PR. You are initiating a conversation about your winery and presenting your brand to the public. For small wineries this can be a little scary due to perceived loss of control. Traditional media approaches like press releases, media outreach, advertising, and submitting wines for review are very important, but for small wineries the potential new audience reach and the economics around social media are compelling.

One of my long time clients recently said “Social Media is a waste of time.” This is puzzling to me because this is one way many people like to communicate. Interestingly, this specific winery has more social followers and gets more engagement than most other wineries. I believe that proving social media helps sell wine is the real issue. Before social media, could a winery prove that advertising, media coverage, events and festivals, or printed materials helped sell wine? Does anything other than hand selling wine help sell wine? The answer is yes and no, and proof requires vision, commitment, patience and an earnest effort to track and analyze the results of your marketing efforts. The reality is that the path to purchase is more complicated than ever and interconnected with other marketing efforts.

Brand Impressions

Brand image is incremental. Marketing professionals have long said that it takes between 7 – 13 touches to get a new customer commitment to purchase. With social media, wineries can achieve those touches and targeted impressions much faster than with traditional media approaches. Remember that the nature of social media is social, and that winery promotions typically should be a mix of informational (80%) and promotional (20%). In other words, establish your credibility before “The Ask.” Writing educational articles for your website about relevant wine topics and responding to all queries and comments is a great way to do this.

Engaging Consumers

Your DTC strategy is predicated on having a unique message – See my article What is your Voice? With social media, it’s easy to take an image based approach. Use Instagram and Facebook. Tag people, other wineries, wine industry businesses and associations to spread your message. Use photo captions and hashtags to focus on those customers who engage with brands online to expand the conversation. These customers spend more on average and have identified wine as an “Interest.” This makes targeting the conversation much easier. Twitter now allows images without character count, and using category hashtags like #wine #pinotnoir #winery #tastingroom help Twitter users search and find your posts.

Amplifying your message

Most people won’t act unless you ask them to. Include one (no more than two) call-to-action in every post, and include a link to your website or shopping cart, or dedicated landing page. You should always ask for likes, follows, comments, shares, tags, or check-ins to prompt readers to engage and help extend the reach of your message and ultimately build your base. Additionally, and unfortunately, most of your social media posts won’t be seen unless you advertise on social media, so having a modest monthly budget for this is imperative.

Consumer PR

Wineries understand the 3-Tier system. Here’s an analogy. “Social Influencers” are the distributors of impressions and a channel to new followers and potential buyers. Influencers can be print or online writers with a strong social presence and lots of followers – photo journalists; wine, food or travel bloggers; videographers or podcasters. They can also be consumers or brand ambassadors with strong wine interests and lots of followers. You can develop and nurture relationships with these influencers on a casual organic or paid basis, but it is certainly another way to amplify your message and indirectly sell wine by using social media.

The Ultimate Excuse

The ultimate excuse I hear from small wineries is – We’re just a small winery. We don’t have the staff or capacity to spend lots of time on social media, tracking and analytics, or marketing in general.

The Ultimate Response

The ultimate response is that you really don’t have any choice, and we already know the reasons – too many wineries, too few viable distribution options, limited access to on-premise and off premise outlets, and too much big money moving into your market with the wherewithal to promote their brands. And trust me; social media is just one of the tools in their arsenal. Does Social Media really help sell wine? Probably not directly, but if you stay top of mind, you will sell wine when people are ready to buy, otherwise you may easily be forgotten.

Mobile Marketing is a Mindset

It’s also a Wine Marketing Strategy

Note: This article originally appeared in Vineyard & Winery Management Magazine, July-August 2016. Below you will find an introduction and excerpt. A complete .PDF copy of the article is available upon request.

It’s time to be mobile (which is to say, nimble). The marketing tactics that worked for you in the past may not be effective going forward. Don’t let the pace of technology pass you by. Yes, you’re the “publisher” of your brand stories and your wines, but consumers are the “editors” as well as the buyers you need to connect with the most — and on their terms. Amy Gross, founder of the Wine4.Me wine app, which creates unique taste profiles to match users to their favorite types of wines, offers this insight: “The wineries that meet their customers in the digital space will be the ones that thrive.” You can add “survive” to that as well.

What is being Mobile?
The acceptance of and interest in doing more on mobile devices is extremely high and growing faster than we can imagine. We’re all becoming extensions of our phones and tablets, and so should your winery’s business. In 2014, we reached the “tipping point,” where there were more mobile phones in the world than people. It’s simply grown from there. Mobile marketing is a mindset that every winery needs
to adopt because your competition already has. Being mobile also means getting untethered. Get away from the cash register or point of sale system. Get out from behind the tasting bar. Be among and interact with your customers.

Be Mobile Responsive

“Mobile responsive” is a clever term that acknowledges we live in a multi-device world, including desktops, laptops, tablets and phones with different operating systems and screen sizes. Therefore, the design of your website needs to respond to the device on which it’s displayed. But being mobile responsive also includes recognizing how people respond while on their mobile devices. For example, people are more likely to reply faster to direct messages and texting, rather than traditional e-mail, because they’re checking their mobiles all the time and messaging is immediate.

Top 10 Tips to Implement Now

You can email me at cgiavanti@mindspring.com to receive a .PDF copy of the entire article including the “Top 10 Tips” as it appeared in the July – August 2016 issue of Vineyard & Winery Management Magazine.

Why Email Marketing Part II?

The Persistence and Benefits of Email Marketing

Co-Authored by Carl Giavanti & Patty Ross

This article is an update from Part One which I shared with The Grapevine Magazine readers in July 2015. It’s my feeling that email marketing is more important than ever as a strategic part of your DTC Marketing programs.

Why does email marketing persist? I ask this because there are so many other exciting marketing subjects such as next gen wine clubs, experienced based tasting room programs, paid advertising on social media platforms, text marketing, mobile marketing, and Winery PR. To paraphrase, it appears that the death of email marketing has been greatly exaggerated. And here’s why – Patty Ross, a DTC Consultant Network member, and owner of Virtually For You says “For every $1.00 invested, email marketing is shown to return $44.25 according to a study by EmailExpert on the ROI of email marketing. It has the highest conversion rate by far of any other form of direct marketing.”

Email marketing persists because it’s affordable and indispensable to your DTC success; and email marketing is one of the best ways to facilitate communications and build brand loyalty; and to promote either owned content (your website, blog, photos, videos, etc.), or to use earned media (your 3rd party endorsements, media coverage, accolades). It also persists because it is low risk to subscribers, permission based and your followers will receive information related to their specific interests.

Benefits of Email Marketing:

  • Subscription is opt in and can easily be cancelled, so there is little risk for new followers
  • Subscribers will receive your communications, unlike social posts which are now highly filtered
  • Can promote adding your email to address books, and your email will definitely land in Inboxes
  • Email Marketing System publishing is now highly integrated with social media networks
  • Analytics and Tracking allow you to see results (opens, clicks, bounces), so you can take action
  • Multiple collection options include paper signup forms, iPad or Tablets, your website, and POS

How to Get Started

If you are not already sending emails to your lists, start by creating an annual marketing calendar. Map out the full year, considering all holidays, winery club events, new releases and area events you may be involved in. Then fill in the calendar with promotions you may typically run like Black Friday specials, library releases, etc. Putting your winery business on a calendar ahead of time also helps you see what you might need to plan to attract new visitors and bring in wine club members on a regular basis. This may seem basic, but many wineries tend to operate “on the fly” and give up when they run out of ideas. You can always adjust the plan as you add events or promotions, but get the foundation down.

Test, Test, Analyze and Test

Once you start sending emails, make sure you test different types of emails, do split tests known as A/B testing to see what different approaches work best and analyze the results so you can adjust your approach next time. All E-Mail Marketing platforms provide basic analytics like open and click through rates. You can also link your emails to Google Analytics and create “goals” to follow the links and clicks all the way to a sale. You should know the basics of Opens, Clicks and Conversions to help you get the most out of your email campaigns.

All of this brings me to the point of this article. Email Marketing is a proven driver of actions you want your current and prospective customers to take. It’s inexpensive and you can segment and target your audience specific to their interests and track the results. If your winery has a tasting room, this is where you drive traffic to promote your wines, and where you’ll be able to really connect with people. And, if subscribers are out of state, you can communicate by pointing them to your website and hope to transact business there. If you’re one of my email subscribers and read this article in my next newsletter, I’ll suggest that you “click here to read more”, which takes you out to my website blog page where this article resides. I want you to read the conclusion of this article on my website, which is my point here. It’s difficult to sell wine with newsletters and social media, but you can create calls to action that take your customers where you can sell wine, either in person or on your website.

Successful Content Marketing is imperative for small producers to build their brands and to sell with direct to consumer. Targeted content increases the likelihood of success. Use strong Subject Lines to build immediate curiosity as attention spans and reading times are so short these days. Segment your email lists and deliver content relevant to specific group’s interests. Shipping promos for out of state subscribers and local events for those in state are simple examples.

How many email subscribers do you need? The answer is as many as you can get, and more specifically a minimum of 1,000 to 5,000 are good goals. If you aren’t already incenting your staff to sell signups, please do so. I attended the 2016 DTC Wine Symposium and the range of spiffs paid per signup was reported as $1-$5.00 each. Sound like a lot? Would you pay $2.50 for a return on investment of $44.25? You bet you would.

Be Consistent!

I can never say that enough. Consistency is truly the key when it comes to e-mail marketing. Don’t send out one email and then give up. Don’t be afraid to send more emails to general interest subscribers; and your club members want to hear beyond reminders to update their credit card. Use the 80/20 rule (Educate/Promote) and you’ll be fine. Your subscribers will appreciate it, and when you do offer special deals they’ll take notice. And don’t relegate e-mail marketing duties to your already busy wine club or tasting room manager where the job of sending e-mails usually falls behind taking care of visitors, doing tours and washing glasses. Find a dedicated person to help you keep the calendar on track! Newsletter marketing will boost wines sales and the effects can be immediate.

CARL GIAVANTI has been involved in business marketing and public relations for over 25-years; originally in technology, digital marketing and project management, and now as a winery media relations consultant. Carl started by focusing on DTC Marketing for wineries 7 years ago, and formed a Winery PR Consultancy over 4 years ago (www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.com/Media). Clients are or have been in Napa Valley, the Carneros, Willamette Valley, and the Columbia Gorge.

PATTY ROSS, owner of Virtually For You (http://www.virtuallyforyou.com) has been assisting wineries and other small businesses with digital marketing, social media, email marketing, tasting room support and wine club logistics for almost 15 years. Patty’s has helped winery clients in Napa, Sonoma, Monterey, Mendocino and Paso Robles, and currently resides on the Central Coast of California.

CONTENT Drives Winery Recognition; Now More Than Ever

Leveraging all three types of content is critical for small producers

Let’s face it; brand building was easier 20 years ago. Small production wineries today are in an extremely competitive environment. There are close to 9,000 wineries and growing in the U.S. alone. International brands are flooding our markets with good quality and aggressively priced imports. Add to that the consolidation of U.S. distributors, and you have lots of boutique wineries desperately seeking attention and representation from far fewer distributors. Twenty years ago it was not uncommon to be 100% allocated to wholesalers. Today, this is not a realistic model. Here are some wine market facts to consider:

  • 1995 – 2,600 Wineries and 3,000 Distributors*
  • 2008 – The Great Recession starts. Distributors consolidate their books and themselves, and focus on larger, well-known brands
  • 2015 – 8,800 Wineries and 700 Distributors*
  • Today – Distributors work hard selling major brands, and are not necessarily looking for small producers with premium-priced wines
  • Today – five or six national beverage distributors control 65% of all wines wholesaled nationally
  • Today – Large retailers have monopoly power. Retailers with private labels are proliferating and call the shots (Total Wine, Trader Joe’s, Costco)
  • Today – There are fewer print publications with paid staff journalists and wine columns to discovery and report your winery story, and review your wines
  • Today – Wine journalism as a whole is moving from print to a digital medium. How will these outlets generate revenue? They will be looking to you for advertising and/or sponsorship dollars
  • Today – Online wine writers continue to proliferate. Which ones are in your strategic markets? How many are credible and have impact?
  • Today – Wine publications are starting to screen your wines in advance of permitting submissions due to sheer volume alone
  • Today – Wine publications may want you to pay for high scores with label placement and ads in their print and online editions
  • Today – It’s a pay-to-play world and getting consumer mindshare and media recognition can be difficult and expensive
  • Today – Wine consumers are overwhelmed with the sea of wine available
  • But – All is not lost! Please read on!

Today’s challenging marketplace requires small wineries to take control of your own destiny – both DTC Marketing and Wine Media Outreach are the key. Distributors are (for the most part) not going to help you “build your brand” unless there is a quick ROI and minimal risk. It is essential for small producers to tell their own stories, and get their brands and wines to market and be recognized by consumers. I talk specifics on how to get coverage for your brand in this article: Winery PR in a Pay-to-Play World.

All of this brings me to the point of this article—the critical importance of Content. Let’s review the three types of marketing content: owned, paid and earned content.

Owned Content is what you’ve created and actually own—your website, social media platforms, winery blog and news, photos, videos, etc. Paid Content is exposure you purchase—advertising, label placement, etc. And finally, Earned Content is the most important if you want to expand your reach beyond the subscribers and followers you already have and are already marketing to.

Earned Content or Earned Media are third party endorsements by wine writers or other media outlets —media coverage for your brand that results in accolades like feature articles, media mentions, wine reviews and scores. This is also why brand building through media outreach is imperative, as there are too many wineries for writers to discover unless you are being proactive. Can you still be a wine media darling just by making exceptionally good wine? Maybe, but don’t count on it. Put a media program in place to ensure your news and Your Voice is heard.

This area of Earned Content or Earned Media is important because it contributes to the library of content your winery can use in its marketing efforts. Wine is still an esoteric luxury purchase for many consumers, and they rely on expert opinions to support their buying decisions. Links to articles, podcasts, and video interviews about your brand are great marketing content. Share your scores, medals and other achievements in your general interest and wine club newsletters, and on social media. These are the bragging rights that you’ve earned, and that makes a huge difference in today’s wine world. On the flip side, garnering media attention but not doing anything with it, such as mentioning and linking to it on your website, blog and social media pages, is a terrible waste of a precious resource.

Despite our new 21st Century challenges, these are actually sunny days for the premium wines category. Get your Marketing and PR game on now, and bank enough Earned Media content to help you weather the more difficult times to come.

*Source: SVB 2015 State of the Wine Industry

CARL GIAVANTI has been involved in business marketing and public relations for over 25-years; originally in technology, digital marketing and project management, and now as a winery media relations consultant. Carl started by focusing on DTC Marketing for wineries 7 years ago, and formed a Winery PR Consultancy over 4 years ago (www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.com/Media). Clients are or have been in Napa Valley, the Carneros, Willamette Valley, and the Columbia Gorge.

Beyond “Food Friendly”: Pairing Suggestions That Actually Help Sell Your Wine

Guest Post by Deirdre Bourdet, CEO of Hedonism Ink

People have been consuming wine and food together for thousands of years, because wine generally makes your food taste better — and food generally makes your wine taste better. Smart tasting rooms offer guests a bit of charcuterie, nuts, or other wine-loving snacks to sample with their wines, knowing that these few bites will make the wines — and really, the whole tasting experience — immensely more enjoyable. A thoughtful food match can transform a mousy wallflower of a wine into a celebrity rockstar … that surprise new favorite that people feel compelled to share with all their friends and followers.

If we know people like to drink wine with food, and we know wines taste better with food, then why do so many wine producers give the issue of food pairings short shrift in their marketing strategy? Few wine descriptions, tasting notes or sell sheets include any information at all about successful food pairings. Some offer up the revelation that a wine is “food friendly” (a term most consumers read as a warning not to consume on its own), or advise that it “pairs well with pasta or grilled meats.” These kinds of vague, obvious suggestions are absolutely useless — as well as a lost opportunity to educate your consumer on the many excellent ways they can enjoy your wine.

Let’s review the basic facts of food and wine pairing: a successful match depends almost entirely on how you season the main ingredient of your dish, rather than the type of protein or dish. Many seafood dishes are transcendent with red wines, and many meat dishes (particularly southeast Asian dishes) are far superior paired with white wines. Many salads are delectable with red wines, and pasta can pair with any wine on earth, depending on what comes with it.

Unless your pairing suggestions offer advice on the flavors and preparations that complement your wine, you’re not giving your customer any useful information to guide them on how and when they should consume your wine. In my opinion, this is a total marketing fail — especially for classically styled or funky wines that don’t show particularly well without food.

So, what to do? Obviously it’s impossible to describe every single dish and preparation method that would flatter your wine — there are just too many options. But even on a back label or a shelf talker, you have enough room to point out a few specific seasonings or flavors (e.g., fresh goat cheese, basil, tandoori spice, mushrooms) that would complement your wine. Rather than just matching the aromas already in the wine, try to focus here on flavors that will harmonize and build on them. Mirroring a wine’s aromatic characteristics in a pairing often cancels them out entirely — a smoky wine paired with a smoky meat typically makes both taste less smoky, for example. A better pairing utilizes the wine’s distinctive flavors as additional ingredients for the dish, layering on complexity in the total (wine + food) mouthful. Identifying some of these key complementary flavors helps consumers identify easy ways they might be able to work your wine into dinner tonight.

In marketing collateral with more space to dive into details (tasting notes, online product descriptions, etc.), you can go a step further and suggest some actual dishes to try. Remember to describe them in a way that makes their flavor profiles clear … think “sole with browned butter,” “spicy Thai coconut curries,” “steak au poivre”. Pick a variety of dishes that shows off the versatility of the wine — perhaps “fresh tomato and Brie sandwiches, grilled salmon with thyme and fennel, or roasted duck with five spice” — and consider including a simple recipe for one of these suggested pairings to take the guesswork out of it. Even if your customer never makes the dish, a well-written recipe provides useful guidance about successful pairing options and cooking techniques, as well as an evocative image of deliciousness.

Everyone loves to eat, and most people are far more familiar with food imagery than they are with wine descriptions. An alluring food idea can make your wine less intimidating, and easier to picture fitting into their holiday meals, weekend dinner parties, and Taco Tuesdays. And if you make it easier for people to enjoy your wine, they’ll not only drink more of it — they’ll also appreciate your help. In my experience, good food pairing suggestions are one of the key value-adds that keep people in wine clubs. (Wine club parties with excellent food pairings are another.)

In sum: thoughtful pairing suggestions are an easy way to provide your consumers with fun educational information, and provide your wines with the culinary context that make them taste their best. And because so few wineries focus on this marketing opportunity, even a little extra effort in this area sets your winery apart, lifting it head and shoulders above the “food friendly” competition.

Deirdre Bourdet is the Principal and Chief Eating Officer of Hedonism Ink, a wine and food writing service based in Napa Valley. As a Cordon Bleu-trained chef, recipe developer and wine industry copywriter, she’s always devising delicious new ways to enjoy wine. If you’d like help creating food pairing notes or recipes, please feel free to reach out by email: hedonism.ink@gmail.com.

© Hedonism Ink, 2015. All rights reserved.

Is your Wine Club still relevant?

As Groucho Marx famously once said “I’d never join a club that would have me as a member”.

Let’s assume you are a craft producer with a well conceived and unique branding approach, and don’t mass produce your wines; then why would you mass produce wine club members?

Wine Clubs are now in place at 90% of all wineries in US, and are growing year over year by an average 15%, according to the SVB Survey as reported in July by Wine Business Monthly. They have become an expected commodity. How to differentiate your offerings from the madding crowd of clubs?

First, let’s note some of the ways a winery can fail at the basics of club execution:
· Not asking people to join your club (not selling membership)
· Not asking for member referrals and providing member rewards
· Not auto charging cards in advance of pickup
· Allowing members to purchase their wine allocation at their leisure over time
· Growing members too fast and not being able to service them
· Not providing special treatment to your members during a tasting room visit
· Not communicating regularly with your wine club (1/4ly club news and invites)
· Not having enough events and pickup parties to engage and sell to your members
· Doing the same things most other wineries do; not offering something unique
· Shipping paid for wine without communicating to members
· Not offering a “Choose your own wine” option. Mandating “Winemaker Selection”

What happens when you lose Members? See my December 2012 article on “Wine Club Loss Management“.

How to make your club offering more relevant in today’s competitive market?

Start with surveying your club members. Survey Monkey is a free survey tool that is easy to use, anonymous and no cost to you for up to 10 questions (which are plenty). You will be surprised and impressed with what you will learn from your own best customers. Next, design and implement some changes. Announce the results to your club members with great aplomb and thank them for their feedback and ongoing loyalty. Communicate the details of your next club event when the changes will be rolled out. There is really not much to it, but to do it.

Other than discounts, what motivates members to continue patronizing your club? I’m starting to see “Experiences” rather than discounts emerging. I have a client who decided they weren’t giving purchase discounts to their members, but would create a dynamic series of unique group experiences instead. I was resistant at first but came around (Fellow consultants, listen to your clients!). Seated tastings have also been widely proven to increase the average wine purchase per visit and wine club signup rate. This makes sense since customers opt to pay a few dollars more for something special and you provide exceptional and personalized attention.

Also, points based loyalty programs, where the buyer decides what level of discount they want to earn, are another example of an innovative client rewarding the folks that spend, after they have spent! This is very similar to what the airlines and lodging industry have popularized.

Why bother to up the ante and keep your club relevant?

Average tenure of club memberships has increased from about 18 months to over 2 years. Average annual spend per member appears to be up from an $450 two years ago to almost $650 per member. Let’s do the math here. That’s a lifetime value of about $1,500 per member. Is that enough of a reason to keep your Wine Club relevant?