Cavalcade of Covid Creativity

New Products and Services for Wineries

I’ve been on the receiving end of several pitches for new products and services from startup companies looking to help promote the wine business and potentially my clients. Why now I’m wondering? It seems that Covid-19 has unleased the creativity, resources and marketing talents of many erstwhile service providers seeking to enter the business. The programs range from river cruises to loyalty credit cards for wine lovers; from wine mapping and appointment apps to virtual tasting programs; consumer shipping and distribution services for small producers, to creative media outlets including new podcasts, mobile apps and Wine TV shows.

If you’re interested in details on any of the above, contact me by email and I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned. Today, I’d like to highlight an interesting online value purchase platform called Wine Insiders. I was contacted by the company and sent wines to review, but for this article I will review the company value proposition and timing for market entry. I will also comment on two of the wines.

Just six months ago, wine shipping lagged other commodities. This is no longer the case. Stay at home orders in most states prompted online wine purchases by consumers that had never purchased wine DTC in the past. As the pandemic carries on and employment lingers, value priced quality wine will continue to attract more buyers. That’s where Wine Insiders comes in. From their press release:

  • #1 transactional marketplace by volume
  • #1 rated wine site in the country with over 3,000 5-star reviews on Google Stores
  • Over 6 million orders from 2 million households across the nation
  • $400 million revenue to date
  • Tech-savvy audience: 47% of revenue comes from mobile devices

Wow, who knew? According to this well-timed press release on March 17th (did they nail pantry-stocking or what?), Wine Insiders is a brand marketing company that has been around for 38 years, and they have launched another remake of their program. If you are interested in wines in the $8-$20 U.S. range, a fan of Wine Insiders’ partner Martha Stewart’s and her fav value wines, or no-charge shipping (6 bottles+), this might be the site for you to explore – https://wineinsiders.com/

My wife and I tasted through the six wines we received. Here are some notes from our two favorites.

2019 Cantina di Solopaca Falanghina, Benvento, Italy. 13% Alc. $22 $17

This white wine is pale yellow to straw colored, very clear and translucent in the glass. Lemon aromas were predominant on the nose with light white flower notes. On the palate, this was a balanced dry wine with nice floral and citrus notes and good acidity. Pair with salad if you like lemon-based dressing.

We would classify this as a “liar” grape in that it opens off-dry, but finishes quite dry. This is a fun wine with mouth-watering acidity which we decided to enjoy with our dinner, a salmon and pesto pasta. We’d buy and recommend.

2019 Fuerza de la Tierra Tempranillo, La Mancha, Spain 13% Alc. $20 $15

This red wine is intensely deep purple, almost opaque and very pretty in color. We couldn’t stop noticing its appearance. We got dark red fruit and pleasant earthy/herbal/vegetal notes on the nose. This is a medium acidity and medium tannin wine that is built for food now, but we feel will benefit from at least 1-2 years in your cellar. We’d call this a “bad boy” Tempranillo, aggressive but with promise, like an adolescent needing time to mature. We like it, recommend, and would buy. Pair with meat, heavy sauces or savory dishes.

For label images of these two reviews, please check my social media sites – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @CarlGiavanti

Covid’s Winery Wake Up Call

It’s About Marketing, Not Winemaking

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.

Note: This article originally ran on July 20th, 2020 as an Expert Editorial by Wine Industry Network: https://wineindustryadvisor.com/2020/07/20/covids-winery-wake-up-call

CARL GIAVANTI is a Winery Publicist with a DTC Marketing background. He’s going on his 12th 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).

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).

 

 

 

Covid, Community & Commerce

The emergence of online engagement and eCommerce 

Many wineries, business partners and consumers are at home in some form of quarantine or under stay at home restrictions. This is a communications opportunity – to interact with other tasting room and wine industry professionals on social media – as well as with your customers, and not just to sell wine. Consumers will want to know what’s going on with the winery, and may be interested in engaging with you online. DTC marketing outreach by old school mail, email and social media will keep people informed and updated, as well as offer them online opportunities to enjoy your wines shipped direct to their homes.

Be authentic and genuine. What is Your Brand really all about? I’m reading that people don’t want more pitches for wine, but want to know what the winery is doing to accommodate followers and community during the crisis. I would hedge a little on promos, and err on the side of subtlety and indirect offers, by focusing on wine education and entertainment experiences which are brand appropriate.

Is this the long-awaited inflection point to meaningful winery eCommerce? Now is the time for wineries to find creative ways to shift their business models and shift their sales channel strategies. The last 10 years saw an adjustment from reliance on distribution sales to selling Consumer Direct. Small producers with fully established DTC programs are the most affected by this disruption and many are reacting very quickly and creatively with online solutions. I think this will be the point of transition for those wineries that have not fully embraced eCommerce, to establish online sales as a significant and ongoing part of their DTC programs.

In addition to curbside pickup and drop-off services, there has been lots of interest and many calls for Virtual Tastings from the winery associations and the media. They are looking for events that are part of your programming, so scheduling and publishing well in advance – to allow for system testing (Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Zoom, Skype, etc.) and presentation practice is important, as well as providing ample time for shipping if customers are interested in acquiring specific wines for the event. From my perspective, this could and should become part of your ongoing DTC program – post pandemic – to reach out-of-state and other targeted groups, i.e. consumers, out of state club members, trade or media – so why not get a program in place now and take a leadership position?

I also suggest you do the math and focus on “Shipping Included” promotions versus discounts. Develop a progressive schedule of different packages and gift packs for instance. Consider which wines to offer for virtual tasting events featuring winemaker and staff. You might be surprised at people’s willingness to meet and taste with you online – with either your wines or for wine education. Finally, remember the phone? I know its old school, but the human voice is reassuring. Keep your staff engaged by having them contact your best customers, not just club members. Check to see how they are doing, let them know what’s happening at the winery – and just this one time – don’t ask or mention selling them wine. You might be surprised at the results.

Here are some best practice marketing articles I’ve read that you may find helpful:

For my part as a publicist, I’m focused on shipping wines to reviewers across the U.S., not only the large national publications but also critics and writers whose opinion matters. Their reports and reviews will help my clients stay top of mind and provide important content to support their marketing efforts. I’ll also reschedule canceled March and April visits, and hopefully start booking media tours again late spring, early summer. That’s my best guess timing at this point. Of course, pitching client stories to national and regional outlets including magazines, broadcast and radio seemingly never ends.

Things that wineries can do on the digital and marketing side are:

  • Website – update all pages with current information, virtual offers and photos. Position the site as if you are an online only business, with tasting room and in person experiences coming soon. Special focus now should be on the shopping cart and mobile shopping experience. Is the site fully responsive? If not fix that. What shipping or “quarantine” promos can you run to capture online sales?
  • Photo Gallery – setup or update your gallery by category (Seasons, Views, People, Vineyard, Harvest, Events, etc.) and populate with best available high-resolution photos. Someone will need to curate your library of photos. I use this resource often for media image requests. Why is professional photography so important?
  • Content Schedule – setup and maintain a schedule for email and social media marketing. Identify content in advance – news, promos, photos, etc. This also helps me coordinate media outreach and with your marketing department.
  • Wine Club Retention – you are likely to get some cancels or credit card rejections. Offer membership suspends for 3 months, downsize club levels or at least keep them on the general email list for future “we want you back” campaigns.

I believe the 2020 pandemic will trigger an industry-wide transition to more meaningful digital and social communications, and most importantly eCommerce as a profitable channel. Not all wineries will get it done. Those that do will be in a better position going forward.

CARL GIAVANTI is a Winery Publicist with a DTC Marketing background. He’s going on his 10th 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).

Three Biggest Challenges Facing Small Wineries Today?

I think the real story in the Willamette Valley (and other small regions nationally) is that 75% of wineries produce fewer than 5,000 cases annually. It’s micro-production by any measure. They have survived because of so-called “Premiumization” and the recent fascination with their AVAs. What will happen when the next economic downturn occurs, as the distribution consolidation continues, and/or as vineyard and winery acquisitions accelerate (which they are doing now)? Are there business parallels between what is happening in Willamette Valley and other burgeoning industries such as craft beer or high tech? Is large destined to win? How will small craft producers survive and thrive in the long run?

Distribution

Distribution is one of the most challenging business problems small-production wineries face. Consider that just 20 years ago there were roughly 2,500 wineries and 3,000 distributors. The odds of having your wines represented by distributors were very high due to the demand for excellent wines. Distributors worked hard to help build winery brands. That is not the case today. There are more than 9,000 wineries in the U.S., and with the consolidation of the largest distributors, I estimate only 700 distribution companies remain. And for economic reasons, they focus on large family or corporate winery groups, high profit margins and depletions. The small winery simply cannot compete. Ironically, market research and industry studies show that today’s consumers want to try and purchase more from small craft brands (as opposed to the well-established brands that used to be consumers’ preference), but cannot find them available in the marketplace.

Additionally, I was reminded of the purchasing power of retailers that act as wholesalers. I made a trip to Costco recently and discovered cut-rate pricing for Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs on display for Oregon Wine Month. Would you believe $10.99 for Willamette Valley label wines? Concurrently, there are active initiatives to control labeling and varietal percentages to enhance the Willamette Valley brand and presumably our price points. I can’t make sense of this discounted pricing in the long run, despite the recent large yield vintages.

Competition

While there are still many small winery operations starting up these days, there are many others that are better equipped for this hyper-competitive environment. I believe we are living in a wine bubble that is destined to pop for economic, political or other unforeseen reasons. Starting a winery today requires significant funding and marketing wherewithal to stand out in today’s crowded, competitive market. We not only have too many wineries in small regions like Willamette Valley, we’re seeing many more from all over the world that bring serious investment dollars and business savvy to bear. Many smaller wineries aren’t so well prepared.

I am also starting to see high quality and reasonably priced $20-$30 Pinot Noir – which I believe is sustainable for most small wineries – and should act as a good hedge against eventual restrained consumer spending, as well as to supply national wholesale markets.

Brand Building

Why do this? Because top of mind awareness is the only way to ensure consumers will buy wine from you when they are ready. The adage goes something like this – Repetition breeds familiarity; Familiarity breeds trust; and Trust leads to Sales. It’s the justification for advertising and media relations programs.

While getting media coverage is still essential for businesses, it is increasingly challenging due to the proliferation of wineries and dearth of established writers with ongoing columns. In other words, the days of being “discovered” and handed a strong fan base due to media coverage have passed.

Writers are not paid enough to research and discover, nor do they have time to do so. Wine brands that stand out in today’s world tend to get ongoing media coverage for three reasons: (1) They are already popular, often written about, and quick and easy for writers to review; and/or (2) They are easily found in the marketplace due to distribution; and 3) They spend advertising dollars with a media outlet. Many print and online publications rely on a pay-to-play system to survive in a post-Internet world. This leaves many small-production wineries out of the equation, and mostly for financial reasons.

Another aspect of branding is controlling your winery profiles on social media. I like to think of social media as Consumer PR. Have you claimed your profiles on all the relevant sites? I mean not only the obvious ones – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, but also the travel itinerary, wine country mapping, wine rating and mobile app sites. Monitor, post and engage consistently.

Strategies

My feeling is that a balanced approach of direct-to-consumer marketing (direct sales in tasting room/club members and eCommerce), ongoing brand building (using media coverage in your marketing), and specialized targeted distribution options (online brokers, targeted states) are required to ensure success. Unless you have been established for a long period of time (5 years or more), a reasonable goal is 20-30% wholesale and 70% direct sales.

Small do-it-all-yourself wineries are finally hiring marketing staff – DTC or Hospitality Managers – either from within the wine business or outside – experienced hospitality professionals (hotel and restaurant staff come to mind) are excellent hires. They understand the importance of the customer service experience and can quickly acquire sufficient wine knowledge. And they have direct experience with seated tastings, proven to generate higher sales per visitor. Give them a mobile POS and cut them loose.

Consider creating a staff position to manage your wine club, and choreograph the sales path with your staff. Why? Loyalty programs might be the saving grace for small producers. Revenue is recurring and mostly predictable. Members refer friends when treated well and their business is appreciated. Get a handle on this important aspect of your direct sales program while wine clubs are still viable.

Doing outreach and getting media exposure will continue to build awareness of your brand and unique market position to support these goals. Using third-party expert opinions (feature articles, wine reviews and scores) in your content marketing will help you to stay top of mind with your customers.

CARL GIAVANTI is a Winery Publicist with a DTC Marketing background, going on his 10th 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).

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.

Do Small Wineries really need KPIs?

Continuous Improvement – preparing for the competitive storm

By Carl Giavanti and Aron Brajtman

If I had mentioned KPI’s eight years ago when I started doing marketing consulting, I would have been escorted out of the room, maybe even the AVA. That is not the case anymore.

Measuring your sales performance is critical, as much as we’d like to not believe it. Remember the “field of dream” days, when you could just make great wine and it would sell itself?  Until the great recession (2008-2009) timeframe you may have had this experience. We have fond memories of inventory depletions, really big Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, and festivals and events where you sold a lot of wine. I remember many wineries saying they didn’t bother getting emails from consumers, nor doing a lot of marketing or tracking sales performance. KPIs? What?

Now we all know those days are long gone and wineries must run themselves like well oiled marketing machines to ensure their survival. I like to say that 50% of total staff time (including your own) needs to be spent on marketing – wholesale, retail, trade and DTC – whatever your channel mix.

Peter Drucker, business management guru once stated “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”, which brings us to the point of this article – Key Performance Indicators.

Don’t think these business measurements apply to your winery? Unless you are a cult winery that is fully allocated with a substantial wait list, bear with me and continue reading.

KPIs are a way for wineries to define success and measure performance, and make progress toward your business goals. For most small producers, DTC goals are selling more wine, improving sales efficiency, acquiring and retaining customers, and retaining staff and improving morale.

This article is primarily concerned with improving DTC sales performance, because the pool of high-end high-frequency consumers is limited and there are many more wineries marketing to them than ever. Additionally, we know that consumers can be fickle. They support your brand and bring their friends around when the value they get from interacting with the winery exceeds the price they are asked to pay. This is a topical issue as we are seeing early signs that the “premiumization” trend is weakening, with the introduction of new marks and second labels at lower price points.

When I query winery owners and managers about tracking and using metrics, I find that most can give me basic sales data such as total revenue by month or compared to last year, percent of tasting room versus wine club sales, DTC compared to other channels, and statistical data such as number of club members, size of email list, number of social followers, etc. However, not everyone successfully tracks total number of tasting room visitors (new, repeat, paid, comp, club), referral sources (how they heard about you), and staff performance and labor metrics.

Once you are capturing all of this data you’re ready to turn it into actionable management information that will drive business results. If you are not great with spreadsheets, or current system does not provide performance tracking functionality, find one that does.

Here are some basic winery DTC sales measurements (KPIs) to implement:

  • Sales per employee: The higher the number in the tasting room indicates whether the staff focuses on supplying the customer with value and whether staff captures a portion of that value for the winery.
  • Conversion ratios: What percentage of visitors to the tasting room actually buy? What percentage join the wine club? What percentage leave their email for further communication?
  • Average order value (AOV): Average sale per tasting room visitor? Is the trend going up?
  • Average annual wine club sales per member? What is the average add-on percentage?
  • What is the Wine Club attrition rate annually?
  • What is average tenure? What measures are taken to retain loyal customers?

Tie your winery’s goals to these measurements and clearly communicate the importance to staff:

  • Post individual, team and winery goals
  • Review and make adjustments monthly
  • Share success, and highlight team members
  • Establish a bonus program to reward staff

Continuous Improvement is the mantra for small production wineries and the key to survival in this ultra competitive environment. Start now – Create goals, track data, establish KPIs, then measure, improve and Repeat!

I track wine industry benchmarks for these KPIs. Feel free to contact me if you’d like that data.

Finally, thanks to Aron Brajtman for initiating this article, providing the KPIs from an accountant point of view and reminding me that even wineries need to be run as businesses. If you found the KPIs helpful, the next step is to understand KFIs (Key Financial Indicators) such as Liquidity, Earnings Growth, Profitability, Activity, Efficiency and Leverage. If you’d like a copy of the winery Financial Metrics white paper by Aron, please email me request at cgiavanti@mindspring.com.

CARL GIAVANTI is Winery Publicist with a DTC Marketing background. He’s completing his 8th 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).

ARON BRAJTMAN is a CPA and the owner of a CPA firm that deals uniquely in supplementing the operational skills and talents of entrepreneurs with accounting and finance strategy. Aron has over 30 years of experience providing accounting and business solutions to small and mid-sized businesses and nonprofit institutions. He is located in a fast growing wine region in Canada known as Prince Edward County where he provides services to local wineries and other businesses. http://www.abrajtman.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.