1. Foundation. Direct Marketing Strategy always comes before Direct Marketing Tactics. Nothing makes me internally roll my eyes more than blog posts or experts talking about how all wineries should be on Pinterest, or everyone should be on E-Commerce Platform xyz, or how Event-Type X is the best way to retaine Wine Club customers. All gasoline powererd cars will get you from point A to point B, but sometimes a pickup works better than a Porsche.
The foundation for the Eiffel tower was dug to a depth of 53 feet. It was comprised of 20 feet of concrete, huge blocks of limestone, and 2 layers of hard stone. In each leg the workers set 2 anchor bolts 26 feet long and 4 inches in diameter.
If we work together, the first thing you’ll want to share with me is information about your wines, your brand, your customers, your selling style, your story. Then we will discuss what you have tried, and if you’ve tracked anything, or have any gut feelings on what worked or not. Finally, we’ll want to discuss what is reasonable to maintain moving forward. Social Media is a great way to have a dialog with customers, but if you have no chance of answering the other end of the cyberspace telephone line, then don’t give out your proverbial phone number. Which leads me to #2…
2. Every tactic is not right for every situation. (Please refer to #1…) Together we will review your price point, audience, bandwidth, budget and goals to see what might work for you – and it isn’t always a Facebook page (but it isn’t always email campaigns either.) Boring tried and true sometimes sells, but so does new and flashy. The trick is to find out what is right for you, which could mean some test campaigns. (Another thing we’ll explore is your tolerance for risk and trial.) But, the web is very pliable – trial and error is key.
3. Quality always outweighs quantity. I recently had lunch with a wealthy banker who had purchased a small winery and he spent the entire lunch telling me his plans for database mining through credit card companies. He plans to outsource a massive effort to India to collect hundreds of thousands of affluent card holder email addresses. When I asked how he knew if they were interested in wine, or were in states he could ship wine he replied with a grin, “I don’t care, that’s why this is beautiful, India and email are so cheap!” I could be wrong and will wait to see if this winery’s innovative email “spam-paign” will convert people who have bought patio furniture and cruises into wine buyers, but for now, I propose one-to-one interactions digitally, or in person, with customers and potential customers that are interested in wine. I know, it isn’t as flashy and it is hard work talking to folks all day long, but it works.
4. People buy wine with their hearts, not their heads. Yes, scores and tasting notes and the % of malolactic fermentation is lovely, but people want to connect with you – their wine brand – and know what is in it for them. And, I know what you’re going to say – the quality of the wine has to be there, and I agree, but I submit it isn’t the most important factor. Otherwise, how could you explain the success of wines under $3 using red dye #40? Engagement – real engagement where customers feel appreciated – and a good story will outsell high scores and press releases. This goes for trade sales, too, by the way. The wineries that have the best success at three tier distribution aren’t doing it by getting scores, either. They learn their accounts, study the wine lists, know their customers, make recommendations on where their wines can fit holes in portfolios – in other words do their homework and engage with the customer. Which brings me to the final point…
5. Karma baby, – hard work pays off. There may be that brief article in the WSJ wine review about your Pinot Noir and you sell out for a vintage or two, but good relationships, fair and consistent pricing and good, targeted, segmented communication over years is what builds businesses. We can all name wineries that thought they could skip the steps, buy lists, buy winemakers, buy wineries, but if you aren’t authentic, customers won’t buy it.