Wine Marketing: Science or Magic?

The following is a guest post by Larry Chandler: wine sales and marketing guru!  Please see his bio at the end of this post for more information!

This is blog post #2 billion on wine marketing. Everybody writes about it. A few of them even have something important to say.

So in summary:

1. Know your market
2. Write well
3. Watch the money roll in.

Ok, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. #3 is patently false. #2 means nothing, you either write well or know how to hire well or perhaps neither. So you may need to work on this. But #1 is the most important here, and that’s what we’ll discuss.

Let’s assume you want to sell wine. Let’s assume you actually make wine or work for a winery. Let’s also assume you make good wine. Selling bad wine requires a skill far beyond our abilities here.

Marketing and selling are not the same thing. To paraphrase marketing guru Peter Drucker, “The aim of wine marketing is to make selling wine superfluous.” So where do you start? Marketing involves everything about your brand: what your labels look like, where you might talk about your wine (advertising, social

This photo is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the ARC Identifier (National Archives Identifier) 515058. [PUBLIC DOMAIN]

This photo is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the ARC Identifier (National Archives Identifier) 515058. [PUBLIC DOMAIN]

media, wine events), how people can taste your wine, where they can buy it, etc. Only then will you be in a position to sell your wine. And if your wine is really good, then people who enjoy it can become your best salespeople (now called “brand ambassadors”).

Who buys your wine now? Do you even know? Do you have a tasting room? If so, you do ask for their email addresses and maybe their phone numbers. No? Why not? They are your customers. They want to buy more at some point. Don’t ignore them. Everyone talks about social media (incessantly). Important, yes. But do not neglect email. It’s still (as of this writing) crucial.

If you don’t have a tasting room, do you do winemaker dinners? Tastings at festivals? Wine store events? Do you ask for emails there?

Do you have a Facebook page? Do you bother to post interesting content? Do you reply to comments placed on your page? Facebook is not simply advertising by the way. Or shouldn’t be. Engagement (responding to people) works.

Do you perform target marketing? Do you choose to market to men, women, young people, existing customers, lovers of a particular variety, big or small spenders?

Do you check out case studies or ask other winemakers how they do it? Will a favorable or unfavorable review of your wine change your plans? Many people today denigrate existing wine publications, such as the Wine Spectator or the Wine Advocate. Don’t. Maybe they are dying breeds, but they sure ain’t dead yet. And a high score can do wonders for your brand. This may change as younger people pay less attention to wine scores.

So is this marketing science? Could be. Is it just wild guessing? Could be. How much time can you spend on reading about marketing, taking seminars, talking to fellow winemakers? You can drown in a sea of data. After all, there are only 48 hours in a day.

The answer to where you go from here, how you market is simple. Start doing it. Learn some of the basics of analytics, who your customers are, and market to them. But don’t spend all your time on it. Create a marketing plan, but don’t wait until it is perfect. Send out an email, but don’t assume you will start moving all your product. Test it, perhaps an A/B test. See if a discount works better than free shipping. Learn from this. Create interesting content, but don’t wait forever for inspiration to hit. (A short wait is fine.) Go with what you know now and spend time with the results and try it again. You may only get one chance to make your 2013 Chardonnay, but you can re-do your marketing efforts.

There is no one answer for every winery. Learn what works for you. Your winery is unique. Even with 8,000 other wineries in the US, your strategy needs to be unique to you. There is no one like you with your same product mix, your same price points, your same customers.

We know of one winery that makes only 2,000 cases of their very well respected wine, and distributes only within California. They noticed they were getting wine club members from all over the country. When they asked those new members how they heard of this brand, all replied that they had this wine in restaurants in California. So the winery knew it had to focus even more on getting on the wine lists of restaurants in California.

You can pay for marketing advice and expertise if you can afford it. If not, you

Photo By NBC Television [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By NBC Television [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

can pay attention to the results and try to change your approach if it didn’t work the first time. You can also join the wine forums on Facebook and LinkedIn among other places. Valuable advice is traded there.

In summary:

1. Set up a business plan.
2. Create a marketing strategy
3. Develop tactics to fulfill your strategy
4. Learn from your mistakes
5. Try again

Oh, and don’t forget mobile devices and marketing specifically for that. But that’s a whole ‘nother post.

Wine Marketing is a science. But like making wine, it is part science, part art, and part magic.

Bio: Larry Chandler has been involved in marketing and selling wine for 20 years for both wine retailers and wineries. He also conducts tastings and lectures on wine and food pairings. His wine blog is http://overabarrel.wordpress.com and can be reached at larry@larrychandler.com.

5 comments for “Wine Marketing: Science or Magic?

  1. Robert C
    May 13, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    I always thought of marketing as a jedi mind trick.

    • Becca
      May 13, 2013 at 9:50 pm

      YES! I think you’re absolutely right! ;)

  2. May 15, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Dang, Larry! You know your stuff. Yeah – I like your mention of the incessant chatter over social media. Yes it is important – but it cannot be your only touch point with your target market. Like you said – it’s requires all avenues – email, online reviews, social media, restaurant resellers, and others to come (because technology changes and evolves).

    But the most important things it to “Just Do It” and then learn from your mistakes and then adjust your process based off what you learned from those mistakes. That is what running a business is all about. And that is also what makes it the most rewarding.

  3. Stacey Waldron
    May 22, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    This article provides some excellent winery marketing tips. I must share it with a few colleagues. Thank you!

    • Becca
      May 22, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      I’m glad you found it so helpful! Cheers!

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