In the wine industry, we wax on an on about vineyard spacing, clonal selection, and sustainable farming programs. Then obsess over sorting lines, punch downs, yeast selection, fermentors and barrel regimes. We are calculated, mindful, and even dogmatic when it comes to our vines and wines. But when the time comes to build a business model, particularly as it relates to the marketing and demand creation side of things, we have a very small or non-existent budget, little time and even less interest.
This is like spending two days preparing a fancy French meal with the finest fresh ingredients and serving it on paper plates with Coors Light. Or writing an impassioned love letter to the object of your affection and dropping it into a mailbox without a stamp. None of this makes sense given all of the time and financial investment required to prepare the meal, write the letter or get a wine into bottle.
A recent survey by Sonoma State University's wine business researchers found that the number one strategic challenge facing wine businesses is "managing and building customer relationships and brand awareness." And the top two skills needed to prosper in the wine industry are marketing and strategic planning. Yet there are a surprising number of wine businesses operating without that third leg of the stool, and many wondering why it's so difficult to compete.
This is a self-fulfilling prophecy I've heard hundreds of times: "we don't have a marketing budget..." This mindset is a choice, and a very telling one at that, especially given what isn't being said: "...because we don't value marketing." Until there is investment and time set aside to build that third leg, it's going to continue to be a really tough market.
You are very likely marketing your business in a less than inspiring way. I sure was.
Do you spend a lot of time talking about your clones, soil, or special barrel regimes? How your particular Chardonnay is long in the palate or perfectly balanced? And tend to highlight that you've been doing it for 10, 20 or 50 years? If the answer is yes, then your marketing needs to be more captivating.
The 15 minute TED Talk by Simon Sinek linked below stopped me in my tracks. (Warning, watching it will likely be both exhausting and invigorating.)
Before watching Sinek deliver his presentation, when approached by prospective clients and asked questions about our agency, we would highlight our strong relationships, proven results and processes, regular results reporting and constant cycle of seeking continuous improvement in everything we do. Etc. etc.
All of this is still true; it just isn't a compelling reason to invest in our services. That's because Sinek argues that people buy your WHY, not your HOW or WHAT.
The good news is that your WHY is likely a pretty clear vision with which to reconnect. It goes right to the heart of your company. WHY do you love what you do? WHY does your company bring you joy? WHY did you start it in the first place?
In our case, our clients do not buy the HOW we do it (our cultivation of strong relationships, industry expertise, benchmarking results, hundreds of communications with journalists monthly) nor WHAT they receive (increased recognition, high ROI measured in earned media value, increased demand).
Instead, the businesses who are a fit with our family of clients connect with WHY we do what we do. They want to work with a wine focused PR agency that is inspired and driven by their WHY, and people who derive pleasure from cultivating the relationships necessary to achieve recognition for their vision.
Interestingly, understanding this produced a common thread amongst all of our clients -- something bigger than bringing delicious wine and food to market. Such as a deep desire to create a legacy, share joy, provide for others, or create a community or culture. Perfectly, really swallowing this makes for much better storytelling, which is WHAT we do.
It makes my day everytime one of our clients is featured by the journalists who work so diligently to bring compelling stories to their readers. What makes your day as a business owner?
If you would like to generate more recognition and demand in 2015, be sure to prioritize your public relations strategy. Effectively serving the media to build your brand starts with developing and an action plan and associated budget.
Why plan for and invest in media relations?
In the grand puzzle of brand magnetism, your online presence is only a slice of the pie.
Brand magnetism is a combination of forces that a company produces to attract customers. It draws customers to you and the products or services you provide. This effort is not limited to having a “Sales” or “Distribution” plan – it’s a series of objectives used to increase your brand awareness.
Many of these objectives can be identified under the Trellis Growth Partners’ Brand Magnetism model such as: internal team commitment or management’s vision and strategy, the consumer experience or online presence. Each force has to work cohesively for maximum effectiveness.
A streamlined, organized website can be an effective avenue to introduce customers to your brand story and the products that you offer.
"Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful.” - Sir Richard Branson, CEO, Virgin
I'm a Branson fan for many reasons. He's a proven entrepreneurial success, inventive thinker, witty spokesperson and has a beautiful way of getting right to the point when making one. His branding quote resonates with me because it hits on two critical aspects of creating and maintaining a shiny brand: 1) you have to be committed to the process; and 2) you have to appeal to your target customers on a deeper emotional level. Branson also acknowledges that very commitment required can create cynics. (I'd add that cynicism multiplies when there is no performance measurement system in place -- when there is difficulty measuring the value of brand marketing, some companies stop trying, or worse, write it off completely.)
It is not enough to create a beautiful product or successful service. Owners and operators must continually and consistently communicate their brand's value to target audiences and through a variety of channels. In the wine, spirits and culinary industries we serve, all of which require a commitment to hospitality, these audiences consist of consumers, trade and media. Our primary communication channels are in person (tasting room, events, meetings), phone, online and via direct mail. This ultimately means that for our clients, we have a rather complex web of communication to manage or advise upon.
Recently, a new client asked me which communication audiences and tools were most important. He wanted to know which one we would do first, and so on. During the conversation, I realized that he didn't understand the sequential nature of brand communication. I explained that there wasn't a particular order; that in fact, we would be communicating with all audiences using all tools throughout the course of our project.
When I returned to the office that day, I challenged my team to develop a visual representation of our brand building philosophy, and I'm happy to report that I love the result:
The concept of magnetism reflects the necessity of attraction when it comes to marketing. Attraction is a committed state. It represents how successful marketers blend defined process (the science) with creativity (the art), and underscores with the force "squiggles" that is is also an active state.
Management vision and strategy, along with internal team commitment, are found at the bottom to indicate that they are the foundation; without both, the communication will not resonate as it will either lack direction, authenticity or engagement. Media and trade relations are the next building blocks, because they are gatekeepers who offer a way to reach a wider net of followers. The very top reflects the very important nature of consumer ambassadors -- typically your club members, who represent the heart of the operation given their loyal nature and ability to attract more dedicated fans. It is surrounded by the broader guest experience, paid advertising, online marketing and platforms, all of which directly touch consumers.
Our ultimate goal here at Trellis Growth Partners is to create brand magnetism for our clients, which we define as a successful state measured by shining increases in marketing and sales metrics. In my next post, I'll discuss how we label and measure this success.
- Dixie Huey, Proprietor
I just returned from a delightfully hot and delicious weekend in Walla Walla, Washington. It had been a couple of years since my last visit, and this was the first time I had ample time to explore on my own and not within the context of a workshop or event.
We visited five tasting rooms during a full Saturday of touring, and some of my favorite tastes are noted below. Plus three terrific restaurants -- WhoopEmUp Hollow Cafe and Jim German Bar in the quaint, quiet town of Waitsburg where we stayed at the pooch-friendly Dogwood Cottage, and Salumiere Cesario in downtown Walla Walla. Highlights included the Whoop mac 'n cheese, beignets and coca cola cake (something this southern gal had never before tried), Jim German's schnitzel and potatoes (absolutely sinfully decadent -- who knew potatoes could be this good) and Salumiere's sopressata and great salt and cheese collections.
What most struck me is the vast valley there -- miles of green rolling hills with relatively few wine businesses scattered between. In Walla Walla, a wine tasting room is just as likely to be located downtown or around the airport as at a more traditional winery property. Duane Wollmuth, Executive Director of the Walla Walla Wine Alliance -- which is putting on what promises to be a terrific June event in Celebrate, let me know the organization has 110 members. (I have many more tasting rooms to visit and thankfully, am already looking forward to my next trip there.)
We began the day at A Maurice, a pretty and understated property making quite elegant wines. I particularly enjoyed the 2011 Viognier, which had pleasant aromas of citrus, gardenia, herbs and a refreshing zippy acidity with a very clean finish. The 2010 Conner Lee Chardonnay had lime, passionfruit and very well integrated barrel spice. The third standout, "The Graves" Red Bordeaux Blend had tons of blackberry, cherry, a little mocha and very silky tannins. The common thread between the three was a perfect balance of fruit, acid, structure and finish -- elegant restraint. They left me wanting more, in the best possible way.
Next stop across the street -- Walla Walla Vintners, a long-time producer focused on reds. The winery's 2010 Cuvee, a Bordeaux blend with added Syrah, had great blackberry, cherry pie, leather and mocha notes with a particularly good balance of fruit and oak. The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon was another treat -- lots of black fruit with sweet curing tobacco, toffee, eucalyptus and more.
We then visited K Vintners, home of wines made by the media savvy and witty Charles Smith (whom we spotted downtown enjoying lunch later in the day). I've long known of K's focus on Syrah -- big Syrah, but what most stood out to me was the incredible 2011 Lawrence Vineyard Viognier. What a beautiful expression of this variety. Tons of tropical fruit with a little honey and slatey/mineral character that I just loved.
And finally, we ended the day at Gramercy Cellars. Janel and I met Greg Harrington at Taste WA and Auction of WA Wines last year, and his tasting room has been on my "must visit" list ever since. Everything at Gramercy was terrific -- from the wines with personality (L'idiot du Village Rhone blend and Inigo Montoya Syrah) to hospitality by Steve Wells (who is noted as Director of Awesome on the winery' site). The 2012 Rose immediately transported me back to a favorite beach in St. Martin -- it's pretty grapefruit character, bright acid and clean finish were so captivating it was almost like being on a vacation. The L'idiot had great black cherry, rosemary, white pepper notes with a chalky texture on the palate that is oh so old world. The 2010 Syrah just sung with purity of black and cherry fruit, a little pie crust and more pepper notes.
In summary, these visits were terrific, with wine quality being the stand out take-home message. (There is one tasting room I do not mention as I found the wines to be quite average and one to be flawed -- interesting they had quite a discount deal on it; I'd have removed it rather than damage the overall brand.) In general, the welcomes were friendly -- not exactly full of warmth, but we felt quite welcome given the seemingly laid back nature of those we visited. I also noticed that tasting fees tend to be very reasonable -- usually $5, sometimes $10 and refundable with purchase. (Gramercy gives tastes free for those who find them -- their signage is not stand out there on the edge of town, but I have a feeling that could be on purpose.)
The one major area of improvement is something we see over and over again: not one winery representative asked for the sale. In our industry, we tend to be very wrapped up in describing flavor, oak influence, clones, vineyards, etc., and therefore miss the opportunity to learn about what our customers value.
Engaging people with conversation -- trying to discern preferences and create a relationship, makes consultative style selling much easier. Something for all tasting room manager and staff to keep in mind when dealing with the public. I could have just as easily been a restaurant buyer, member of the media or consumer looking to fill up my SUV trunk that day. Few of those we visited would have known because only two took the time to ask!
PS - although not a tasting room visit, I did get the opportunity to try 2012 “Cheninières", a delicious and dry Vouvray style Chenin Blanc from Waitsburg Cellars. Rather than try to comment about a respected wine journalist's wine, I'll forward you to a site that will do a much better job and give you quite a chuckle -- HoseMaster of Wine!
Lately, we have come across a few articles that discuss the benefits of using Facebook to communicate with customers and to build your brand awareness. While we agree with using Facebook as a tool to communicate with customers, we recommend integrating social media with email marketing.
Since my last blog post, I heard back from Santa via voicemail. His tone told me he was not too pleased with my inquiry about pricing. He stated that the invoice I'd received was correct -- that I'd actually been given a better deal, and he wasn't sure how that had happened. That I could call back.
On December 5, I received one of the most creative wine marketing emails I've seen in a long time. A Washington winery offered to make my "holidays brighter this year": For a one-case-plus purchase, Santa -- one of the company's co-owners, would personally deliver wine to me in his " Sleigh." I'd get a 20% case discount for the order.
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