I’d like to start this post off by recognizing our 50+ new members. The Napa/Sonoma board was surprised and delighted to find out we had so many. I’m not sure if it was the national conference, the fantastic events our board members have put together, or an appreciation of wine and the desire to make a difference in the industry. I’d like to think it is our Facebook Fan Page, where you can get WWS announcements, event reminders and interesting bits of wine news delivered right to your home page along with those pictures of the latest baby in the family (and those embarrassing memories of the things you did in high school, if only your old friends would let you forget.) Regardless of the reason you joined, I’d like to say welcome to all our new friends. We look forward to getting to know you.

Speaking of events, the June 10th event titled “Innovative Wine Selling Practices” sold out in advance. Jean Arnold Sessions of Hanzell Vineyards and the Jean Arnold Group and Lesley Berglund of the WISE Academy spoke to the group about their visions of the changing landscape of wine marketing. They started out the presentation asking each of us to consider, “What makes your wine truly unique and differentiates it from the competition?” Jean’s advice was to “dig deeper” into the brand story to find that idea or quality that differentiates it from the rest. Wineries should be looking beyond what they think (or maybe – hope) the customer will take away and recognize the “gut experience” their marketing message creates. If the message isn’t translating into a fantastic experience that inspires a customer to tell a friend, then it may be time to reconsider the message.

Lesley Berglund pointed out that we often think selling comes before branding, when it should be the other way around. In an ongoing test of brand messaging, WISE Academy Students work as secret shoppers, calling and visiting wineries to find out what is really happening. Lesley reports that only 3% of wineries are promoting the brand message to visitors on a regular basis. It’s important that we get our tasting room staff to understand why the brand story is important and to use it to sell. And don’t forget to capture contact information along with the sale. That’s the next step in building relationships with your customers to create ongoing sales.

One question from the audience was the battle between trade sales and direct to consumer. Many tasting rooms are up against deeper discounting in the off premise market. Jean suggested working to first differentiate your brand’s strengths before discounting, but if discounting is already taking place, wineries should consider matching market prices for their wine club customers at the very least. “The best price should always be at the winery.”

I know I came away with a lot to think about from the advice given by both of our presenters. Is your direct to consumer staff selling the brand first and then asking the customer to buy? Could selling direct to trade be easier than you think in some markets if you’re getting the cold shoulder from distributors? Both questions are worth looking into, no matter what the size of your winery.

Author: Leah McNally, WWS Blogger

Next up on Napa/Sonoma WWS Calendar:

  • 7/9/10: Finance/Accounting II Roundtable. Topic: Social Networking as it relates to the wine industry.
  • 7/15/10: Human Resources II Roundtable. Topic: Millennials-recruiting and retaining.
  • 7/20/10: Winemaker/Viticulture Roundtable. Topic: Management Coaching by Shelley Brott from Personnel Perspective
  • 8/05/10: Wine on America’s Table
  • 11/04/10: Grapes We Don’t Know
  • 12/02/10: Holiday Event: Dessert & Sparkling Wines



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