Do not underestimate the power of brand. A successful wine brand is the ambassador of the winery. It is what customers know and remember. After some time, a brand can also have a significant value attached to it and have a longer life span than the operators or even the business. All marketing efforts should be focused about promoting this brand, what it signifies and represents, the story and people behind the brand. Building maintaining a good brand image should be a priority.
Make wine that people want to buy. Making wine that you like is important but the operator should also make sure that the majority of people drinking it like it or else getting repeat business will be very difficult. In depth market analysis before commencing production is important. Experience tells us that making fruit wines that are very dry do not have the same marketability as wines that are made in the off-dry or sweet styles. Discussions with an experienced fruit winemaker should be conducted prior to deciding what kinds of wines to produce.
Enter many wine competitions. This is a good way to get known by the public, especially if you win medals. Having awards is a great excuse to put out press releases to the media and often provides free press coverage, dramatically increasing the wineries reputation and sales. Being involved in competitions also shows the public that you are an active member of the wine industry and take pride in the wines being produced.
Hire the services of a wine sales representative. Most experienced wine reps will charge a 10 to 15% commission on sales. This is money well spent as their knowledge of the industry, ability to sell and market wine and contacts in the retail and wholesale sectors will ensure that the operator’s wine is placed in numerous accounts in the geographic area desired. The operator may wish to take care of sales in his or her vicinity themselves, especially if he is able to sell product himself but if wine sales are desired outside of the locality or for export, a representative is essential. Get the potential representative’s references before hiring his or her services.
Attend some wine shows but do not go overboard. Having a booth at a consumer show is a great way to get consumers and potential customers to taste your wines and learn about you, but it is also an expensive affair. You should plan to be present at one or two shows in key markets in order to get known and become respected as an active player in the industry. This also increases brand reputation in the public’s eyes.
Have product available in some key wine stores. While most wine sales for small wineries are to be sold through their on-site store, having wines available in key stores (large or more well known ones) will obviously increase wine sales even if the profits may not be as high. Also, not everyone will wish to drive the long distance to the winery to get another bottle of fruit wine but will walk down the street to their local wine store to get it. Telling on-site store customers that the wines are also available at a certain store will also give the customer a sense of confidence that the wines are enjoyed by others and when they want more wine, it will be easy for them to get it.
Have product available in some key restaurants. The same points as above are in effect here. Educating the restaurant staff to know what kinds of foods from the menu pair well with the wines will also greatly increase wine sales in that restaurant. Being on a good restaurant’s wine list also adds “prestige” to the brand, especially if the restaurant is a respected and well-known restaurant.
If your winery is in a territory where the country, province or state has an alcohol product regulatory system and stores network (like in Canada or many Scandinavian countries) try to have at least one listing through this system, even if the profit margins are lower than selling direct or at the winery site. The winery’s “flagship” product or the product with the highest volume made available through the system stores is a good way to promote the winery and reach customers in rural areas or places that would not allow them to easily drive to a private wine store or the winery.
Never stop promoting – there are many ways to do it. Even though wine sales may be good, a winery should never stop promoting itself. There will always be a winery promoting itself and its brands to the public. In order not to lose sales momentum and being overtaken by competitors, promotion must continue even on a small scale continually. A good website can easily be promoted on labels, corks, letterhead and business cards, sending press releases on anything new at the winery and going on radio chat shows is a very cost effective way to promote the winery and brand on a continual basis.
This is just a start but very often promoting yourself, your brands and you wine can be as much fun as making the wine itself. Find a way and style that suits your winery and your own personality and creativity and go with it!