Art showings, book signings, barrel-making demonstrations, a rock concert, an American Idol type contest at Sapolil Cellars, massages in the vineyard and even a college fencing display (as in jousting with swords, not posts) were part of the recent Walla Walla Spring Release Weekend.
Wine visitors like events as it gives an added reason to visit other than to taste the wine. Yes, I know that the purists in the industry will insist it is all about the wine, but in this competitive period when more bodies in the tasting room usually means more sales, it is about driving both awareness and your bottom line.
Amazing creativity aside, where I see most wineries falling down in their staging of a successful event is in giving themselves enough lead time to get the word out. Typically, I ask clients to give me six weeks before the event date to promote it. The first couple of weeks are needed to create awareness of the event itself and the weeks preceding the event to drive the RSVPs. Repetition is your friend here. Too often, wineries mention it once to their list and call it a day.
If you are selling tickets to an event, consider branding the event with both a catchy name and a visual. I love what Jamie Peha did with the recent Merlot-Gone-Mad event. And you can bet that this event will happen again next year. The branding work done this year will be a welcome short cut for next time.
Note about complimentary events: You will always get more RSVPs than show ups. There is something about a free event that allows people to think it is still optional to appear. Consider charging a nominal amount.
Plan on sending between three to four emails during the six week period.
The first email or first mention in your newsletter should establish the date in the near future and garner awareness as in ” Hey guys, this cool thing is happening. Maybe we should go.”
The second email is the push for reservations.
And the third email is a last chance to respond that goes out just before your established cut-off.
By this last email, you will have a sense of whether you have enough reservations to put on the event. If you do not have sufficient numbers to break even on your costs, contact everyone who RSVP’ed and politely cancel. You might have another event to roll them into or offer a special perk as compensation.
You will notice that I said “to break even.” Typically, wineries will not make money from ticket sales. Most of us do events in the hopes that wine purchases will tip the day into the worthwhile zone.
If you still have spaces to fill, you have the next ten days to grow your event. Then by five days out, you usually have to give a firm head counts to your caterer, rental companies etc.
In addition, you should also be mentioning it on Facebook and Tweeter and driving the RSVPs to your website.
If it is a major winery event, then take a tip from the experts and establish a Facebook fan page for the event itself. As you build your fan or “like” base, you can offer free tickets, discounts etc, as your fans help spread the word.