Click on image to see slideshow of my presentation to Woodinville Wine Association.
Fairly new to the Walla Walla Valley (2007) and relatively unknown winery wanted to increase their tasting room sales. In discussion, they told us that they had in excess of 2000 cases of value priced wine labeled with an extinct brand, which was becoming as we like to say, “vintage-challenged.”
Strengths: Owners had the resources to finance marketing efforts and were open to new ideas. In addition, the wine had a low COGS.
Weaknesses: Brand is not a well-known WW name, winemaker and ownership was from outside the valley and winemaking is done at another site. Tasting room is in a previously desirable location that now is increasingly bypassed as wineries move downtown and to the south side of town. Without a local connection, many locals had not visited tasting room and therefore, were not actively recommending winery as a place to visit.
Opportunities: Big wine weekend was coming up and with publicity, WDS could drive traffic to the tasting room. Once in the tasting room, the client had an opportunity to sell their value wine as well as introduce visitors to the main brand.
Threats: We had to walk a careful line between blowing out the vintage-challenged wine in a case sale while not damaging winery image and main brand.
WDS increased visitor traffic through marketing efforts by 300%.
Sales revenue increased 500% over same weekend previous year.
Increased email list by 25% over weekend.
Staging events are a growing part of what a winery needs to do to attract traffic to their venue. Gone are the days when we could open a few bottles, put out some cheese and call it a special event. Nowadays, wineries regularly have music, an exotic spread of cheese and charcuterie and may also include other activities to bring in the crowds.
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.