Report Closes Deal on Wine Sales Practices

Survey results show evidence that vintners visiting distributors pays off

by Peter Mitham
Dixie Lee Huey, founding principal of Trellis Growth Partners, hopes to launch future surveys of winery practices.
Portland, Ore.—Putting numbers behind conventional wisdom governing sales and business practices in the wine industry is the goal of a report released this week by Trellis Growth Partners LLC of Portland.

The report draws upon responses from 107 wineries across the United States (most of them from the Northwest), each of which volunteered information in exchange for a copy of the report and a $10 donation to the charity of their choice for every completed survey. (All told, more than $800 was raised for the Auction of Washington Wines; Salud! and La Clinica, which serves the needs of seasonal workers in Oregon; the Idaho Wine Education Foundation, and the Human Society of Southwest Washington.)

Trellis collated the surveys with the assistance of statistical research firm Elite Research LLC of Carrollton, Texas, drawing a variety of conclusions regarding marketing practices.

Dixie Huey, founding principal of Trellis Growth Partners, launched the project in 2012 with the aim of finding out how wineries market themselves. The research led to conclusions regarding the relative success of the practices, and the report that was released this week.

“The real question is not how but what do the successful producers do. What actually works?” Huey told Wines & Vines.

Real-world evidence
Putting numbers to the practices was important for Huey, who has taught wine marketing at Chemeketa Community College and Umpqua Community College and wanted evidence proving that what she teaches students—and advises clients to do—actually works.

“I can say, in my experience, my clients that take market trips to see their distributors sell more wine, but I’ve never had any numbers to talk about,” Huey said. “Do we just say that market trips are beneficial because we believe they are, or do they result in selling more wine?”

Her research indicated that yes, trips do result in greater sales—2.61 times as many sales, in fact, for every trip.

The report is also important because it underscores the importance of making an intentional effort to increase sales.

Remarkably, the report found that a written marketing plan was associated with a larger wine club and more frequent communication with distributors—yet only around 35% of wineries surveyed had a formal marketing plan.

And wineries with neither a marketing plan nor a marketing budget were three times as likely to be unhappy with the success of their marketing efforts. The unhappiness is understandable, given the numbers regarding sales associated with investments of time and money in marketing.

For example, every extra dollar spent on marketing resulted in 2.9 times as many sales through phone and online channels.

The DtC sales web
Online communications are one of the most effective ways to boost direct-to-consumer sales, according to Trellis’ research. While e-mail is good, the use of some kind of customer relationship management (CRM) software boosted the odds of phone sales 10.9 times. In short, wineries that take the time to reach consumers will have customers reach out to them.

With the plethora of services available for wineries to manage consumer and sales data, (see “Wineries Shift to Mobile Platforms”), the reassurance that the available tools are bearing fruit should be reassuring.

Huey looks forward to honing survey questions for future editions. “It’s not an endpoint, it’s just a beginning,” Huey said. “With more respondents, and even better framed questions, we can produce a better research process.” She hopes to launch a second survey in 2015.


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