Increasing traffic to our tasting room is a goal we all share. Sure, we know that we can drive in lots of bodies by offering 2-for-1 tasting coupons and other similar promotions, but driving in just anybody is not ideal. We want qualified guests who will love our wines and our story, those who will become long-time customers and ambassadors for our brands. One way we can do this is by building relationships with key gatekeepers and creating outreach programs to court appropriate partners and get great referrals.
Developing proactive, more formal outreach programs is one of the areas that has changed most during the past five years in our efforts to increase direct-to-consumer business. It is becoming more and more competitive, so working wisely here is the key to gaining the referrals we want.
||Not to make you jealous—it was 95° F with 90% humidity, and rarely air-conditioned—I spent three weeks in French Polynesia (Tahiti) in February. Let’s just say that if you think growing grapes is tough in your neighborhood, you should look here.
On another topic, Wines & Vines has become more involved in wine-related education. While attending the Oregon Wine Symposium this week, I was made aware by Michelle Norgren, VESTA National Center Director, that numerous classes are available online, including Winery Tasting Room Management. These classes are conducted in association with local colleges and universities. Learn more here.
Here are five WISE best practices for building relationships with key gatekeepers and gaining referrals:
Create a target list
of desirable outreach partners
Develop a target list of key influencers—both current and aspirational partners. Assign someone specific to “own” each relationship, just like an account manager would do. Start by finding out what is working well today—who are our current traffic drivers of qualified guests? This helps us to “fish where the fish are.”
Formally decide on the top 10 to 25
accounts to focus on first
Invite target influencers over to experience your best offerings firsthand during slow times. (Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually great.) Couple this with a “sales” presentation for key local, on-premise clients to kill two birds with one stone. This can be much more effective than hosting large hospitality parties that become happy hours.
Set up categories and assign
source key codes
First determine the broad category—hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, limo companies, like-minded wineries, destination-management companies, etc., and then choose specific partners within each category. Assign a specific source key code to each visitor by account. For example, hotels might be category 1, and the Westin would be 101, Marriott would be 102, and so on. Ideally, these codes are in our point-of-sale system as a drop-down item, so that tasting room staff can easily assign a code to each guest.
Track partner-referral performance
Track source key codes for each guest (by category and by each individual company) to review who specifically is driving traffic. Track both the number of parties referred and the total number of visitors. Then review sales performance by each source key code—including conversion rates to purchasers, wine club and email list, as well as the average order value.
Also, track the activity with individuals at your target accounts: When was the last communication, last time on-site, the number of people they personally have sent? This will show us who our best and most profitable referrers are—and where and when we need to follow up.
Develop a special, unique offer
that is easy for partners to sell
Special guests deserve a special experience. This could be a blending event, library vertical tasting, food and wine pairing in an exclusive, reserved spot—something that is not offered to everyone, just guests referred by our “preferred partners.” Remember that if we make our partners’ guests happy, it reflects well on them, too, and it makes it much more likely we will continue to get referrals.
Set up proactive reciprocal referral programs with other target, like-minded wineries nearby. We could also create small focused networking groups—one winery, one hotel, one restaurant and one limo company—where each partner has something to gain by referring to one another.
Now that we have our great outreach program all ready to go, we must be proactive in communications with our partners. Send email updates to these relevant partners every Monday and Thursday, letting them know what reservation openings we still have available for their guests.
And finally, be sure to thank the relevant person at each target account when someone buys or joins our wine club—or when they increase the amount of great referrals they send to us. That’s the way to keep them coming!
The key here is to find the best fishing hole, nurture it, and reap the rewards.
Source: WISE Academy,
Wine Industry Metrics:
Direct-to-Consumer January 2016
The January 2016 indexes of wine industry metrics all experienced positive growth except for WineJobs, which took a small dip but was up 16% for the past 12 months. Learn more about the Wine Industry Metrics provided by Wines Vines Analytics.
Novel Idea for a Special Event
Under the leadership of owner Jean-Charles Boisset, Raymond Vineyards is always at the forefront of marketing innovation. The seventh annual sommelier blending event was a great success, and while you may not be able to do it on the same scale, you could replace sommeliers with your own local celebrities. Read more here.
U.S. Wine Exports Set Record
U.S. wine exports reached $1.6 billion in 2015, with 90% of wines originating from California. While Canada was the country with the most imports at $461 million, the 28 member countries of the European Union collectively imported $622 million worth of U.S. wines, according to a report released by Wine Institute of San Francisco, Calif. Learn more here.
An Alabama winery can take their wine to a festival for tasting, but they can’t sell it there. Now some state wineries are looking to change the law and pave the way for more business. Read details here.
The topic of wine sales in grocery stores is still being debated in Tennessee. Local NBC station WYCB investigates… Click here.
Nine decades after the end of Prohibition, “Ontario’s cabinet is poised to lift its longstanding ban on additional outlets,” according to Martin Cohn, political columnist for The Toronto Star. Learn more here.
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Jacques Brix is vice president and director of sales, West Coast, for Wines & Vines. This column is based on his personal experiences at winery tasting rooms and events.