I’m sorry to say it, but there is no silver bullet for successful marketing. At the end of the day, increasing your sales and cultivating new customers all comes from one thing, data and information. This means gathering data and insights from your existing customers as well as prospective customers.

The way I see it, the way to cultivate top customers is to see them at the top of a pyramid. Under them you have your customers that can be groomed into buying more, and then the large segment at the bottom of your pyramid, is your prospects. These are all the people that you have on your email list but have never purchased. Feeding this bottom segment should be a big chunk of your focus – but the truth is each of these segments needs a different approach.

So how do you get prospects? This is the big opportunity at tasting events, through referrals from existing customers, on your website or through social media. Not everyone is ready to buy the first time they meet you, or come to your site.

Incentivizing top customers to spread the word to their friends is a great way to get high quality prospects. Things like friends & family offers, referral incentives and helping them host parties can work to help build your list organically.

When you don’t have a physical tasting room location, then large tasting events can become a bigger focus in your marketing strategy. However, the mistake many wineries make when they attend these tastings is to try to push wines on people. They gauge the success of their investment by how many bottles they sold.

In my mind, the purpose of tasting events is NOT to sell wine (this is a short term view) but to build relationships, tell your unique story, get email addresses (long term view). Prospects may not be ready to buy wine for various reasons.  Use tastings as an opportunity to “test” your brand story on prospects and LEARN about the people coming to the tasting. The more you engage, the more they will like you, sign up to your list, and ultimately buy your wines.

Planning to participate in a tasting event? Here is a check list:

  • Plan your table display (flowers, medals, wine display).
  • Plan your collateral and or merchandise, stickers for bags, branded bags
  • Have at least 2 people per table. One person should be at the front of the table engaging with people. The table can sometimes be a “barrier” to the consumer. Don’t let it be. This also allows you to re-charge.
  • Your #1 priority should be to share your brand story, and get email sign ups. Explain what they can expect from the email, i.e: exclusive offers, recipes, restaurants, tasting opportunities, etc.
  • Use an iPad, a printed sign up list lists or a fishbowl if collecting business cards. Explain that they are signing up to the email list.
  • Email your customers that live in the nearby area in advance and let them know you will be there.   See if the event will give you a discount code for tickets that you can share with customers.
  • Offer discounts for sales to incentivize sales: i.e: Buy 4 and get 20% off
  • List how people can connect with your brand social media. Make a sign for the table. Bloggers and media will be there posting on social media.
  • Have someone (even if they are at home) help with your social media during the tasting. Use the event’s Twitter handle and hashtag to get more retweets.
  • Promote that you will be at the event BEFORE, during and after the event on social media.
  • If you are not selling into inventory allocated to the event specifically, use an iPad (or mobile device) to get access to your cart and place orders for people. Don’t leave it up to them to remember to order when they get home.