Understanding the Essentials of Wine & Spirits Marketing

The top things everyone should know before they even begin marketing their wine or spirits brand.

1. Don’t be conned. Marketing does mean sales.

It sounds a little silly to say but if you Google the definition of the term marketing it returns: “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.” It’s something I like to remind people, especially those who believe marketing and selling are two different things. They’re not. They are explicably intertwined. If you are marketing but not selling, what’s the point? Proper marketing will help you sell more wine and spirits to your customers. It’s a simple but essential piece of info to begin.

Interestingly, in an article by the Wine & Spirits Education Trust, they state simply: “Any marketing campaign which does not achieve an adequate level of profit within a specified timetable is a total waste of an organisation’s resources.” I’ve seen a lot of people in the trade ignore this and do what I call “vein marketing”, where they justify wasting hundreds – or in some cases thousands – of their marketing spend on brand awareness campaigns with no measurement of return. Even a start-up knows those brand campaigns have to return profit at some point – otherwise, what’s the point?

2. The customer is everything.

We’re all sick of the saying “the customer is always right”, aren’t we? Fact of the matter is the person controlling your revenue is your customer. It’s so important to think about why a customer is buying or might be likely to buy from you and realise what’s driving them. Rarely is the liquid in the wine or spirit actually the driving force for your sale. 9 times out of 10 customers are shopping for your experience. That includes everything from the label to the smiley emoji you send them on a livechat. It includes the event they’re going to drink it at. It includes whether you offer gift-wrapping, and so on.

Let’s play with some possibilities. People might buy a boxed wine like When in Rome‘s cool range of craft Italian wines because they’re interested in the carbon footprint issue of transporting glass bottles – or they might just want a glass of award-winning Sauvignon every night without worrying about the bottle going off.

A customer might shop at Croatian Fine Wines not because they’re super excited about drinking malvazija istarska but because they went on holiday there and drank white wine with their tapas. Since they got home it’s all they’ve been thinking about. Work sucks, the evening is being whiled away in front of the telly and all the time they’re craving that experience of Croatia all over again. You win their custom by offering them a Croatian wine just like that one they had on holiday. Maybe you offer a tapas recipe blog post and pair your top 5 Malvasija wines with it? That very customer will be yours.

Other reasons for buying wine could be: investment and financial promise; trends and fashions; spotted on their favourite TV show; reputation; the producer’s story; branding; price; a friend’s birthday; curiosity; recommendation (wine columns, etc); food and wine pairing; social status; and it goes on.

When in Rome

This is When in Rome‘s logo which is just brilliant branding. Boldly coloured and somehow iconic in its Italian feel. This is exactly the kick up the backside boxed wine branding needs!

3. Laziness burns relationships.

When you have such an emotional product like a wine or spirit – especially in the premium category – you need to give your all to customer relationship management. Lots of people do “CRM” (Customer Relationship Marketing) but seem to forget the big fat R in the middle. You should always look to target customers on an individual basis based on real emotional data.

Demographics can hint, but who can really tell the difference between a 20-something person who loves Shiraz because it’s all they’ve tried and a 50-something who loves Shiraz because it’s all they’ve been drinking for a few decades as well? But what if the 20-something only bought Shiraz when he went on a date? What if the 50-something bought a Shiraz because he enjoys drinking it once a week on Saturday with his roast beef? That’s two very different messages: one is a sale based on romance, the other a sale based on habit and food. If you know this, you can sell to them with a much higher conversion rate.

Two examples of people who are FANTASTIC at customer relationship marketing: Independent Spirit of Bath and award-winning retailer Great Western Wine. Both know their regular customers so well, it’s the very reason they have regular customers. I mean, have you seen the reviews Indie Spirit get on their Facebook page? Or the engagement they command on their Twitter? Meanwhile, GWW maintain a reliable, up-to-date database of all customer purchases and are one of the few businesses who consistently market the right wines to the right people.

People buy from people!

Great Western Wine

Great Western Wine in Bath often markets its brand with the “Est 1983” on its logo, adding to the brand’s trustworthiness and history. While shots like this emphasise the inside of the shop, where service is everything, and continues the image of independence. The prominence of shop manager Alan is vital to the independent image as well. You wouldn’t know that GWW is owned by Enotria, would you?

4. Consistency is a necessary evil

No start-up likes to be told to be consistent. They’re always changing, but consistency is one of the most essential lessons to building trust. Take the world of gin. Most of the small, artesan brands who are credited for revitalising the gin market are owned by massive multi-billion dollar drinks corporations but the branding stays the same. People trust the small, indie-appearance of a Sipsmith gin (it says “independent spirits” on the label but is owned by the Japanese juggernaught Beam Suntory). Same for Ophir Gin, the delicious and spicy spirit that is somewhat iconic yet it’s owned by G&J Distillers (formally Greenall’s), who in turn is owned by the vast drinks conglomerate quintessential brands s.a.

In marketing you need to always be what’s called “on brand”. For example, a premium wine and spirit brand cannot turn around and start heavily discounting its products for cash flow. That kills off your customers. Just like trying to sell a wine above £20 is going to be a rare occasion in a supermarket (generally speaking).

Sipsmith Iconic Independent spirit gin

Sipsmith is an iconic “independent” gin that has the branding absolutely on-point for delivering a consistently premium, high value product.

5. Measure, adapt, measure, grow.

At Ben Franks Wine every one of our services is measured against targets set by our clients. Remember what we covered in point number 1? Marketing is about sales, whether you’re looking at the short term or long term. So that means you only know if your marketing is working if your revenue is growing. That’s why it’s essential to have target-driven marketing strategies and constantly adapt what you do to achieve them – even if that means reassessing the original target setting. It’s a similar practice employed in the classic Lean Startup process (if you don’t know what I mean by that then please, please read Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup). You need to cut waste and focus on what is working. How are customers responding? How can you grow further?

Measure, adapt, measure, grow. That is the key to a successful, objective marketing campaign.

Read this book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

It’s not a marketing book I know but everyone needs to read Eric Ries’ startup book. It gives you everything you need that can translate into lean testing for marketing campaigns. Its “Persevere or Pivot” chapter is particularly key.

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