My first introduction to the wine industry happened when, as the Vice President of Economic Development, I was handed an industry portfolio and tasked with creating a strategy to help the local wine industry thrive. Over the next year, we completed in-depth research that included bringing in some of the world's leading minds, conducting dozens of interviews with stakeholders across the entire supply chain, and building out comparison matrices of those regions where local wineries were able to thrive.
As the project leader, I conducted dozens of interviews, performed the bulk of the research, and wrote the Wine Report that ultimately brought our team awards and more importantly served as the guide that helped to lead our wine region to grow.
As a winery owner, you already know the level of complexity that went into producing your wines, whether you own a vineyard and planted your first vines or partnered with grape growers. For everyone running a winery, it starts with a dream to produce something truly great. Like any entrepreneur, a winning product certainly can help with sales, but as our interviews revealed, winning awards is helpful but does not guarantee the growth of your winery. In fact, some of the wineries featuring the greatest volume of wine sales and increased membership to their Wine Clubs have not necessarily won prestigious awards.
This eBook is specifically designed for established boutique wineries (those producing less than 10,000 cases) as a step-by-step guide to achieving your best year in sales yet. It is packed with practical advice on everything from questions to ask the person who is managing your marketing, to insights into what consumers actually want in a Wine Club, and even a list of creative ideas to help generate additional revenue streams.
At InspireHUB, we know that 90% of businesses are small and that healthy small businesses lead to healthy communities. We've made it our mission to help as many small business owners thrive as possible. It is our sincerest hope that this guide will help your business grow and help more people experience the wine you've invested so much effort into making great!
Big Sales for
Your Small Winery
The Ultimate Growth Guide
by Karolyn Hart
About This Guide
"Success is not final..."- Winston Churchill
If you found your way to this eBook, then it is likely that you are looking for something more when it comes to your current efforts. We are launching this book packed with free advice to help wineries who are being negatively impacted because of the pandemic. In working with winery owners, we discovered that everyone was quick to agree they wanted "more sales" but a few more pressing questions can reveal an entrenched belief system about what they feel is the right way to get sales. Before we get started, it's crucial for you to understand this guide is based on proven real-world practices. The fact that you are a winery owner means there is a very high likelihood that you've already experienced some wonderful success in your previous career. Some of what is presented in this guide may be in direct opposition to what you believe to be true about what it takes to grow wine sales or even how things should work.
One of the more interesting observations we've uncovered in our work with winery owners is that past professional success can actually hinder you when it comes to furthering sales at your winery. This is not unique to wineries but shared by many successful professionals. Logic dictates that if you did something and it worked out well in the past that using those same tactics would be a practical and reasonable thing to do.
As humans, we love the idea of working with the familiar. Science has proven that, as a species, we are resistant to change. The challenge, of course, is that what worked even five years ago may not work at all today. You likely understand this on the intellectual level even as your action reveal the truth as you find yourself resistant to learn new technologies, social media platforms, or new programs that would help you get to the next level.
This guide will take you through an end-to-end process with the goal of helping you to take down the various barriers that may be blocking your success. We encourage you to approach the reading of this book the same way you approach trying a new wine. First, you must be open to trying a new wine. Next, you must carefully observe the makeup of the wine in the glass. Then, you must "taste" or read the guide fully and draw your own thoughts and conclusions. Finally, after doing all this, you must then look to pair what you learned here with your wine business.
Our only goal is to help as many boutique wineries continue to keep their dreams alive! The only thing we ask in return is that if this guide helps you that you share it with others and also let us know!
As you read the following, evaluate if you find yourself aligning with any of the statements:
Any of those sound familiar? What if we could show you that these beliefs, while not "untrue", are providing unnecessary barriers to your success. At the time of this writing, online wine sales have mushroomed, with some online sellers reporting year-over-year increases of 500 - 800%! We're going to show you how exactly how your small winery can get in on this success right now and also how to use it to create lasting sales in the future.
What we know for certain is the pandemic has already fundamentally altered the business models for many wineries. If you are reading this book because it's a matter of survival, your needs will be much different from the winery owner who is stable but seeking innovation. Understanding your present mode of business operations will help you know what step to take next.
Crisis Mode: Closure is imminent.
In the , the first step we ask owners whose businesses are at risk of closure is to complete is a self-assessment. Why? Understanding your mindset is something that is often overlooked as entrepreneurs tend towards being action-oriented. However, a clear understanding of your attitudes helps to create a distinct path to success. For a business in crisis, knowing if you're in the fight, flight or freeze mode mentally is a critical first step. If your winery is facing closure, we recommend that you simply call us, or read the . We've made a commitment to help rescue as many small businesses as possible and have created a "When You Win, We Win" partnership that helps you get the type of professional intervention necessary to stabilize your business.
Transformation Mode: The future is uncertain.
If you are a winery in transformation mode, you've likely felt the impact of the pandemic shift to your winery, and not for the better. You read the headlines boasting that online wine sales were experiencing explosive growth as a part of the pandemic but wondering why this is not your reality? The first thing you must understand is that online wine sales and direct-to-consumer (DtC) sales were already enjoying a growth prior to the pandemic. DtC is extremely important for smaller producers and is a game-changer when it comes to your future strategies. You may be new to online selling or may be struggling. If this is your present reality, you will benefit the most from this guide!
Growth Mode: Supercharging your growth.
If you're a winery in growth mode, you've likely got a mature eCommerce store, a great social media strategy, and are looking for that "something extra special" to really drive sales. If this is your reality, we recommend that you skip down to our chapter on Wine Clubs and how our community-building Wine Club app may be just the thing you're looking for. Also, you will want to download our list of "must-read books". They're fantastic to help you continue to grow your brand online.
Regardless of the mode your winery is in, our goal is to provide you with proven tactics and advice to help you take advantage of the digital transformation engulfing the world, to help you survive now and continue thriving in the years to come.
At InspireHUB, we've designed a very specific approach and process that are proven to work, and leadership styles play an important part in the success. Let's take a look at the two different types of leadership styles:
Small Winery Leadership Styles
|THE ANGRY VINTNER||THE FRIENDLY WINEMAKER|
"It needs to be my way because it's my vision."
"I've got a vision that can be made better."
"Another winery opening up near me will mean less business."
"Another winery opening near me will attract more tourists and mean more sales."
"I feel angry when I realize I've missed something important."
"I'm usually grateful when something is pointed out to me."
"You have no idea how much effort and research I've done already. Who are you to tell me?"
"I'm a life-long learner when it comes to wine-making. What am I missing?"
It's important to note that we discovered that both leadership styles produce award-winning wines, but one leadership style consistently inhibits the sales of their wine. Can you guess which one? For the purposes of this guide:
If you identify with "The Angry Vintner", then allow us to help save you some time. This guide will focus on the power of partnerships and collaboration to drive significant sales. For you, we also recommend you read "13 Ways to Kill Your Community" which explains why collaborating those within your local industry will actually drive your sales and not "steal" them when properly employed. The lack of open-mindedness and unwillingness to collaborate means that our process will be a challenge for you. If you are an "Angry Vintner" you can still benefit from the data and research that is presented in this guide, our entire process hinges on open-mindedness, collaboration, and partnering.
If you identify with "The Friendly Winemaker", then you will find the information within this guide refreshing. You're likely already sitting on numerous partnerships that you haven't yet fully leveraged. Additionally, we're going to show you how your winery can not only become a lovely place for tourists to kick back and enjoy life but a force to effect real change within your community and around the world!
We've been helping InspireHUB clients not just survive during this time but THRIVE! We collected all of our advice and made it available for FREE as our great big give-back during this difficult time.
In an ideal world, the efforts you have invested in producing an award-winning, quality wine should be enough to bring you sales. Agree? So do we. However, in reality, inferior products (and wines) regularly outsell superior products. Deep down, you know this is the truth because you're a consumer who has likely already lived this. If you've ever invested in what is supposed to be a high-quality product, only to be disappointed, then you know this. Alternatively, if you've ever bought something affordable and been BLOWN AWAY by the quality and wondered why they weren't charging more, then you have also experienced the harsh reality of sales and marketing.
Ultimately, it comes down to the digital marketing team that you put together. The story you tell about your wine is important but you must have the powerful engine of digital marketing distributing your story. With the challenge facing wineries today and recent trends, you cannot afford to ignore this element.
Here's what you need to know as a small business owner: if you don't understand digital marketing or the need for a website, you are NOT alone. Before the pandemic, nearly half of American small businesses did not even have a website. For many small business owners, the old-fashioned "word of mouth" referrals was their preferred method of growing business. There are probably a few key reasons you haven't embraced the digital world, including:
There are plenty of amazing resources that explain the power of websites, but we are going to make this REALLY simple for you. Here it goes! Having a website does two main things:
To sum up: If your small winery does not have a website, customers are going to your competition. It's that simple. You're literally losing business and money by not having a web presence. Let us put this another way. Imagine it's the 90's before the internet arrived, and you decided to go into business, BUT you weren't going to put a sign on your building to tell anyone what you were or why they should come inside. When you don't have a website, you're doing the same thing.
Having a website simply allows people to find you. As the writers at Vinography so aptly point out: "Selling online is the new normal and is non-negotiable. You can’t build relationships with people you can’t talk to, and you can’t sell wine to people you can’t reach. "
Find the perfect digital pairing for your small winery!
The award-winning IHUBApp Digital Experience Platform brings a new approach to building a better experience for your small winery. We have the team and the expertise to help your small winery in its digital transformation. We also offer a different way of working together. A true pairing with our "When You Win, We Win" approach. Ask us today!
U.S. online sales increased 49% in April over the prior year, according to Adobe Analytics. For wineries, online wine sales were already growing and, when COVID arrived, that spiked up to 200% with some online wine sellers reporting a year-over-year increase of 500 to 800%. While making the jump to taking online orders is currently a matter of necessity, it presents an opportunity to expand beyond just selling your wine. Consider including merchandise, accessories, gift baskets, apparel, virtual events, adopt-a-vine programs, and more.
If you're new to wine sales, the first thing you must understand is WHY consumers purchase online (outside of pandemic situations). The two main reasons for small wineries include:
Online sales provide you with the ability to serve your customers better. Here are a few reasons to embrace online sales:
Setting up an online retail store and purchasing ads to bring people to that store is now more affordable than ever. Companies such as Formstack.com and Shopify both provide online order systems for a low monthly fee and come with free training and tutorials that can help to get you started quickly.
When it comes to advertising, the news is even better. Social media platforms allow you to easily create, target and post ads directly into your ideal market that will grab their attention. In today's world, FREE training abounds. We've assembled a list below of FREE training that we highly recommend.
It can be quite an act of faith to hire a person or company to help you with your digital marketing. There's nothing more frustrating than investing good money only to receive mediocre results. When you're finally ready to take the next big step, here are some things to look for that will help you avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes:
ASK ABOUT EXPERIENCE: Ask about their experience and general knowledge of working in the wine industry.
Your digital marketer does not have to be a sommelier to be effective, but they do need to understand the basics of the wine industry, and more importantly, they need to be able to show you how they will continue to grow their learning. Additionally, you will want to evaluate what sort of creative solutions they would bring to help you sell more wine.
Here are a few questions for you to ask during your interview:
INCENTIVIZE FOR SUCCESS: Be sure you're incentivizing for results and not activity.
Any digital marketer who knows how to drive sales is going to be interested in getting paid handsomely when they help you drive and increase your sales. One of the mistakes that many small businesses make is hiring a marketer based on their "hours" as opposed to results. If you're paying someone an hourly rate to do work for you then (whether you intended to or not) they are confined to hours and even compensated for doing more work instead of creating more success.
The best solution is to negotiate a reasonable flat rate that is fair with bonuses and incentives that see them share in the success. A seasoned digital marketer who is confident in their abilities should be asking for either a commission, a bonus, or milestone rewards for helping you to achieve online sales.
Here are a few items to explore during your hiring process:
TEST THEIR ABILITIES: Evaluate their social media knowledge with this simple action.
The #1 place for all wineries (big and small) to engage in sales is social media. Selecting someone who is savvy across these platforms will be THE biggest difference you will experience in helping to drive sales.
If we can leave you with one simple piece of advice, it is this:
Do NOT invest in a person or organization who does not have an active and growing, engaged following on key social media platforms. Remember: If the digital marketer promising you sales cannot do it for themselves, then how will they ever do it for you?
These platforms provide the easiest and most affordable way to target local consumers. Here are a few ways to confirm if they will be able to help you effectively:
Are you still having reservations when it comes to the promises of digital marketing? To that, we have one simple question: "What if you're wrong?"
We get it. All this change and the need to transform digitally is overwhelming. It is so very tempting to do nothing. To just "wait it out" and hope for the best. The real question for you then becomes this: How long can you wait to do nothing?
Let's imagine a world where you invest in a website and eCommerce. It allows you to exist as a business for now. At the end of the pandemic, let's assume that things DO return to normal; that consumer behavior has not altered all that much. Your investment in digital and the ability to do online sales then provides an extra source of revenue. Even if it declines and you return to the dominant revenue stream being in-store sales, you will still be ahead. Plus, you now have a nice additional stream of revenue.
Now, let's imagine a world where you do nothing. Not only do you risk not having a way to really engage in sales at the height of a pandemic, but you have also now restricted a nice additional tidy stream of revenue in the future.
The question to ask yourself is this: Will you regret not having TRIED if your winery closes? As you lay your head on your pillow at night, will you be filled with regret that you didn't at least TRY, or will you have peace knowing that you did absolutely everything possible given the circumstances that you were provided?
Wine Clubs have been around since the 1970s, and with 36% of Direct-to-Consumer sales being performed through membership, it's no wonder why wineries want to cash in on this opportunity. However, designing and creating a Wine Club program that sets you apart from the competition requires thoughtful consideration, creative insight, careful planning, and constant monitoring. These mistakes can be decreasing your Wine Club membership success:
An online brand community is a community that is formed based on their shared love of your wine. Brands around the world have invested heavily in leveraging the power of a private online community because of their proven success in building loyalty. Customers are invited to join the community, engage with the platform, and share through likes, comments, posts and more!
Large brands like Nike, Apple, and Sephora have invested money into building online communities because of the benefits they receive. For your winery, it's the perfect avenue to help boost your Wine Club membership. According to the Marketing Insider Group, online branded communities have:
Wine Club Members Only Area
Members can all safely communicate in a completely secured environment.
Wine Club Member Profile
Customize to allow members to identify their wine preference, interests, hobbies and more.
Members can subscribe to topics of interest and participate in exclusive discussions about your wine
Secure Social Network
Instead of trying to figure out which social platform is safe to use, launch and OWN your very own network.
Wine Club User Generated Content
Allow your members the ability to post and share directly into the community.
Exclusive Event Sales
Provide exclusive tickets to events, use free and paid tickets, with no additional fees!
Like most things, the way to success is to start small with one specific goal. Cooper's Hawk Vineyards and Restaurants in Canada turned on the social networking functionality to allow their clients to like and comment on the updates and posts they create that also auto-populate a weekly newsletter.
Whether you’re thinking about starting a Wine Club or have one you’re looking to grow, the potential ROI is hard to ignore. Direct-to-Consumer (DtC) sales account for a whopping 60 percent of winery revenue. Think you’re too small to cash in? For wineries making less than 2,500 cases per year, that number jumps to 74 percent. Wine Clubs are one of the most lucrative sources of revenue for those who understand a handful of truths -- and tactics -- when it comes to engaging and keeping clients.
Before you read the following section, it's important to understand that, according to research, 70% of emotionally engaged customers will spend up to two times or more on brands they are loyal to, compared to less than have (49%) of consumers with low emotional engagement. One of the most powerful ways for brands to create loyalty is something called "worthy-cause marketing". Simply put, it's aligning your brand with a bigger mission that is typically a charitable cause.
While we wine lovers would never admit it, the reality is that wine is a commodity. This means that it is absolutely critical for you to set your winery apart from the rest. All the methodologies and digital tactics in the world will not mean anything if the consumer sees you as just one of many boutique wineries to try. They may try you once, but the real question is: How to do you KEEP them coming back?
We believe the answer lies in the power of the give-back. The following statistics explain the power of worthy-cause marketing and its effectiveness. In fact, in the Book The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, they explain why worthy cause marketing works! At InspireHUB, we believe this is one of the single most important deciding factors in transforming your sales.
Even before the global pandemic instilled a rising sentiment that we are "in this together" and a determination to give back, worthy-cause marketing was a rising trend. Consider the following statistics.
9 out of 10 Consumers Like to Purchase Purpose-Driven Products
Nearly 9-in-10 consumers (86%) say they’re likely to purchase from purpose-driven companies. 2019 Porter Novelli / Cone Purpose Biometrics Study
Brands with Purpose Outperform Stock Market by 120%
Brands with a purpose set on improving our quality of life outperform the stock market by 120%. Interbrand’s Best Global Brands 2017
78% of Americans Expect More From Companies Than Just Making Money
78% of Americans believe companies must do more than just make money; they must positively impact society as well. 2018 Cone / Porter Novelli Purpose Study
Consumers Purchase on a Brand's Give-Back
86% of consumers believe that companies should take a stand for social issues and 64% of those who said it’s ‘extremely important’ for a company to take a stand on a social issue said they were ‘very likely’ to purchase a product based on that commitment. 2018 Shelton Group’s ‘Brands & Stands: Social Purpose is the New Black‘
When you can barely pay your business' bills or keep the lights on, the idea of giving a portion of your limited proceeds away may seem illogical. Worthy-Cause marketing does feel good to both your business and the consumer, but it's also a sound business strategy. Setting aside the "worthiness" of this effort and even the "emotions," here are the pieces of information you're missing.
Alrighty! You're excited and ready to help support a charity with your products and find ways of winning together. It's important to get the selection of whom you support right. Here are a few tips:
You’ve discovered the power of the IHUBApp Digital Experience Platform and are excited to start engaging your audience through the wonderful digital experience you’ve built. You’ve seen how some of our clients are celebrating incredible engagement statistics, and you can’t wait to achieve that same level of success.
The world became more digital overnight, not less. This reality is likely forcing your small winery to reconsider strategies and how it engages with customers. Whether you are looking to build a website with an online store, a community for your Wine Club members, or an app - there's a number of choices to consider as you build. Cost and ease of use are usually the main drivers, but there's something equally important: building something that is safe for your brand and your customers. Consider the following:
60% of small companies close within 6 months of being hacked!
Imagine, going through all this effort to survive through this time and put your winery online, only to have a cyberattack be the action that forces you to close your doors. Consider these following statistics:
That's why it's critical for your winery to consider what it is going to be building.
The Risk of Open-Source for Small Businesses
Open-source platforms are very affordable (even free) and one of the main reasons why so many small businesses decide to use them. Unfortunately, they are also the primary target for hackers.
For more information, read:
Known Open Source Vulnerabilities In Reusable Software Components: The Golden Goose For Hackers That Keeps On Giving
What can you do? At InspireHUB, we created something we call "Closed-Circuit" when building our IHUBApp Digital Experience Platform. Basically, it means that InspireHUB Verified Developers agree to certain rules we've outlined and they also allow their work to be checked by Cybersecurity consultants.
What is data brokering?
Data brokering is a $200 billion unregulated industry that involves companies who collect, buy and sell data for a variety of purposes. Companies that engage in data brokering usually aggregate the data they have obtained and then resell the most valuable pieces to third parties. While data brokering is a legal industry, there is a growing concern around privacy, security, and how data is used. While reputable companies would never sell personally identifiable information, they still will aggregate their data and sell it to other companies to create an additional source of revenue. Sometimes, brands are very comfortable with this arrangement (and you might also be). However, you will want to make sure you know the company's stance on this before entering into a relationship.
Questions to ask:
InspireHUB has adopted a policy that we will not participate in data brokering. Per our terms and conditions, our clients fully own their data and have the right to do what they wish, but we have decided not to participate.
Cybersecurity: Ensuring you have a plan for privacy and security.
The landscape around what is considered acceptable for privacy and security is significantly shifting. Every country has its own rules around what you are allowed to do with the information you collect and hold digitally regarding your business. In 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was implemented for the European Union and had a significant impact worldwide, raising the standard for what is acceptable online.
Questions to ask:
InspireHUB has partnered with Cyber SC (a leading cybersecurity firm) to ensure that our technology and our business operations are helping to create a more secure future for each and every one of our clients. We offer FREE security awareness training to all InspireHUB clients as part of our commitment to helping them successfully navigate an ever-changing digital landscape.
Watching customer testimonials can help you to understand the capabilities of the product and service you are thinking of using. Additionally, there are many third-party referral sites that can help you compare the features of a product and see how others have weighed in on it. The challenge with each of these elements is that it is not the same as having a direct conversation with someone and being able to ask YOUR questions.
Here are a few ideas about how to speak directly with someone before you make your decision:
Our top three picks for your team to train themselves on how to drive sales (besides this guide) are:
Considering that 90% of wine drinkers are on social media, there's really no excuse for you not to become familiar with the platforms and how you can be leveraging them to help gain more sales. We've provided a list, links, and some pointers to help you get started below!
Wizer offers FREE SECURITY AWARENESS TRAINING (wizer-training.com), and we strongly encourage you to stop everything and make sure your entire team takes it. Ensuring that all your employees have the basic foundations of being safe digitally is the first step in prevention. For example: do all your employees know to never click on links or download unsolicited attachments? Now's the time!
Can small wineries compete with large estates and virtual wineries? According to an in-depth look at the differentiation strategies and financial performance of small-to-medium-sized wineries over a period of 5 years, the answer is “Yes!” Perhaps more importantly, the study answered the question: “How?”