It’s that time again…resolutions and goals for ourselves and businesses. If you are the leader of your winery you have hopefully set your financial goals, national sales goals and direct to consumer goals for 2018. Done and dusted. If you’re like other winery owners, you’re going to spend some time in the first two weeks of January thinking about ways to improve your business. I’m here to suggest that you take the time to dig deeper than goals and check out the core health of your business.
Why now? Here are just a few concerning trends that we see in the wine industry. You are in a fight for your winery’s life to get (and keep) the consumer’s attention.
  • New wineries in 2017: 575
  • Total number of wineries in the US: 9,608 *According to Wines & Vines Analytics

New wineries continue to enter the marketplace and declining tasting room traffic counts are a fact in many U.S. wine regions. Distributors continue to consolidate. Shelf space is given to large wineries who have muscle and clout. The greatest risk for wineries is the false belief that their product will set them apart. Unless you exist in the rarified air of wineries who receive 100 point scores, your wine alone will NOT attract consumers.
  • Do you have (does your team know?) 3 key messages that are truly unique to your business?
  • Do you spend consistent, quality time communicating your brand values to your team?
  • Is your brand message extended throughout all consumer touch points and channels?

The demand for talented DTC and hospitality management is outpacing supply. For the average winery, 90% of all consumer engagement begins in the tasting room, so management and staffing is critical. Ironically, it’s an area often neglected by winery management. What are you doing to attract and retain talented hospitality team members?
  • In a competitive market, compensation must be competitive. Have you assessed your compensation packages in the last 6 months?
  • Employees don’t work for companies, they work for people. Are you spending time with your hospitality team? Do they know you value their contribution?
  • Invest in education. Team members tell us that they value wine education, sales training, and management training. An educated team delivers a short term ROI and they are also more likely to feel invested in your business for the long term.
  • Look for skills and accomplishments versus wine industry experience. One of the biggest hiring mistakes we see is the requirement that employees have wine industry experience. We need fresh perspective and new ideas in the wine industry. We also need a pool of talented candidates and as we’ve established, the pool can’t meet today’s demand.

Innovation is Rare. We’ve often heard it said that the wine industry is decades behind other industries in technology, processes and marketing. I doubt there is data to validate this statement, but it doesn’t take data to know that our industry isn’t making significant headway against the biggest challenges (or future opportunities). Businesses that don’t innovate may find their future options very limited.
  • How do you promote innovation within your business? Are you taking time each month to think creatively about opportunities and challenges within your business?
  • Ask your team. Sounds simple, but it rarely happens. Many wine industry employees come from accomplished backgrounds. Their experiences in other industries and their interaction with your customers give them fresh perspective.
  • Do you welcome failure? If you aren’t failing you probably aren’t risking or trying new things often enough. Encourage tests, experiments and trials and learn from the mistakes.

At VingDirect our focus is on helping family wineries sell more wine direct to consumers. If you have ideas about opportunities or solutions for DTC we’d like to hear from you in 2018! Simply reach out today and we’ll be in touch. Cheers to a prosperous, healthy and happy 2018!