Driving traffic is a hot topic! More and more we are being asked to discuss outreach with members and it’s understandable. Traffic is down! There is more competition than ever, and it’s not just amongst your neighbors. More tasting rooms are opening across regions, new regions are growing, and most industries are adapting to an experience-driven consumer.

We often hear “I’m doing outreach. It’s not working,” but much of the time when we dig deeper, we realize outreach is placed on the back burner. There’s a lack of strategy and consistency, and those are two things needed for a successful outreach program. We encourage our winery clients to drill down to a more focused, creative approach to outreach.

We’re outlining the steps to give you the tools to create a program that creates return.

Step I: Define Your Customer
How do you define your customer? Best practice – create a brand position statement! There are three parts of a good brand position statement – it defines your customer, your winery, and what they love about you (what you deliver every single time- say it again – every single time). We cannot communicate the importance of branding work enough!
We recommend sitting down with your key team members and creating a brand statement of your own. It’s hard work and it really helps to have an outsider to come in and guide the process. Once you have it, it will guide every decision you make. You might be asking how this relates to outreach… the answer is, when you define your customer and you know who they are, you can find more qualified tasters! We recommend viewing your winery as a living thing. It has likes, dislikes, things it gravitates toward. It can even evolve as it matures. Your brand starts to come alive when you assign visuals – it’s super helpful to know this when looking at other businesses to drive traffic.

Step 2: Make a Plan
Once you have your customer defined, sit down and hash things out. A goal without a plan is just a wish! Include the people responsible for execution and management of your outreach program, as well as your tasting room team. We’re asking you to think about this in terms of quality over quantity. The usual suspects to partner with are hotels, restaurants, etc. We’re asking you to think of partners that fit more specifically with your brand. For example, if you’re an art-centric tasting room, find a local art gallery or a hotel that features a special art collection. If you’re a rugged/outdoorsy brand, perhaps partnering with the local, high end outdoor retail shop, etc. Once you know your partners, map out when you will visit.

We recommend a Tasting Room Manager spend about 15% of their time doing outreach, which translates to a few hours a week. We have found that Thursday’s are a good day for a lot of managers. Remember, consistency is key! Not only does it keep you relevant, but it provides accurate measurement for you to know what your return of investment is, keeps you accountable, and establishes you as reputable.

Step 3: Execution
Get your feet on the ground! Use your professional and personal network to reach out to people that you already have a relationship with- think caterers, chefs, etc. who have worked your events. Ask them for a formal meeting, or if you know them on a more personal level, take them out to lunch. This needs to be more than going around to pass out comp cards. This is about building relationships! Offer special experiences at the winery to these partners, or bring part of the experience to them by taking a bottle of wine to the meeting. We want to build trust with these partners so they know they can rely on us to provide their customers/guests with an outstanding experience each and every time they send them our way.
Your personal relationship with your partners will be an important piece when thinking about how to reward or incentivize them. Knowing what they would enjoy requires getting to know them! Perhaps you start with wine, but then you get to know what kind of wine they really prefer. If they are wine lovers, offering them a complimentary elevated experience would be a great way to both reward them and also show them what their guests could experience. Or perhaps they don’t drink, so they would prefer an Amazon gift card or chocolates from the local chocolate shop. Generally, rewards will be low cost, but if you’re seeing a large return from certain partners, you can think about increasing.

Step 4: Keeping Track

What gets measured gets managed! If you are not tracking your outreach, you cannot accurately measure your return on the investment. We suggest tracking the following:

  • month
  • partner
  • contacts
  • date to visit
  • date completed
  • rewards
  • notes
  • tasters
  • sales
  • sales per taster
  • club
  • club conversion

We created a spreadsheet for our sample purposes, but you can most likely track these things through your point of sale by creating a product code for each partner. This will allow you to easily pull reports.

We recommend reevaluating your reports about once every six months to see what is working and what may need to be revised.

Finally, training your team will be a crucial component in making your outreach program successful. Your team needs to know how important your referral partners are and that when they send a guest to your winery, that guest should be given a great experience. They also need to be trained on entering the product codes and CRM notes if your POS supports that.

In summary, your community outreach should be well thought out, strategical, and consistent. Focus on quality partners rather than quantity, and approach this in a systematic and creative way. Your return will be qualified tasters who identify with your brand!

Look for our next blog about driving qualified tasters through social media!

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Email lindsay@vingdirect for more information, or call us at 512-308-2908