[June 22, 2023 – Sandra Beals]
With more winery choices than ever, remaining relevant and appealing has gotten a lot more challenging. There isn’t a “one size fits all” formula for standing out in the crowd, but a common theme of our most successful winery clients is the ability to personalize and customize whenever possible. This is a principle I have been teaching for almost ten years now as we help direct to consumer teams across the globe go from good to great. I hope that you and your respective winery teams find these proven methods helpful as we enter tourism season this summer. Cheers!
1. Offer Relevant Visitor Options
- Based on day/time. First time visitors with fresh palates and pocketbooks will be more focused on brand story, offerings, etc. earlier in the day. Make it easy for these visitors to reserve your first two tastings of the day (especially Friday through Sunday). Members and VIPs want the after lunch winery experiences, so give them more of what they want by making those reservations private and available by personally contacting a member of your hospitality team. When possible, always set aside 2-3 Reserved Tables for walk-ins during the afternoon tastings.
- Based on topics of interest. Is your wine brand still offering the same tasting options and events from 2-3 years ago? Are these options identical to what your neighbors are offering? Your brand loyalists are going to get burnt out quickly if they keep returning to the same thing. Be sure to ask questions of your top lifetime value customers and stay fresh by shopping your top three comparative sets. Be a trend-setter by knowing your audiences and creating remarkable visitor experiences.
- Based on audience type. Leverage Consumer Journey Maps to better engage with your brand loyalist based on customer type. Long standing members and VIPs have different interests/needs than first-time visitors. Help visitors envision themselves on the future path each time they reengage and map out a plan for the ideal experiences based on your unique offerings and access points. Be sure to personally invite repeat guests and members to their next engagement as this will ensure optimal levels of response. Don’t rely on email blasts to be the only invitation your hospitality team extends. Today’s connected consumer expects personalization and relevant offerings.
- Based on space. Is your hospitality team optimizing and maximizing visitor spaces based on season/days of the week, etc.? Maybe it’s time to rethink your visitor spaces, especially if visitation is down for your wine brand and wine region. Ideally, offer a Hybrid tasting room experience. 60-70% of visitors engaging through an advanced reservation to best prepare for their visit and the remaining space dedicated to walk-in’s. Some recent press across the nation has been focused on the high costs and annoying policies in wine country. “Walk-Ins Welcome” can be a refreshing message if your wine brand can accommodate. Also, the opportunity to host groups of six or more will appeal to the younger demographic of wine enthusiasts who tend to travel and experience in packs. Is it time to allocate some visitor space for large group tastings and possibly incorporate a tour to provide more of a behind the scenes look that more of this audience type is craving?
2. Speak the Right Language by Audience Type
- Provide “choices” and remove barriers to visit in all digital outlets. How welcoming is your content in all digital outlets? Does your online visitor options lead with policies and what visitors can’t enjoy? Instead, consider language that encourages exploration like, “Choose your own Adventure”. Ask online visitors what their ideal visitor to your tasting room would feel like. Do the same for your long-time members and VIPs when they reach out to schedule a visit. And get ready for great things to happen. Obviously, if your winery has restrictions, this may not apply – but could you personalize private tasting appointments by simply asking these key questions during the confirmation call?
- Help first-time visitors engage with Trip Planner Tools. Be the brand ambassador of your wine region by being helpful and thoughtful. Why wait for your out of area visitors to reach out ahead of their visit to ask for help with trip planning? If your winery team hosts a considerable amount of out of town guests, this is simply the right thing to do. Build 4-5 Trip Planner themes based on top interests – Romantic Weekend in Wine Country, Reunions and Celebrations, BFF Wine Country Weekends, Family-Fun, etc.
- Extend member tastings to their inner circles. This is especially effective if the majority of members live out of area (2+ hour drive time, out of state, etc.). While local members can enjoy the benefit of complimentary tastings, the out of area member may not be feeling the love with this perk. By allowing members to gift their comp tastings to their friends and family – they feel good and your hospitality team is setup for success. This is an ideal target audience to welcome in as a VIP for their first visit. The conversion ratios should be higher than average when these warmed up guests are taken care of. Always personally thank the member for these referrals and track in your contact management system through contact types or custom data fields for reporting purposes.
- Test “Access” when appealing to Collectors. Speaking the right language here is key when inviting. Behind the scenes, off the grid visits and private wine access is exactly what they are looking for, so give it to them. Why not add a sentence or two in your Visit page that appeals to these type of wine buyers in a personal way? “Looking to explore our private offerings? Reach out.” Or, “Interested in a winemaker meetup or vineyard walkabout? Reach out.” When hosting these type of buyers have a plan in place to give them what they want when asking about access.
3. Play Matchmaker
- Match guests with ideal hosts based on interests gleaned in reservation or contact record.
- Position a “Tour Guide” if you can accommodate groups 6+ guests at your winery location. Get the group excited by popping a bottle of bubbly when welcoming the group and beginning tour – don’t make it feel like a checklist style tasting experience. Get to know each member of the group ahead of time if possible to find commonalities – then introduce the group to one another based on what you learn.
- Get the membership team involved when hosting 3+ year members. Familiar faces go along way when welcoming back brand loyalists and their guests. Even if for a quick drop in to introduce and get better acquainted – this personal touch means a lot to those who support your wine brand.
- Members of the Press, VIPs and members of the wine industry should be matched with your lead storytellers. Family members, winemaking team and owners when possible need to be hosting these guests.
4. Offer Concierge-Style Services
- Connect qualified first-time and repeat visitors with a seasoned member of your hospitality team before they wrap up their visit. When guests sign up for membership at the tasting room, be sure to invite these important customers to return to something unpublished – a vineyard walk about, winemaker meet-up, barrel samples, chef experience, etc. Do something above and beyond to make the new member(s) feel like VIPs when planning their next visit. Aim for a return in 30-60 days if local (up to two hour drive time). Connect virtually with a “New Member Meet & Greet Session” if out of state, etc. Ideally, a member of winemaking or family will join the hospitality manager for this online gathering.
- Make it easy to refer your neighbors and call ahead when possible. Develop a list of complimentary businesses by type and setup as a webpage such as “Some of our local favorites”, for easy link sharing. Personalize with remarks from family, members of the winemaking and hospitality teams such as, “my favorite vegetarian restaurant”, “perfect winery visit for families”, “ideal spot to enjoy sunsets”, etc.
- Include wine region lifestyle partners in your upcoming events to further personalize invitation. By extending your wine brand experiences offsite and with like-minded business associates, your wine brand has a greater opportunity to attract new audiences. Co-host a cooking class with a local business or a nature hike and wine lunch with a local vineyard partner, etc. Get out of your own box and create more community oriented gatherings to expand reach to new audiences.
5. Empower Every Member of the Hospitality Team to Personally Invite
- Develop Personal “Employee VIP Treatment Cards” that can be issued to others each month. Limit to five per employee – sign, number and include an expiration date. When your staff interacts with others at the gym, daycare pickup, school pickup, at a dinner party, etc. make it easy for your internal brand ambassadors to share the love. This can be a tasting experience upgrade, a private tasting space for up to six guests, etc. Get creative and personalize it! Track card usage by employee each quarter and reward for the highest conversion rates (to visit, to purchase, to membership, etc.).
- Host a “Friends and Family Winery Gathering” at least once a year to personally invite these important guests. Not only will your employees feel appreciated but their inner-circle will also experience what it feels like to be a part of your wine brand experiences. Be sure to track conversion from these annual gatherings and reward staff where it make sense.
Want to learn more about how DTC Wine Workshops and the DTC Consultant Network can help your winery team go from good to great? Reach out HERE!