Most wine shoppers have been there. Standing in front of a wall of shelves, staring at rows of bottles, trying to figure out which one to buy. The truth is, people have more brands and varieties of wine to choose from now than at any point in human history. With thousands of wineries in the U.S. and hundreds of thousands in Europe, it’s safe to say that the wine industry is a heavily saturated market.
So then as a wine brand, how can you stand out from the crowd?
Unlike many other products and services, the internet isn’t much help when it comes to marketing wine. According to a survey at Wine.net, less than three percent of people are purchasing wine online or through a wine club. The vast majority are still buying it the old fashioned way, at grocery, liquor, and specialty wine stores.
Further complicating things, the same survey revealed that most people make their choices about which wines to buy based on rather superficial factors. For instance, a whopping 82% count the appearance of the label among their influences, 65% the perceived (not actual) price, and 53% the shape and color of the bottle. None of which has anything to do with the actual taste or quality of the wine.
Which leaves us with the same question: How to stand out from the crowd and not only grab the attention of consumers but make them loyal customers?
The answer lies in basic human connection. If 96% of people are still buying their wine at stores, then go where the people are. Wine sampling events at these locations are a great way to get your bottles off the shelf and in front of people before they have a chance to see what else is available. And hiring professional talent to represent your wine at these events will take this marketing effort to the next level.
It’s About More Than Just Free Booze
The important thing to keep in mind about a wine sampling is that it’s not enough to simply hand out free alcohol to people as they walk by. That tactic might work if you’re giving away free cookie samples on the sidewalk in front of a bakery. But as we’ve already seen, taste is not high on the list of purchasing factors for this segment.
The advantage of a wine sampling is the ability to get in front of consumers and duplicate as much as possible the same kind of energy one might feel if they attended a tasting at a winery. Which means not only free samples, but also conversation with somebody who can answer their questions and fully represent the brand.
If your business already has somebody–say the owner or a sales rep–who is good with people and who has the freedom to attend events like these, great. But if not, then be sure your sampling table is staffed by a professional brand ambassador who understands how best to interact with consumers in a live setting.
Get to Know the Customer First
The key to any effective marketing campaign is to get to know your customer before you try to sell them anything–to be customer-centric rather than product-centric. This can be difficult to do when you’re setting up an email campaign, but is made much easier in the case of a wine sampling, where somebody is physically standing at your table.
The choice of a wine, like any other food or beverage, is to a large extent a lifestyle choice. Different kinds of people drink red, white, dry, sweet, domestic, or organic wines. So before kicking into a sales pitch or a list of features, it’s important to learn a few things about the prospective customer. Which brands of wine do they normally drink? Are they drinking it socially or with food … or both? If they’re buying something to have with dinner tonight, then what’s on the menu?
An experienced brand ambassador, armed with details about your wine that you provide, can draw this kind of information from a person standing at your table. They can then use this insight to paint a verbal picture of both your wine and your brand in a way that helps the consumer understand how it aligns with their lifestyle, values, and tastes.
Tell a Compelling Story
These days, it’s not enough to just make a wine that tastes good. Again, you’re competing with hundreds of thousands of wineries across the globe, many of which produce wine that probably tastes just as good as yours. But the main differentiator between you and all the others is that nobody else can tell your particular story.
Understanding and being able to express your story to people at a live event like a wine sampling is crucial. Where are you from? How did you start your business? Is it a family business? What’s special about the grapes you use? Are they organic? What makes your winery (not your wine) unique? Do you have a special philosophy? Do you donate a percentage of proceeds to charity? If so, which one? And so on.
The more somebody knows about your story, about the people and the business behind the wine, the more likely they are to form an emotional connection with your brand. And once they’ve done that, then they are more likely to buy not just one or two bottles at the store that day, but to become loyal, engaged customers going forward.
Again, an experienced brand ambassador, armed with the details of your story, can effectively weave details like these into conversations with prospective customers, based on what they’ve learned about their lifestyle choices. In this way, after only a few minutes spent at your table, consumers will walk away feeling as if they’ve not only sampled some wine, but also made a strong connection with your brand.