At the close of the European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC) in Vienna Robert McIntosch from wineconversation.com and Ryan and Gabriella Opaz from Catavino.net introduced us to the Born Digital Wine Awards (BDWA), a kind of Pulitzer Prizes for online wine communicators.

On the BDWA website the organisers describe the awards as following: “The Born Digital Wine Awards are an attempt to give value to the new wave of online wine journalism. Each year, the best examples of electronic publishing, including videos, will be reviewed by a panel of top industry professionals from within and without the wine industry.”

Just like the Pulitzer Prizes aims to honour excellence in the journalism and art world, the BDWA is looking for excellence in online and digital wine journalism. It is a proper award in the sense that there are real prizes involved – the winner of each category will be taking home a €1,000 – and that the prizes will be awarded by some real heavy weights in the wine, journalism and publishing world. The latter in my eyes is an even bigger and more prestigious acknowledgement as it will be an honour to be recognized by Jancis Robinson, Elin McCoy, Evan Schnittman, Hervé Lalau, Patrick Schmitt and Robert Joseph.

The fact that these busy and highly recognized judges are willing to make time to review and evaluate our online wine content surely means that our message is gaining importance in the wine and online journalism world. One of the categories is content created by wineries so if you as a winery have invested in outstanding online content or marketing material do consider to enter. Entry forms and submission details can be found on the submission page of the BDWA website.

Entry categories are the following:

  • Best Investigative Wine Story
    For a distinguished example of investigative reporting by an individual or team, presented as a single wine article or series (video, written text)
  • Best Editorial Wine Writing
    Outstanding examples of wine writing, giving prime consideration to literary quality and originality
  • Best Wine Tourism Feature
    Speaking about a particular region as a tourist destination with a focus on wine (written text, video, photo)
  • Best Wine Themed Video
    Video content that either educates, demonstrates or builds awareness for wine (video)
  • Best Winery Self Produced Content
    Outstanding examples of content created by wineries to promote their brand and reach out to key audiences
  • The judging will be in English – however it is important to note that content can be submitted in any language and a professional translation service is being offered.

    On Monday I met with my friend Andre Ribeirinho from Adegga.com and we had a good conversation about the AVIN. Up till then I had only heard very little about this project, but the more I talked to Andre, the more intrigued I became. I would like to share with you why I believe every winery should sign up and implement the AVIN code for all its wines.

    But first of all let me elaborate a little on the AVIN. AVIN stands for All Vin Identification Number – it was created as a project by the social tasting note site Adegga.com as their unique identifier which they use as master data for mapping purposes. They then realised that everyone could benefit from a system which easily identifies any wine in the world and a separate company was set up. Today the AVIN is a unique 13 digit number which is used to track wines in the same way the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) has been used for books since the 60′s. It’s formatted in the same way and looks like AVIN6452997073019.

    The benefit of the AVIN is similar to the benefit of the ISBN – i.e. it is a UNIQUE identifier for a specific wine. By this I mean that if a winery or a distributor registers their wines and add the AVIN to their tasting notes and on the label all this info can and will be collated. Furthermore, bloggers, writers and wine reviewers can add the AVIN to their review or article, and again this info will be collated back to the correct wine, which means that if a consumer enters an AVIN in Google, or any other search engine, he will get all this information back.

    An added benefit of the AVIN is that a QR code is created for every AVIN, and with the rise in popularity of Mobile Tagging this means that the information linked to the AVIN is very easily retrievable by any customer.

    In summary, this is why I believe every winery should be signing up for AVIN codes.

  • It’s free.
  • The winery is in control of the information entered about their wines.
  • By actively using the AVIN as part of your wine marketing strategy, and integrating it on the tasting notes, or on your website when you have received an accolade for a particular wine, and adding the QR code on your label, the chances are high that you directly can influence or inform your customer
  • More than 30,000,000 labels have been printed to date with an AVIN on, and about 24,000 wines have been registered for the AVIN. Whilst this is just a small number compared to all the wines in the world, as always it is better to be on board earlier rather than later as its easier to influence in a less crowded space
  • Google is investing heavily in mobile tagging technology and it is highly possible that implementing the AVIN can improve your SEO ranking
  • More and more wine bloggers are using the AVIN, and I have heard through the grapevine that Jancis Robinson would like to start using AVIN for her Purple Pages wine reviews:-)
  • I have also heard that International Wine Competitions would like to start using the AVIN as well
  • With the increase of digital wine lists on i-Pad , the AVIN can really add value as it once again allows you to directly communicate with your customer
  • And lastly the AVIN is cool! Wine bottles with the AVIN QR code printed on the bottle draw attention as they are a novelty, and people want to use the QR scanner on their phone as it’s a cool thing to do!
  • I hope that these points have convinced you that the AVIN is here to stay and that it would be a great thing to sign up for the codes and actively promote it’s usage sooner rather than later! If I have convinced you please visit the AVIN website to register and sign up for the codes:-)

    The board of AVIN advisors consists of André Cid Proença, Andre Ribeirinho and Emidio Santos – all 3 founders of Adegga.com and
    Gabriella and Ryan Opaz – founders of Catavino.net and the European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC).

    Today I would like to share the presentation Ryan O’Connell from O Vineyards gave at le #levin20 – I found a video of his presentation last week and I have been thinking about what he was saying ever since.

    First let me explain a little more about LE VIN 2.0 – it’s an event which was organised for wine professionals in Paris on 8th December of which the purpose was to gain a better understanding of the web.02 and use it to add value to your wines and gain access to new markets. Unfortunately yours truly unable to attend, but live stream coverage and twitter and blog post have enabled me to just about recreate the day:-)

    LEVIN 2.0 (or #levin20 on Twitter) was in my opinion a very important event and evidence of this can be seen in the list of important wine web people who shared their experiences. These include amongst others Gary Vaynerchuk from Winelibrary TV, Philippe Hugon from vinternet, Marc Roisin of vinogusto.com , Yair Haidu of Haidu.net and Rowan Gormley of nakedwines .

    Back to Ryan O’Connell – Ryan is a talented young winemaker who owns a vineyard and winery together with his family in Carcassone in the Languedoc. Besides making wine Ryan is quite active in Social Media – and actually although he says that girls don’t stop him in the streets (yet!) he’s quite a well known web02 wine character. In his presentation he talks about how Social Media networking has changed his marketing strategy. He compares Social Media to the more traditional way of marketing, ie wine shows. The shows is where you network and expand your professional relationships as well as try and form customer relationships. This is both possible in Social Media as well says Ryan, and in a less competitive and crowded space. At the wine shows, as a small producer on a very small stand, it is very hard to take the attention away from the larger producers who often invest in a fancy stand that draws the (professional and consumer) crowds. However, a lot of them haven’t made a similar investment in Social Media yet, so it is possible and actually very feasible for a smaller producer to steal the lime light here;-) However, fame and stardom never come easy – and so to get anywhere in Social Media a company needs to do more than just have a blog on their website, open a Facebook page and Tweet occasionally. No to make it one has to actively engage and look for relationships – both on a professional and consumer level.

    As said on several occasions by Gary Vaynerchuck you have to be willing to give a lot, help people out and really work at communicating with similar minded people before things start to pay off. However if you do invest the time and effort you can and will meet awesome people online, either fans of your wine – they have had it somewhere before, and by engaging personally with these people you will create the very sought after brand loyalty. And by communicating and sharing ideas with other professionals they will open their network to you, and it is very likely that you will be introduced to someone who can and wants to sell your wine.

    And as Ryan pointed out – it does help to talk about more than just your brand.. Ryan set up a regional body – Love that Languedoc - and shared that he has created a lot more interest for his wines by promoting his region rather than just the wines – it gives him a point of difference and adds more value for anybody wanting to understand Languedoc wines.

    Whilst I do believe that social media is no replacement for a wine show, I know that whilst the area is not overly crowded yet, it’s a great networking tool which I highly recommend using.
    I also recommend following Ryan’s example and share information on your region or country; I know from experience that if you are willing to share knowledge on more than just your vineyard you draw people to you and they will remember you for it – on or off line!

    From 22-26 October 2010 I participated in the #EWBC (Eureopean Wine Bloggers Conference)  – a fantastic international event organized by Gabriella and Ryan Opaz of Catavino, and Robert McIntosh of Thirst for Wine. The #EWBC was in its third year and was attended by 200 people from over 30 countries.

    Now why do I want to share this experience with you? Besides learning a lot about social media and tasting some fabulous Austrian wines this event in my eyes was also a great  illustration of how you can expand your brand presence online! How I can hear you whisper…

    Well Elin McCoy, the famous wine journalist and author, addressed future of wine criticism in the opening Keynote. She raised a whole lot of questions about whom the wine critics of tomorrow would be and introduced the term “citizen wine critic”. She argued that because of the diversification of the wine world – the traditional wine critics at an established organisations (eg Robert Parker – or the guys at the Wine Spectator) are struggling to keep up with the new trends in the wine world. (new varieties, terroirs, vineyard and winemaking techniques) This diversification hence creates a need for local experts – often in the form of wine bloggers & wine lovers who are passionate about a specific region/variety – to share their knowledge and in this way help educate the consumer.

    In my opinion, Elin was not saying that the traditional wine critics were not important anymore, but rather that the fast evolving wine world and the rise of social media has created other opportunities for wineries to gain brand awareness.

    I would strongly advise you to create a winery blog on your website, and encourage your customers to leave comments here. Add a FB and Twitter share button, so that they can share their comments with their friends. I would also actively encourage people to leave a wine review on one of the many user generated content sites out there (eg like www.cellartracker.comadegga.com or ablegrape.com). You can do this either on the label (for instance by using the avin system or adding a link to one of these sites) or encourage customers at tastings or at the cellar door. Cellartracker has more than 5 million reviews alone, and getting your customers in the habit to use these sites will make you less dependent on scores from the traditional wine critics. And best of all it’s free and is shared by thousands!

    In the closing Keynote, by Evan Schnittman of Bloomsbury Publishing, spoke about how the rise of the internet has changed the world of publishing. More and more people reading books, articles etc are doing this today on a Kindle, iPads and other internet connected devices, which means they can reference and comment directly on what they are reading. And by doing this they will have the opportunity to reference blogs, social media channels and topic related websites.

    Again I truly believe that this development allows you increased direct communication with your customers> However, in order to effectively do so,  you will need to make sure your website is up to date and has tasting notes for all your wines in the market, as well as bottleshots, vineyard and winery  images and the latest news  readily available.

    However maybe the most important lesson I learned from the #EWBC is that wineries actively involved in Social Media and attending these events will see an immediate increase in exposure. At these events you have a captive audience of international writers -who will feel privileged by you taking the time to taste them through your wines and as a result will happily share this experience with the rest of their online community. They will often write blog posts about you, or at least promote you on Twitter and Facebook. And again all this extra exposure only requires a few sample bottles and your presence at the event – a real bargain if you ask me:-)

    To finish off this article I just would like to mention that a lot of my fellow wine bloggers have been a lot less slack that I have and have written some beautiful stories about the conference in the past few months.

    Here are the links to some of my favourite stories:
    EWBC – ongoing stories by Ryan O’connel
    EWBC by Lucia Barzanò
    EWBC through the eyes of Ignacio Segovia
    Enjoy an Austrian Wine Holiday at the Loisium Wine and Spa Resort by Diane Letulle
    Where some stories start and many go – by MissVickyWine
    Exploring the art of Lunch in Vienna by Jim Budd
    Listz in the Cellar by the Winesleuth
    Gemütlichkeit: The Ideal Descriptor of Austrian Gastronomy by Gabriella Opaz

    I am writing this blog post from the Rennaissance hotel in Vienna. I am here to attend the European wine Bloggers conference and to extend my network with like-minded people:).

    Whilst I know that attending a conference is a  more classical way of networking, I want to share that I already have connected with quite a few of the other participants via the web (Facebook, Twitter) before ever meeting them in person. Reaching out and communicating with others via the internet is one way of defining Social Media.  The reason social media is social is that it is two way. E.g. I post something on the internet, and others replies, leave comment or post something else in relation to my post.

    Why do I think networking via social media really can make a difference for your wine business?

    Well first and foremost it’s a direct communication between you and your consumers, distributors, distributors sales reps, store owners selling your wine and sommeliers and waiting staff pushing it on-trade. By reaching out and connecting with these people  you can transfer your knowledge (eg what is going on at the vineyard and winery, what events you are attending, accolades you have received etc etc) and  educate the people in your network. This will make it easier for them to push your wine (if they are in the trade) or feel more connected to your winery and hence make it their wine of choice (for consumers).

    Further more social media updates can be read by people who had never heard of you before, so it is a great opportunity to extend your network and consumer base.

    There are indeed many advantages to be had by social media networking, but how should you go about it and is it going to be expensive?

    There are many different types of media out there that you can use to connect and communicate with people which are free eg Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Bloggers, Youtube and Flickr. All you need is a little time to invest in communication to your network. Remember you need to be willing to take the initiative here time after time.

    An easy way to start is to create an account in Facebook and Twitter. Spend a little time setting up your profile – because this is where it all begins. Your profile is your personal billboard – give a short overview of your business – be concise and direct when doing so! Remember, your profile is what will attract followers and friends -adding your website address here is also a must as once people are intrigued they will want to find out more about you:)

    Updates in both these media are generally short and do not require a lot of time. Both media actively encourage and support the ability to connect to all your email contacts. Do invite all of your existing contacts to connect with you here as well, and once you are connected reach out to them to spread the word about your winery.

    Both media also allow you to post links to other sites, use this ability if it will further promote your winery – eg a glorious review by a wine writer -(NZ winegrowers and wineries Man o’War and Misha’s Vineyard are very good at this!) or a youtube video of harvest in progress – this was done by Huegel very successfully last month.

    I will post some more examples of wineries and wine related businesses using Social Media during the conference and hope their success will rub off on you!

    As I am getting more and more excited to meet fellow wine bloggers at the European Wine Bloggers Conference (http://winebloggersconference.org/europe/) in Vienna on Thursday I was pondering the power of networking.

    Networking – i.e any activity designed to create, maintain and utilize interpersonal connections -  is one of my favourite pastimes! I really love it as it allows me to connect to like minded people and learn from them.

    Networking is also an essential business skill as it allows you to make the vital connections that your wine business needs to survive and prosper in today’s super-connected economy.  Effective networking consists of preparation, delivery and follow through.

    So how can you build  a successful network for your winery? Let me take your through the 3 steps and give some examples along the way

    Preparation:

    Prepare the famous elevator speech! When someone asks you what you do, you are being given a golden, but brief, opportunity to knock his or her socks of. Make sure you grab this opportunity! In order to effectively do so prepare a 15-30 second speech in which you articulate your skill set and business focus in a clear and concise manner – and make sure you can deliver it in a compelling way.

    Part of the preparation is also to set your networking goals – what do you want to achieve from this network. If you haven’t taken the time to determine what your goals are for the encounters ahead, you will have a hard time meeting them. Some winery goals could be share knowledge, look for a distributor, market knowledge or check out the competition and see how good your wine stands up to the rest of the wines at the  event.

    Lastly, make sure you have everything you need to successfully connect – eg business cards, the correct attire for the event and a positive and confident attitude!

    Delivery:

    One great advantage of good preparation is that the delivery generally is pretty smooth. You feel confident as you know what you want from the network, have honed your elevator pitch and have everything you need to be successful at your finger tips. This confidence will shine through in your delivery with a high success rate as a direct result.

    Follow up

    The most important part of networking happens after the initial contact. I can highly recommend following up promptly in a way designed to strengthen the relationship and add value for the other person. When you make contact shortly after meeting someone you would like to add to your network, you reinforce your initial contact and carry through a scent of enthusiasm about your common interests. A follow up call/email also lays the grounds for further contacts in the future. A perfect example of a follow up email is a thank you note for the time invested and knowledge shared. And as thank you notes are a dying breed these days this will definitely make you stand out in a good way:)

    Well yes networking takes time, dedication and attention but it’s a truly enriching experience and therefore I feel it’s time very well spent! In the next few posts I will talk more about networking but focussing on the social media networks.

    Last weekend I visited the beautiful Rhineland – Phalz area, and enjoyed a wonderful morning at the Mosel Wine Museum in Bernkastel-Kues (http://www.moselweinmuseum.de). The museum is interactive, and takes you through the wine growing, harvesting and wine making process of the region. Quite an experience as most of the best Riesling sites around the Mosel are planted on extremely steep hills, which makes the vine tendering and picking quite challenging…

    The highlight of the visit for me though was the amazing wine cellar (Vinothek) which is hosted at the Weinkulturelles Zentrum. A tasting of the more than 150 wines is available for 15 Euro’s per peson. When you pay for the tasting you receive a glass and a list of all the wines one can taste in the cellar. Most of these wines are for sale and all the pricing is also included on the list. In the cellar there several experts willing and able to assist the tasting public. The majority of the wines are (obviously) Rieslings, but there are also other white and red varieties available to taste and purchase.

    Besides wanting to tell you about the high quality of  the majority of Rieslings I tasted on Sunday morning, I also wanted to share this story as the Vinothek (and the Museum) is another great marketing story.

    A lot of the Weingut’s in the region are very small wineries, only producing a few 1000 bottles a year, and ideally these bottles are all sold “directly” to the public. However, most very small business’s struggle to run a constantly open cellar door… That is why the Vinothek is a great opportunity for them. The tasting cellars are located at café and restaurant of the famous Mosel wine museum in the very touristy Bernkastel-Kues, and bus loads of tourists visit the museum every day. These tourists afterwards take a stroll in the cellars, and about 1/3 of them will pay for the tasting, and another 25% will have a glass of wine at the café.  Hence the winery can attract a large tasting public without having to invest in a cellar door and if the winery invests in it’s relationship with the tasting experts, these experts will regularly recommend the wineries wines to the tasting public, resulting in a higher turnover for the winery.

    Speaking of sales, I was amazed at the volume of sales at the cellar. I think this is directly related with giving the consumer the opportunity to taste and compare different styles of wine of a particular vintage, type and area (Eg 2009 Trocket Kabinet  Riesling) in one place; this ability to compare makes them more confident about what they like and what not and this generally will result in them buying several bottles of their favourite wine.

    So my advise to small wineries would be to actively try and join a similar set up as this Vinothek, ie a place that attracts lots of visitors and offers consumers the ability to taste multiple wines from lots of wineries in that particular region. Experience tells me that a lot of wine regions have a multi-wineries tasting rooms, and these tasting rooms are often located on tourist trails. Look out for this in your particular region, find out what the fees are to be part of the tasting room, how much wine you would have to sell in order to break even and speak to other wineries in the tasting room to see if this is feasible.

    Once you have decided that you want to join this particular tasting room, go and taste the other wines in the tasting room and compare them with your wines. Do involve the tasting staff in this comparative tasting and encourage them to look for similarities and differences with their other favourite wines, ask them what wines they feel would best feature in the comparative tasting and why. Actively engage them in these initial stages and be prepared to learn from them – by doing this you make them feel special and they in return will have warm feelings about your wines and will promote them actively.

    Once the wine is part of the tasting room portfolio, continue to invest in your relationship with the tasting room staff, be part of any events the tasting room may organise and visit the property regularly and I am sure you will reap the rewards:)

    In this day and age where most wine sales are driven by price and specials, brand loyalty is something which is pretty hard to maintain. However I recently saw 2 very simple  initiatives by small wineries which  I feel will create brand loyalty and I would like to share why I think so with you.

    The first one was about 8 weeks ago on my visit to the Champagne Region. In the Grand Cru village of Oger we visited the small winery Maison Jean Milan (http://www.champagne-milan.com/). I noticed an invite on a black board  in the tasting room to participate in a day of harvesting at the winery in September. When I enquired about this, I was given a simple looking pamphlet explaining the event. The pamphlets were also at the local tourist office, and had been sent around to some corporate clients in Paris and hospitality schools in France and Belgium. Every year, Maison Jean Milan hosts several  “Come live the Harvest” experience days, where consumers can book (and pay!) to join the vineyard and winery team for a day during harvest. The day starts around 9 AM with an explanation of how to pick the grapes followed by a few hours of hand picking in the vineyard with the regular vineyard workers. At 1 PM the winery puts on a elaborate lunch, and after lunch the wine making process is described, the guests visit the cellars and the winery – there they see the grapes they picked in the morning being crushed and pressed and pumped into a tank. After the winery visit there is a tasting and around 5 the people are send home with a bottle of Champagne as a momentum.

    The second initiative I heard about through Facebook. Barrel Oak Winery (http://www.barreloak.com/), a fairly new winery in Northern Virginia try to actively engage the community around them, as well as tourists, by organising unique and fun events on a regular basis. Last week’s event was called “chomp and stomp” and the invite I got said the following:  “I would highly recommend your coming out to visit. Smash grapes with your bare feet, sit around the fire pits, dance Saturday nite, eat some really great BBQ, watch the leaves turn color.”  I was pretty curious so looked up the event on their website. Basically the Chomp and Stomp event aimed to teach participants about the Barrel Oak Winery wine making process. It also was a charity event in such that it was trying to collect food for the neediest people in the area and Barrel Oak winery provided a free wine tasting to all participants who donated at least 3 cans of food

    Now why am I so impressed by both these events and do I feel that they will lead to brand loyalty?

    Both events are focussed on the active participation of the wineries’ potential customers in the wine making process. By engaging their potential customers in the heart of their business, these wineries created an emotional bond with their customers, resulting in a subconscious preference for their brand. Furthermore when these customers buy and drink this particular winery’s wines, it will evoke the memories and the story of how they were part of the making of this wine – and this is a story they most likely would love to share over and over again with friends and families!!

    So in my opinion, both wineries managed to turn their customers into brand ambassadors for the winery, in a very subtle low cost way, and this to me is an ingenious piece of marketing!

    The USA is an important target export market for most wineries around the world as it is the fastest expanding wine drinking market. The market is also totally driven by the Wine Spectator scores (http://www.winespectator.com). The Spectator scores play at every level – in the same way as a trophy or gold medal can make a huge difference to a winery’s sales. A 90+ WS score is almost essential if one wants to sell a good volume of wine at a price point higher than $10…  A 90+ wine is an easy sell for the distributor’s rep, because the 90+ WS score tag will attract shoppers and will help the wine sell through.

    Because it’s the most influential magazine in the USA, Canada and many other countries, it’s maybe not surprising that the Wine Spectator is often being (wrongly or rightly) criticised.

    Earlier this week I read an interesting  blog post by Blake Gray  (http://wblakegray.blogspot.com/2010/09/open-letter-about-wine-spectator.html) - where he elaborated a bit on his Open Letter to Marvin Shanken – the WS ‘s editor. His open letter caused quite a stir in the wine world, with quite some reactions on Gray’s own Blog post (http://wblakegray.blogspot.com/2010/09/open-letter-to-marvin-shanken.html) lots of tweets and more on the the WS forum (http://forums.winespectator.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/6826053161/m/717100867)

    Whilst I feel I am in no position to voice an opinion one way or another on James Laube’s palette and his way of scoring Californian wines for the Wine Spectator, I do have an opinion on the Spectator’s policy of having just one person conducting the tastings. I feel the magazine is far too influential and too crucial to a winery’s commercial success in the USA for it just being up to 1 person to decide on the wine’s faith…  I also feel that it’s not fair that the person tasting knows exactly what wine he is tasting – I feel it’s very difficult to mark a wine objectively if one knows the wines – i.e. what if the winery is a major advertiser in the WS, or the winemaker or owner is a friend of the taster – by seeing the label, the taster will often already have a preconceived idea of what scores he should allocate to these wines…

    In my opinion, it would make much more sense to follow the model most important and influential wine competitions use: a blind tasting by a (multi person) tasting panel. This will allow for an objective weighed score reflecting a joint opinion of the real quality of the wine. Its a known fact that the WS has a significant depth in their editorial staff (ie tasters)  and I feel the wealth of tasting knowledge of the individual tasters can only add value to the ultimate score they will jointly allocate.

    Whilst I know some people do follow the WS tasters very closely, it’s also a fact that the vast majority of the distributor’s reps, shop owners and general consumers do not really know who tasted these wines – what style they like and how they generally score – all that matters for them is that the “Wine Spectator” considers this wine to be extraordinary and allocated it a 90+ score. So with this in mind I really do not think they would be aghast by the fact that the wines are now tasted blind by a tasting panel rather than knowingly by 1 taster.

    And I feel it would also be easier for the wineries to accept a weighted score – most wineries I have worked with say they stand for quality and I think this should come through better in a weighted score.

    The famous Wine Marketing Plan – lots of wineries speak about it, but what should it be, and do you, as a small(ish) winery have one??

    Well a wine marketing plan in my eyes is the same as any business marketing plan – ie it is a written document that details the specific actions needed to achieve one or more marketing objectives. The essence of the process is that it moves from the general to the specific – it translates the vision into the mission, mission into specific objectives, and formulates individual action plans for each of these objectives.

    To be be effective it’s crucial that the results of the action plans are measurable and reviewed on a regular (generally monthly) basis, as this allows the company to review their objectives and make the necessary changes to the individual action plans to ensure the objectives are met. In other words, marketing planning is an INTERACTIVE process.

    Now most small to medium sized wineries I have dealt with have a vision, a mission and some vague objectives. Not that many of them actually have taken the time to create individual action plans to meet their objectives, and still fewer review their objectives on a regular basis and make changes to the action plans. The reason here is that they are so busy trying to run a winery, produce grapes, make wine that they have not a lot of time to focus on a sales and marketing plan, and most are happy as long as some wine is sold every month.

    But actually the investment in a wine marketing plan is not really as big an effort as is often thought. What is needed is to define the objectives in a precise way and most wineries already do this for their financial planning. The only thing that they need to add is a little detail.
    E.g. in your financial plan it say that you will sell 20,000 cases of wine next year, of which there are 5,000 sold at home and the rest is exported to several markets. You generally already have the breakdown of the export sales – eg 5000 cases to China, 5000 cases to the UK and 5000 cases to the USA.

    What is needed now is to add a more detailed forecast per market, split up per month and per variety sold to the specific market in that month. Eg for the UK, in January 250 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon, 500 cases of Chardonnay and 250 cases of Merlot, In February nothing, in March 250 cases of Merlot, in April, 250 cases of Cabernet and 500 cases of Chardonnay etc etc

    Once you have the detailed forecast for the year, you should extend this forecast for the next 4 years, the next 2 years you split up the sales forecasts by market by variety in 3 months periods, and for the last 2 years you give a yearly forecast per variety per market. This will give you your long term sales strategy – it will also bring home exactly how much wine you should expect to go out every month/3 months and allow you to better plan bottling, storage and market visits.

    Once you have your monthly forecasts per market per variety, its now important to include checks. A first check should be introduced at time of forecasting and it should compare your forecasted values against the actual sales you had in that market the same time last year – again split up by variety and by month. This will allow you to evaluate your situation and submit your expectations to a reality check and if large sales increases are expected it will enable you to focus on these increases and define tools and resources needed to meet the objectives. Eg you would like to grow in the UK from 200 cases of Cabernet in January last year to 500 cases this year. How will you achieve this – has your UK distributor the means to grow the Cabernet sales in a short period of time? How are you supporting him to achieve this growth (eg larger volume deals, better pricing, in market representation, trophy awarded recently to the Cabernet…)

    The second check is to compare the forecasted sales in a month to the actual sales in that same month. E.g. you forecasted 500 cases of Cabernet to go to the UK in January , but instead only 100 went. So you know that your forecast is out by 400 cases – this allows you to come up with a plan to distribute these 400 cases of Cabernet that did not go to the UK in January over other markets and other months. Alternatively, you won the Decanter trophy for your Cabernet in December and in January your sold 1000 cases into the UK rather than 500. What impact will this have on the rest of the markets you had Cabernet allocated to and have you communicated the change in allocation to them?

    In short the second check will allow you to realize exactly where you stand in comparison with the forecast and will force you to acknowledge the changes needed to the individual market plans in order to meet the overall objectives.

    So adding a little detail to figures most wineries have readily available, has introduced a wealth of knowledge about your exact current situation which now allows you to take control and make the changes which are needed to meet your overall sales targets and to realize your vision!

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