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The Ultimate Guide to Selling Wine Beyond the Tasting Room

Outsiders see winery ownership as glamorous and romantic. The insiders (winery owners), however, see a lot of hard work and a staggering amount of competition. Of all the jobs a winery owner has, SELLING all the wine you make is the toughest. 

This guide below (keep scrolling) will show you how to capitalize on all available ways to sell wine outside your tasting room. It is more important than ever that wineries learn to not rely solely on winery foot traffic. 


 

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The competition is stiff!

According to Vinepair, there were more than 16,000 wineries in the US in 2021. That is a 32 percent increase from 2018!

Numbers of U.S Wineries by State Wine Sales Stimulator

Getting tasting room visitors is harder than ever

Have you noticed that it is getting tougher and tougher to get as many tasting room visitors as it used to? This is a problem because winery foot traffic has traditionally been the primary source for DTC sales, email subscriber acquisition, and wine club member enrollments. 

The solution is learning to sell beyond the tasting room.

The way to compensate for this decrease in foot traffic is to learn to sell beyond the tasting room! There are ways to sell more wine that do not require someone’s physical presence on your property.

Even the smallest family winery can now leverage sales channels and tactics that did not even exist 5 years ago.

It is also important to note that much of the conventional wisdom about HOW to sell wine outside the tasting room (3-tier distributors, for example) is horribly outdated or just plain wrong. 

7 key areas on which to focus

To help you in YOUR journey, we’ve assembled a list of 7 key areas that every winery must learn to optimize. You can click on the link below to go straight to that topic or keep scrolling and reading to cover them all.

  1. Your Story
  2. Your Website
  3. Your Email List
  4. Organic Social
  5. Paid Social
  6. 3-tier Distributors (Trade)
  7. SEO/SEM

Who is the hero of your story?

If you want to sell more wine, you must recognize who the hero of your story truly is: the customer. According to this outstanding book, Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller, every story has a hero. This hero has a problem, but he/she meets a guide who gives them a plan and calls them to action that ends in success (and helps them avoid failure). 

When you are telling YOUR story, it is critical that you take your brand and your products out of the hero role and, instead, position the customer as the hero of the story.

In order to do this, it requires you intimately know who your customer is and what they want. Your brand and wines can serve as the guide that helps them get what they want.

Gather your team and spend time brainstorming about who your customer is and what they want. HINT: most likely they want “experiences” and opportunities to vicariously live the winery lifestyle. 

This way of telling the story can transform your sales! You can use your website to tell the story, but you can also carry it through to your social media feeds and in your advertising. It is a game changer!

 

Your website must be fully optimized for sales.

We recently surveyed 500 winery websites and found that most wineries are woefully unprepared for sales success. 

It is not enough to HAVE a website; you must fully optimize your website for sales success

If your website is cluttered, overwhelming, difficult to navigate, slow to load, and a struggle to view on a mobile device, you will never be successful selling all the wine you can.

Many wineries simply do not put enough thought into their website. They treat it like a digital brochure and have not updated it for years. It can be full of links that no longer work (including links to social sites).

We invite you to take a more in-depth look at how to optimize your winery website for DTC sales and to see how your winery stacks up. 

One of the most critical things your winery website must do well is enroll new email subscribers.

 

Your email list should be your #1 priority for increasing sales

To enjoy a continuous stream of new email subscribers, you need 4 things:

  • More than one place to join your email list
  • A compelling reason to subscribe
  • EASY signup forms
  • An “non-newsletter” email strategy

Email gets a bad rap more often than not. Many believe email is dead or think no one reads email. They could not be more mistaken!

“Modern” email marketing goes WAY beyond newsletters and blasts. Learn how to segment your email list, because email done well is highly personalized, tightly segmented, and packed with value.  Not every email needs to be a “sales” email.

It starts with having the right software and knowing how to use it. From there success is all about segmentation and using a jab, jab, jab, right hook approach. 

Modern email marketing also makes use of automations as much as possible because it takes time to develop relationships via email and the more things you can automate, the better.

 

Tapping into the power of social media

This may come as a shock to most winery owners but success in organic social media is not always about you, your story, your winery and your wines. 

Creating content that is “share-worthy” requires you to put your customers at the center of your content and not your brand. 

Go take a look at your social feeds right now. If most of the posts are about you, your winery, and your wines, all you are doing is adding to the “noise.” Wineries who enjoy the largest and most engaged audiences provide content that allows your fans to be prominent characters in an ongoing conversation.

And don’t expect too much from your social feeds and your audiences. When it comes to converting fans and followers into paying customers, you need to rely more heavily on expert email marketing for wineries.

 

Driving sales with paid social advertising

Just like in many things in the wine sales game, wineries experience varying degrees of success using paid advertising to drive sales. It is easy to waste a lot of money with very little ROI to show for it. 

For starters, while there is nothing wrong with trying to build brand awareness, winery owners would be wise to use these investments to grow their email list. Your fans don’t come to Facebook or Instagram to shop. They come to be entertained and engaged. “Sales” take place further downstream and over time.

So, the key is to employ a strategy for your paid ads whereby your ads are intended to enroll new email subscribers to your list. Then, using expert email marketing strategies, you can later convert them into paying customers.

Too many wineries toss fortunes down the drain by boosting posts and running “buy now” ads. There is a MUCH better way to leverage these dollars and you can start with this article about optimizing your paid ads. 

 

The modern role of wine distributors has changed

We have written extensively about this topic but here is the central idea: be careful to keep your expectation aligned with the current reality. The role of a wine distributor is very different today than it was 5 or 6 years ago. 

If you start with a “modern” perspective of what you can and cannot expect from your distributors, you will be well positioned to take advantage of the many “trade sales” opportunities available to you:

  1. Hold inventory of your wines in their warehouse
  2. Deliver to the accounts (bars, restaurants, package stores) that you and your team have sold to
  3. Match your efforts in the marketplace  

It is a HUGE mistake to believe that by securing a distributor in a new state you will enjoy new sales opportunities via the efforts of the distributors. This used to be the case (as recently as 6-7 years ago). But the fact remains that nowadays there are WAY TOO MANY wine brands in existence and WAY TOO FEW distributors. Times have changed and so must YOU. 

Distributors small, medium and large are all overwhelmed with all the masters they have to serve. Winery owners must accept the new reality that distributors simply cannot do what they used to be able to do and no amount of education or incentives can change this. 

One bright spot, however, is the rise of DIGITAL 3-Tier. If you are a winery that does not already have a “traditional” 3-tier distributor in a particular state, you should seriously consider going the digital route with a company like LibDib

 

Mastering SEO and SEM

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become critically important for wineries that are serious about selling more wine. SEO involves optimizing your website in order to get more traffic from organic search results.

SEM refers to leveraging paid advertising based on keyword volume, competition, and intent.

Both of these critical strategies have a deep learning curve but the potential payoff is huge. Given the intense competition for wine drinkers, wineries everywhere would be well served putting in the time and effort to learn how SEO works.

The best place to start is with some basic SEO strategies:

  • Have a clean, uncluttered site structure
  • Optimize your site for mobile users (60-70% of visitors to your website are on a mobile device)
  • Make sure all items can load fast!
  • Feature the right content and keywords
  • Links to (external) content and “backlinks” to your website
  • Make use of title tags, alt text, and meta descriptions

This is a very complex and comprehensive strategy but this very thorough article about how to leverage SEO strategies will be of great help to you. 

It is time to get serious about selling more wine

Without question, wineries everywhere need to first and foremost focus on getting as much well-qualified traffic as possible to their winery operation. When it comes to selling wine, enrolling email subscribers, and adding wine club members, in-person foot traffic just cannot be beat.

But these days, it often is not enough. And if YOUR winery could use a boost of sales & revenue, then adding sales strategies that go beyond your tasting room, might be just the ticket to more revenue!

As most winery owners could use the help, we’ve created a new group coaching program called Wine Sales Stimulator where we teach EVERYTHING you need to learn and implement these very modern strategies you read about above. 

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