You think you wear a lot of hats – try being a successful winemaker. Those guys and girls have done a full day’s work in 10 different roles before most of us have got out of bed in the morning!

In short, they do everything from the growing of vines to the distribution of wines. Planning, planting, cultivating, testing, storing, stressing.

They supervise staff, oversee maintenance, sell, market and distribute. Then comes customer service, conducting tours and tastings.

They do the lot. Farmers and brand developers all rolled into one. As farmers, they look after the product and as brand developers, they take care of their customers, their reputation and their relationships. One doesn’t exist without the other.

I remember a few decades back, wine labels were a much more primitive proposition than they are today. No attention to design, brand consistency or image. They would literally put a photo of Aunty Ethel on the label!

For me, it was exciting to be part of the early masterclasses in wine label design and presentation and now, the accepted and expected standard of presentation has changed forever.

To be a competitive winemaker in 2017, everything you do must be done with the brand and customer engagement top of mind.

If you look at some of the best (not always the biggest) winemakers , there are 6 main things they do that deliver exceptional value for marketing budget.

    1. They know their audience. Even if a winemaker is making wine for ‘anyone who wants to drink it’, segmentation helps them make smart, strategic decisions that informs product distribution, onsite events, the tone and style of marketing materials, advertising, wine labels, product names and partnerships.
    2. They tell their story. Let’s see a show of hands. Who would rather hear the history of a vineyard and the human stories behind the wine than lots of detailed information about the grapes and food pairings? Yep, thought so. Part of the charm and appeal of wineries are their history and their people. There are a million and one stories to tell. The best wineries find a way to convey what makes them unique, and what makes them authentic to attract people to the products.
    3. They have an online presence that is consistent with their brand. No matter what your business today, if you don’t have an online presence – whether that be a website or blog or feature in travel e-directories – you are on the back foot. But, more than simply being able to be found on the internet, those that attract the most visitors as the ones with words and images, feedback, and specific information about their products that best represent their brand, their story, their unique selling proposition.
    4. They form strategic partnerships and cross promote. Wine tourism has become a thing thanks to complementary businesses banding together, cross promoting and tapping into one another’s audience reach. Collaborating with restaurants, transport companies, accommodation, adventure and spa and beauty service providers, wineries have created a whole new industry for people that love wine and travel.
    5. They are smart with social media. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are great ways of attracting, retaining and engaging with customers. Those with the most followers and prominence keep their posts interesting and varied. They balance self-promotion with photos and videos of the winemaking process, special events, information on wine and personal, fun updates. By encouraging reviews, they also have valuable marketing content linked to their websites.
    6. They build mailing lists. When you have a directory of subscribed email recipients you have a captive audience that is willing to buy. Direct mailouts featuring new wines, winery news, brand stories – anything – create loyalty and returns. Many successful wineries have built their businesses by offering subscribers discounts on cases – in fact, some of the boutique enterprises that normally can’t compete with the big names have found their email lists to be a very effective way to drive consistent sales throughout the year.

Above all, the most successful wineries pay attention to their customers’ needs and wants. They don’t wait for their audience to come to them but make their presence known with information and offers of interest – delivered online, on devices and on brand.