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Covid-19: What Wineries Can Do To Protect And Promote Themselves Through These Times

23/03/2020

Whilst we can protect ourselves by following medical guidelines, there are also measures that businesses can take to safeguard their own futures.

The global outbreak of the Covid-19 virus is affecting the health of individuals and businesses alike. Whilst we can all do what we can to protect ourselves by following the official guidelines of self-isolation, hand washing and safe distancing, there are also measures that businesses can take to safeguard their own futures through the Covid-19 crisis.

The wine-producing community is used to dealing with adversity. Every year can be a balancing act between success and failure as each crop is at the mercy of the vagaries in the weather. But Covid-19 is completely different. This is unprecedented territory for it affects every winery the same. Big or small.

It does not matter if this year’s vintage has been successful or not. You are going to have to think like never before how you are going to sell every case of wine, every litre of production. Here are some ideas of how to do just that:

  • Be flexible. Be different.

​Go where the market is. If you have traditionally sold your wine to distributors that only supply the on-premise sector then you will, in many parts of the world, have no-one to sell your wine to as country after country close down bars and restaurants.

 


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  • Go where the market is.

It’s time to re-think 100% of what you do. Switch your distribution partners to the off-trade, which, by comparison, is booming as consumers the world over stock up on wine to see them through long periods of time being at home.

  • The right supplier?

​That might mean relying on your current suppliers having the skills and contacts to be able to sell your wine to the right off-trade customers or researching the market and going out to find new distributors that already work 100% in retail.

  • Right wines for the right channel.

If you are going to sell your wine to a different channel then you need to make sure it looks right and is right for that prospective customer. Which means doing your homework and fast. Just because you need to find a new route to market, does not mean any new customer has to work with you. So make sure any wines you are offering are right for that channel and that customer. 

  • Out of your comfort zone.

How far are you prepared to go to win new business and safeguard your future? The wineries that will come out of this crisis will be the ones willing to do things way beyond their comfort zone. If a new retail customer wants a price point driven own-label line are you going to say no if that means getting your restaurant quality wines on their shelves too?

  • How can you help any new customer?

​Which also means going to them with ideas. Can you offer them a new range, an exclusive blend? An experience they can offer their customers that no-one else can provide?

  • What really makes you special?

Wineries might claim they are special and unique but are they? This is the time to really work out what it is about you and your winery that makes you stand out. Drill down. Work it out and then go out and capitalise on it.

  • Can you go directly to the consumer?

Depending on the circumstance in your country this is an option that is opening up to wineries the world over. How you do it will depend on how restrictive trade is, but now is the time to develop an effective DTC strategy that works for your winery.

  • Work with your database.

If you are already running an ex-cellar business you will have a ready-made database of customers to now sell directly to. But it’s not a time to “work” that database just for your own needs. Remember those customers are in the same situation as you. What is it you can do to make their lives just a little better at this time? Approach them in a way that makes them feel special, and that you are there to help them. Not just sell them a wine because you need their money.

  • It’s harder than it looks.

Going direct to consumer is the hardest sales channel of them all - it’s where Amazon has already set the ground rules. But you are different. You make wine. You have a story to tell that no-one else can. That’s what you are selling. Yourself. Treasure and make the most of it.

  • Online tastings.

​You might not be able to have customers into your winery, but you can go to them and still host tastings and share your wines with them online. This is also a great way to really strengthen your relationships with your customers by offering them an experience they can’t get and are craving being stuck indoors.

matthew clark virtual wine tasting

  • Providing an experience - not just a sales tool.

If you are doing tastings online then people may want to buy wines as a result. Which is great. But don’t make them just a sales tool. This is where you can make long term customers and even friends. Even if people don’t take part, just the fact they know a winery is looking to help in this way will go a long way.

  • Offer online tours.

Similarly, you can allow your customers to still come to the winery. Just online. If you have not set up an online tour yet then this is the time to do it.

virtual wine tours

  • Be personal.

If you are sending out mailers and promotions then don’t assume everyone wants to get the same message. We all want to feel special, particularly at times likes this. Spend time to look at your customer base, analyse what they have bought and segment what sort of customer they are. Then pick out promotions and messages they are more likely to respond to.

  • Get on social media.

It’s called social media for a reason. People like to use it because they can have conversations and read what people are saying online. It creates a community. Yes, it can get hostile at the time, but now social media is the place to go to share your experiences, be open, be honest. Allow people to come to you. You are a business in their community. With a voice, they want to hear from.


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  • What’s your competition doing?

Not sure which direction to take, or what is going to be right for the long term future of your winery? Well, we genuinely are all in this together, so look at what your competitors are doing. Your neighbouring wineries. What strategies are they following, what new initiatives have they introduced?

  • Share ideas and collaborate.

​That might mean picking up the phone and talking to your peers, your competitors, to learn from each other and share your experiences. There is strength in numbers and it can be so reassuring in such uncertain times to know you are not alone and that actually the people who can most help you are the wineries you spend most of your time competing against.

About the Author

Richard Siddle

Richard Siddle is an award-winning business editor with over 25 years of experience working across a number of fields including computing, FMCG, grocery and convenience retailing, travel and for the last 10 years wine and spirits. He spent much of that time as editor of Harpers Wine & Spirit where he was widely recognized for having turned one of the UK’s oldest publications into agenda-setting, a must-read for the drinks industry.