BY Janeen Olsen, Sonoma State University
Liz Thach, Sonoma State University
Paul Wagner, Napa Valley College, Balzac Communications
Have you ever stopped to count all of the trade shows, wine festivals,
and tastings that wineries participate in every year? The number
is mind-boggling. Virtually every major market hosts some kind of
wine festival, and in the state of Florida there seems to be one
every few weeks.
Considering the participation costs of most these festivals and
trade shows, it is critical to establish goals and develop cost-effective
strategies for this kind of event. What kinds of goals are realistic?
Lets start with four goals often mentioned either singly or
in combination by wineries attending trade shows:
GOAL 1: We want to find out whats going on in the industry,
with customers, and with the competition. Taken alone, this
is a poor reason to participate in a trade show. The same can be
accomplished by simply attending the show, without the cost of exhibition
space. For that matter, if you dont know whats going
on in the industry, by the time it is the talk of the trade show,
its way too late for you. You should be using market research,
not industry gossip, in your decision making process.
On the other hand, once your participation is indicated by one of
the goals below, this becomes a legitimate secondary goal
one that takes advantage of the concentration of industry representatives
GOAL 2: We want to show the flag.
This is a difficult goal to achieve because it is so hard to quantify.
What is the benefit of showing the flag? Only very large
companies wishing to maintain their corporate image as an important
player (a leader in the category) should use this as a reason for
participation in a trade show. For the rest, showing the flag is
simply another way of saying we have no measurable goals for
this event, but dont want to miss it if something important
GOAL 3: We want to make sure our competition doesnt get
an advantage. This goal is often combined with #1 and #2 above
in a very defensive approach to justify participation. In other
words, we cant leave the field open to our competition,
so we must be there. Of course, this ignores the more obvious
question: If your competition is not there, what do you expect
The sad truth about this approach is that it neglects more meaningful
goals, and often leads to half-hearted efforts and poorly-conceived
plans. This is especially true when the axiomatic assumption is
made that since we have low expectations; we should invest little
money, thought, or time into planning or strategy for an event.
GOAL 4: We really need to make more sales or media contacts.
This is by far the best reason to participate in industry trade
shows. It is measurable, contributes directly to the bigger picture,
and can have lasting impact. But if this is the goal, how many wineries
actually develop a specific strategy to achieve it? That means you
have to answer the following questions.
to answer when deciding to participate in a trade show
How much will participation cost in terms of time, money, and
materials? Dont forget to include product costs, travel
time, travel and entertainment budgets, and all associated costs.
How big is the payoff?
How many contacts (and of what importance) will we need to make,
to justify these expenses? This doesnt mean that the sales
contacts you make at the show have to place orders large enough
to pay for the costs of the show within three months. Thats
not how marketing communication works. But you do need to look at
these events as investments and you do need to understand
how that investment is going to pay off. If you dont have
a way to track these investments, how can you possibly make good
decisions about them?
Clearly, the staff attending a trade show should agree on a measurable
goal for a specific number of sales contacts to be made, and a target
number of follow-up sales calls and orders placed. By tracking these
numbers and the success of the attending staff, you develop a much
more refined sales plan that will make future decisions easier and
By having a stated goal, your staff can focus on making sure those
numbers are reached. Also, such an approach will encourage the sales
and marketing team to explore other, more cost-effective methods
of achieving these same goals. The result will be a professional
and results-oriented approach to the often time-intensive process
of sales calls.
Trade shows are only one means to the end, and a good public relations
professional will explore a wide range of tactics to achieve any
goal. Of course, as in all marketing communications, the secret
here is to know your audience. Before you participate in a wine
festival or trade show, answer these questions:
Who is the audience and what do they want? This must be determined
before the trade show. Your sales and marketing team should develop
a profile of the contacts who plan on attending a show. These profiles
should indicate special interests, products, or budgets that are
of concern to those attending. Then reference the information against
the marketing goals of the winery to develop a plan for each trade
show. Who is going to be there, and what do they want?
What can we do to get their attention? Now that we know who
they are and what they want, we can begin to develop a trade show
booth and activities that will attract the target market and encourage
them to spend time with us. We are not preparing for a party; we
are designing a campaign one that has a budget, objectives,
and the potential for both failure and success.
for successful trade show and wine festival participation
So youve answered all of the questions above satisfactorily,
and youve decided that it makes good business sense to pay
the fees and devote the time to participate in the trade show or
wine festival. What are some of the strategies to make your participation
successful? Following are seven helpful ideas:
Use advance direct mail to create interest in your booth
(table), and to get a head start on making key contacts. Some shows
will offer to sell a list of those attending to any exhibitor. Such
a list can often be used very effectively to encourage a visit to
a winerys booth, follow-up on a marketing communication package
presented at the show, or even pre-select attendees according to
need or interest. If you know what you want to accomplish, then
using this service to advertise your intentions, or to pre-screen
visitors to your table can be really effective.
At every trade tasting or trade show, some of the participants are
disappointed that they dont get to spend more time with the
key trade visitors. Why does that happen? It often happens because
they do not plan strategically. If the top industry leaders have
done their homework, and invited most of the top attendees to meet
with them about future business plans, the others will be left talking
to the rest of the visitors, and not the key accounts.
Host a hospitality suite in the same hotel, or nearby, to
give your key contacts a place to meet with you away from the distractions
of the show. Often, the trade show floor itself is an overwhelming
experience for potential customers. Offer these customers an interesting
reason to leave the crowded floor and join you in a more relaxed
and focused setting in a hospitality suite in the same hotel.
This kind of participation can be done without the fees for exhibition
booths, and will generate an environment that allows you the undivided
attention of the sales contact. Offers of elegant food, a place
to meet with ones spouse, entertainment, or other incentives
will draw the customers to your suite.
But this isnt as easy as it sounds. Drawing customers away
from a wine festival to your suite requires a great deal of contact
work by the companys sales staff to meet the potential customers
and constantly remind them of the opportunity that awaits them in
the hospitality suite.
Organize interactive events at the trade show to generate
more attention for your winery. These can be anything from star
attractions to private dinners anything that will give
the sales contacts something to talk about and a reason to visit
with you. The main drawback of most of these attempts is that they
depend on borrowed interest the contact is not interested
in your winery or wines, but in the event. As a result, sales contacts
are not always genuine, nor are they motivated.
On the other hand, the special dinners you organize should be planned
well in advance, and executed against the stated goal. They are
not just an excuse for your marketing team to spend its travel and
entertainment budget by taking a bunch of colleagues to a nice restaurant
although that is what usually happens.
The booth (table) and its design must be symbolic of the quality
and character of your winery. If you are making a claim to preemptive
leadership, you must have a trade show display that supports your
position both in content and in style. Thus if you want to
be perceived as a major player, you must have a large, imposing
display. If you want to be seen as a cost-effective alternative,
your display must show the kind of clever, creative thinking that
allows for cost- effective solutions without a loss of quality.
Finally, the staff and materials must be consistent with your corporate
philosophy and your target audience.
Give customers something to do at your table. Keep in mind,
that the average time spent at a trade show booth is 15 seconds.
At the end of that time, the viewer moves on to another booth unless
he or she is given a reason to stay. Certainly, a discussion with
your sales staff will accomplish that goal, but your sales staff
can only speak to one person at a time. You must give other potential
customers something to do while they wait.
At major wine festivals, it is often better to position the winemaker
or principal out in front of the booth, where he/she can track down
key contacts and interact with important industry leaders. The winery
staff handles staffing the booth itself, so that the principal isnt
trapped behind the table (and a crowd of consumers) when the most
important journalist at the event walks on by and doesnt
stop to taste your wine.
Make sure your staff is well-trained. In the final analysis,
the results you achieve will depend on the efforts of your sales
staff, and you should do all you can to give them training and the
kinds of materials and environment that allow them to concentrate
on selling your wines.
If there is one, basic rule of trade show participation, it is that
staff sitting down in chairs behind tables will never be successful.
Your staff must be approachable, outgoing, and positioned in a way
that places no barriers between them and the sales contacts. Your
booth must be open, well-lighted, and must encourage contacts to
enter your area and meet you, face to face.
Choose staff because they know the customers. Nothing can improve
upon a salesperson who has already established rapport with potential
customers. This personal relationship can make contact easier, follow-up
more effective, and closing more frequent.
Select staff because they know the market. Knowledge and credibility
should be chosen over an attractive face every time, because once
you get a live sales prospect, the last thing you want to do is
put him/her on hold while you go find someone who knows the business.
Choose your staff because of their ability to evaluate the trade
show and make suggestions for future improvements in your booth,
your participation, and your products. Make sure your staff has
agreed to the goals for the trade show and hold them responsible
for achieving the goals. Encourage them to suggest improvements
in both the booth and their own efforts that will generate more
At every trade show, you will meet a winery complaining about the
quality of the show. I just dont think there are any
buyers here, they will say. But a neighbor at the next table
will have sold containers of wine at the same show. Focus on these
shows the same way you focus on a sales call: know the audience,
bait the hook, and close the sale. Well-trained staff and advance
preparation, born out of a focused strategy, gives immediate and
Follow-up after the trade show. The work does not stop when
the doors close. After the show, you have to follow-up quickly and
effectively with every sales contact. Without the proper execution
of this single element, the worlds most exciting booth and
sales staff will fail to produce any results at all.
To make this even easier, its a good idea to incorporate some
kind of a promotion into your participation in the trade show itself
a reason to follow-up on every contact and a reason
for them to look forward to that follow up. Whether it is a free
gift or in-situ demonstration, the reason for these follow-up visits
is to keep the door open for future contacts and future sales.
Most importantly, use the time after the show to evaluate your efforts.
What can you improve? Was the show worthwhile? Why? What will you
do next year to achieve your goals? How will you adjust your expectations
for next year?
BY Johanna Rupp
Rhône Rangers, an event that celebrates and promotes Rhône
varietals, provides wineries an opportunity to promote wines while
expanding consumer interest in these varieties. Rhône Rangers,
in its ninth year, drew more than 1,000 people to Fort Mason (San
Francisco, CA) in March, 2006.
Many trade attendees were from the restaurant industry (317), plus
209 retailers, 101 brokers, 121 distributors, 87 media, and 22 hoteliers.
A winery must be a member of the association to pour at the Rhône
Rangers tasting. Membership includes wineries of all sizes. Wineries
interviewed by PWV at the 2006 event, approached this
potential marketing opportunity in several ways.
For many winery participants, the most important feature of trade
and consumer tastings is exposure.
John Locke (Bonny Doon Vineyard, Santa Cruz, CA), regards the exposure
of Bonny Doon as the most valuable aspect of participation. We
have many products in our portfolio; it is nice to give potential
customers the opportunity to see our entire range of Rhône
wines in one setting. We want to make a personal connection with
the public, trade, and media.
Barbara MacCready (Sierra Vista Winery, Placerville, CA) agrees
about the value of personal contact, and felt it was an important
opportunity to connect with distributors, renew relationships and,
perhaps most importantly, educate and allow the restaurant industry
to taste their wines.
Restaurateurs who attend the event often bring along waitstaff,
notes MacCready. This event provides a unique opportunity
to educate those who actually sell the wines. Frequently waitstaff
are selling wines that they havent had the opportunity to
taste, and for them to get to know the winemakers and taste the
wines allows them to better advocate different wines on the restaurant
Oded Shakked (Longboard Vineyards, Healdsburg, CA) calls it meeting
with the ground-level staff from restaurants and retail shops.
A tiny 3,000-case and growing brand is a full-time job to sell and
market Longboard wines. Rhône Rangers is a good annual opportunity
to make ground-level connections.
But how do wineries plan sales and marketing strategies for such
a tasting/trade event in order to obtain the best results from the
time and money spent?
Craig Gummer, Kuleto Estate (St. Helena, CA) direct sales manager,
constantly updates plans to make the most from events such as Rhône
Rangers. Kuleto features and promotes a specific wine at each different
event they attend. Our 2003 Zinfandel was featured at ZAP
in January; our 2004 Cabernet futures were featured at Premiere
Napa Valley in February; and our newly bottled 2003 Syrah was the
key to March Rhône Rangers participation.
As an emerging brand, Kuleto Estate makes sure it emphasizes the
unique setting of the estate and what differentiates their wine
to attendees by providing colorful site maps, takeaway buttons with
Kuletos phone and website on them, tear sheets from recent
press, product sheets detailing both vintages of Syrah (a 2002 and
2003) poured at the tasting, and lots of business cards.
Bob Lindquist (Qupe Wine Cellars, Los Olivos, CA) brings a variety
of promotional materials to the tasting, including wine club sign-up
forms, postcards promoting upcoming events, and a mailing list sign-up
sheet. Lindquist makes contacts at the event fairly easily; he does
not attempt any hard sales pitches on the event floor.
Longboard Vineyards sends out Come see us at Rhône Rangers
mailers to their database of contacts prior to the event, and usually
receives about 50 mailing list sign-ups at the event.
Bonny Doon utilizes the same process every year to prepare, including
several brainstorming sessions before the event ensuring that the
media, trade, and consumers will actually look forward to witnessing
its yearly manifestation.
Many wineries took the event as an opportunity to collect new wine
club and mailing list sign-ups. Bonny Doon always has a member of
their Direct-To-Consumer staff attend consumer events promoting
their wine club and collecting email addresses. New sign-ups are
sent a welcoming note and are offered a supplemental discount on
their first purchase online.
Kuleto Estate provides sign-up sheets that make it simple to provide
contact information, especially email. New sign-ups are added to
the mailing list and are routinely contacted. The number of club
sign-ups, and where they were generated are also tracked. Walk-aways
(such as notecards that booth visitors can take) offer discounts
on wine poured at the event and often include a recipe from the
estates executive chef, Janelle Weaver.
As part of Kuletos pre- and post-event preparations, time
is reserved on the Monday after an event to record recommendations,
and to make timely email contact with trade, media, vendor, and
other key winery contacts made at the event.
Hagafen Cellars (Napa, CA), Chateau Ste. Michelle (Woodinville,
WA), and Longboard Vineyards all have a consumer mailing list and/or
wine club sign-up sheets at these events. Josh Stein of Hagafen
gives free tasting passes that are coded so they learn where they
obtain the biggest bang for marketing dollars invested. This has
helped to increase direct to consumer sales 200% in two years. Stein
follows up with each contact by phone or email after the event.
Chateau Ste. Michelle measures wine club brochures handed out against
the number of new club members who sign up, and sends welcome
letters to new members. Longboard sends a thank you
email to all leads after the event.
Winemakers are critical to promote wines
Kuleto Estate winemaker David Lattin often pours alongside cellarmaster
Giovani Verdejo, Sam Lando (sales and marketing director), and Craig
Gummer (direct sales manager). Because Kuleto grows, bottles, and
produces its own wines on their estate, the production schedule
may determine who attends various events.
We always have two people attend an event like this,
explains Gummer. It is critical to get out from behind the
table to sample other wines, listen and eavesdrop a bit, gather
materials from competitive wineries to gauge what the wine-purchasing
market sees and expects, to see how easy it is to obtain more information
about a brand you like and make sure that we are accessible and
to just take your glass around to see old friends and taste great
Kuleto used the opportunity to make key alliances with Grenache
producers. I dont know of too many industry trade events that
are quite so collaborative.
Many wineries, with a variety of winery personnel staffing the event,
left the winemaker free to network and taste. Other booths were
run only by the winemakers/owners, providing an opportunity for
attendees to receive first-hand information about the wines.
Winemakers were key in promoting their wines as they offered first-hand
information about their wines and winery, and the face-to-face contact
that often will cement a new contact or customers loyalty.
Susan Marks and I are owners and winemakers, and one of us
is always front and center, says Jonathan Lachs (Cedarville
Vineyard, Fair Play, CA). Tastings like ZAP and Rhône
Rangers attract very knowledgeable tasters to our table, and its
important to have someone there who can answer questions about our
Wineries gauge the success of an event on the amount of contacts
and connections made, the end product being happy consumers and
Mick Unti (Unti Vineyards & Winery, Healdsburg, CA) sees about
10 current trade accounts at Rhône Rangers, takes orders,
and sets up appointments that lead to about 15 to 30 cases sold,
on average. Over the years of Rhône Rangers participation,
he can trace approximately 20 of his regular trade accounts to participation
in the Rhône Rangers event.
Kuleto Estate analyzes the success of an event on-site and in real-time.
Its the collective positive reactions from the public
upon sampling, their referrals to other attendees to try us,
says Gummer. The media contacts who want to follow up, the
buzz in the room that was mentioned about the brand, and, most importantly,
the people who made brief notes in their program or asked where
we are located and where they could find out more about Kuleto Estate.
Wineries attending the San Francisco Rhône Rangers event utilized
several techniques to make the most of this optimal marketing opportunity.
Prior to the event, some wineries alerted wine club or mailing list
members regarding their presence at the upcoming event.
At the tasting, wineries have wine club sign-up and mailing lists
available to prospective new contacts, and offer information to
go for future reference. These included buttons containing
phone and website, product sheets, postcards featuring upcoming
events including winery information, and business cards. Pro-active
wineries use these events as powerful tools to make new contacts,
maintain and renew old ones, and keep abreast of industry news.