If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you know that one of my biggest passions in wine is discovering indigenous varieties from regions around the world. Those off-the-beaten-path varieties always have a great story to tell. And when the wine world offers thousands of unique grape varieties to uncover, what’s the point of sticking to solely Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay? But wine marketing for these rare varieties is tricky.
If you are a producer of these lesser-known grapes and trying to sell your wines in the United States, then you know how hard it can be to gain market share. Adapting to American tastes can be difficult. Trying to stand out against the competition of large wine conglomerates is even more challenging. Not to mention working within the restrictive laws of the United States’ three tier system.
Although in today’s highly saturated wine market, it’s hard to make your wine brand stand out from the rest, regardless of what varieties you produce. So, here are some straightforward wine marketing tactics to help your winery build brand awareness and garner distribution. I’ve implemented these various tactics with wineries from around the world to great success.
Wine Marketing with Organic Social Media Content
Organic social media content is a great way to educate wine lovers about your wine portfolio. You’ll also be able to introduce them to unique aspects of your culture which make your wines special. If you have a big budget, put money towards photography and videography to make your content stand out. If your budget is smaller, take a DIY or behind the scenes approach to content production. You don’t need to be on every single social media platform. Instead, pick the platforms that are right for your brand messaging and marketing goals. Be sure to select those with which you feel you can be most consistent. For example, if you don’t enjoy shooting video content and can’t hire someone to do so, then skip YouTube or TikTok.
Develop a Wine Marketing Content Strategy
The key to finding success with organic social media content for wine marketing is to come up with a content strategy early on. Then, stick with it consistently. First, think of your target audience or target consumer. Make a list of types of content that will pique their interest. You want to use language that aligns with the way your target audience speaks and images which attract your ideal consumer. Try to focus on entertaining, educating, answering questions, or solving problems of your target audience. This will position you as an authority while building trust.
The benefit of a consistently implemented content strategy is that you will be able to do all of the above. Your audience will come to expect certain posts from you on certain days and will show up to engage with your content. A good strategy also incorporates content intended to expand your reach and growth by getting your audience involved. This content speaks directly to your target consumer so successfully that they’re bound to share it with their audience, thus helping your account grow.
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Weekly Content Calendar Example
Here’s a scenario to help us bring a weekly social media content calendar example to life.
You’re a Georgian Winery trying to break into the US market. You have limited distribution in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas, but your importer is having trouble securing additional distribution. You need to build brand awareness to show you’re actively promoting in markets where you’re trying to grow.
A weekly contact calendar could look something like this:
Monday: Introduce your audience to one of your grape varieties. Potential topics: pronunciation guide, flavor profile, history of the grape, international variety comparison, winemaking methods, climate and soil in which the indigenous variety thrives.
Tuesday: Showcase your brand story. Share your winery’s history. Introduce people who work at your winery. Tell stories about your labels. Share the history of your region.
Wednesday: Give food pairing recommendations or tips. Share a traditional pairing for a wine from your region. Create the recipe as an asset and incorporate a CTA to “like and save this post to come back to you later.” Or share a New World recipe, like something your target audience would eat in the United States, to pair with a wine made from one of your indigenous varieties.
Thursday: Relatable, shareable content that aligns with your target audience’s values to boost engagement and encourage growth. This might include a funny meme that speaks to wine lovers and aligns with your brand messaging. Tips for serving or storing wine. Breathtaking imagery or videos of your vineyards. Or some captivating part of the winemaking process people would likely share on their Instagram stories.
Friday: Educate or entertain. Share tips on wine tasting, wine service, or wine storage. Showcase traditions in your country or wine region. Highlight winemaking details of your wines or interview your winemaker.
Saturday: Showcase your winery, region, or culture. Take your audience behind the scenes and pull them into what makes you special and unique. Share UGC (User Generated Content) posts to illustrate how wine enthusiasts in America are already enjoying your wines.
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Paid Social Media Advertising
When considering tactics for wine marketing or wine promotion ideas for indigenous varieties, paid social media advertising is an exceptional way to generate massive impressions and build brand awareness with a price tag that does not break the bank compared to other forms of digital advertising. Even with a monthly budget as low as $500, you can still generate tens or hundreds of thousands of impressions for your brand. Moreover, the way that social media platforms have evolved, it’s almost necessary to have some paid advertising to gain traction and get your brand in front of the eyes of your target consumer. Here are four types of social media ads I recommend running through Meta Ads Manager.
Intro to Meta Ads Manager
If you’ve never run Meta ads before, there is a basic set up hierarchy you’ll need to understand. The campaign level is like the base of the pyramid that houses your ad sets and individual ads. You’ll determine the optimization settings and overall budget of the campaign here. Next, within the campaign you can set up one or more ad sets. Here you’ll set up the audience targeting (demographics, location, interests, etc.) for your ads. Finally, within each ad set you can create different ads that will run according to the parameters set forth in your campaign and ad set. It’s pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it and Meta has a ton of articles to help you get started.
Boosted Post Ads
Boosted post ads are a way of repurposing your organic social media content by putting money behind those posts to generate more impressions and engagement. These boosted post ads are typically optimized for engagement, though you could choose to optimize them for video views or impressions. Meta will show them to users with similar interests and demographics as your current follower base. Your followers will also be more likely to see and engage with these posts.
I recommend creating ads using the content from organic posts within Meta Ads Manager rather than boosting individual posts from within the Instagram or Facebook app. This will make tracking the metrics and analyzing the results of these ads much easier. If you boost individual posts from within the social media application, Meta will create a separate campaign for each individual post within your ads manager account. This is a very disorganized way of running ads and will make it difficult for you to assess the efficacy of your boosted posts.
Instead, when creating your boosted post ads campaign, there will be drop down menu when you go to create individual ads with an option to “use existing post” or “create new.” You’ll want to select “create new.” You can set up one boosted post campaign for the entire year. Then within that campaign, you can create different ad sets for each month. That way you have a good idea of the impressions, engagements, and reach generated by your boosted post ads every month. You’ll be able to better analyze how they’re affecting the growth of your account and overall wine marketing goals.
Facebook Page Like Ads
Facebook Page Like Ads are digital ads you can run in Meta Ads Manager to generate page likes for your wine business’s Facebook page. If your target audience spends a lot of time on Facebook, then this could be a valuable type of ad to help build your authority. For wine marketing and wine promotion ideas for indigenous varieties, Facebook could potentially be a great place to include links to informative articles, regional information, recipes, and other lifestyle tips for enjoying your wines.
If you’re just starting on Facebook and trying to grow quickly, Page Like Ads can be a cost effective way to do so. Though page likes can be somewhat of a vanity metric. If increased engagement isn’t following more page likes, I’ll leave it to you to decide if this is where you want to be spending your marketing dollars.
Brand Awareness Ads
Next, Brand Awareness Ads are intended to help you generate brand awareness in specific target markets. Depending on where your wines are currently distributed, these could play a significant role in your wine marketing strategy. Brand Awareness Ads are geo-targeted ads. This means they will be shown to users within a designated geographic area of your choosing. If you currently have distribution in cities, like Dallas, Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, etc. you can target these ads to those specific cities.
Alternatively, if your wines aren’t widely distributed yet, but you’re focusing your sales efforts in a specific region or states, then you can target your ads to those specific states. Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity to include other target information like demographics, interests, etc.
I recommend creating separate Brand Awareness Ad campaigns for Facebook and Instagram. It will make formatting the ads and tracking metrics much easier.
If you already have some distribution, and your wines are sold in retail stores in the United States, then Retail-Targeting Ads are a great way to drive foot traffic to the locations where your wines are sold. Retail-Targeting Ads can also be used to promote events like winemaker dinners, in-store tastings, and your participation at trade and consumer tasting at the events.
Retail targeting events function in a similar way as geo-targeted Brand Awareness Ads. However, rather than targeting a wider geographic location like a city, Retail-Targeting Ads target a 1 to 3 mile radius around specific retail locations. This wine marketing tactic is intended to drive consumers to retail locations where your wines are sold and encourage them to make a purchase.
Due to tied house regulations in the United States, and other alcohol advertising regulations which vary by state, you need to be aware of what you can and cannot include in an ad promoting alcohol based on the state you’re advertising in. A good rule of thumb is to always include at least two unaffiliated retailers in the copy of your ad. For example, “Find this wine at Total Wine & Bob’s Liquor.” Retailers like Kroger and Albertsons, or Walmart and Sam’s Club, could not be included in the same ad because they are owned by the same parent company.
Different Laws When Advertising for Events
When marketing for in-store tastings, winemaker dinners, and other wine tasting events, the rules are a little bit different. You’re able to mention a single retailer in some states. Certain states allow you to include a photo or video, others do not. If you’re a member of the Wine Institute, they provide some resources to help you figure out regulations for wine marketing on social media. You should always check the website of the state’s alcohol board prior to running a digital marketing advertising campaign. You definitely do not want the TTB knocking on your door with a hefty fine.
Bonus: Support Your Sales Team
Once you launch your Brand Awareness and Retail Targeting ad campaigns, you can leverage these campaigns to help you secure further distribution. Develop a presentation your sales team can use with distributors to showcase the wine marketing activity you’re implementing in their region. Include stats like estimated impressions, spend, and visual examples of the ads and geographic area targeted.
Influencer Marketing Campaigns
Influencer marketing campaigns can be a great way to boost brand awareness. Their success lies in tapping into loyal audiences of wine authorities. Influencers in wine adjacent niches like food, lifestyle, or travel are also valuable options. Note that while influencer campaigns can help boost sales, you should not enter into your initial influencer campaigns expecting an immediate, massive sales boost. Focus on setting up retargeting ads to take advantage of the increase in website and social media profile visits instead.
You can always offer wine in exchange for coverage on someone’s social media or blog. However, the downside to this method is that you have no control over what or when they post. Instead, establish a budget to engage influencers with a paid contract. You’ll have the opportunity to review and approve their content. This way you can ensure their content aligns with your wine marketing goals and brand messaging.
One of my favorite wine promotion ideas is to partner with specific influencers for an ongoing basis to build brand awareness amongst an audience of wine lovers and establish relationships with potential new customers. Then, branch out into other niches on social media. Sticking with the example of the Georgian winery, you could partner with barbecue influencers in the United States in the spirit of the supra. Alternatively home or lifestyle influencers are a good way to reach new audiences if they’ve worked with alcohol brands before. Figure out other interests of your target audience and define influencers in those niches to help expand your reach even further.
Social Media Giveaways
Giveaways are a great way to grow your audience fast, but they don’t always bring around lasting loyal followers. If you are going to participate in giveaways, try engaging an influencer to host a giveaway with you. The benefit of this is that you can tap into their wider audience. Remember, in the United States you legally can’t give away alcohol for free. Also, you cannot giveaway gift cards that could be used to purchase alcohol. Instead, you can giveaway wine related prizes like a wine fridge, decanter with stemware, etc.
Elevate your giveaways even further by enlisting a brand partner. Cheese companies, wine accessory brands, or a cookbook authors are all fantastic options. Host the giveaway on the accounts of all participating brands to maximize your reach and impressions. Plus, you can create collaborative social media content to post on all accounts leading up to the giveaway.
Media Scoring Submissions
Garnering scores from wine media publications is an ideal way to get your wines in front of thirsty wine lovers. Plus, high scores from critics will help you secure more distribution. Here is a short list of wine media with whom you can attempt to submit your wines.
- Wine Enthusiast
- Wine Spectator
- Robert Parker Wine Advocate
- The Tasting Table
Each wine publication has its own submission schedule. You should keep track of each to ensure you don’t miss an opportunity to submit your wines for consideration. Some also require you to make a request to submit via email first. If you are approved, you can then send your wines for review. I recommend making a master calendar with all of the submission dates and details. This way you’ll be able to easily anticipate and track your submissions. Each wine publication typically has a downloadable scoring submission calendar available on their website for your consideration. There might not be a downloadable version available. Instead, look for an email address to request a wine scoring submission calendar for the year ahead.
Connect at In-Person Events
Hosting winemaker dinners and intimate wine tastings with small-to-medium sized groups is perfect for introducing people to your wines. You’ll also have the opportunity to further educate on your portfolio, winery history, or indigenous varieties. The same goes for wine tasting events, expos, or conferences. They’re a fantastic way for people to experience your wines without having to purchase bottles. People will have the opportunity to learn the stories behind the labels and what makes your indigenous varieties special. I recommend choosing wine events within target markets where you’re trying to gain distribution. You never know who you’ll meet!
Adjust These Wine Marketing Tactics to Your Budget and Goals
Whether you’re taking a low-cost more organic approach or have some budget to spend, adjust each of the outlined approaches to suit your needs. The beauty of these digital wine marketing tips and wine promotion ideas is that they can be effective with both large and small budgets. As long as you have your strategic brand messaging set, you’re ready to get started!
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