Patty Held Winery Consultant | Hermann, MO | 314.795.9770
May 10 2012

Top Five Marketing Ideas from License To Steal Conference

Recently, I  spoke at the License to Steal Conference in Ohio.  I have been attending and presenting at this conference since its inception.  It is one of the best marketing conferences for wineries in the country.  Donnie Winchell, the Executive Director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association, is the brainchild behind the conference and her knack for finding speakers outside the wine industry is phenomenal.  What has made this conference successful is the sharing and “stealing” of ideas from other wineries, state associations and tourism specialists.

Marketing ideas that can be implemented immediately are often the most useful. In 2003 after listening to wine trail speakers from NY, I decided that what we needed to do in Hermann, Missouri, was to start a wine trail, consolidate our advertising dollars and promote what we do best.  In 2011, our Hermann Wine Trail sold over 4000 tickets to various events at $30 per ticket!  That was a very successful idea that I took away from License to Steal.   This is what we need in our tasting rooms, ideas that generate revenue!!!

This year there were tons of ideas shared but here are my top five marketing take aways:

1.  Be different.   One of the conference speakers, Mike Michaelwicz, The Toilet Entrepreneur (a very funny guy…) said we need to quit trying to be better but try to be different.  One way to be different is to under promise and over deliver.  For example, charge winery customers for 5 tasting samples but give a sixth sample on the house because it’s Monday or because your wine just won a Gold medal at a wine competition

2.  Spend more time learning about your customers and their personal preferences in wine.  Another speaker Tim Hanni, a Master of Wine and a professionally trained chef, said that tasting rooms need to embrace all wine consumers.  Tasting rooms intimidate sweet wine drinkers with their “dry wine is better” philosophy.  Tasting rooms need to change how they communicate with customers and tell them to “drink what you like”.   Stop marketing sweet wines as dessert wines and market them as wines that go with whatever you like to eat.  If you want to enjoy a glass of Concord with your steak by all means go for it.   Tasting rooms need to talk to consumers and find out what they truly love and then give them what they want.

See related story:  Midwest Wines Should Embrace Sweetness 

3.  Create partnerships.  Partner with a culinary program to promote your wine region.  Or partner with other state associations such as the Beef Council and the Pork Producers.  The Missouri Wine and Grape Board did a partnership with the Beef Council and created a recipe using beef and wine.  They printed recipe cards that wineries could hand out in their tasting rooms (see below.)

Seek out local producers of specialty foods that pair well with wine and create a connection; chocolatiers, artisan cheese producers and bakeries.  Sleepy Creek Vineyards in Illinois hosts wine and cupcake tastings; they hire a bakery to bake an assortment of cupcakes to pair with a selection of wine.   Wine trails can partner with retail shops in your region and promote “Sip and Strolls.”  How it works is each retail shop serves a different winery’s wine and offers discounts to participants.  Partner with a local chocolatier and have them create a wine infused chocolate that pairs with your wine.

4.  Creative QR Code promotional ideas.    QR codes are being used on everything;  rack cards, brochures, tasting notes and wine labels.  QR codes are cell phone readable bar codes that can store website URL’s, plain text, phone numbers, email addresses and maps.  Smartphones seem to be gaining ground as the device to access the internet and it makes sense to be a part of this marketing trend.  Here is an example of how the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail used a QR Code on their rack card to send visitors to their website.  I’ve also included an ad where the Face book link was incorporated in the QR code.