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American Association of Wine Economists
Tech. Time Saver
Typically I write about a free online or tech tool available to all industries.  This month I'm focused on a wine industry supplier --  This online wine finder was developed by Eric Kunisawa, a former ad agency creative director who noticed how difficult it can be for consumers to locate their favorite wines.

Grappos uses winery supplied data to create an online mapped database of on- and off-premise accounts featuring specific wines. (For example, a search today for Rombauer Chardonnay pulled up 15 accounts within a 10 mile radius of my home.)

In addition to providing an interface for consumers, Grappos offers wineries Facebook and IPhone applications and website widgets.  Pricing is based on the number of placements supplied to the database every month, so there is a sliding scale based on the size of the winery.

The "catch" is that the account data must come from the winery, which can be difficult for smaller wineries working with smaller distributors to acquire.  (See Industry spotlight on software platforms below.)

Grappos is currently working with mostly medium to larger sized wineries in California, but given the usefulness of the tool and reasonable pricing structure, it is a great opportunity for small- to medium-sized wineries as well.
News & Events

Swiftwater Cellars in Seattle Times
Paul Gregutt announces the opening of this destination winery in his article on winter events in Washington.

Stoller JV Pinot Noir in Chicago Tribune
Bill Daley recommends JV Pinot Noir 2007 as a great curry pairing in his syndicated column.

Chehalem Pinot Noir Wins Sunset Wine Award
Statement Pinot Noir deemed Best Red over $50.

McKinley Springs Launches Ecommerce Platform
Horse Heaven Hills winery works with E Winery Solutions to launch online store and club.

Salud WIne Auction
An annual health care benefit for Oregon's seasonal vineyard workers Nov 12-13.

Taste WA Chicago
Primarily consumer event bringing the great wines of Washington state to Chicago Nov 12.

Willamette Thanksgiving
This annual event is a lot of fun.  For club members and "wine geeks", the weekend prior is often more serious.

Wine Business  Links
Business Links
Industry Spotlight: Account Level Data
It can be difficult and time-consuming to track a winery's account level data, especially once a winery begins working beyond direct sale.  Like suppliers, distributors are very pressed for time so providing this information may not be included in the reporting structure.

Gaining access to account level data is important for many reasons. First, it allows managers to track their wholesale business results beyond case volume to placements, better anticipate shipments given depletions, and track programming progress. Second, account level data provides an opportunity to market directly to trade customers.  For example, every month you might run a report of new off-premise placements and proactively send shelf talkers for the specific wine(s) purchased.  Finally, it helps wineries connect with consumers who want to know where to find your wine in their home towns.  When Sally from South Carolina visits, your tasting room staff will be able to tell here exactly which accounts in her city purchased the wines within the last month.

If you only have a few wholesale markets, start by asking distributors for account lists on a recurring basis (monthly or quarterly) and keep track of them manually.  If you have more comprehensive distribution, investing in depletion software will give you a more robust view of your business in each market.  You'll still need the data from your distributors, but instead of coming to the winery for analysis, it will be integrated into a software program with many useful reports such as unsold accounts, new placements, overall market view, etc.  Ultimately, the responsibility for wholesale business management lies with the winery, so making time to understand and analyze each market should be a priority.

Below is a short list of providers with which I've worked. 


This is by Orion which has Consumer Direct, Blend and other programs.

Beverage Data Network

By Dimensional Insight

For those looking for more in depth information, Wine Business Monthly writes and annual comprehensive article on software.
  Dixie Huey sorting at Stoller
Welcome to edition 15 of 
Strategic Guidance from the Ground Up, the Trellis Wine Consulting bi-monthly newsletter.  With harvest finally complete for most and the race to the finale of OND well underway, it is the perfect time for owners and operators to delve into planning for 2011.

In my last newsletter, I introduced the first half of the marketing planning workshop I gave this summer for the Oregon Wine Board including plan purpose and characteristics.  In this issue, I'll cover the second half including specific plan components, and best practices for implementation and measurement.

This month's tech time saver is a wine industry specific tool from -- check it out as it's quite a useful and based on driving sales. In the industry spotlight, I feature depletion software to help manage your wholesale business.

Fall is always a time of planning for clients and my business, and it's also a time to give thanks.  I am thankful for my clients, industry colleagues and of course, my very supportive husband, family and friends.


Dixie Huey's signature

Dixie L. Huey, Proprietor
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Creating a Marketing-Driven Business - Part II
Marketing is a method to achieve your business vision.  It is a process of directing a company to create a proposition that delivers value to customers via a unique set of benefits.  This is turn creates focus, competitive niche, awareness, demand, and a particular brand experience which becomes the foundation of your brand.  Perhaps most important, especially to those wanting to make wine year after year, is that it is a key driver of sales.

In my last newsletter, I outlined a method for gathering the data needed to write a solid plan, and provided a plan outline and tips for getting started.  This article gives you an in-depth explanation of the marketing components, plus best practices for implementation and measurement.

There are four steps to complete before getting started writing your marketing plan: define uniqueness; develop a framework with a messaging platform; translate the messaging frame into a compelling story; and finally, gather data. 

To define uniqueness, you need to get to the "heart" of the matter.  Unique selling propositions offer a specific benefit, provide a point of differentiation, and also answer the critical question: Who cares? There should be two to three key points about your brand -- each individual point may not be specific but hopefully when added together they provide a broader point of differentiation. 

To develop a messaging framework, you must determine your winery's vision (long-term goal), mission (immediate reason for your existence), value proposition and positioning statement (what benefits you're providing and for whom), target segments (those who will buy your wine in each channel), key talking points and proof points for why those will resonate.  I like to think of a messaging platform as a pyramid, with the vision and mission at the foundation. Only after completing this foundation and moving up the pyramid should a winery operator create supporting market materials or assets.  Skipping the foundational blocks tends to result in mixed or unclear messaging and lack of focus. 

The figure below illustrates these steps:
Messaging platform
Next you will translate the framework into a compelling story.  Be sure to include the very important 5 W's -- who, what, when, where and why.  And be prepared for multiple revisions and to hire a writer if this part sounds unappealing.

Once you have a compelling story, if yours is an established (versus a launching) winery, it's time to become a researcher and gather data.  If yours is an established winery, you'll want the following information from the prior year(s):

1.Total company sales with prior goal versus actual.
2. Dollar revenue and cases by channel (wholesale, direct to trade and direct to consumer).
3. Breakdown of sales among wines.
4. Number of tasters, web visitors, and club members and average spend per "visit".
5. All promotional activity from the prior year with dollars spent and any measured ROI.
6. Number of media samples sent, articles or impressions, and in-person interactions with media.

This step will give you an idea of your baseline and provide a benchmark with which to set goals for the coming year.  The next step is to survey your key stakeholders.  These include staff, customers, club members, trade accounts, distributors and vendors.  I've blogged about the importance of surveying and will be covering survey method in a future blog post, so I will not go in depth here.  Some common inquiry subjects are messaging, packaging, value, guest experience, availability, and a competitor comparison.

Don Morgan, President of GMA and one of my co-presenters at a marketing conference in Southern Oregon this year well spoke to the importance of surveying: "Positioning is what you define. Perception is reality."  It is not enough to assume -- to really understand your positioning you must ask and survey.

After you've developed a compelling story and gathered your data, the next step is marketing planning.  It is important to know how the marketing plan fits into the broader business plan, so I've noted the sections I use: introduction; analysis of  current position based on surveys (or new opportunity for a launching winery); company vision, background and management; industry, competitor and market outline; marketing, operating and financial plans; and notes and assumptions.

The position analysis discusses strengths and challenges learned during the survey process. These hold valuable information for your marketing future since you'll want to play up your strengths and work to improve your challenges.  The marketing plan will outline specifically how you'll accomplish these goals.

A solid plan starts with a specific and measurable set of goals. Some examples include the following: sell 2500 cases with 50%-50% breakdown between DTC and wholesale markets; grow tasting room traffic by 35% to 3000 people per year; net growth of wine club (minus attrition) of 25% to 200 members.

The components of a marketing plan are as follows: prior year sales analysis; product outline with pricing and channel grid and packaging; sales plan by channel and wine; competitive analysis and strategy (are you competing on differentiation, price or focus?); and a promotional plan (which is what most people think of as a marketing plan).  The promotional plan should include your unique selling propositions and the 7 P's.  The four traditional P's are product, price, place and promotion.  The sales plan by channel and wine covers the first three and promotional is expanded below. 

Promo wheel

I like to view promotion as a wheel as demonstrated above.  Ads, events, media relations, trade accounts, distributors, website, social media, location and printed materials are all types of promotion placed along this wheel.  The main take away is that the messaging comes first and is at the center of the wheel -- all types should be using the same messaging to create an integrated plan.  Not every winery will use each one -- knowing specifically what you'll do in the types you use is what is most important.

The other three P's include people, process and physical evidence.  Who is doing what?  How and when will they do it and with whom? And what this will literally look like (think the tasting room, event spaces, presentations).

There are some best practices to keep in mind regarding marketing planning.  First is to recognize that writing a comprehensive marketing plan is time consuming, but will pay off in increased efficiency all year long -- it's time very well invested.  Second is to seek feedback from trusted advisors or qualified professionals -- this shouldn't be a solo practice.  Third, remember to include likely, best and worst case scenarios.  Fourth is to share the plan with your team and update them at least monthly regarding progress to keep everyone focused.  (You must measure progress to learn from the process.)  Finally and perhaps most important is to place each and every deliverable on a calendar -- otherwise the plan is more like a dream and never gets implemented. 

In closing, I urge you to use marketing planning to create a culture of continuous improvement.  This does wonders for maintaining and increasing momentum.  Align your staff incentives with the goals of the marketing plan and involve them in creating it so that it's "owned" by all.  Aim to delight and model the process of documenting and learning from challenges and mistakes. Always be a treasure hunter -- think like a research and seek to understand why and how to improve.  And of course, focus on making better and better wine because without it, a marketing plan will not help!

Strategic Guidance from the Ground Up                                                       
Trellis Wine Consulting, LLC is a full service branding, strategy and communications firm for wine businesses.  Our services include business planning, marketing communications and sales strategy, brand identity and packaging, website design and social media.
We deliver exceptional value to our clients by providing a unique blend of breadth of services and depth of expertise that supports efficient and effective growth and enhanced profitability. Ten years of experience guiding over 50 brands ranging from small, family owned wineries to large international corporations means that we know what works and well understand the need for return on marketing investment. For more information, call 360.210.5551 or visit our website.