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:
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.
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!