Marketing is not just about designing an attention-grabbing logo, placing ads or interacting with customers on social networks. These are examples of the tactical side of the equation; the strategic side is what many companies fail to engage. Operating without a strategic marketing plan -- which outlines goals, creates benchmark metrics, provides analysis and details the tactical side, is like piloting a plane without a flight plan.
We often hear comments such as: "Our business thrives on sales. We cannot afford to take away from our sales efforts to improve our marketing side." This demonstrates a lack of understanding of the purpose of the marketing function, which creates the demand that drives profitable sales and market share increases.
Below is a list of our top five excuses for neglecting marketing in the wine and spirits industry:
Excuse 1: WE DON'T HAVE A BUDGET
This means that there has been little to no value placed on the marketing function. For the production side of a winery, this statement would be akin to "we don't have fruit".
The incredible amount of care and attention spent on crafting your product should be met with an appropriate level of marketing investment. Over time, lack of marketing investment can lead to rising inventories, discounting pressures and a stale image - all of which tend to start small and become much bigger (and more expensive) problems. While it may be tempting to ignore marketing all together, it is not a viable strategy unless you're absolutely sure your wine will be receiving 100 points annually from the top trade publications and that you'll never want to grow production. (In our experience, the majority of producers who start off with a "we'll never make above X number of cases usually do.)
Excuse 2: WE DON'T HAVE TIME
In the personal training world, this is the top excuse for not exercising. For businesses, it's about appropriate allocation of our most valuable resource - time, to the very function that drives growth. If you don't have time to market, you probably also don't have time to sell, which is a sure path to inventory bloat.
Ours is a complex industry, and the myriad of functions, tight schedules and other challenges means that marketing is often an after-thought. The only way to solve this issue is to treat "time for marketing" as if it were a work out regimen. You simply have to schedule it -- put marketing time on your business calendar and stick to it. Many companies find that scheduled off-sites are helpful for this type of work if the daily operation makes it difficult.
In our practice, we frequently serve as a "personal trainer" for marketing by creating a timeline, following up with encouragement and problem solving, and tracking progress. The good news is that positive results always make it easier to allocate time.
Excuse 3: MY COMPETITION DOESN'T HAVE A MARKETING PLAN
What is your operating standard and vision? Most of the businesses we serve are striving to make a top-notch product -- ours is an industry of passionate producers. A marketing plan empowering strong performance generates the sales dollars that can be invested people to support further growth and back into the product to elevate quality.
It is true that not every winery has a strategic marketing plan, but those who do often have a clearer understanding of the current state of the business, where it will be in the future and the necessary steps on how to get there while navigating the competitive marketplace. This means they find it easier to make marketing decisions, turn down the opportunities that will not produce return on investment and focus on those that do.
Excuse 4: WE'VE TRIED MARKETING AND IT DOESN'T WORK
What do you expect from marketing, and how did you go about it the last time you tried? Simply placing an ad in a publication and declaring it ineffective when your event has poor turn out does not qualify as demand creation marketing. In most cases when we hear this excuse, there has been a tactical level of marketing investment without a guiding strategy in place; this leads to mixed results at best.
Excuse 5: WE ALREADY HAVE LOYAL CUSTOMERS
This is a more rare excuse given the sheer number of wine and spirits companies competing for customers. Just like wine clubs have attrition, brands have customer loss. Unless you are building your base, your business is losing ground. Further, could marketing help enhance your already present customer loyalty?
There is no magical metric for marketing investment. In our practice, we begin with a discussion around the business vision and goals, analyze gaps and either recommend an appropriate course of action, or start with the budget and decide how to best allocate marketing dollars for maximum return on investment.
Our plans can be more limited in scope, designed to create focused impact in a shorter period of time; or more comprehensive in the case of a brand transformation. The bottom line is that marketing dollars invested must pay the business back with greater sales revenue. If you could invest a $1 to make $2, $10 or $100, would you do it?
- Dixie Huey and Janel Lubanski, Media Relations and Client Services