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Direct Sales

Get Serious About Mother’s Day, Wineries

Well, wineries, it’s that time of year again and the countdown is on. So what are you doing for Mother’s Day? ANOTHER wine and cheese event in the ol’ tasting room? How innovative. And for direct sales? Nothing yet, eh? Planning on slapping the words “Mother’s Day” on a regular bottle special and sending something out to your mailing list about a week before the big day? Hm. How’d that work out last year?

Mama Fratelli for Mother's Day

Mama Fratelli loves Mother's Day.

All of this snark is coming from a place of love, wineries. It’s time to get creative if you want to start making money off of these mini-holidays. Take some time to look at what you have planned and incorporate your own genius – or just use some of the ideas below.


If you’ve got a tasting room, I’m praying that you’re doing SOMETHING for the holiday. Instead of the wine and cheese event that everybody whips out when they don’t know what else to do, think a bit outside the box. What is going to make a family get in the car and head out to your tasting room? And how can you execute it on a budget? Some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Pamper ’em. Try hiring a masseuse for a few hours – have them set up a table and offer 15 minute mommy massages as a part of your event. You can also go nuts and offer manicures, but be sure to do so far enough away from the tasting room so that library Cab of yours doesn’t smell like Opi & nail polish remover.
  • Set up playtime for kids. Make it easy for families to attend by incorporating a supervised project for children as a part of the event. Mom and Dad can enjoy the tasting while Junior and Little Missy can create pictures, cork necklaces or the illustrious paper-plate bean-shakers that they can give to mom as a present when the tasting is over. Feel free to be creative and incorporate your branding into the project.
  • Take a hike. If your event is grown-ups only, and if you have the land, make it an adventurous escape. Set up a tasting in a romantic spot in the vineyard and give a guided tour to and from the tasting location. Make it special using your winery’s best features – do you have an amazing spot to view the sunset? On-site crush facilities? A little clearing in the woods or picnic tables in the vineyard? Use it. Feel free to make it a family event with extra supervision and an outside activity for the kids during the tasting.
  • Have a mom at the winery? Let the matriarch lead the tasting. Feel free to put family first – this can be your own celebration that you are inviting your valued customers to attend. If marketed right, there’s an element of “celebrity” that will appeal to some of your mailing list – just don’t let your heads get too big.
  • Look to the future. By the time you have your Mother’s Day event, know what you are doing for Father’s Day – or at least have an idea. If you can provide a wonderful and unique experience for Mom, odds are that Dad would be interested in coming back if you have something to offer him for his special day.  Depending on his or her situation, almost every guest at your event is a potential repeat for Father’s Day, so you best put it in their heads early.


Throwing your white wines in a three-pack and calling it a Mother’s Day special a week before the big day is not the way to take advantage of this holiday for your direct sales. Odds are that the consumers of your direct sale items for Mother’s Day may not be the same people that would attend your event (if you have one), so take advantage of this by creating a DIY Mother’s Day kit for home. All you need to do is to pick some themes and price ranges. Whatever you do, do it now. Get it up on your website immediately.

  • Understand your direct sales consumer. I’m going to assume that any Mother’s Day special/gift item will be up on your website (because it should be if you want to make money). Yes, you’ll be blasting this out to your mailing list and wine club, but understand that if you want to get new customers out of this, it will be people searching online for Mother’s Day wine gifts. Be sure that you use appropriate key words (for SEO) when you are creating the product pages and publish it asap. Also, the people doing online searches for mother’s day gifts may skew younger – hello millennials. Yes, there are plenty of us with kids, but there are TONS of us with mothers – we all need to buy them gifts and will most likely look to the web at some point, if not first. Keep this in mind when you are putting together your kits.
  • Know your competition. No, I’m not talking about neighboring wineries, people. The big competition on Mother’s Day is flowers. Think about this when you are choosing your pricing and marketing strategies. People won’t even blink at spending $100 and up on a beautiful bouquet of flowers for mom – it’s the ultimate go-to long-distance Mother’s Day gift. This is your competition. You can put together a fabulous package for this price (and lower) no matter what the price points of your wines are. Make sure people know this. Make sure that long distance sons and daughters realize that they have a choice between flowers and wine for Mom this year – and make sure they know why your wine package is the right choice.
  • Talk to the moms. If you’ve got moms on board in your staff, reach out to them to see what their ideal DIY Mother’s Day Kit would include.
  • Go outside your own merchandise. Yes, you could put together the same tired gift basket of wine, glasses and corkscrews, but that doesn’t give a whole lot of reasons to buy your particular package, does it? You’ve got a resale license, so USE IT! Grab a wholesale lot of manicure kits, spa slippers, DVDs, gift cards, decor items, etc. and incorporate these into your theme. If your budget is tight, shop first and create your theme around the items that fit your budget.
  • Don’t be afraid to go novelty. Remember these orders will be gifts, which means that people want to say something with them. Making people laugh is a big part of gift-giving, particularly in my family. Don’t be afraid to embrace a novelty approach. If I were a winery, the first Mother’s Day Gift item I would put together would be the Mama Fratelli Gift Basket. (If you don’t know who Mama Fratelli is, go watch Goonies immediately.) I would include a black beret and some fake pearls, as well as perhaps a CD single from the band, The Fratellis. If I had Italian varietals in my wines, I would include those in the basket (remember Zin = Primitivo), or if not, I would find the best wines that fit with her thematically. Find something unique, have fun, be creative.
  • Get the word out. If you do have some creative product packages for your direct sales, find a few ways to tell the world. Contact the local paper, radio shows, the local news – if it’s touching/unique/funny/creative enough, you may get some much needed coverage.

There are many more ways to get the most out of your event and direct sales this Mother’s Day, so grab your team, get thinking, and get put ingenious plans into motion soon to get the best return.

For those wineries that DO put the work in, I invite you to email me at with your new, improved, unique and creative plans/press releases/invites/product links, etc. and I will post as many of your Mother’s Day marketing ideas as I can (most likely the week before Mother’s Day, depending on the response). Be sure to include the links to purchase/attend so I can post them.  If your winery is putting in the work on this, I would love to support you.

Now get to work and go be a genius!


Get in the Garage: Innovate by Embracing Limitations

Back in November of 2008 Wired magazine had a short but incredibly sweet article/essay on something they dubbed the “Garage Economy.” (Back to the Garage: How Economic Turmoil Breeds Innovation written by senior writer Daniel Roth – I highly recommend taking a look at it.)

In the article, Roth brings up an incredibly simple but overlooked point – tough economic times are the perfect breeding ground for fearless genius, but most industry leaders focus on cutting back rather than taking chances and moving forward.

In periods of economic turmoil, people are hungry and work cheap, and entrenched companies often concentrate on in-house cost-cutting instead of exploring new markets, which can explode with the next turn of the business cycle.

-Daniel Roth, “Back to the Garage…” Wired issue 16.12

For those that know me, my love affair with this concept is not surprising – it echoes one of my most firm beliefs: OUT OF STRUCTURE COMES GENIUS. Meaning that the more limitations one is given, the more creative that person must be to succeed. Structure forces us to take a look at what we want to accomplish, distill it down, take stock of all our resources, and find a more effective way to reach our goals. This “structure” can be anything from the number of hours in a day, budget limitations, non-traditional resources, or in this case, an international recession.

Welcome to Your New Office

Social media is a widespread example of this, both within the wine industry and beyond. Even as large companies cut back their advertising costs (sorry print & tv), they need brand awareness and sales more than ever. What’s the solution? Free social networks. Resources are re-directed to educate employees about social media (ideally, otherwise see this post), and instead of spending millions of dollars a year purchasing magazine ads, companies spend a fraction of that actually interacting directly with their target consumers. (One of the most incredible side effects of this is that the tiny 1200 case winery has the same chance of succeeding in this medium as the behemoth.) The question is, if all these companies weren’t being forced to cut back due to the economy, would they have made the same decisions to invest their energies in social media? Or would they have continued down the familiar path of traditional advertising?

Because of a seemingly perfect storm of economic restriction, there is a petri dish atmosphere for growing new ideas. For wineries, maybe it’s finding a way to boost direct sales when the Three-Tier System is failing them. Maybe it’s going out into the community and giving back and building a cult following. Maybe it’s forgoing glass bottles in favor of reusable metal containers/kegs for On-Site accounts. No matter what solutions companies come up with, it’s important to remember that these ideas are born out of structure and limitations. Companies that put their heads in the sand and ignore these conditions, or companies that are boarding up the windows to weather the storm, will never put themselves in the position of innovating.

Let’s admit it, the outlook is bleak when you maintain the status quo. Embrace all the limitations facing you – decrease in wine club membership, loss of a distributor, drooping sales, old-fashioned branding – gather them all up, find the smartest people you know, and GET IN THE GARAGE.

Let Your Sales Flag Fly: 5 Tips for Boosting Holiday Direct Sales

As the “O” of O,N,D draws to a close, there’s not a winery out there that’s not feeling the squeeze – or lack thereof.  It seems that smaller wineries and boutiques are hardest hit, with retailers and restaurants alike eschewing these lesser known bottles for product with recognizable names and brand affinity. This doesn’t hurt just businesses in the wine industry – consumers will only have a fraction of the choices they would normally have this season for gifts and special occasion wines. With small businesses losing ground in retail and restaurant environments and consumers looking for more variety, wineries have a chance to make up the loss this holiday season with two magical words: Direct Sales.

At one time taken for granted and simply relegated to the “Wine Club” list, direct sales will be many businesses bread and butter this season. The unprecedented access to new consumers via social media and the significantly higher profit margin of selling bottles at full retail give wineries both the platform and the flexibility they need to be creative and drive sales for the season.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds. There is a tremendous amount of planning, logistics, creativity, outreach, time and effort involved in pulling together a successful direct sales campaign. But the payoff, for this season and for holidays to come, is well worth the effort. Below are a few tips on how to formulate the plan that’s right for YOU.

  1. Assemble a Team and Make the Commitment – Hand-pick a small group of people within the business to help create and execute the plan. These should be people with different skills and interests that you can draw from to build a solid direct sales plan. Once you’ve assembled your team, make the commitment to create a plan and see it through – and ask that they do the same.
  2. Take Stock of Your Resources – Take a good hard look at the resources you have at your disposal, and I mean everything. Take into account  the obvious like your mailing list, wine club, upcoming tasting events, etc., but also think outside the box a bit. Is there an artist in your midst? Is your young tasting room employee a social networking whiz? Have you earned a nickname from the locals? Get your team together and write up a list of these resources. Keep this list in full view while you are coming up with your plan.
  3. Give People a Reason to Buy – It’s not just enough to have the product, you must give your consumers a reason to purchase YOUR product. Is it great pricing? A special bottling? Are you donating some of your proceeds to charity? Is your winemaker signing the bottles? Look to your list of resources and come up with a reason or reasons why people must have your wine.
  4. Create a Full Campaign – Sales campaigns are not just for huge corporations. Gather your team, keep your list of resources in full view and let yourself be a marketing genius. Create a fun and catchy name for the plan, set your goals and timeline, create special pricing or shipping terms, and make sure you have the infrastructure to support everything on your website and in the tasting room. Aside from having all the logistics in place, it’s also important to have FUN while creating your campaign. Using humor is a great way to get people interested in your product and campaign.  The more fun it is for you, the more fun it will be for your potential consumers to be a part of it all.
  5. Use Social Media – If you could push a button and magically reach THOUSANDS of new consumers that you’ve never had access to before, would you use it? OF COURSE. That “magic button” is social media. It doesn’t matter if you’re not on facebook, or don’t understand twitter – find someone who does. There is no reason to deny your business of the successful season you need simply because you don’t “get” facebook. Social media is a tool that businesses must use to get the most out of any campaign. Choose someone intimately familiar with social networks to be on your team and utilize their knowledge and contacts.

It’s not too late to make the most of this of this season for any winery who has the drive. Incorporate these five tips while coming up with your direct sales plan, watch an episode of Mad Men for inspiration, get up, and take the season into your own hands.