5 Marketing Lessons from Wine Country

Disclaimer:  Don't worry ... I have no intention of fashioning myself as the next Gary the "social media sommelier" Vaynerchuk [for those of you who are not familiar with Gary, check out http://tv.winelibrary.com/ for a truly unique experience].

I recently returned from my first-ever trip to California wine country [specifically Sonoma].  In addition to pristine weather, post-card vistas, incredible wine and some of the best food I've ever had, I also picked up a few lessons that might be useful for any marketer.

Lesson 1 - In sea of uneducated consumers, free is a good starting point:  If you're like me you haven't the faintest idea why one winery is better than the next.  The ones we ended up visiting our first day were largely based on free tasting passes [a $10-$20 value] passed on by our concierge.  Not the most sophisticated method of choosing, but a starting point.  I'm not advising marketers give away their product [who do you think I am, Chris Anderson?] but I do think trial is crucial, and free is as powerful driver of that behavior. 

Lesson 2 - Get your story straight, then tell it with passion: My wife and I were fortunate enough to visit with a guy called Stewart Dorman who runs a winery called Adrian Fog.  Stewart has a great story [former wine writer ... left to pursue his passion ... spends his days toiling in the vineyards or perfecting his blends ... only makes 1,000 cases barrels a year ... etc.].  It's not so much Stewart's story [which is awesome] but the passion with which he tells it.  We walked away from our conversation with two bottles of relatively expensive wine - I wanted to take part of Stewart's story home with us.

Lesson 3 - Create a captivating and differentiating experience: Of all the places we visited, we only joined one wine club - and it wasn't necessarily the best wine we had [but it was damn good].  Rather, it was the winery that did an elegant snack pairing with their tasting flight, spent an hour talking us through the flight, answered our questions, told us their history ... they were the anti-wine snobs.  And it made their tasting room different than the others, and a really fun experience.  The winery is Williamson Wines.

Lesson 4 - "Limited edition" can be a powerful sales tool: I quickly realized that most wine for sale was not available for distribution [meaning only sold direct or via a wine club]. So the pitch is: You can't get this anywhere else other than buying it right now.  Wouldn't it be a shame to get home and think to yourself, 'too bad I didn't get that wine when I had the chance'?

Lesson 5 - Search is king:  Found on every street corner in the town of Healdsburg.  Charming, no?