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There was a time when word of mouth played one of the most important roles in getting your bar, restaurant, club, and hotel (better) known, helping build your reputation, grow your client base – or to get people to know about particular promotions.
It’s important to realize that it still does, but with internet access and social media playing an ever-growing part in many people’s daily lives, it’s this that’s effectively become the new word of mouth – and a hugely more efficient means of promoting your establishment and your wine programs with loyal regulars, guests and potential customers.
Although the means to communicate may be more in number, more powerful, and both more controllable and more immediate, all these opportunities to communicate don’t mean you can afford to be any less focused: with nearly 50% of guests looking to social media when making a purchase or dining choice, it’s essential to create meaningful, locally relevant content that works to engage. Put another way, successful promotion is all about guest satisfaction and only comes about when the message is 100% guest-focused and relevant.
Whilst it’s good to know that, unlike in the old ‘analogue’ days of press (and TV), the successful use of digital media has less to do with who has the greatest marketing spend, it still remains a fact – just as in those old days – that success will only come if you create relevant messages that attract the desired type of clientele with relevant messages and which appeal directly to what they’ll find and experience by choosing your establishment and your promotion over any others being run by your competitors.
It’s a fact today that over 80% of Americans check out venues online before going out, so as well as ensuring they can see up-to-date menus and wine lists (and, of course, opening hours, address/directions and phone number) your website becomes a prime means of promoting any wine programs. Latest figures would suggest that social media can increase exposure by nearly 90% and increase sales by over 50% – a somewhat higher figure than the days of announcing a promotion on an ‘A-board’ chained outside a venue!
It’s impossible to ignore Facebook, the social media platform used by some 97% of Business-to-Consumer (B2C) marketers. Using Facebook as part of any wine program promotion by placing ads will also allow you to target followers in your area, as well as ‘user types’ – those people who match the clientele profile of your target audience. The objectives are to get them to follow your Facebook page – where you will have posted up your promotions – get them to give you their email address so you can create a contact database for an on-going merchandising program, as well and to get them to actively visit your website (where they will see your latest promotions) – a virtuous circle indeed.
It can pay dividends to put real effort – and sometimes even to commit a little money – to optimize your positioning in local search results so you’re one of the first names that come up when people are looking for a venue, or event, that matches what you’re offering. Running paid-for advertising on search engine pages is a useful marketing strategy as it provides the means to show an ad for your business, or current promotion, in your area.
Getting your message out via your website and your own social media blogs, supported by paid-for ads on social media platforms is not the be-all and end-all, however.
Knowing your target audience so you focus on content that’s relevant to them is key to guest satisfaction and commercial profitability – without happy guests, no promotion is ever going to optimize profitability.
Promotions are only about you in the sense that it’s your business decision to run them and you will know your margins and you will set your commercial targets, but otherwise, it’s the customer – and their interests – who are always king (and queen).
Your Staff – Your Marketing Team: your servers are the start point for rolling out and promoting all your wine programs and in increasing customer awareness and program take-up. This has to be one of the most cost-effective ways of increasing revenue, but to gain maximum benefit from this you need to provide serving staff with proper training, starting with supervised tastings of the wines they’re handling. Ideally, working with the kitchen, promoted wines should be tasted with samples from menus to provide a deeper understanding, as well as allowing them to better appreciate their role in creating a memorable guest experience where the wine recommendation plays its full part.
Point of Sale: simple bar and table tent cards can provide easy and effective support as part of your on-premise merchandising (powerful too, with 50% plus hikes in sales rates reported), added to which the same promotional message can be highlighted on wine lists and food menus.
Courting Bloggers: the rise of the foodie and the increased interest in food and drink can provide any number of opportunities for you to create headlines to help you promote your program to an even wider audience. However, it’s important to remember that blogging is no panacea by itself and you need to work with bloggers who have the right reputation and following, and who are able to create well-written, well-illustrated pieces.
Press Tastings for Local Journalists: help role out your promotional message by offering a tasting for local press, local personalities and some of your favourite regular customers. In a restaurant environment, create tasting portions of food pairings to go with your wines. These tastings give you a platform to showcase your new wine program in a controlled environment and, as well as creating goodwill, will work to help get press releases taken up and used when you send them out.
Partner With A Local Business Or Charity: one way to add weight to your promotion is pairing with a local group with an event that announces the partnership and helps kick off donations to your group of choice linked to the launch of your new program.
Customer Loyalty Program: research suggests that customers who have joined a loyalty rewards scheme can add to your profits by typically spending 10-15% more per transaction. So, linking with, and merchandising your wine program – say with extra bonus points – makes sense and can help both in increasing venue footfall and customer take-up of the program, as well as playing its part in improving your customer retention and repeat visits rates.
The article is contributed by Alistair Morrell, Wine Inspector, wine industry consultant, journalist and, commentator. Over 30 years as a wine business professional, Alistair shares his global knowledge, network, and experience of growers, importers, distributors and buyers.