Have you ever stopped to count all the trade shows, wine festivals, and tastings that wineries participate in each year? The number is mind-boggling.
Virtually all major markets host some kind of wine festival.
Considering the participation costs of most of these festivals and trade shows, it is essential to set goals and develop profitable strategies for these types of events.
Goals for your wine event
What kinds of goals are realistic? Let's start with four (4) goals often mentioned individually or in combination by wineries attending trade shows:
GOAL 1: We want to find out what is happening in the industry, with customers and with the competition.
Taken alone, this is a bad reason to participate in a trade show. The same can be achieved by simply attending the show, without the cost of the exhibition space.
In fact, if you don't know what's going on in the industry, by the time the show is talked about, it's too late for you.
You should use market research, not industry gossip, in your decision-making process.
On the other hand, once your participation is indicated by one of the objectives below, it becomes a legitimate secondary objective, taking advantage of the concentration of industry representatives and customers.
GOAL 2: We want to "show the flag."
This is a difficult goal to achieve because it is so difficult to quantify. What is the benefit of "displaying the flag?" Only very large companies that want to maintain their corporate image as a major player (a leader in the category) should use this as a reason to participate in a trade show.
For the rest, displaying the flag is just another way of saying "we don't have measurable goals for this event, but we don't want to miss out if something important happens."
GOAL 3: We want to make sure our competition doesn't and gain an advantage
This goal is often combined with the numbers 1 and 2 above in a very defensive approach to justify participation. In other words, "we cannot leave the field open to our competition, so we must be there." Of course, this ignores the more obvious question: "If your competition is not there, what do you hope to achieve?"
The sad truth about this approach is that it neglects more meaningful goals, and it often leads to half-hearted efforts and ill-conceived plans.
This is especially true when the axiomatic assumption is made that we have low expectations; we must invest little money, thought or time in planning or strategy for an event.
GOAL 4: We really need to make more sales or media contacts.
This is by far the best reason to participate in industry trade shows. It's measurable, contributes directly to the big picture, and can have a lasting impact.
But if this is the goal, how many wineries actually develop a specific strategy to achieve it? That means you have to answer the following questions.
Important questions to answer when deciding to participate in a wine fair
How much will participation cost in terms of time, money and materials?
Be sure to include product costs, travel time, travel and entertainment budgets, and all associated costs.
How big is the reward?
How many contacts (and how important) will we need to establish to justify these expenses? This does not mean that the sales contacts you make at the show have to place orders large enough to pay for the costs of the show within three months.
This is not how marketing communication works. But you do need to see these events as investments, and you do need to understand how the investment is going to pay off.
If you don't have a way to keep track of these investments, how can you make good decisions about them?
Clearly, people attending a trade show must agree on a measurable target for a specific number of sales contacts and a target number of follow-up calls and orders placed.
By keeping track of these numbers and the success of your assistants, you should develop a much finer sales plan that will make future decisions easier and more accurate.
By having a goal set, your staff can focus on making sure those numbers are hit.
Additionally, this approach will encourage the sales and marketing team to explore other, more economical methods to achieve these same goals.
The result will be a professional, results-oriented approach to the often-intensive sales call process.
Trade shows are just a means to an end, and a good public relations professional will explore a wide range of tactics to achieve any goal.
Of course, as in all marketing communications, the secret here is knowing your audience.
Before participating in a wine festival or trade fair, answer these questions:
Who is the audience and what do they want?
This must be determined before the fair. Your sales and marketing team should develop a profile of the contacts who plan to attend a show.
These profiles should indicate special interests, products or budgets that are of interest to the attendees.
Then reference the information against the winery's marketing goals to develop a plan for each trade show. Who is going to be there and what do they want?
What can we do to get your attention?
Now that we know who they are and what they want, we can start developing a trade show booth and activities that will appeal to the target market and encourage them to spend time with us.
We are not preparing for a party; we are designing a campaign, one that has a budget, goals, and the potential for failure and success.
Strategies for a successful participation in the wine festival
So, you have satisfactorily answered all of the above questions and decided that it makes business sense to pay the fees and spend time participating in the trade fair or wine festival.
What are some of the strategies for your participation to be successful? Here are seven helpful ideas:
Use direct mail
To create interest in your booth (table), and to get a head start on making key contacts. Some shows will offer to sell a list of attendees to any exhibitor.
Such a list can often be used very effectively to encourage a visit to a winery booth, to follow up on a marketing communication package presented at the fair, or even to pre-screen attendees according to their needs. or interests.
If you know what you want to achieve, using this service to announce your intentions or to pre-screen visitors to your table can be really effective.
At every trade show or tasting, some of the participants are disappointed that they cannot spend more time with key trade visitors.
Why does that happen? It often happens because they don't plan strategically.
If the top industry leaders have done their homework and invited most of the top attendees to meet with them about future business plans, the rest will be talking to the rest of the visitors, and not the key accounts.
Organize a hospitality suite
In the same hotel, or close by, to give your key contacts a place to meet you away from the distractions of the show.
Often times, the trade show floor itself is an overwhelming experience for potential customers.
Give these clients an interesting reason to leave the crowded apartment and meet you in a more relaxed and focused atmosphere in a hospitality suite in the same hotel.
This type of participation can be carried out without the fees for the exhibition stands, and will generate an environment that will allow the undivided attention of the sales contact.
Fine dining offerings, a place to meet your spouse, entertainment, or other incentives will attract guests to your suite. But this is not as easy as it sounds.
Attracting wine festival clients to your suite requires a lot of contact work on the part of the company's sales staff to get to know potential clients and constantly remind them of the opportunity that awaits them in the hospitality suite.
Organize interactive events
Interactive events at the fair to generate more attention for the wineries. These can range from "star attractions" to private dining, anything that gives your sales contacts something to talk about and a reason to visit.
The main drawback of most of these attempts is that they depend on the interest borrowed: the contact is not interested in a winery or its wines, but in the event. As a result, sales contacts are not always genuine, nor are they motivated.
On the other hand, the special dinners you host should be planned well in advance and executed against the set goal. They're not just an excuse for your marketing team to spend your travel and entertainment budget taking a group of colleagues out to a good restaurant, although that's often the case.
The stand (table) and its design must be symbolic of the quality and character of your winery.
If you are claiming preventive leadership, you must have a trade show display that supports your position, both in content and style.
Therefore, if you want to be perceived as a major player, you must have a large and imposing screen.
If you want to be seen as a profitable alternative, your screen needs to display the kind of smart, creative thinking that enables cost-effective solutions without a loss of quality.
Finally, personnel and materials must be consistent with your corporate philosophy and your target audience.
Give customers something to do at your booth
Keep in mind that the average time spent at a trade show booth is 15 seconds. At the end of that time, the viewer moves to another booth unless they are given a reason to stay.
Certainly a discussion with your sales staff will accomplish that goal, but your sales staff can only speak to one person at a time.
You should give other potential customers something to do while they wait.
At major wine festivals, it is often best to place the winemaker or director in front of the booth, where they can locate key contacts and interact with important industry leaders.
The winery staff take care of the booth staff, so that the manager is not trapped behind the table (and a crowd of consumers) when the most important journalist of the event overlooks and does not stop to taste their wine.
Make sure your staff are well trained.
In the final analysis, the results you get will depend on the efforts of your sales staff, and you should do your best to provide them with training and the types of materials and environment that allow them to focus on selling their wines.
If there is one basic rule of thumb for participating in trade shows, it is that staff sitting in chairs behind tables will never be successful.
Your staff must be approachable, outgoing, and positioned so that there are no barriers between them and sales contacts.
Your booth should be open, well lit, and should encourage contacts to enter your area and meet you, face to face.
Choose staff because they know the customers. Nothing can improve a salesperson who has already established a good relationship with potential customers.
This personal relationship can make contact easier, follow-up more effective, and close more frequently.
Selection of personnel because they know the market. Knowledge and credibility must be chosen over an attractive face every time, because once you get a live sales lead, the last thing you want to do is put them on hold while you search for someone who knows the business.
Choose your staff for their ability to evaluate the trade show and make suggestions for future enhancements to your booth, your participation, and your products.
Make sure your staff have accepted the goals of the trade show and hold them accountable for reaching the goals.
Encourage them to suggest improvements to both the booth and their own efforts that will lead to more success.
At every trade show, you will come across a winery complaining about the quality of the show. "I just don't think there are buyers here," they'll say.
But a neighbor at the next table will have sold containers of wine at the same show.
Focus on these shows the same way you focus on a sales call - meet the audience, encourage, and close the sale.
Well-trained staff and advanced preparation, born of a focused strategy, yield immediate and positive results.
Work doesn't stop when the doors are closed. After the show, you need to quickly and effectively follow up with each sales contact.
Without the proper execution of this unique element, the sales staff and the most exciting booth in the world will not achieve any results.
To make this even easier, it's a good idea to incorporate some form of promotion into your participation in the trade show itself, a reason to follow up on each contact, and a reason to expect that follow-up.
Whether it's a free gift or an on-site demo, the reason for these follow-up visits is to keep the door open for future contacts and future sales.
Most importantly, use the time after the show to evaluate your efforts.
What can improve? Was the show worth it? Why? What will you do next year to achieve your goals? How will you adjust your expectations for the coming year?