Tasting Room Marketing: Cakebread Cellars
By Courtney Holmes
Running your own business often means working on the weekends. Thankfully, we chose to work in the wine industry! My buddy, Ross Goodwin from Bennett Valley Group, a wine consulting firm, decided to do some research on wine tasting room marketing strategies. According to Goodwin's own research that he conducted with Cakebread Cellars, they have superior metrics when it comes to their tasting room visitor to wine club conversion. While its true that they have amazing wine, their conversions are largely due to their strategy. So we spent our Saturday afternoon at a 45 minute, appointment only tasting at Cakebread Cellars. Here is what we discovered:
Every winery should have talking points on varietals, their interpretation of the varietal and tasting notes. But because Cakebread Cellars has a script for each tasting, they are able to make sure nothing is left out. Now don't get me wrong, our sommelier, Shane, was not reciting a script. He was free form and you could tell he was the narrator in this tale of the winery. It came from his heart, not a script written by a consultant. Because it had a general outline, though, the messaging is consistent and probably has been adapted and perfected for optimal marketing objectives.
Wine Club "Call to Action"
It was interesting. Shane, the sommelier, never used the phrase "wine club" but instead mentioned that they had a program that allowed us to get access to vintages that are not available for retail. They were promoting an exclusive VIP opportunity. Has "wine club" lost VIP connotation? As they are one of the most successful higher end wineries, this makes me wonder if the omission is part of the tasting room experience strategy.
Shane made the subtle call to action twice during our tasting. All he really had to do was just mention for the tasters to pick up the wine club brochure. He mentioned it after he discussed the Reserve chardonnay, which is only available to members and at the closed tasting. This is no doubt part of the sommiler's script and probably a big part of their success. . . besides the fact that their wine is so delicious!
It couldn't help but notice that part of the messaging used by the sommelier is that their top selling wine, their 2011 chardonnay, has maintained the same flavor for 40 years. There is a reason he mentioned that. It is consistency that makes a business successful. Customers like to know what they are going to get. And the difficultly that most wineries have is that their wines change from year to year. While terroir is the beauty of wine, the inconsistancy doesn't appeal to the masses. Cakebread is one of the few higher end wines that promise consistancy. I have no doubt that this has influenced their success.
Merchandise "Call to Action"
I know what you are thinking, wine is our passion, not winery branded cycling Jerseys. And I get it, completely. The wrong merchandise can really degrade the value of your brand. You have to be selective and minimalist with your choices for retail. And the products should be in line with your brand's message and mission. That said, at the close of our tasting our guide did mention that we check out the merchandise and he even guided us all to the merchandise room. In fact, the tasting appointment email reminder even said to leave time at the close of the tasting to browse the merchandise.
It is important to note that again there is a soft "call to action" to buy their products in their tasting room script. If we had to apply another cause to their above average sales volume at the winery, this could easily be one prime variable.
- If you have an appointment only tasting room, stick to a general outline of talking points.
- Make it your goal to have the visitors pick up the wine club brochure, not necessarily that they join the wine club. That can backfire.
- Connote an air of the exclusivity to the wine club to. Make sure to have vintages that are only available to members and promote this in your talking points.
- Don't forget to promote the merchandise but remember, be subtle.
- If you have wines that are consistant year after year, tell them.