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Playing the Odds – Winery Email Campaigns

Like most wine importers and distributors, my email inbox is inundated with requests, even demands, for my attention. Buy my wine! Check out my website! See my reviews! And I would bet that my response is mirrored across the country. Click! Deleted!

They come from foreign wineries, Google translated from another language, stiffly worded and a little funny in their awkward phrasing. They come from marketers with a superb command of the English language, overly confident that I will love their wines as much as they do and they have obscure awards to back it up. They come from domestic wineries looking to expand their reach, from imported wine brands that have some distribution in the U.S., but are looking for more regional importers.

Occasionally, I delve a little deeper. If the email has my name as the addressee (a simple thing, but a big plus), or expresses a specific reason for contacting me, it might prompt me to read. I may be captivated by a vineyard photo that shows a multi-generational family, looking proud and happy. I can be a sucker for the sweet naïveté of their PR efforts. I may see something in the prose that prompts me to check out the price attachment or their website. And once in a great while, I will contact the winery to make a suggestion or forward the email on to one of my clients I think may be interested. But that’s me. Most importers and distributors aren’t consultants and I venture to say that most, if not all, of these unsolicited emails will be ignored and deleted.

Playing the Odds – Winery Email Campaigns

I once received a box of wine out of the blue from Spain. I hadn’t agreed to receive samples from them and unaware it was coming. Inside, there were six beautifully packaged wines from different regions each bottle encased in a decorated metal cylinder. There was also a coffee table size, hardcover, full colour book. And a folder of marketing material. I leafed through the book. Gorgeous, artful photos of vineyards, wineries, landscape, bottles, food. With almost no words. What was I supposed to take from this? I read the accompanying letter. It took me to the website, where there was an invitation to a “virtual tasting” without accountability or stated purpose. I still don’t know what it was about.

Perhaps other recipients of this wine were so impressed by this extravagant marketing exercise they immediately signed up to be importers and distributors. Perhaps they saw the marketing as sophisticated and edgy. I was simply mystified. They had made some crucial mistakes with me:

  • They did not identify whether I was importing new wines
  • They did not identify whether I was interested in importing from Spain
  • They did not identify me!
  • They provided no compelling reason or purpose for the samples
  • They did not follow up in any way.

Eventually I drank the wines, which were actually quite good. I threw out the marketing materials. I recycled the metal tubes and I kept the book. I’m a book lover. I can’t bring myself to dispose of something so beautifully produced. It’s collecting dust on my office shelf.

Focus, specificity and knowing your audience is key to outreach for a winery or wine region organization. An email can work if some research and preparation is conducted beforehand and the communication is personalized and compelling. A personal contact to determine a) if samples are welcome and b) what the desired outcome is, would be advisable. And follow up is essential.  

But maybe that’s just me.

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