How a Winery’s Communications Can Respond to COVID-19

As the coronavirus spreads around the world and into our communities, we are being told to practice social distancing, and in some cases, self-isolate at home. Inevitably, this has huge impact on the hospitality industry.

We’re all feeling the tremendous impact of the COVID-19 crisis and that is particularly the case with the hospitality industry. With daily updates to government policies and social distancing, it is not easy for wineries to continue going about business as usual.

The rapidly evolving situation around COVID-19 is unique and will be felt for some time to come. We are a resilient industry.

Unlike in past crises, we live in an age of rapid social media communication. The channels are completely different and customer expectations are higher than ever.

Wine marketing is changing rapidly as everyone hunkers down with mobile devices, laptops and connected TVs. Isolation, working from home and more screen time than ever puts more importance on how wineries communicate during the crisis.  

In a time of crisis, communications need to be proactive, honest, incredibly clear, very empathetic and use a human, real voice.

Here are some thoughts to help you navigate the days ahead.

  1. Review Your Communication Plan

During these unprecedented times, it is not business as usual.  It’s very important to think about what your audience will want to know in regards to your brand.

With the new social distancing, most wineries have suspended wine tastings. It’s a huge blow to wineries now that they can’t sell retail.

With the recent developments around the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), let your customers know if you’ve made changes to your daily operations. 

Consider pausing print and digital advertising, especially around tours and tastings. Pause the content about tours and tastings when everyone is focused on the breaking news cycle.

2. Be inventive

There has never been a better time to invest in some thoughtful planning of inventive digital marketing programs via email, social media, and your website.

Consider a “stay home and enjoy wine” free shipping offer.

Why not open a ‘Handsfree Wine Drive-Thru’? Customers can pull up in their cars, select wines, and swipe their cards as you load trunks, without having to even get out of the car.

Switching to drive-up only service or increasing capacity for home delivery — are great examples of content that has immediate value for a customer.

Why not host a virtual tasting so customers can communicate with your winemaker while tasting through their wines?

3. Stay in Touch with Your Customers

Make sure you keep your Wine club members and customers up to date. As you close your tasting room, postpone winery events and send scheduled Wine Club shipments, make sure you communicate clearly. Consider adding a special message or FAQs to your website.

The point is – do what you always should do – to send communications that are thoughtful and targeted to your audience’s needs.

Make sure your all communications are relevant and useful. Be cognizant of the type of messages you put out and constantly re-evaluate based on current news.

One-to-one contact is very powerful. A personal email, text or phone call could be meaningful. While telephone outreach might not be your usual — or preferred — sales technique, it is important to adapt.

4. Focus on Ecommerce Sales

Online sales are the best way to reduce your dependence on in-person visits and position your winery for financial stability. Email, along with social media, are the best channels that can be deployed for timely communication with consumers. The good news is that you can build and execute email and social media campaigns from home.

Offer shipping incentives or free home delivery. Consider putting together unique 3 or 6 packs for an at-home tasting experience. You can also consider offering gift cards as a way for your loyal fans to support your business during these challenging times.

5. Engage Your Customers Online

Even if your customers can’t visit in person, you can keep them engaged with your winery by increasing your social media activity. Share behind the scenes photos and videos and regular vineyard and winery updates.

6. Be Sympathetic

Can you support local healthcare or community organizations or elderly people who can’t leave their homes? This is an opportunity to demonstrate how much you care. When better days come, your most important customers won’t have forgotten. 

Here is a great example of an email campaign by Township 7 Vineyards and Winery with money from wine sales being donated to support the BC Hospitality Industry:

Above all, don’t lose sight of your long-term agenda. It’s important to be strategic during these times so you can be ahead of the curve, accelerate, make up for your loss, double down. 

Don’t change your 3 year, and 5-year goals. Use the downturn as an opportunity to helping drive the large-scale change that will be necessary to succeed in the future.

Cindy Ferrie

Cindy Ferrie Marketing Strategist

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