+1 (425) 218-8602

Balance = Power for Your Winery’s Success in 2023

Balance = Power for any business, but especially wineries who rely almost exclusively on discretionary spending.  Post Covid DTC sales have already slowed down for many wineries, and due to current economic conditions, the negative trends are likely to continue. It’s time to diversify and put more effort toward distribution with proven strategies for success. Novices or seasoned national sales veterans–2023 can be the year you take your winery’s distribution to a new level!

Here are my 4 C’s: Proven Strategies for Successful Distribution

1.      Clarity – make sure you are laser focused. 

  1. You have no more than 1-3 focus items per brand.  Always remember, “When everything is important, nothing is important.”  Distributors have hundreds of brands and are inundated with demands from most of them – stand out and create opportunities for them to win. Build on what’s already working and avoid reinventing the wheel each year with too many priorities.
  2. Remove any obstacles your distributors may have – work with management on a 12-month marketing calendar, strategic pricing, plans for old inventory, and creating brand/category enthusiasm.
  3. Know and communicate what you want from your distributors. Review your 2022 sales, reveal the goals for the coming year and collaborate on how you will achieve these targets.

2.      Creativity – deliver practical sales tools in a compelling way.

  1. Schedule ways to get in front of the sales team during the first quarter. Virtual meetings are usually fine for these purposes, especially when your presentation is BRILLIANT.  Also, remember, most distributor reps are now millennials. Be prepared to speak passionately about your authentic story, your wines, and your dedication to a higher cause (sustainability, etc.) Their time is precious – make sure they remember you! How are you different? How are you special? Why did you get into the wine business? The 90 second elevator speech is a thing – invest the time to figure it out and deliver it well!
  2. Outline your story in a presentation format that can be easily shared with or without you being present. Make the presentation concise and include what makes you excited about your winery, your wines they sell, and why they are awesome! Distributor folks can take these presentations and use relevant sections for their own account presentations. Make it easy for them! Digital education and marketing increase your brand awareness and sales.
  3. Update your website and make sure it is user friendly for distributors.
    1. Create a dynamic Trade Page with your tech sheets, bottle shots, and shelf talkers – all available digitally.
    2. Include an accolade sheet, a brand profile sheet, your distributor brand presentation, fun photography, and any relevant bios (owner, winemaker, vineyard manager, etc.). Hint: Proofread just like a menu or wine list in a restaurant.
    3. Be the “Go to” wine brand. All these elements provide distributor people and accounts the ability to work with your brand effectively. If they must work too hard to find the answers they seek, sometimes they simply give up and move onto the next brand. By creating ease, you increase engagement with sales teams and accounts, which naturally leads to increased sales.


3.      Communication – be the loveable, squeaky wheel. They have their goals, they have their brand presentation, you blew them away at the January GSM, now what?

  1. Follow the marketing calendar you laid out and meet with your portfolio managers frequently (at least quarterly) to talk about drive periods, special pricing, incentives, and any other opportunities.
  2. Find reasons to reach out consistently and throughout the year: Create smart/fun winery newsletters, update your distributors on new vintages, bud break (with photos!), your new puppy, etc. Make sure all your materials are shared with the whole team.
  3. Use technology to your advantage. Thanks to Covid, travel isn’t always necessary. Reach out to your key distributor people by text or phone – touch base, thank them for a job well done, facetime from the vineyard, wish them a happy birthday, offer to help support them…build relationships.


4.      Collaboration – be prepared and willing to join forces with other brands to support your category or a specific initiative.

  1. Sometimes an entire category needs extra attention in certain markets. It often helps to join forces with other wineries from your region or your focus to help shine a spotlight and help build enthusiasm collectively.
  2. These collaborative activities can feature larger regions: Oregon, Washington, New Zealand, Australia, …, or smaller regions/AVAs: Red Mountain, Clare Valley, Monterey, …, or themes: Bubbles, Cab is King, Rhone Rangers, etc.
  3. Talk to each other: Find out what’s working, what’s not working and how you might be able to build something together (with your distributor’s involvement). Become a category leader by helping to coordinate forces.
  4. Think about leading joint initiatives (tastings, incentives, panel discussions, educational forums) for WA Wine Month, Oregon Wine Month, Pride, Bastille Day, Earth Day, New Zealand Independence Day. Be active and available–anything to help build your category, capture the imagination of your distributors, and sell more wine.  These events create opportunities for you to be heard, and opportunities for your distributors to engage with their accounts. “A rising tide lifts all boats.” 

Power = Balance. Consistently using the 4 C’s with your distributors will elevate you to a higher level of impact in 2023. Empower your distributor partners to be successful with your brand and they will take it to new levels!

Leave a Comment!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *