By: Ray Sheehan, Founder – Old City Media
When attending a wine-tasting or sampling event, your brand needs to sparkle like fine champagne. Potential customers need to see you and know you are the best brand in the room.
No matter what you are selling, if customers don’t believe it, they won’t buy it. With that in mind, here are 10 tips that will help your brand make an impression.
Tip #1: Hire Knowledgeable and Outgoing Brand Ambassadors
Whether you hire internally or outsource to an agency, knowledgeable and outgoing brand ambassadors are the key to a successful wine-tasting event. During the night, they will represent you to potential customers and introduce them to your product because they serve as the face of your brand.
It’s critical to hire friendly and outgoing ambassadors who easily engage with customers. At a wine sampling event, personable ambassadors attract a crowd, while shy and reserved ambassadors can appear unapproachable. Once they get people talking, they also need the confidence to motivate consumers to buy products.
Your brand ambassadors also need to be knowledgeable about your brand and the wine industry as a whole, which is why a TIPS and/or RAMP certification is a must. These certifications ensure your brand ambassadors know what they’re talking about and can be trusted to represent your product.
Tip #2: Train Brand Ambassadors about what Makes Your Brand Special
You may have the best wine in the world, but if your brand ambassadors don’t know how to present it properly, no one will ever know. Before the tasting event or sample sale, train them thoroughly about what makes your brand special. They’ll need to interact with new customers, answer questions about your product, talk about what sets it apart from other wines, and convince them to buy it.
Before brand ambassadors represent you at the tasting event, they should know your brand’s story, mission, and values as well as yourself. If your brand has a competitive advantage over the other wines available that night, make sure your brand ambassadors know it.
Make sure to provide thorough training to address the following aspects of your brand:
● Your brand’s history — brand ambassadors should be well-versed to speak about how your company came about, who founded it, and why. This information will help ambassadors answer questions with a personal flair that tells customers why they should buy from you, not another company in the industry.
● Your brand’s unique products — brand ambassadors need to be able to speak about each separate product you offer. For this reason, train them with specifics about how your wines are made, how you source ingredients, how you promote sustainable manufacturing, and what makes your wine stand out compared to other brands on the market.
● Your customer benefits — brand ambassadors must be able to highlight the value of your product(s). For instance, if a prospective customer walks up to them and asks what results they can expect to see, taste, or feel, this can include things like less sugar, fewer calories, organic ingredients, and unique flavors.
Tip #3: Scope Out the Event’s Location Before the Wine Tasting
Call the event manager and ask for a tour of the space. As you look around, ask about the venue and what amenities to expect. Find out if the event has Wi-Fi, as well as if you will be able to access a sound system, and ask whether you can use a stage or podium.
It’s a good idea to bring a list of questions regarding the venue’s expectations. Find out if the venue has restrictions on branded materials, such as professional banners or tablecloths, and ask if the venue allows games and activities at tasting events.
Likewise, ask event organizers about other products that will be served during the tasting. Find out if there is a dress code, and be sure to abide by it. If the event is at a restaurant or marketplace, ask about their set-up expectations. When you arrive with all your supplies, you will want to be able to set up without taking away from the customer experience.
Finally, confirm the event will have your product available at the wine sampling. Believe it or not, many brands simply assume this and arrive to find out otherwise.
Tip #4: Establish Clear Goals and Objectives for Your Bbrand Ambassadors
Before the wine sampling, establish clear goals and objectives for each of your brand ambassadors. To set these goals, consider how you will ultimately measure success for the event.
Successful event marketing has a solid foundation with clear goals and objectives. In other words, before you can put on a successful event, you need to know what success will look like and how you will measure it. To do this, set key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate your ambassadors’ performance. In a nutshell, KPIs allow you to judge performance in relation to a specific and measurable standard.
Decide whether your goals relate to sales volume or customer satisfaction. In either case, take a hard look at those numbers now. Next, determine how your brand ambassadors can enable your brand to maintain or surpass those numbers at the event. Finally, set your budget for the event, and make sure your goals realistically justify that expenditure.
You should offer your brand ambassadors incentives to drive sales at the sampling event to meet these goals. These incentives can be in the form of inexpensive gift cards or free products.
Tip #5: Ensure Your Brand Ambassadors Look Professional in Branded Attire
Make sure your brand ambassadors are dressed to impress by providing branded apparel that looks like it belongs at the wine sampling. Your ambassadors should have clothing that is both professional and comfortable.
Remember to plan for all weather. Equip your brand ambassadors with a change of clothes if they find themselves outdoors in wet or dirty conditions.
Tip #6: Design an Enticing Branded Setup
Make sure your branded setup is eye-catching, even from across the room. Creative and fun booths are guaranteed to draw customers your way. Picture a balloon arch that mimics grapes on a vine.
For smaller sampling events, I recommend a 10’x10’ booth and cocktail table set-up, a professional sign to promote your brand, and a banner or backdrop that can be used in photos. To add flair, finish your booth with a branded tablecloth and wine glasses.
In all the fun of designing a creative space, remember to keep it clutter-free and easy for attendees to navigate. If you display too many products in one area, people will likely get confused and purchase less.
Tip #7: Bring Both Digital and Hardcopy Marketing Materials
In this day and age, we all know the value of digital marketing materials. Shareable social content will allow your experience to live on long after the last sip of wine. Bring favors emblazoned with your event’s hashtag, and find a clever reward to encourage your customers to snap and share pictures on their social media channels.
Someone on your own staff should also be there to document the tasting. After the event, that staff member can publish those videos and pictures on your brand’s social channels.
In addition, always come prepared with hard copy marketing materials in case the location has Wi-Fi issues. Print branded fliers that highlight the wines you are serving at the event so attendees who enjoy your product can jot down key notes before moving on. Best of all, they will be able to access the information about those wines when they get home.
Hardcopy materials can also present an opportunity to collect customer information. For example, if you offer customers business cards at a wine-tasting table, you can naturally ask for their contact information during the exchange.
Tip #8: Increase Engagement with Games, Q&As, and Free Samples
Plan to draw potential customers to your booth with games, Q&As, and free samples. A simple spin-the-wheel game increases your brand’s visibility and engages interest around the entire room. The truth is that, if you can get people to have fun, they’ll be far more likely to remember what they liked about your wine in the future.
Plan games that are relevant to your brand’s identity. Games are a great way to engage with customers and get them talking. For example, a matching game can launch a conversation about favorite wine and food pairings. The activities you plan don’t need to be lengthy — five minutes max should do it.
Another idea is to use samples of your product to make the games more fun. For example, blindfolded contestants can guess the color of grapes to earn their tastings.
Tip #9: Reward Potential Customers with Free Swag
You need to give away some sort of free swag. A small gift, sample, coupon, or even a branded hat will make people feel special.
The best swag is relevant to your brand, the event, and the target audience. For a wine-sampling event, branded wine glasses or corkscrews are perfect.
The most important tip is to ensure your customers walk away with something useful in their hands. When guests leave your event with merch they value, your brand gains a pair of legs that take it beyond the sampling. Customers will carry your branded swag to cars, houses, and offices. If those souvenirs remind people of the fun they had that night, they may even share the experience with friends and family.
Tip #10: Above all, Have Fun!
The most important thing to remember when working at a wine sampling or tasting event is to have fun! Before the event starts, ensure your brand ambassadors know their roles, and are relaxed and ready to go. Your final pep talk should not be about making more sales or getting more traffic on social media. It should be about making sure the brand ambassadors have fun. This event allows them to show off their personalities, so let them shine.
A wine-sampling event can introduce your brand to new consumers and strengthen your relationship with current ones. Use these 10 tips to design an event that will create a memorable experience for your patrons, increase awareness around your brand, and learn even more about what your target audience wants.
Ray Sheehan is the Managing Partner of UpcomingEvents.com, a North American event production and marketing company. He has a background in strategic planning, marketing, event management, and advertising and has helped the company expand from one city to over twenty states. Before this role, Ray owned and operated philly2night.com, a production and news company in Philadelphia and South Jersey. He oversaw all aspects of the business and produced a nationally syndicated television show. In 2020, he launched the G.I.F.T Program as part of Old City Media. Ray is recognized as a leader in the special events industry and an innovative thinker in the Philadelphia community and beyond.