How Wine & Spirits Brands Can Execute an Effective Growth Strategy

Creating and executing an effective growth strategy is where a lot of successful Makers hit a stumbling block. Their wine and spirits products are selling well, there’s demand and room for expansion, but what do the next steps look like? LibDib’s Director of Maker Experience, Tanya Riesbeck, has the answers.

Step one is simple: “Get out from behind the still, get out of the cellar and BE the Seller,” she says. “We know that buyers want authenticity and more than ever, people want to support small and local wine and spirits producers who pour so much into their craft.” 

It’s sound advice--just as much as it’s fun wordplay. Putting a face to the name of the brand is helpful: it shows passion and pride and adds a grassroots sensibility. 

Look at the recent success of Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation Gin. Of course, it certainly helps that he is the famous movie star Ryan Reynolds… but the point still stands. It was a product he believed in, and he put time and effort behind it. 

“This is the time to shine!” adds Riesbeck. ”You have to be clever and creative and realistic about where you spend your efforts.”

She adds, “We’re at a really interesting point right now… that’s the understatement of the century, but our Makers are proving the concept of remote sales. No airplanes needed for a face-to-face meeting to get the sale. Work smarter, not harder. Put the time spent on a plane into setting up and executing video calls and meetings.”

Taking direct initiative can lead to amazing opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise present themselves. Riesbeck strongly recommends taking the time to speak with Buyers directly. 

“The founder of one of our most successful Makers told me the other day that he reached out to a Buyer,” she says. “He acknowledged how difficult things were and simply asked how he could help. The Buyer was so thrilled that this Maker took the time to reach out that the two of them ended up hatching a super killer deal. Like, I mean an incredible opportunity.” 

While Riesbeck can’t disclose the full details of the arrangement, it was a partnership that only came about because the owner picked up the phone and reached out to the Buyer. This is something that LibDib makes possible with our Maker-driven sales strategy (i.e., Makers, not distributor sales reps with other priorities, do the selling). 

Accessibility Through Online Sales

Awareness and communication in general are critical to growth. But it’s more than just getting a name out there. Wine and spirit brands need to be easy to find online and easy to order, regardless of the distribution method. 

“I can’t stress enough: Make yourself available and tell folks how to find you!” says Riesbeck. "This includes both consumers and trade buyers. For consumers, there are great companies like Speakeasy Co. and Bar Cart which allow customers to ostensibly purchase wine and spirits directly from the Maker even though in actuality it’s going through the three-tier system. We affectionately refer to this as ‘e-premise’ here at LibDib. For Buyers, ensure the trade portion on your website points licensed buyers directly to your LibDib storefront to purchase...and don’t worry, as a B2B company, only approved, licensed buyers can view your wholesale pricing and purchase via LibDib.” 

2020 has been, as Riesbeck acknowledges, a “giant curveball” that’s making it difficult to do anything on-premise. But there’s hope. 

“We used to say, ‘on-premise builds brands’ but I’ll tell you: this concept of “e-premise” is emerging and it’s really transforming the way Makers are marketing and consumers are purchasing. For off-premise, working with a retailer to create a signature cocktail box is also an innovative and relevant way to build a brand,” says Riesbeck. There are plenty of ways to innovate, grow, and interact with consumers. LibDib has seen plenty of exciting ideas come from Makers.

“Our rockstar Makers have kept their community strong by doing online concerts,” Riesbeck mentions. “Distillery 291 and LibDib teamed up to host an online conference series geared toward helping retailers navigate ‘the new normal,’ distilleries are supporting to-go cocktails with on-premise accounts; there’s a giant focus on ecommerce and Makers are really putting forth efforts toward driving consumer traffic to retail accounts.”

And the communities that form around brands are just as important as ever. Makers are lucky in the sense that there’s already a built-in social component to alcohol consumption. Now is the perfect time to lean into that. 

Continue Promoting Your Wine and Spirits Virtually

“One of the best things about beverage alcohol, as both a product and as an industry is the social component and how it brings people together,” says Riesbeck. “And although we aren’t really socializing face-to-face these days (at least not in the SF Bay Area, we’re not) we’re still coming together virtually.”

Riesbeck shared a few effective ideas for promoting your wine or spirits brand during the age of social distancing:

  1. Host online tastings. The Crafty Cask offers up some tips and best practices on how to be the hostess with the mostess.
  2. Create virtual happy hours. LibDib does bi-weekly ‘Meet the Maker’ tastings that our team really looks forward to. As a Maker you can reach out to your distributors or sales partners and offer to do this for their team. It can’t hurt to keep everyone educated on your wine or spirits so they can continue helping with brand promotion. 
  3. Invent virtual tours of your facility or tasting room. Tanya recently sat in on a winemaker’s pitch to a chain account here in CA and he was so engaging that it seriously brought her back to the good ol’ days when we got to go places and meet people. If people can’t come to you, “go” to them!

Consider Outside Resources to Grow Within the Wine and Spirits Industry

But remember: growth and innovation don’t have to come solely from within. There are plenty of tools, platforms, and options available for Makers ready for expansion. LibDib and Edge Beverage are perfect examples. They’re affordable and scalable ways for Makers to distribute and sell to larger audiences that they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. Riesbeck recommends utilizing these resources as a way to grow reach and effectiveness. 

“I think it’s important to first identify where and how you intend to grow,” she says. “Many people’s initial thought is that they need ‘feet on the street.’ If that’s what you’re looking for, check out Edge Beverage or Green Glass Global. If you’re looking for a soup-to-nuts complement to LibDib: ProVinters. Not only is their website one of the most aesthetically-pleasing things I’ve seen in awhile, but more importantly, they offer different packages and services to suit your needs.”

Compliant “e-premise” options are also a must. “Perhaps you have consumers contacting you on the regular asking where and how to buy your product,” says Riesbeck.  “Or your marketing game is so strong (a virtual high five to you folks!) that turning your website into a three-tier compliant, ecommerce site would have the biggest impact for you...I suggest you consider companies like Speakeasy, Barcart or Thirstie or Cask & Barrel.” These companies specialize in ecommerce for the wine and spirit industry.

“If you’re looking to DIY and/or save some cash with a sweat equity investment, The Crafty Cask’s Marketing Bootcamp or LibDib’s Maker Training Series (free!) are good options for you,” adds Riesbeck.

Clubs are also critical to success and growth, according to Riesbeck. “I’m not talking about Costco or Sam’s or even that delicious sandwich,” she clarifies. “I’m talking about member clubs and subscription services - you know, those companies that have brilliant marketers and are sprayed all over your social media. Have you seen an ad for Flaviar recently? It’s exquisite. We love clubs and you should too. Why? Because this is a fantastic way to put your brand in the homes of thousands of people who are looking for introductions to cool and unique bottles. As a millennial, I can tell you first hand: we love this stuff.”

The landscape may be shifting and while the wine and spirits industry likely hasn’t seen the end of the changes, there is still plenty that Makers can actively do to grow. And furthermore, there are dozens of tools and platforms to help facilitate that growth. 

If you’re not already on LibDib, you can sign up today!. 

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