Why we all have to think like publishers and media players now

Speak for yourself. You might spend your life writing and pontificating, but I actually produce and sell something that people want to consume?

And you do it very well. But how do you get people to know about it and then be able to go out, find it and buy it? In this increasingly switched-on world you can't just send out a press release, or stick a new product on your website and expect people to come and find it. Just look back at all the articles and pieces of information you have read this week. How did you come across them? Chances are they were all pushed out to you in one way or another. Be it a link in a tweet, a post on Instagram, Facebook, or via an email newsletter you have signed up to. Publishers now know they can't rely on you just buying their newspaper or magazine, they have to use a whole number of ways to get their must read content in front of your eyes in some way or other.

Yes, that's all well and good, but what's that got to do with me? I just buy and sell wine.

But think about it. Your bottle of wine is exactly the same as the article, social media post or piece of information that a publisher wants to get out there. Your challenge is just the same. To get your wine under the nose of the people you think are most likely to want to buy it. Thanks to advances in smart technology there are now countless ways to do that. There is the traditional route through straightforward content or advertising in the most appropriate trade and consumer press. But the most successful businesses are the ones that are taking complete control of the messages and content they are putting out there.

Really, how?

Let's take a look at holiday company Thomas Cook. In the early 2000s it, and other traditional travel businesses, were haemorrhaging sales to new online businesses like Lastminute.com and Expedia. Consumers fell in love with the idea of searching for and booking holidays themselves. To fight back Thomas Cook has turned itself into a holiday and media business. It has used high quality content that brings to life the holidays and experiences it can offer which, through careful data analysis of its 22 million plus customer base, it can personalise and target to different people. Content that it pushes out in short films on social media, and via its own publishing platforms both in print and digital and its award-winning website, Excursionist. Content that the search and SEO driven sites of their online travel competitors are not set up or motivated to provide.

Yes, but they are selling amazing holidays. I've only got wine to offer them?

Listen to yourself. What about all those compelling stories you are always telling me you have about every wine in your range. Every wine business, be they a producer, distributor, retailer or restaurant should be using all these story-telling tricks and devices to get their personal messages out to their target customers.

OK, give me some examples.

It all comes down to how well you can use content and technology to get into the hearts, minds and wallets of your customers. Look at what specialist retailers are doing with arguably the most powerful tool they have to hand, the personalised mailer. Different chains, like Majestic, are now sending out daily targeted mailers to specific customer segments with news about, for example, different wines their buying history suggests they will be interested in. How you respond will educate them, and their systems, about the kinds of wines and offers you want to hear about. In just the same way that Deliveroo will send you promotions of types of food it knows you have ordered before.

What else are people doing?

Well, Coca-Cola is running an ingenious scheme where it is asking anyone to come up with creative ideas that “celebrate Coca-Cola” for a new advertising campaign. It has already received over 1,500 free submissions. A pretty canny way to get to see what your customer base really thinks of you. You only need to use one and the rest can help build up your online community. A simple idea that any wine business could follow.

What can wine companies be doing better?

Anyone that is trying to run any form of subscription or wine club model for a start. The ones that stand out aren't just offering a directory and website full of wines and tasting notes. That's just the foundation on top of which all your content that really matters can sit. Be it a regular punchy newsletter that showcases what you do, new voices and videos to follow on social media, an online forum for customers to join in with, Twitter chats with winemakers, or invites to special events. Different touch points that help members feel part of your club. Make sure you get the tone right. Don't talk hipster if your average customer spends most of the year on a cruise ship.

And finally?

Producing good, relevant content is hard. Look back at the content you've been producing and ask yourself if you find it interesting? After all, if you make a big thing of the fact you would drink any wine you sell, then make sure any content or information you're sending out is good enough for you to read and enjoy. Then you'll be more than halfway home. 

* This article was first published in Grapevine that I produce for the London Wine Fair.