Driving Qualified Traffic

More quality, not quantity please.

It’s November.  Harvest is wrapping up.  Visitor traffic is slowing way down. Now what? How are we going to drive winter tasting room sales with so little traffic? Remember the number of visitors doesn’t matter nearly as much as the quality of the traffic.

Qualified traffic refers to visitors with a propensity to buy now, to buy again later (provided they had a great experience) and even to become loyal ambassadors and help spread the word about our winery and wines. They’re customers who are more likely to be interested in our portfolio of wines, who find a satisfying price / value relationship in our products, and who enjoy the type of guest experience we’ve created to convey our brand.

WHY are they our best customers?

To focus on attracting better quality traffic we need to start with WHY.  Why are our best customers so attracted to our brand?  Why do they keep coming back again and again?  Once we understand why they are such a great fit, then defining who they are becomes much easier.

WHO are these qualified buyers?

As a Tasting Room Manager or DTC Leader for our winery, we need to figure out whom these qualified buyers are and where to find them.  This goes beyond demographics.  If we understand their wine and lifestyle related behaviors we can create a profile of our best customers.  Start by researching:

  • Where they heard about us
  • Other wineries they visit
  • Where they stay when visiting wine country
  • Where they dine here and in key markets
  • Where they shop

Once we’ve earmarked who our best, most qualified customers are – by looking at how they behave – then finding out where others just like them gather becomes much easier.

WHERE are clusters of qualified buyers?

First we need to track where our visitors are coming from – not which state they are coming from but what is the REFERRAL SOURCE that caused them to visit our winery. (Who sent them? How did they hear about you?) If we know where our best customers are coming from, we can create marketing programs around these referral sources that work best – so we can fish where the fish are.

HOW to engage key traffic drivers?

Now we know whom we want coming in our doors and where the best ones come from we can develop targeted outreach programs.  Once we identify our top referral sources (by tracking and seeing which sources send the most qualified customers), we’ll need to educate them as well as build and manage the relationships, especially for our top influencers or gatekeepers.

Successful wineries have formal gatekeeper relations programs.  Gatekeepers are those who could potentially refer qualified customers such as hotel concierges, limo drivers, restaurant wait staff or host/hostess, etc.  During winter months, we can develop special off-season programs that these gatekeepers can help us book; even better if it is presented as a special program tailored for the guests of that specific gatekeeper.  It pays off to treat them as the strategic partners they can become.  Hosting key gatekeepers, mid-week, to give them the full winery guest experience is also an effective tool to help them “sell” our experience with enthusiasm, and help them properly qualify guests on our behalf. Investing time and energy into our gatekeepers – especially during the off-season – will pay off all year round.

WHAT is the optimal volume of traffic & staffing?

Next, we need to figure out our optimal traffic volume, which has nothing to do with seasonality.  Every winery has a “sweet spot” – an activity level where guest satisfaction is highest and so are our business results (order and club conversion rates, average orders sizes). The key here is to measure the number of staff labor hours in relations to the level of traffic (# visitors per labor hour worked) and never staff below that level. Remember there is no such thing as “downtime” in the tasting room, especially with personalized guest outreach programs such as thank you notes to recent purchasers, welcoming recent new club members and outbound calls to guests you have connected with in the past. If it is personalized, these effective, sales-outreach programs are an important part of providing superb service.

WHEN are we ready?

No time like the present.  Lower winter traffic doesn’t mean the tasting room goes to sleep.  Shift gears into a more strategic, better choreograph guest experience.  Be strategic and creative about driving traffic. Implement tactics that will increase traffic specifically for people who are more likely to convert – and do it through every season, not just the slow seasons.