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Doug Frost MS/MW http://dougfrost.com

Assumption is the Mother of all ****ups! – Winery Marketing 101

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The title of the post is one of my favorite sayings. We’ve all heard the phrase muttered, “Well I assumed…” followed by a, “but I never thought this would happen…”. For Gabriella and I, the title of this post, tends to be the deciding factor when we get into an argument, knowing full well that the partner who assumed something doesn’t have a leg to stand on in the arguement du jour. I bring this up because I believe that wineries, and marketing managers for wineries, often assume too much.

Yesterday, we spent the day with Bodegas Torres, both learning about their new Priorat wine, Salmos, and touring through their new vineyards in the Priorat. Gabriella is writing up a short article about the visit and will include tasting notes on their wines, but I wanted to inform you of a particularly important idea that came up during our lunch.

Since we have been in Spain, almost 3 years now, we have been without car. Rather than endure the process of buying a car and dealing with insurance and foreign ownership, we have opted for a combination of car rentals and the kindness of strangers to help us with our needs. Due to this arrangement, we have had, at times, a hard go of it when visiting certain regions and places of interest. Buses only get you so far, and often than not, the more rural locations have been just a bit too far out of reach. Because we live here, these inconveniences are left up to us to remedy, and over time, we’ve become more adept at finding adequate transportation, such as car rentals.

It was with this in the mind that a question came up at lunch about tourism here in Iberia, a theme that is near and dear to our hearts. We both feel that without a strong tourism vision a regions wines are doomed to suffer so-so sales and exposure on the world market. Torres has at it’s winery in Vilafranca de Penedes, and I will say unquestionabley that it is one of the best wine tourism facilities I’ve seen in Spain so far. Interactive displays, tours of the vineyards, and walks through the cellars, it really is something not to miss. The best part is that by train, it is only a 45min ride to the facility, followed by a 5 min car ride (12euros by cab). But wait! Car ride? Having been a tourist most of my life, I know that when I travel, I don’t always rent a car. In fact, in a city like Barcelona, I rather not rent a car, and instead, rely on the wonderful public transportation to carry me around to all the locations that I can squeeze into my stay. So when I want to visit a vineyard, it better be within walking distance from the end of my train or bus ride, or else I just won’t go.

Our host assumed that if you wanted to visit a winery, you would just rent a car. Right? Wrong. First off, many travelers, or I dare say, the majority of travelers, travel on a budget. Having saved up some money to visit a new land, and not wanting to spend it on things they don’t have to like a car rental. The average tourist is money conscious and happens to also be the one who looks for a good value wine to enjoy with dinner. Sangre de Toro, comes to mind, a wine that is easy to drink and a great value for any money conscious wine drinker. This tourist loves to hear about the cute town they can visit for only a 2 euro train ticket and a meal at a restaurant that has a 8 euro menu of the day to die for! The price of a car plus gas could be the price of 2 meals for a savvy family of four! Personally, even if I wanted to spend the money to rent a car, I would rather take the train. Why? Well because then I could spend time taking pictures and seeing the scenery instead of driving white knuckled through BCN traffic and trying to figure out how to get where I hoped to go. Tourism at it’s core is about relaxing, and a nice leisurely train ride through the vineyards of the Penedes is not a bad way to go.

Sadly, Torres does not have a method of transportation available to visitors from Vila Franca de Penedes to their winery located in the heart of the Penedes. Making matters worst is that their corporate offices are located right near the exit of the train station. Hence, if they parked a van at the front door and posted a schedule at the local tourist office providing rides a few times a day (charge a euro if you need to cover gas!), they could make many people very happy. I’ve been to their winery, so I know they already have a visitor’s van available for just this. Therefore, it would take very little effort and few financial resources to create this one simple convenience, not to mention it could lead to big returns at the gift shop!

Torres’s main tourism facility, something I wrote about last year, is receiving approximately 14,000 visitors a year. I could be wrong, but I think this number would greatly increase if you offered a way for tourists to get from BCN to your front door for the price of a train ticket (2.50 euros or so) – not to mention, the brand loyalty created by such a small investment of time and money.

So a word of advice for all of you wineries out there who are trying to build a name or a tourism campaign: DON’T ASSUME. Then go back and check your ideas by challenging the assumptions you have already made. Remember that you cannot treat a tourist from Spain the same way you treat a tourist from abroad, especially the USA. While a locally based tourist may have a car, your foreign traveler may not.

Cheers,

Ryan Opaz

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