Bridge the Gap Between Production and Marketing

September 2015
by Andrew Meggitt

If you’re like me, you went into wine production with idyllic images of yourself traipsing through vineyards, picking grapes right off the stem and sampling wine all day. Who wouldn’t want that as a day job?

While viticulture has its glamour and perks, there’s also a real management side to the industry. To grow your vineyard into a wine haven, you must align the conflicting business priorities of the marketing and production teams, which are infamous for collaborative tension. In the wine industry, marketing is tasked with keeping a pulse on consumer trends, while production might struggle to put its personal tastes aside.

I know firsthand how difficult it can be to navigate these relationships, but I’ve also learned a few tips for keeping both teams on the same page throughout the wine-development process:

1. Get everyone in the same room
As you plan for new releases, hold a cross-team meeting that extends beyond a creative brainstorm to a logistics-based discussion. Ask your marketing and production teams the following questions:

• How many wines are too many for our winery?

• How can each department come together and figure out what’s important to each of us this year?

• What are we missing with our distributor?

• How do we get into (or back into) our target stores?

You and your teams need to determine whether your new wine will be completely novel or an extension of a current product. For example, our recent mango-pineapple product launch was an extension of the mango wine we created the previous summer. We had time to go to our distributor and big-box stores and talk to them about what they sought in the product. We walked away with a fixed price point, allowing us to fiscally manage the product.

I take this practice one step further and always work with at least four people in my office. Innovative product ideas tend to stem from impromptu conversations, so you need to immerse yourself in those.

2. Find a launch cycle that works for everyone
As a wine producer, it’s your responsibility to educate the marketing team about the logistics of creating a new wine. Make sure team members recognize each step—from sourcing the fruit and choosing bottles to creating and printing the label and delivering the final product.

By giving them a line of sight into production, they’ll be more responsive to deadlines and budget constraints. I always advocate for 18-month product-launch cycles. Ask yourself, your peers and other industry experts to help you figure out the sweet spot for yours.

3. Balance creativity with logistics
Not every great idea will thrill your production team. For instance, there aren’t many places to go with a sparkling wine, which also requires more people and a slower production cycle.

As the leader, it’s your job to help the other teams understand the market potential of particular wines and explain why some blends just won’t work from a marketing and logistical standpoint. Winemakers should be constantly tracking global consumer trends beyond the wine industry to predict trends rather than respond to them. Pass the profits and numbers along to both teams so they’ll recognize that your vineyard is a business first and foremost.

4. Do a culture temperature check
Have you noticed that a lack of planning, understanding, staff, creativity or trust has caused chasms between groups? You can’t wish issues like these away, but if you start tackling one at a time by being open and honest, you’ll be surprised how they seem to dissolve.

For example, schedule cross-departmental meetings where you collectively brainstorm creative ideas. Do team-building events to build trust—or hire more talent if people are stretched too thin. Small steps like these can iron out the wrinkles in your culture.

As the winemaker, you can’t expect marketing and production to work in harmony without taking a little initiative. Bridge the gap between these departments, address one issue at a time and remind these teams of your shared goal: to delight consumers with wine that pleases their palates. When you strike that balance, your idyllic vineyard visions will come to life for you, your marketing and production teams and (most importantly) your customers.

Andrew Meggitt joined the St. James Winery team in 2002 and has been enjoying life in the wine business for more than 20 years. A three-year international travel adventure after college influenced not only his outlook on life but also his perception of winemaking styles and methodology. Meggitt creatively stretches the boundaries of traditional winemaking while integrating both Old World and New World techniques he learned while working in New Zealand and France.


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