In a month, everyone who is anyone in the wine industry will attend the annual international wine fair Prowein in Düsseldorf, Germany.
I have been attending wine fairs and shows across the world for many years and it is interesting to see how the format is changing and also to see how some shows have gone from strength to strength while others have died a slow death.
According to The Drinks Business, Prowein this year has a programme jam-packed with special tastings and lectures around on-trend themes – all in an effort to keep the offering exceptional and interesting. Perhaps it is because they really go to all this effort that Prowein continues to be relevant. To me, this is the most important show when it comes to meeting our European customers.
It is however easy for a wine producer to disappear into the crowds at these events. With wineries from the world-over competing for attention and only so many agents and distributors looking for new business, the winery owner, winemaker or marketing manager can easily spend their days rearranging the wines on their stand, ending the two or three days with sore feet and a flat wallet.
Yes, these shows are expensive to attend. Not only because of the registration and participation fees, but also because of the flight and accommodation (not made easier by a very weak Rand of course!), getting your wines to the show, dressing your stand and if you have contacts and customers in the market, entertaining them and arranging consumer events.
What can you do to ensure you get the most from attending these wine fairs?
In my opinion it depends on your approach.
Are you there to find an agent or distributor? Then prepare as if you are going to a very important job interview.
- Research the available options. Ask other wineries who they work with, speak to industry organisations and exporters and use the internet for its wealth of information.
- Make an appointment.Contact the agents or distributors you have identified as a suitable match to determine their interest. Then make an appointment. Specify a time and place.
- Be open to suggestions. You might be very enthusiastic about the style of your wine, but be prepared to listen to suggestions from those who know the market.
- Know the pricing structure. Understand shipping rates, duties and taxes, warehousing, supermarket mark-ups, etc. If not, you will get lost in the deal.
- Know your strengths and be prepared to introduce and market yourself.
- Know your limitations and do not promise something that you know you are unable to provide or supply.
Do you have an importer and existing customer base? Want to strengthen relationships with existing customers and get more listings? Prepare as for a business meeting.
- Arrange meetings with not only your importers, distributors and agents, but individual customers as well.
- Be interested in their experience. What is working well? What are their concerns?
- Be informed about the market, consumption trends and economic climate. Ask them relevant questions.
- Have your figures ready. Are sales on an increase or decline? Ask for reasons. Are you performing well because of discounts or consumer loyalty? Are your sales decreasing because of a general decline or an issue with your product?
- Be ready to discuss pricing. Know the pricing structure, agreed margins and your discount limits.
- Have some new initiatives and suggestions.
- Make a list of concerns and address these.
- Even if it costs more, try to get a stand with meeting facilities. Even if it is only a small table and chairs.
- Have your information ready – not only brochures and business cards, but your laptop with pricing information, price formulas, etc.
- Have the contact details of those you are meeting.
- Know your customer. Don’t market lifestyle when they are only interested in margins.
- Know what you want. If you don’t want to be in the discount business, you are wasting your time meeting with those only selling on promotion.
- Keep an eye out for media opportunities.
- Know your wines by heart.
- Spend your time wisely. This is the ideal opportunity to taste the wine of your competition and get up to date with the latest in packaging and marketing material.
- Stay a day or two longer in order for you to get to the market. Visit your customers, arrange consumer tastings and walk the supermarkets and wine shops to get a feel for pricing, packaging and trends.
- Look the part. Dress well and be organised.
- Wear comfortable shoes!
- Hope to meet you at Prowein this year!