I came across an article recently on Punch that brought to mind the importance of establishing a personality for your shop. (If we were a high-falutin’ agency, we’d call it a “brand” …) [level-members]
The article, which is titled, “How to Make It As a Small Wine Importer,” has absolutely nothing to do with independent wine shops or with marketing specifically, and yet, it’s all about marketing.
The article talks about a new breed of smaller importers who are “changing the market.” That may be a bit of an overstatement, but it’s certainly clear that for a certain breed of fairly sophisticated wine consumer, the back label – where the importer is typically listed – is as important as the front label.
That importance is a result of these small importers carving out a corner of the market that they can defend against larger competitors with greater reach.
The defensibility, though, is largely a byproduct of the passion these importers have for the niches they have occupied. Whether they have chosen to focus on natural wines or affordable reds from the Languedoc or wines of the Jura, they are passionate about the wines that they are importing. Passionate enough that they’re doing the kind of legwork that doesn’t make sense for the larger importers who have cost structures that require scale. Small producers just don’t fit their model.
Which begs the question, what corner of the market are you passionate enough about to do the extra legwork? What can you build a brand (there’s that expensive word) around? Chances are you aren’t going to just sell, say, red Burgundies. But if that’s your passion, and you can source great examples across a range of prices, it can be your calling card. You’ll still stock a broad enough range of wines to appeal to your local market.
The point, really, is finding something that sets you apart. You’re not better than all of your competitors. And at this point, most consumers wouldn’t believe it if you actually were. What they will believe is that you’re different. And if you create a compelling case that connects with their interests, you’ll have a passionate customer base on which to build a business.