3 Partnership Structures for Wineries & Wine Influencers

Paige Comrie

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The world of influencer marketing is constantly expanding -- it’s currently predicted to grow 30.6% from 2019 to 2025, and become a $26.4Billion industry by 2025. Furthermore, for each $1 spent invested in influencer marketing, brands are likely to generate $6.50 in revenue (business2community.com).Unfortunately, however, much of the influencer process is still shrouded in mystery and often misunderstood by smaller brands, especially in the wine space.

Working as both an influencer and a digital marketer in the wine industry, I frequently see a breakdown of communication and expectations when it comes to wineries and influencers working together. This article details some of the common ways wineries and wine influencers can work together productively to best achieve each others’ goals and ensure the relationship is mutually beneficial for both parties.

THE THREE WAYS BRANDS & WINE INFLUENCERS WORK TOGETHER:

Method One – Wineries send wine influencers samples for consideration.

Influencers sample the wines, see if they would be a good fit for their audience, and try to incorporate them into their actual life like a person in their audience would. If the wine seems like it’s a match and it’s something they’re excited about, the influencer shares – and they do so in an authentic & organic way. Brands can request certain messaging or post dates, but generally for in-kind partnerships, this is not guaranteed and the post happens on the influencer’s timeline within their larger content calendar.

For brands that prefer this route, maybe because they don’t have budget or just want to “try the influencer thing out”, I highly recommend sending influencers as much information as possible. Make it easy for them to tell your story. There are lots of wines out there in the market – what sets yours apart? Why should the influencer care, and ultimately why should their audience? The more excited an influencer is about your wine, the easier it is for them to get other people excited!

If you go this route, it’s also helpful to develop a relationship with the influencer. Talk with them, comment on their posts, make it a back-and-forth. Invite them to events or host a virtual tasting to walk them through your lineup. This takes more energy, yes, but it’s usually well-worth it in the end.

Wine influencers truly want to help wineries thrive, that’s why they’re in this business. When there’s a mutual relationship where both parties benefit from one another on an on-going basis, you’re going to see far better results. Good wine influencers will go above and beyond for brands they love.

Method Two – Wineries send wine influencers samples and offer them commission in exchange for anyone who uses their code or link to purchase.

If you do this, you should create a code that provides a discount for customers and is unique to each influencer, as opposed to a link. (Alternatively, potentially offer both so it’s easier to track the sales no matter what). Links work best for blogs and email marketing; promo codes work best for Instagram.

Coming from an influencers’ mindset on this one, most will operate under the same mindset as Method One – they’ll need to sample the wine, consider if it’s a good fit for their audience, then decide if they share and do so on their own timeline. Most influencers will not guarantee any kind of posts under a commission model.

To understand why influencers won’t guarantee anything for commission-partnerships, you should consider the amount of work it takes to create a high-converting post. Oftentimes, influencers don’t believe it’s worth the $1-5/bottle that is standard with a 3-10% rate.

When it comes to working on a commission model, many aspects of the sale are outside of the influencer’s hands: is your website easy for customers to navigate and make a purchase? Is your price point approachable for their audience? Is the brand awareness there or are they building it from the ground up? Many different factors play a role in the ultimate success of a an influencer campaign, and need to be considered when you look at the overall success rate of a campaign (no matter which model you use).

A commission model is certainly an incentive to get influencers to post vs a wine that they don’t earn commission from, but because of the low return for the amount of work it takes, it doesn’t warrant a guaranteed post in exchange for the wine.

Method Three – Wineries work with a wine influencer on a sponsored partnership.

In this method, you and the influencer both agree to work together; the influencer will create posts to your standards and with your messaging and deliver them on a certain date(s). In return, you pay them an agreed upon price.

Pricing for these projects is highly variable. You’ll want to consider things like audience size, engagement rate, reach, and photo quality when determining if their pricing makes sense.

You can either approach the influencer with your ideal budget for the campaign and they’ll tell you what they can do for that amount, or you can ask them for their pricing structure. Either way, you’ll want to make sure you go into this partnership with clear end goals in mind.

There are some major benefits to working with influencers in a paid capacity. First and foremost, you can choose your post dates and types, and everything is guaranteed with a contract.

Secondly, you can work together to make sure the posts target the goals of your campaign. After all, you’re doing this social media thing for a reason, right?

But what should your goals be here? Some common ones for wineries are brand awareness, growing your email list or social following, online sales, and booking tasting room appointments.

If you’re looking to build awareness around your brand, then the messaging the influencer uses will be very different than if you’re trying to drive sales. It’s often hard to do both of these at once, but it’s not impossible. You should share these goals with your influencer partners and they should help you think strategically about the post types and messaging to use. Also be realistic. If you’re brand new, as much as you want to drive sales right away, you’ll first need to lay the groundwork of establishing your brand’s presence and work with influencers to develop brand awareness.

Wine influencers should have a clear call-to-action in their sponsored posts. Whether that's to visit a website, give the winery a follow, buy wine now, or save the post as inspiration for their next trip to the area, the captions and imagery surrounding them will all be slightly different and tailored to this message. The influencer should also clearly state one call-to-action in the caption: if you try to have the post do too many things, the people who see it will simply scroll on.

A third benefit of sponsored campaigns is that you get first-hand access to Instagram Analytics for the post. After the campaign, you should look at how the posts do and use that information to make additional strategic decisions later on – Did the post reach as many people as you were hoping? Ask the influencer into insights as to why or why not. Compared to the number of people the post reached, how many sales did you see on your site that day? If it was an IG story with a swipeup, how many people actually clicked the link vs how many sales you saw? This last question can help you establish if your sales page is effective or if changes need to be made.

An extra bonus… some influencers will also give paid partners high-res image files with a non-commercial license so they can utilize the photos on their own social media and website.

In this method, the influencer will also need to sample your wines and make sure it’s a good fit for their audience. If they don’t enjoy your product or if they don’t think it makes sense with their demographics, they should let you know. Most will include a clause along these lines in the contract, and sample the wines after the agreement has been made.

IN CONCLUSION…

Please keep in mind that while these methods outline the primary ways wineries work with wine influencers, there’s a ton of gray area in between! Personally, some of the best partnerships I’ve seen have worked with influencers in all three capacities, fluidly navigating back and forth between the areas depending on current business goals and budgets.

Nothing in this world is a hard and fast rule. Negotiate where you see fit, ask lots of questions, and don’t be afraid to try a little trial and error here until you find what works best for you and your brand.

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Paige Comrie is a Certified American Wine Expert and holds her WSET3 Advanced Certificate in Wine. She's passionate about helping connect consumers with great bottles of wine, and inspiring people to live the "wine lifestyle". This phrase, to her, means elevating the everyday, enjoying the little moments, and taking time to sip and savor everything life has to offer. In addition to wine and food, Paige also writes on the subject of Social Media and Digital Marketing, specifically focusing on the wine industry. Follow her on Instagram @winewithpaige

Napa, CA
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