By Erika Villegas
When writing my first blog for the YPN Lounge in March about the marketing success I’ve achieved from putting on wine socials, I truly didn’t have any expectations about what the response would be – I wondered if anyone was even going to read the post. But after it was published, I was blown away by the number of inquiries, comments, and responses I received. All of the emails with questions and phone calls requesting more information on how to get a wine social started has motivated me write this follow up piece.
My personality is very upbeat and I love meeting people but I am not a pushy businesswoman, so organizing a wine social is perfect for me. It’s very casual and it allows me to couple my marketing with one of my passions – wine. Here is how I got started:
First, I made wine socials part of my marketing plan for 2015, so I budgeted $4,000 total at the beginning of the year and it seems that I am on track with my spending unless the events grow faster than I anticipated.
My second step was to decide who my target audience would be and how to reach out to them. I decided to target neighborhood moms, so I created a Facebook group called “Women’s Wine Social.” I invited friends, family, past clients, and neighborhood friends to join, then asked them to invite others. I also shared my group with other Facebook groups from the neighborhood and on my personal page. (The group now has more than 150 members and it continues to grow every day.) Then I created an invitation to help further promote the wine social. The invitation is posted on social media, particularly on Facebook pages from the neighborhood and mom groups in the local area. I also text and email personal invitations every month and connect with past attendees to remind them about the upcoming event. The attendance has been consistent at about 35 to 40 women every month.
Once you’ve sent your invitation, you need to buy the wine, and lots of it. I purchased wine from a local liquor distributor at a very cost effective price. I purchased enough red and white wine to cover the first six monthly socials, and I purchased wine glasses from IKEA, which I found to be the best price around. It’s more work to have to reuse actual wine glasses, but I don’t like to drink wine from a plastic cup and it’s a nice touch; people notice it. I also purchased cups for water, napkins, and small plates in bulk. Don’t forget to buy raffle tickets and name tags in bulk too. I did spend more the first month because I needed to buy the initial supplies but now I don’t have to worry about purchasing these items for the entire year.
I then asked local businesses to host the wine socials. The January event was held at a restaurant, then at a beauty salon in February, and at a cell phone store in March – and every one of those businesses is woman-owned in my niche neighborhood market. I mixed things up a bit for the April event and called it “Whiskey and Wine.” A soccer store hosted the social and I invited men in my neighborhood to attend as well. You can customize your own wine social to the needs of your community by taking demographics into account. I found what works for my community.
Some of the businesses agreed to provide some appetizers and I provide a few as well. There are also a few attendees who have graciously provided an appetizers or dessert at no cost to me. I reached out to affiliate businesses and a mortgage lender agreed to help sponsor the events and provide goody bags with a small gift. I’ll add some personal marketing materials such as a pen or notepad too.
At every wine social, I introduce myself and thank everyone who helps me make the wine social possible that month. The list usually starts with the host business, the caterer or restaurant providing the appetizer(s), the lender or whomever provides the goody bags, and any anyone else involved that month.
The idea of a wine social was intended for me to meet more people in my neighborhood, get my name out in the community, and support local businesses; I have accomplished that. The wine social has already helped me grow my business by generating new clients, plenty of leads, and word of mouth recommendations. The most exciting part for me is that I am also helping other women grow their businesses as I grow my own, and we’re having fun in the process.
Erika Villegas is a broker associate with ERA Mi Casa Real Estate in Chicago. Connect with Villegas at www.erikavillegas.com.