Networking in the wine sector: how to approach the topic
The benefits of network in the world of wine
“Networking” is a combination of the term “net” and “working” and means interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional (or social) contacts through the development and consolidation of relationships. It is an activity based on mutual trust. Why should companies and wine professionals network? The advantages of having a good network of contacts include: making the professionality and assets of your company better known in a non-promotional context; sharing updates on industry news; exchanging business opportunities with people working in the wine industry; having an open mind and increasing awareness of different ideas and opinions from your own. Having a free-flowing dialogue with different restaurateurs, for example, can allow a winery to reach new customers. Knowing different wineries in the area can be an important resource for a hotelier interested in collaborating in wine tourism packages.
Furthermore, participating in sector events or masterclasses is an excellent environment for buyers and distributors to interact with producers and expand sales channels and portfolio. We must understand the functioning and potential of the network around us, and then act to make the most of our position within it.
Set clear goals for enduring relationships
Effective networking takes time and strategy. The starting point is to have a clear idea of the type of relationships to be established. To do this, it’s necessary to set a clear goal for your networking activity. With a clearly defined objective it will then be possible to develop an appropriate networking strategy to achieve it. A fundamental step is to do research and identify which professionals in the wine sector could help your business the most. For example, if the goal is the internationalization of the company, it could be useful to look for networking channels to interact with foreign buyers and distributors, or with Italian companies that already have contacts or collaborators abroad. Once you have chosen your goal, you are ready to develop a strategy to effectively achieve it.
Time is precious: work out your strateg
If it were quick and easy, we would all be masters at networking. The truth is, networking takes time, a long time. In order not to waste it, we must take a targeted approach, focusing on the objectives – as we have already said – and selecting the most effective tools. Digital communication allows us to connect quickly with anyone at any time. Knowing how to make technology our ally will certainly help save time. LinkedIn is an excellent tool for establishing contact and business oriented communication. An alternative can be e-mail contacts, or the organization of Zoom calls, which can be conveniently made from your office. As we will explain in the next paragraph, it is still advisable – especially for an area so linked to conviviality and sensoriality such as that of wine – to participate in targeted in-person events, even if only on a few and selected occasions a year. To optimize, choose situations that offer the possibility of meeting several people and profiles useful for your business at the same time.
Face-to-face events: the natural habitat of the networker
With the 2020 pandemic, the way we network has changed. For a long time, Zoom calls replaced travel and trade shows, and restrictions forced us to adapt to a new reality. Even though digital has worked and has kept entire industries on their feet, with the recent improvement in health controls, face-to-face events have returned. The choice of events to participate in is important: consider the audience participating at such events, try to understand if it will include people with whom you would like to interact and prepare your presentation, which should be short and engaging. Every event is different: workshops, conferences, seminars and trade shows are important networking opportunities but all require a certain degree of advance preparation.
In short, there are many opportunities for growth in the wine sector that can be exploited with an effective networking strategy. The main steps are, first of all, to identify your specific goal and then, based on this, to invest in establishing relationships that can help you achieve your objectives. The use of digital platforms and the attendance at sector events are important resources for implementing your strategy. But be careful: to be effective, networking must be characterized by reciprocity, afterall, we are all more willing to accomodate those who show us the same courtesy in return, right?