Influencer partnerships moved from “nice-to-haves,” to an essential part of a brand’s marketing mix in a very short time, and wine brands are no exception. While there is a ton of saged wisdom on working with influencers, from picking the right one for your brand to getting the most out of the project, applying this wisdom to the wine industry requires a bit of tweaking.

Keep these tips in mind and you’ll get more mileage out of your influencer wine marketing dollars:  

Tie in the trade: from appellations to individual wineries, anyone hoping for long-term sales increases in the ultra-competitive U.S. wine market must build their marketing strategy around a core and permanent trade support program. I say this a lot. While social media and media relations are fundamentally important for wine brands, they won’t propel consistent sales if they are not coupled with an aggressive strategy at the point of sale. This means that brands must link non-trade work (like influencer partnerships) to their hospitality and retail promotions. In the case of a recent client program, we opted to partner up with three influencers who would create their own content about our wines by visiting a retailer or restaurant who was actively promoting our client’s wine region, rather than sending these influencers a box of wines to create their own content at home (or in a format that was not linked to other campaign programs). They created content to educate their audience on how to drink and buy the wines, straight from the best sources (the people who sell it every day). The resulting educational information was tangible, authentic and most importantly, approachable and serviceable.

Think outside wine: When a wine brand seeks out the best influencer to partner with, it’s easy to go with the “wine” person who knows everybody, goes to all the tastings, gets invited to all the trips and can nerd out with the rest of us. After all, it’s always easier to go with the familiar. While these influencers certainly offer plenty of expertise and great connections, they usually execute on a different brand partnership every other week and their audience is likely saturated with content featuring dozens of brands. This means you could be preaching to the converted (in very crowded waters). Instead, think about finding an influencer partner whose audience is in a complimentary content channel, such as travel or food. For a recent client program, we knew our target audiences love wine but are still creating brand loyalties, and are equally interested in gastronomic experiences and travel. So when our this audience’s favorite travel blogger occasionally mentions a wine, they certainly pay attention. While such an influencer may not be the go-to wine expert and their audience doesn’t follow them specifically to learn about wine, the wine content they create on your behalf will stand out, especially when they are not talking about a different wine every other day.

Keep relationship going: Do your best to ensure the love keeps going after the paid promotion is over. While you may not have the bandwidth or budget to hire your favorite influencers several times in the year, the best influencers understand that long term relationships with brands are best, and come across more authentically to their audience. Consider sending a nice note and year-end gift, or touch base here and there (when you’re not asking them for something!). At the very least, be sure to follow and repost them, engaging with the content they produce outside of your partnership. In other words, be a thoughtful and supportive partner!

How have you seen success with your influencer partnerships? I’d love to hear about unique content strategies via @colombiana.eats.