By. Neil Williamson, Grumpy Marketing Guy
Last week, I attended a “Digital Boot Camp” designed to bring wineries up to speed on the import and size of the social media market. The program was very good and I learned a great deal, especially about the rise of Instagram and video, but I left feeling absent the winery’s true voice all the social marketing platforms in the world won’t change So-So Marketing.
Please let me explain.
I am a huge believer in the immediate client connectivity social marketing provides. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and others all are truly an extension of your winery tasting room. These platforms foster virtual relationships that can generate interest, enthusiasm and in the long run sales but they are dependent on you (or your designee).
I have been incredibly disappointed by some of the advertising agency driven campaigns I have reviewed that provide generic content for wineries in search of clicks. The very reason your clients “liked” your page is because they thought you were you. Why now hand off the content to an outside party with no direct connection to the organization – beyond a vendor relationship.
The Facebook post below works because it is real, it is now, it features winery pup “Chance” and it is a place all the “friends” have seen Stone Mountain Vineyards’ Observation Deck:
Our tasting room is now open for the season. We hope you can visit us!
- Be relevant
- Be real
- Be timely
- Be interesting
- Be consistent
- Be you
- Make it count
By Leisa Melancon, Director, Heron Crest Marketing
Your brand is much more than a logo or slogan; it’s your business reputation. Intuit co-founder, Scott Cook, said it best; “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” Building a successful brand takes time and requires ongoing support from everyone on your staff. Every interaction with your customers provides an opportunity to build your brand and inspire brand advocacy by creating a personal connection and earning trust.
Your tasting room provides the perfect opportunity to create a setting that inspires brand loyalty and turns visitors into lifelong customers and advocates. While it’s important to focus attention on the actual tasting, the overall visitor experience must be considered.
To elevate tasting room visitor experiences you need to be tuned in to your customer’s expectations. Next to a face-to-face conversation, one of the most effective ways to gain customer insight is through social media monitoring. What feedback are you receiving on your Facebook, Twitter and other social accounts? Also check out reviews of competitor tasting room visits on social media sites, such as Yelp and Trip Advisor. What can you learn and implement from the conversations?
In a recent search of social media posts about tasting room visits, I found some common insights into customer expectations. Comments centered on atmosphere and comfort, customer service, communication and memories. Key takeaways are provided below, along with some possible tactics that can be tailored to suit your unique brand.
ATMOSPHERE & COMFORT
Crowd Control – If the tasting area is busy, direct visitors to an overflow area, such as outdoor seating, a gift shop or event room. One social media post offered praise for a winery that offered them a complimentary additional bottle tasting, due to a delay.
Food – Offer cheese and fruit trays for purchase and provide seating areas for visitors to relax and enjoy them with a bottle of wine. Several social media posts mentioned how enjoyable it was to spend time enjoying the scenery after the tasting.
Music – the right selections can support your brand and set the mood. If you’re playing CD’s, consider selling them in a gift area. Live music is popular and doesn’t have to be expensive. Consider hiring a new local musician that is trying to develop a following.
Seating – Offer seating options to accommodate the variety of needs that can occur.
Lighting – Inexpensive updates can be made to enhance lighting and set a mood that best reflects your brand. Simple displays of branches strung with tiny white lights are an attractive low cost option.
Events – What makes your winery unique? What community events could you schedule that reflect your branding? Events that support local charities promote good will and are fun, profitable and rewarding.
Friendly, Attentive Staff – Greetings matter. Even if you’re busy, make sure visitors are acknowledged and feel welcome.
Engaging Tours – Keep the content sounding fresh and interact with guests. Make it special by sharing your unique brand story and including interesting historical details.
Education – Share and discuss each wine, and allow for conversation. Offer guests an opportunity to sign up for emails to receive updates, newsletters, etc.
Clear, Detailed Signage – one visitor mentioned that a sign indicated the winery was open until 6pm, but when he arrived at 5:35pm, he was informed tastings were cut-off at 5:30. While the need to allow time for tastings prior to close of business is obvious, communicating specifics up front can help avoid disappointment.
Gifts – Even if you don’t have space for a full gift shop, you can set-up a table or counter display to allow customers to take home keepsakes from their visit. Logo merchandise, such as winery t-shirts, are popular and help spread brand awareness. Corkscrews, coasters and other wine-related gadgets are perfect gift options for areas where space is limited.
Photos – If visitors are snapping selfies or taking photos of each other, offer to take a group photo for them. Many will share their images on social media, mentioning your winery. (#brand building!) Why not create a photo op spot? A barrel display or vine-covered trellis would be a draw. Of course you’ll want to capture images for your own social pages, as well.
Consumer insight is essential to providing your tasting room visitors the enjoyable, unique experience they seek. The more you know about your customers, the easier it is to create more personal, memorable visitor experiences that inspire brand loyalty and increase sales.
Leisa Melancon is a Certified Marketing Consultant and Director at Heron Crest Marketing in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Heron Crest is a boutique marketing consulting firm specializing in branding, content marketing and creative design. Leisa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
By. Neil Williamson, President
As part of a recent client project, I came across an old Peter Drucker quote that clearly resonated with me:
Profit is not the purpose of a business, it’s the test of its validity.
All too often organizations become buried in the cost management side of production and service. These are important but even more important is the concept of being a part of something that matters. Employees want to believe in no only the people they work for but to have an emotional connection with the products they produce.
Following the money is important but bean counting can only carry an organization so far while passion can lift it to new heights.
Please let me explain with a quick example.
In 1999, I was a part of the management team at Prince Michel Vineyards. There was one vineyard block that had been significantly under performing for a number of years. After examining the block,the viticulturist determined the vineyard had been severely impacted by crown gall, a root disease that negatively impacted the vines’ production. The resulting yields would be too small to justify spending the labor required to keep the vineyard up.
That’s when we came upon an idea, the other staff (tasting room, accounting, sales, restaurant) would be given the opportunity to tend this one vineyard throughout the growing season.
Some on the team grumbled about being in the vineyard for a couple of hours each month but they were surprised by the things that they learned. While they had been told about leaf pulling to open the grapes up to light and wind, the actual act made it very real. The discussions at the tasting bar became much more lively with stories of hornets and birds nests in the vines.
When the time came to harvest, everyone was most excited to see if their work had been worth it.
The marketing department came up with a special label for the 1999 Wayside Merlot.
Upon release, the wine was very good and the staff not only sold it with great pride, they also purchased it by the case.
I tasted the last of this wine in late 2009, it was just past its prime but nothing tastes like a wine you put your blood, sweat and tears into — it was GREAT!
How does your staff feel about your products?
Is there passion in the product and the presentation?
If not, why not and what are you going to do to change it?
Neil Williamson, the Grumpy Marketing Guy, is the President of The Trellis Group LLC a marketing consultancy focused on East Coast based wineries. He can be reached at email@example.com
By. Neil Williamson, GMG
Working with new wineries I am amazed at the amount of time and energy put into the label creative process. While I have written about the importance of being consistent and telling a unique story, time is a limited quantity and it is critical that the other marketing elements receive equal if not greater time than your label.
Grumpy Marketing Guy Rule – For every man hour a new winery works on a label design, at LEAST two hours should be spent on other specific marketing objectives.
Please let me explain.
When a new winery opens their doors, and for a substantial time thereafter, the vast majority of sales will be through the tasting room (also known as out the cellar room door). Wineries that understand this paradigm know that the only wines they will be competing with for attention on the shelf are their own.
A first time label must be competent and include not only the federal mandates but also a few other marketing mandates.
1. Uniform Product Code (UPC) – While at first the new winery may not need the UPC for tracking sales and inventory, in the future they and others will. It is much better to plan for this in your label design now rather than having to add a UPC label to bottles after the need has been established. I once worked with a winery owner to bring a tanker of French Merlot to the United States and bottle it as a private label for a restaurant. I unsuccessfully advocated for the UPC on the bottle, he had to hand label over 200 cases after the restaurant failed to make sales objectives.
2. Web address – This seems to be commonplace but even 15 years after the internet took over the world I still find wineries not putting their web address on their labels.
3. Physical address – while this is a part of federal labeling requirements I encourage wineries to think Wine is from a place — not a PO Box
4. Phone Number – see #3
4. Signature – People like to relate to people, I encourage wineries to allow their winemaker or owner’s signature appear on the label with some brief testimonial to wine making goals and objectives.
Other ideas –
Directions to the winery – I tend to believe the limited real estate on the label can be better used than directions.
QR Codes – I believe the jury is still out on the use (or non use) of QR codes. If you like them use them but track if people are accessing your information from the codes.
Photos – Call me old fashoned but unless it is an unbelievable photo of the fruit that went into the bottle – I tend to steer away from photography on labels
Numbering – I have done the sequential numbering process and it is easier today than ten years ago but unless you are producing a highly allocated wine, I think the meaning is lost on many consumers.
Your label is a part of your business identity be proud of it but don’t over think it.
By. Neil Williamson, Grumpy Marketing Guy
Brand awareness is at the core of most good marketing programs. Whether you call it mind share, recall ability or awareness, the sales reality is people like to buy things that they have a positive feeling about. That positive feeling may be nothing more than an faint memory that they remember the name perhaps the brand itself generates a positive tone. Most of the wineries I talk to have a basic understanding of branding, often they get the set up right but fail in the follow through.
The big question is why?
Much like establishing and maintaining a vineyard, a brand requires a significant commitment to make it successful.
These days branding can include not only name generation, label design, signage, public relations, e-mail, advertising and other sponsorship supports but also includes social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Yelp and whatever is next. The good news is that these are very learnable skills the bad news is they are time consuming without direct return on investment.
Just as you would establish a spray program in the vineyard, the best tool for starting your branding efforts is an old fashion calendar.
If your goal is increased visits to your retail room, look at your busiest month; what would it do to your bottom line if you doubled visitation that month? Do you have the infrastructure (and the wine) to support such visitation and sales? If yes this will be our target month. If not, your goal should be to extend the month to eight weeks (Sept-ober).
For this example we will use a winery event as our foundation event and build a 90 day branding calendar based off that date.
For scheduled social media posts, I prefer to create each account’s own rhythm with posts. I also encourage my clients to link their social media accounts so that when one is updated they all are updated (tweetdeck is a popular tool for this). I usually schedule updates for the start of the day so that if something topical comes up I can post it later in the day and not upset the built in rhythm of posts.
I often create a type of post for each day in addition to Wine Wednesday, I may include a wine quote on Monday, a vineyard update on Tuesday (during the growing season), a cellar update on Thursday and a wine recommendation with pairing on Friday. Don’t forget the power of images. People love to feel like they know where their wine is coming from and who is behind it. Tell the story of your winery through these methods each and every week.
With your scheduled posts entered and ready to rollout, there is a need for earned media (publicity that you don’t pay for). As a marketer, I encourage clients to be strategic in their anniversaries. If your winemaker has been with you for seven years, schedule a special event in the retail room during your busiest month (it really doesn’t matter that he was hired in February seven years ago).
Coordinate your wine releases with media releases and special tastings in the retail room. Well written media releases from good sources become content for blogs and newspapers. I generally advise sending one media release a month. While I have broken this rule when the event is newsy enough, it is a good rule of thumb.
The branding schedule therefore needs three media releases going out Day 1, Day 31, Day 61.
Anytime you send a media release, rewrite it to be appropriate to be a newsletter to your e-mail list. Email recipients love that they got the news as an insider before it appeared in the paper.
I also work to schedule local radio interviews starting Day 61 through to the event. Owners, vineyard managers, tasting room manager and winemaker all make interesting spokespeople (but require some level of spokesperson training). If the foundational event is newsworthy I would also include a media advisory that goes out via e-mail to your media list on Day 83 and on Day 89.
The foundational event also needs some paid advertising support. In terms of media buys, I tend to shy away from television and glossy magazines as I do not see them delivering the value for the buy right now. I like local radio and local newspapers. I also have had good success with targeted Facebook advertising.
Before you get to Day 100, draft a post mortem memo highlighting all the things that went well and went poorly. Include any discernable data regarding how guests learned of the event.
Looking over this list it is clear why many wineries fall short on their wine branding efforts — it is a great deal of work.
The benefits of properly feeding and nurturing a wine brand is the same as such efforts in the vineyard and equally worth the time.
Neil Williamson, the Grumpy Marketing Guy, is the President of The Trellis Group LLC a marketing consultancy focused on East Coast based wineries. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stone Mountain Vineyards 2011 “Stainless Steel” Chardonnay – Appearance: Light straw Aroma: Green Apple, floral, Attack: Crisp sharp with nice acid bite Midpalate expand slightly to expose additional floral notes and a hint of citrus Finish; Brief with hint of granny smith apples
First Colony Chardonnay Reserve – This complex chardonnay was aged for eighteen months in a combination of new American and neutral French oak barrels. Appearance darker straw color Aroma: lemon peel, vanilla Attack: Subtle with undertones of spice Midpalate expands nicely to expose vanilla and pear elements, Finish lingers nicely with almonds and a touch of butter.
Wintergreen “Black Rock” Chardonnay – Barrel aged ten months. Appearance rich straw, Aroma: Pear, apple Attack muted, Midpalate: Expansive includes nice light tannins with pear undertones, Finish: Lingers nicely with full buttery finish
Prince Michel Viognier 2007 – Appearance: Clear light straw, Aroma: tropical nose including melons Attack: more supple than anticipated Midpalate: continues tropical notes including MANGO Finish: surprisingly long with lemon undertones
Democracy 2011 Unum –Appearance is rich straw color, Aroma: Floral bouquet including geraniums and daisies Attack: nice slightly acidic bite with honey undertones Midpalate expands to expose tropical notes leading to Finish: crisp with a touch of granny smith apple
Horton Sparkling Vigonier – Now for something completely different Appearance light straw filled with bubbles, Aroma: pear and a touch of yeast Attack: bright as only a sparkler can be Midpalate; bubbles enhance the poached pear undertones Finish is delightfully light
Horton 2011 Petit Manseng – Petit Manseng, famous in southwestern France for being the only wine used to baptize a royal child, namely Henry IV, has shown to be the perfect grape for the Central Virginia winegrowing region. Appearance: darker straw Aroma: honey suckle, rose pedals, Attack: rounded with good acidic balance Midpalate is round with toasted hazelnuts and acacia blossom, enhanced by a touch of guava and vanilla.
Democracy Vineyards 2011 Republic -100% Petit Manseng Apperance: Clean straw, Aroma: Green Apple Honey Dew, Attack: Bright with grape overtones Midpalate apricot and other tropical notes, Finish: Light does not linger but is clean.
Breaux 2011 Jolie’s Blonde– 100% Seyval Blanc Seyval Blanc – A French hybrid varietal that is famous for its resistance to cold. Seyval Blanc buds and ripens early and provides a good alternative in cool climates to grapes such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc that don’t like the extreme cold. Crisp and dry versions have flavors and aromas of citrus fruits and a certain minerality that some compare to white Burgundies. Also takes well to oak and malolactic fermentation. Grown extensively in England and the cool Finger Lakes region of New York State. Appearance – Straw, Aroma – Lemon grass, Orange Blossom Attack – A little thin but sharp and bright, Midpalate – expands to include tropical notes, Finish – Lingers longer than anticipated with grapefruit and spice
James River 2011 Chardonel –Chardonel is a cold hearty hybrid created at Cornell University in 1953. Parent grapes are Chardonnay and Seyval. Stainless steel fermented. Appearance: light straw, Aroma: spicy bananas Attack: sharp with tropical undertones midpalate expands slightly to include honeydew melon and honeysuckle Finish is brief but clean.
James River 2010 Devino – Made with the same Chardonel grape as the previous wine this is done in an Ice wine style where the grapes are crushed and fermented then frozen and thawed slowly. When the winemaker likes the consistency the tank is drained. Appearance: medium straw. Aroma: sweet tropical notes undercurrent of MANGO Attack: viscose and cool with honey and fruit sweetness. Midpalate expands as the wine warms in the moth to include honeysuckle, par and honeydew melon, Finish: lingers nicely with citrus and bananas
Barboursville Phileo- Barboursville, who launched the modern Virginia Wine industry with its founding in 1976, submitted this one wine to the tent. A propriety, non-vintage blend of Moscato Ottonel (60%) and Vidal (40%), fermented in stainless steel at the unusually cool temperature of 45 degrees F and at unusual length, 70 days. Aged on the lees in stainless steel at least four months, resting in bottle another five before release. Appearance: Goldenrod Aroma: roses and apricots Attack: muted but full Midpalate: complex filled with cascading tropical tones Finish: lingers nicely on the rear of the palate with apricot memories
Stone Mountain Bacon Hollow Revenuers Select – Built in this iteration from Chardonnay, this sweet wine is the wineries best seller. Appearance: light straw Aroma: honeysuckle and rose pedals, Attack bright with good acidic balance Midpalate expands to expose peaches and pear undertones finish: sweet but brief including additional floral and tropical tones.
Breaux 2011 Rose’ – 54% Nebbiolo, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 12% Chambourcin appearance is medium to light red, Aroma: Strawberry, Rhubarb, Attack Sharp with nice acid, Midpalate expands with tropical notes and cherry Finish is surprisingly tannic in structure but not in astringency. The most interesting wine I have tasted this year.
Stone Mountain 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon – A truly elegant and well-aged wine this wine is drinking very nicely right now. Appearance: Medium red Aroma: Dark plum and Bing cherry Attack: supple with a hint of leather in addition to an undercurrent of licorice Midpalate: more plum and black cherry, Finish: light tannins lingering nicely on the rear of the palate
First Colony 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon – A vintage difference and a difference in altitude create a different (but equally good) flavor profile in First Colony’s Cabernet Sauvignon. Appearance: darker red in the glass Aroma: vanilla and cherry Attack: Supple with cherry notes Midpalate: expands to showcase well-balanced flavors of rich cocoa and toasty oak Finish: full lingers nicely with just a hint of pipe tobacco.
Breaux 2009 Marquis de Lafayette – 30 months aging in 70% American Oak and 30% French oak, this wine is named after a French nobleman who was an American revolutionary war hero. 100% Cabernet Franc Appearance: medium Red Aroma: Plum and Black Cherry Attack: Supple with chocolate undertones, Midpalate Expands nicely to expose round tannins red cherry notes and a touch of leather. Finish: Long with cascading flavors
James River 2011 Chambourcin – The winery says the wine is reminiscent of a light port. I find it to be more than that it is a decadent delight. Color – Deep red Nose – Herb filled with hints of green pepper Attack – Round tannins, slightly acidic Midpalate – jammy with strawberry tones Finish – lingers on the rear of the palate with licorice
Democracy 2011 Suffrage – 100% Chambourcin Lighter in style than the previous wine this has many of the same characteristics but not as pronounced (or as sweet). Color: Medium Red Nose: Jammy with strawberry dominance Attack: slightly muted and a touch thin Midpalate expands to expose coca and plum essence Finish: slightly shorter than anticipated but lingers with undertones of tobacco and strawberry
Stone Mountain 2007 Petit Verdot – One of the older vintages poured here today but only went into the bottle at the beginning of this summer. Extended barrel ageing can be seen throughout the tasting profile Appearance: deep Red full core, Aroma – leather, toast and dark chocolate Attack; Is muted with subtle plum and dark cherry notes, Midpalate opens nicely to expose licorice, plum and anise Finish lingers nicely on the rear of the molars with undertones of smoke
Horton 2010 Tannat – historically grown in South West France in the Madiran AOC and is now one of the most prominent grapes in Uruguay, where it is considered the “national grape” Appearance: Deep Red Aroma: Smokey and mysterious Attack: rounded with dusty character Midpalate: big tannic backbone Finish: Leather and smoke remain on the palate long after the wine is gone
Breaux Equation – Merlot 84%, Cabernet Sauvignon 12%, Petit Verdot 4%
Color – Dark, brooding, crimson, Aroma – Red cherry and plum undertones Attack – sharper than anticipated nice bite Midpalate – settles in to include black cherry, licorice and anise Finish – medium length includes rhubarb and strawberry
Democracy Velvet Revolution –
25% Cabernet Franc, 25% Chambourcin, 25% Merlot, 25% Petit Verdot
Color – Deep dark purple from rim to rim, Nose – well integrated with plum and black cherry
Attack – subdued and a touch thinner than anticipated, Midpalate – expands nicely with round tannins, plum and raisin Finish – long, lingers nicely on the back of the palate with undertones of dark chocolate and light tannins
James River Meritage – 70% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot
Appearance: Deep dark maroon, Aroma: Plum infused with Licorice and Anise, Attack- round with a touch of acid and coffee undertones, Midpalate expands to expose dark cherry notes Finish Full and memorable with just a hint of pipe tobacco
Prince Michel Vineyards 30th Anniversary Merlot Cabernet Reserve
Appearance: Deep red Aroma: Plum with Black Cherry and coca undertones, Attack- lush with nice round mouth feel, Midpalate expands to expose layers of flavors including plum, black cherry, dark chocolate Finish: Not as long as anticipated but delightful with hints of smoke.
About the You Be the Judge Tasting Tent:
Ever wonder what it’s like to be a wine judge? To have each award winning wine tasting brought directly to your table for your palate’s evaluation?Find out in the “You Be The Judge” Tasting Tent at the Virginia Wine Festival. This ticket limited event will be held from 11:30am – 4:30pm on Saturday and Sunday. Neil Williamson, Chairman of The Virginia Wine Club Tasting Panel, will walk patrons through the UC Davis scoring system as the wines are served by varietal. Neil will share anecdotes from his decade in the Virginia Wine Industry as you enjoy the cool shade of the “You Be The Judge” Tasting Tent. Spend part or all of the day in the shade enjoying the individualized presentations and tastings with no lines and no waiting.