I like wine auctions, particularly those for good causes. My kid's school does a big auction fundraiser every May, and many of the lots are for fabulous wines and winery-related events. So I was intrigued to see the announcement of WineAuctionPrices.com, particularly since I review winery Web sites for fun and profit.
My initial take on the site - aside from looking reasonably good, and having solid navigation, they got everything else wrong. They aren't using their home page to any effect whatsoever. There's no story about the benefit that signing up (which costs money) will give me. There's no "we'll give you something interesting if you give us your e-mail" offer. They've buried the demo (a good idea) at the bottom of a borrrrrrrring "Learn More" page. The site offers very few pages that I can view without signing up. Where's the free 30-day trial? This is not rocket science, boys & girls. There are successful subscription sites all over the Web to copy.
First suggestion: get that demo offer on the front page. Prominently. And a well-written interesting blog wouldn't be a bad idea. They *must* have some great stories to tell, wouldn't you think? And did I mention a free 14-day trial?
Their service is only $99 a year, which is probably reasonable if you spend a lot on fine wines at auction. But they're not telling a story that is going to get people involved ("One of our clients found a rare Bordeaux at auction...") or useful information ("The World of Wine Auctions"), or even entertaining ("The Danger of Drinking and Bidding - a day at Auction Napa"). Hopefully, these things will be forthcoming.
Their press release, which got picked up on Wine Business Monthly's daily news e-mail, was pretty good. But if people read the story and click through to the WineAuctionPrices.com home page, there's a good chance that only the very motivated will click far enough to become interested. Note that they spent $399 for this press release, which was released through www.eRelease.com (I've written about my own experience with PRWeb.com, another online press release service).
Visitors who came and went because they couldn't find what they were looking for (a good reason to sign up) are less likely to pay attention in the future ("Oh yeah. I saw that. Wasn't very interesting.").
You may only get one shot to connect with potential customers. This is applicable to your winery Web site just as much as to WineAuctionPrices.com.