The story so far: an existing winery (without any Web presence) is launching a new varietal (which won't be in production until 2010) -- you can read the details in my original post Starting A Winery Web Site: What Would You Do? along with several excellent reader suggestions.
I assume an existing winery already has a logo to go along with its name, but establishing your visual identity is important.
The next important thing is to obtain your winery's matching domain name, e.g. Acme Winery should try hard to own the domain AcmeWinery.com, as well as similar domains which people are likely to search (e.g. AcmeWine.com, AcmeWines.com). In countries, where .com is not the predominant top-level domain, readers should make the appropriate adjustment.
As Paul Mabray pointed out in a comment on the original post, the poster child for wineries without Web sites is Josh Hermsmeyer's pinotblogger.com (which is now the home for his nascent Capozzi Winery). Josh also owns CapozziWine.com and CapozziWines.com (although it appears that someone else controls CapozziWinery.com).
If you were to follow Josh's example, you would set up a blog at www.AcmeWinery.com and start blogging. For a startup winery, your winery Web site is your winery blog. The advantage of using blogging software like Wordpress or TypePad is that many of the headaches involving the mechanics of a Web site are eliminated.
I also recommend using a hosted service (e.g. WordPress.com or TypePad.com or Blogger.com), where someone else sets up and maintains the blogging software for you. You lose some flexibility, but when you are starting out that flexibility is just one more thing to contend with. Note that with any of these three, you will have to do a little extra work (called "domain mapping") so that www.AcmeWinery.com points to your hosted blog.
Your site doesn't need to be fancy, but it must show the following things in the header (which appears on every page): your logo, the name of your winery, and your contact information (perhaps just a phone or e-mail if you don't have a physical location yet). Remember, your logo will be the way most people remember your winery, so make a point of showing it.
Before ever making your first post, you must sign up for Google Analytics and install the simple tracking code into the template for your blog, so that right from the start you have quantitative information about how people use your winery Web site.
You'll also need some static "Pages" which explain what's going on (TypePad and Wordpress make this easy). Visitors to a blog are coming in to the middle of a story in progress, where newer posts replace older ones. You need a page that explains the story so far. Again, pinotblogger is a great model. I don't think Josh will mind if you copy his ideas.
Plan to create 5 - 10 initial posts before telling anyone about your blog. Take pictures and write stories about them. Introduce the cast of characters (again, with pictures). In the case of this particular winery, which has an existing product, do some posting about that wine (and let people know if/how they can obtain some of that wine locally). If this step seems hard, maybe you should re-consider blogging (see my recommendation at the end).
Once you announce your web site (you can use a free press release service, but also send a personal note to local business editors), plan to post once a week. Have a list of ideas which you can draw on for those weeks when nothing is happening at the winery itself. Consistency is important in building up a following for your blog. Again, for ideas start with the oldest post on pinotblogger, and read forward.
In addition, you must create an environment where people want to stay in touch with you. Notice that one prominent feature on every page of Josh's blog is an invitation to join the Capozzi mailing list, which offers several benefits:
- you will receive notice of the inaugural vintage, whenever it happens
- you will have first priority in allocation of the inaugural vintage
- you are a Pinot Pioneer, giving you access to
- library wines
- Pinot Points (redeemable for cool stuff)
- you receive invitation to winery events and other special happenings
You should give your mailing list customers the option of receiving your blog updates via e-mail (ideally, they know how to subscribe via RSS, but I suspect allowing them to opt-in to e-mail copies of posts is easier for most people). FeedBlitz is the service I offer my readers to receive blog posts via e-mail, since it integrates nicely with TypePad.
You may also want to create a standalone "Visit Us" page if you are in a position to receive visitors. People who are interested in visiting a startup winery are potential "true fans" that you want to cultivate. Even if you can't invite people to the winery, you may want to create some (quarterly) events where you can meet people who have been nice enough to join your list before there's any wine to buy.
One thing that I would recommend for this particular winery is to think about emulating the "wine futures" program of David Coffaro Estate Winery as they plan for their inaugural vintage. David's approach strikes me as a pretty sharp one, as long as you are clear about its limitations.
To summarize, when starting a winery Web site, you need:
- A logo (this is the visual identity you are establishing)
- A domain name that closely matches the name of your winery
- Hosted blogging software with "page" capability (TypePad or Wordpress)
- A blog header with your name, logo, and contact information.
- Google Analytics installed
- A page which tells the story that people are joining
- Five to ten inital blog posts. No one likes an empty blog.
- A commitment to post on a regular, weekly basis.
- A way to capture visitor contact information (and incentives for people to provide it)
- To make people aware of your winery Web site by adding its URL to your e-mail signature, letterhead, business cards, printed materials, and any other information you send out into the world.
- To let me know about it!
The bottom line is you want people to be interested enough that they will give you contact information (even just an e-mail). The way to do that is to tell an interesting story about your winery, and the best way to tell stories on the Web is with a blog. Then take good care of the people who are interested in your story.
The downside: if you aren't writing interesting stuff, your efforts will be largely wasted. In that case, a single static page with your logo, winery name, contact information, and the basic story (one or two paragraphs at most) will serve you as well. Don't forget to let people join your mailing list (although I doubt you'll get many sign-ups without other promotion).
What did I forget? Add a comment!