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October 14, 2008

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rick

Mike,

In the general case I think it's even more important to ask the basic questions:

1) Why am I creating a website for the winery?
2) What are its goals?
3) Who are the audiences?
4) How does the site fit into my overall marketing plan?

Specific questions that might fall out are:
1) If I gather names, what am I going to do with them?

2) Will I sell off the site?
3) Will I build a mailing list? What re the perks for being on the list? Do I get allocated wines? Special wines not available to the public? Just early notice of releases?

I have some friends who run a small, high quality winery of about 2500 cases. They regularly sell out. Now, they COULD allow people to buy from the site, but the advnatge to that would only be to shift some wine from distributors to direct, increasing margins. Against that, they need to weigh setting up an e-commerce presence, the overhead of processing and shipping smaller orders and the regulatory issues involved in shipping to some states. All of those questions fall out of "Do we want to sell direct from the site?"

Also, the answer to some questions will guide the structure of your site. If you don't choose to sell direct, you might want to point a list of retailers known to sell your wine (if that's legal in your state).

Most of the questions and some top level answers will only take a few hours to explore - grab a business savvy friend and use them as a sounding board.

The specific case you were asked about is, I think, a bit unique in that the winery has a cool 'we're taking over a vineyard that's been neglected and revamping it' story. That's an immediate hook and, unless they hate to write, worth starting a winery site for just to blog the story. But they should still ask themselves all of the questions above and not simply copy other sites. Most important is to think about the marketing plan as a whole that goes beyond the site. Yes, a site is a good thing... but they're increasing their production tenfold - how are they going to let people know about the wines? That's the central question.

Fabius

Mike, Rick,

Thanks for the really helpful advice above. I realize now that I haven't even taken Step #1 of the process, ie I need to think of a name and logo for the project!! then a domain-name, then a webpage with all the features and characteristics mentioned above, including a blog section where I can tell the story. So obvious really, if you take time out to think about it, yet there I was - ready to hire a graphic designer!!!

I'm kind of glad now that I won't have any product to sell in 2009; it gives me a whole year to concentrate on recovering the vineyard and working on the business/marketing plan. And also setting up a blog to tell the story. I've actually aalready set up a 'practice blog' (for the existing project) here: http://vinopuchero.blogspot.com/

The purpose/goal of this blog is purely so I can get to grips with the technical aspects (format, layout, features, etc) of blogs, as I have zero experience in this. I actually have no real need to do this for sales/marketing purposes (due to the 'captive market' apsect and I keep in contact with the customers via email).
I'm finding it a bit hard going, (especially trying to create 'expandable posts') but I suppose it'll get easier as I practice. I was cutting and pasting code snippets all weekend - to no avail!

By the way, not only has the new larger vineyard been abandoned (unpruned and unploughed, small trees/saplings growing), but animals from the adjoining game preserve have invaded it and eaten the shoots and leaves! I suspect boars and deer, judging by the tracks and spoor.
And as if that's not enough, this summer there was a forest fire (from the other direction) which affected a few hundred vines at the edge. I think they were just seared and not burnt up completely. All good blog material, I suppose, even though none of it is good agriculturally!!!

Paul Mabray

Mike,
Unfortunately I am under a time crunch but in summary I think that Fabius puts up the key - what is your strategy to your site and more importantly, how does it fit into your overall sales and marketing strategy with a focus on the customer. That will inform your web and data decisions more than anything (including whether you should do a blog, a website provider, or total ecommerce and what type). Thanks again though for leading with a flashlight in what most consider a dark and difficult road.
P

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