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July 27, 2011


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Mark Gorman

I work with a lot of very small wineries, most of which do not even do online ordering or very little of it, maybe once a year when their new release comes out. Money is not an issue for most of these people, at-least ones in the Napa / Sonoma area.

What the real issue is time. They are one man operations that outsource vineyard work, winemaker is part time, etc. Most of their days are spent moving barrels, bottling, maintenance etc.

What needs to be done is "baby steps". 1) Redo and update the site, then add a blog, then Facebook, then a photo-gallery. Once they get into a routine (or on their schedule) and that they need to do this, as a web developer you can pile more responsibility on them which means hopefully means more work for you.

As a web guy we can not sell them a BMW if it is just going to sit in the garage.

Cheers, Mark

JK Ent

Web designers are not copy writers.

Copy writers are not marketers.

Marketers are not Web designers.

Without the right team, ANY web site will stink. This article poorly associates a bad web site with the inability to afford an expensive web designer.

Launching a web site is not trivial project. I would be curious to see which web sites the author deems "not stinkworthy", wine industry or otherwise. Then we can adequately assess why those web sites do not "stink."

Mike Duffy

JK - I don't draw the same conclusion. The point I took away is that most sites don't do a good job of pointing out what is unique about a given winery and its wines. They all have pictures of their vineyards, and describe what they do in the same way.

It could be, of course, that 90% of wineries are, in fact, undistinguished in terms of their wines, and their websites reflect that fact.

Carlo Delumpa

I'm finding that most young wineries are more focused on their craft, and not so much on their online marketing. Wine is an intimate product - you have to engage it to truly understand it. So, many new winery owners spend a lot of time in the first few years on the road, doing tastings with retail, distributors and the general public to generate demand and a cult following. Though many of these folks understand the value of a good website, it is not their main priority for generating business, at least when they're getting started.

Once they get to a place where they've figured out their style, operations, and sales model - that's when they start spending more time with their online presence. I say online presence and not just website because now the big driver is to increase awareness across internet, through social channels, search and ultimately at the website. More and more smaller wineries want to drive more direct sales and wine club memberships also, so this can be a huge business driver for improving both their website and their online outreach.

This is also the point where they're selling enough wine to make discretionary spends on things like websites, marketing agencies, etc. I'm finding that it takes at least a few years for wineries to get to this point. Until then they seem willing to live with a simple website that maybe their friend did for them in their spare time or a canned/templated website.

I agree with Mark's comment that the main constraint at any stage is time. I also agree with Mike that there is not a lot of differentiation among wineries and their products among competitors (which indirectly speaks to JK's point as well - differentiators and value propositions are largely marketing exercises, which you need a marketing pro - or at least a business-savvy digital strategist - to help drive).

Here are a few easy and inexpensive things winery owners can do to help them improve their web visitors' experience:

- Make it personal. Tell the story behind the wines, the vineyards and most importantly, you. Why are you in this in the first place and what makes your wines special. Your wine is, after all, an expression of you.

- Give your club members and customers something to be excited about. Post where you'll be doing tastings and when. Write a short blurb about the upcoming club shipments. If you're like most businesses, 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers. Take care of these guys by providing some sizzle on your site once in a while.

- Clean up your content. Keep it simple, make it clear and concise. Extra credit: do some simple SEO.

- Be clear on your objective, then put clear calls-to-action on your home page. Want people to join your wine club? Put a link or graphic to club info in a prominent part of your home page. Want people to call you to order wine? Put your toll-free number on the home page. Want them to learn more about your vineyard? Make that a lead story headline, pair it with a stunning photo, and link it to a page with more detail. Its a mistake to assume that the general public would be put off my calls to action. We're used to it by now. Don't make me think.

Finally, ask your customers what they want from your website then make adjustments to accomodate them. We web pundits are full of ideas and opinions, but its the ideas and opinions of your customers that counts the most.


Excuses, excuses, excuses...

1) Play someone to get you a basic Wordpress site installed with a template you like. Ask them to send you some links to template roundups. If they can't or won't, don't use them.

2) If you think an online presence is something you do 'later' when you 'have time' you fail at understanding the market. Ultimately, that hurts your sales. This is YOUR problem not the web designer's.

3) Start basic. Ask yourself simple questions like "If someone is looking for Pinot from the Anderson Valley, will they find my site? If they do, what do they want to know?" Write some copy and put up some photos of your bottles (or labels). What do you write? Simple.. what do you tell people at tastings? Write that. What questions do people ask? Add the answers to those.

4) Put you contact information prominently on the site. If someone has questions, make it easy for them to get in touch.

5) START. Period. START. Quit making excuses about time or pricey web designers. Start simple. A basic template on Wordpress with hosting shouldn't cost more than $500 to get started. No, you won't get lots of custom work for that. No, you won't get a full on ecommerce system. But if you have a small budget, start there. Lay a good foundation and build on that.

Sean P. Sullivan

Thanks for the shout out Mike!

Carlo, your points and suggestions are dead on.

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