A wine conference is certainly much different than our usual tech conference, but it’s hard to say no to free wine tastings and wonderful food! So how did I end up here? Tami Bredeson of Carlos Creek Winery was helping organize the event and invited me to speak about online marketing. Tami sits on the board for Alexandria Tourism so she was familiar with our work.
While I’m very comfortable talking about website design and SEO, social media marketing is not my forte. I roped in Kelly Falk to be my anchor here. She has a ton of experience on the subject and it shows through her efforts with Kindred People. However, Kelly suffered a severe concussion just before the event and had to stay home per doctors orders. Despite the crazy circumstances, she was super helpful in prepping me to cover her portion of the presentation and table talks. To be honest, she gave me a much-needed refresher for social media strategy.
Effective Online Strategies
Covering effective online strategies in just an hour is a tall task. We broke the topics down to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), content strategy, and social media marketing. Since I could write a book about the talk, I’ll just include the most important takeaways.
SEO (further reading: SEO 101)
- Focus on securing local search traffic as storefront businesses are given an edge by Google and Bing for nearby searches.
- Use Moz Local to get a free audit for your business’s optimization for local traffic
- Setup and verify your winery on Google My Business and Bing Places. Both are free and easily worth the time.
- Make sure your website is set up in a logical way that is easy for search engines to understand. Sitemaps go a long way here.
- Write your content with a purpose. Aim to answer questions, fix problems, and educate potential clients.
- Brainstorm ideas for articles using Google Keyword Planner. Keep in mind this tool is meant for advertisers so you can ignore the competition metric. Focus on their keyword suggestions and the number of searches per month.
Social Media Marketing
- Aim to be awesome at 2-3 social media channels instead of being mediocre at a bunch. There a few exceptions, like Youtube and Pinterest, that don’t require you to post frequently to be effective.
- Be sure to claim your winery on Trip Advisor and Yelp. It is important to keep control over the contact information and get notifications of reviews.
- Mix up the media (e.g. photos, video, plain text) you share on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Aside from the main presentation, I held table talks about responding to online feedback and website must haves. Here are the five steps that Kelly suggested for responding to online feedback
- Acknowledge the problem and show the customer you’re taking it seriously.
- Apologize and don’t be afraid to admit you made a mistake.
- Explain what happened behind the scenes and offer your side of the story.
- Offer the customer steps to help remedy the problem.
- Read your response out loud to make sure it doesn’t come across poorly.
As a last resort, you can delete a comment. I’d only recommend this action if the post is offensive.
The “website must haves” session turned into a much more open discussion about specific issues. Here are a few quick general guidelines:
- Contact information should never be more than a click away.
- Your homepage should indicate exactly what you do and include links to your most crucial information.
- Keep the design clean with simple navigation. Avoid overwhelming the visitor with tons of choices. Instead, aim to empower the visitor.
- Be sure you have a security system in place. Hackers are interested in far more than just sensitive information. They can hijack your hosting space and send your visitors to nefarious spam sites.
- Pick a great host. Cheap shared hosting comes with a slough of problems, including slow down, security holes, and a much higher chance of your IP address landing on the blacklist.
- Mobile friendly is no longer a choice. Over half of all searches are performed on mobile devices as of 2015.
- Include a useful FAQ section to help inform potential clients and reduce the amount of time you spend answering questions.
- What don’t you want? Auto-playing music, flash, and additional scripts that aren’t needed (e.g. Twitter feed widget).
Online Marketing Restrictions
Tami brought an excellent point during the sessions that alcohol manufacturers are not allowed to promote a retailer carrying their product. It is seen as an advertising benefit for the retailer and an incentive to carry your product. While this can certainly be viewed as an archaic practice, it does help to keep the big producers from securing a monopoly.
If you do want to share vendors, the approved method seems to be sharing the entire list of retailers carrying your product. I’m guessing they allow lists because one retailer isn’t given preferential treatment.
E-commerce for Wineries
There were a few questions about selling wine online. Selling across state lines can be a rat’s nest of regulations and tax implications. Some states have different taxes based on the county and require additional information to be submitted. Other states have restrictions for the quantity sold to each person. Even worse is that this restriction is based on gallons. Properly accounting for the taxes and staying on top of compliance forms can be a logistical nightmare.
For starting out, I’d recommend staying within Minnesota as the red tape is minimal. However, you’ll want to explore an e-commerce solution specifically tailored for wineries if you’re selling to other states. Try e-winery solutions for selling across state lines.
It was great talking with winery owners about their needs, frustration, and success with online marketing. Every winery’s situation will be different, but the big takeaway is to create a strategy. Laying out a clear strategy helps a business keep the focus on the overall goals and communicate the objectives to a team.
Aside from the business side of things, Rachel and my son, Sullivan, came along for the weekend. Sullivan loved the farm equipment at the trade show. Between the pool and gala, it was a fantastic weekend!