What To Do After a Virtual Trade Show

By: Susan DeMatei and Nathan Chambers

Chances are you’ve attended a virtual conference by now. Perhaps it was your first, or maybe you’re a seasoned pro. In either case, thanks to the ongoing pandemic and the reoccurring “Stay at Home” directives, virtual events are likely going to be here for a while. And why not?

PGI.com reports that through video meetings, businesses can reduce travel costs by 30%. According to the Bizzabo Post Covid-19 Event Outlook Report, an overwhelming 93% of organizers plan to invest in virtual events moving forward.

  Unlike in-person conferences, you have to work a bit harder to get the most value out of this time when they’re online. Here are some tips for things you can do after the conference to maximize your efforts.

Contact People You Met

  68% of B2B marketers use in-person events for lead generation initiatives. This data point is especially noteworthy considering that AdStage reports 73% of marketers prioritized lead quality. Meaning, one of the vital elements of any conference is the chance to connect, make new friends, engage with old colleagues, and form new relationships that will help you both personally and professionally.

  Networking is more natural in person. And typically, when you go to a conference, you leave with a stack of business cards that sit on your desk as a reminder to follow up on these connections.

  But, this printed reminder doesn’t exist with a virtual conference. It is up to you to take notes and forward contact information to continue the conversation.

  Hopefully, you kept a list of people you spoke to or exchanged chat messages with during the conference. Maybe you wanted to ask the keynote speaker a question, but you didn’t have time, or your kid’s virtual education crashed your network the morning of the breakout session you wanted to attend!

  Either way, make a list of people with whom you would have connected and reach out to them.

  Whova, the popular event software, has some suggestions to stay in front of your expanded network while the event is still fresh in everyone’s mind. They suggest doing the following in the first three days after an event:

•    Email your event contacts with thank-yous or requests for further conversation.

•    Search social media platforms for mention of the event or hashtags; connect to individuals talking about the event.

•    Cross-reference your new connections on LinkedIn referencing the event.

•    Double (and triple) check your notes from the event to make sure you organize and attend any post-event meetings/calls you planned during the event.

  Send them a note and set up some time to connect, whether over the phone, a socially distanced coffee, or even with Facetime. If you wait and let ideas and memories fade, you’ll be cheating yourself out of a great opportunity.

Grow Your Database

  How often do you look up a business contact only to find out they’ve changed positions or are at a new company? As you reflect and review your day(s) at the conference, you undoubtedly made some new contacts and reconnected with past ones. Take a few minutes to update both your personal as well as professional mailing list.

  Make sure you’ve got updated phone numbers, email addresses, and current employers. When doing this, make sure to update contacts on your phone.

  If you add or update people to your company database, make sure to use a tagging system or segmentation note. This can be something as simple as “XYZ Trade Show Mar_21”. As we all know, segmentation is a huge asset when it comes to recontacting someone. Having information could be critical if you want to send a follow-up email to people you met during a breakout session or event organizers. Spending an hour detailing notes of conversations and contact information will pay dividends for you in the future.

Knowledge Sharing

  Maybe you went as a group or were the only one who had the privilege of attending the conference. Chances are, there are others in your organization that could benefit from what you heard.

  Make sure to review your notes and any PDF’s distributed as part of the conference. Set some time to meet with your team and your supervisor to go over the highlights. Discuss new ideas that you want to try, new strategies on an old problem, or the conference in general. Also, give your team the floor to ask questions and probe what you heard.  

In Case You Missed It

  Bizzabo reports that over half (54%) of virtual event registrants convert to virtual attendees. Even when we attend, we can’t be in three breakout rooms at the same time. So almost all conferences supply links to the videos of the sessions.

  Check the conference website to see if the sessions you missed are now available for viewing. Recordings of new portions of the conference originally live-streamed may have been added, giving you multiple opportunities to review what went on at the conference. Don’t forget to share the links with your team so they can view the information. 

Get Involved

  Now that you’ve attended the conference, updated your mailing list with new contacts and old friends, met with your team and shared your learnings, and watched the videos of sessions missed and discussions you wanted to remember, there’s just one more thing left to do. Offer feedback via social media or thank the organization, and look for opportunities with future conferences. 

  If the conference sent out a survey to attendees, take it and give honest feedback and suggestions. Virtual meetings are relatively new for everyone, so any insight or tips we’re sure would go a long way. Also, consider getting involved. If you or someone on your team wants to plan next year’s event, reach out to the organizers.

  As with most things, the more engaged and thoughtful you are before, during, and after the conference, the more rewards you will see.

  Susan DeMatei is the President and Nathan Chambers is an Account Director at WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California.  www.wineglassmarketing.com  

The Results Are In! The Annual Email Benchmark Report

By: Susan DeMatei

Each December, WineGlass Marketing releases email benchmarks for the wine industry. We do this because having a bar to evaluate email performance has always been a challenge within the wine ecosystem. Benchmarks are widely available for broad categories such as “Retail” or “Food and Grocery,” but finding something to compare a Wine Club email to is historically as accurate as predicting what would happen next in 2020.

  2020 will forever have an asterisk next to it, noting numerous external forces outside of our control which affected our marketing and response rates. When looking at the calendar, there are many force majeure events worth noticing that likely prevented our customers from responding typically:

•    We had an initial Shelter-in-Place order closing tasting rooms and restaurants in mid-March. The government asked us to work at home and limit our time outside, so eCommerce delivery options filled the void. Our media consumption changed as we searched for connections, and we became glued to CNN and obsessed with Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok. Business suffered, and by the end of Spring, our unemployment rate was in the double digits.

•    Tensions rose with the temperatures as several racial injustices made headline news culminating in the death of George Floyd on May 25. This horrible tragedy unleashed weeks of riots and demonstrations throughout the summer months. Some states relaxed their grip on the Shelter-In-Place orders, albeit cautiously, which resulted in a flurry of changing rules. Forced to interpret the rules, wineries tried to convince customers to visit again.

•    And then came the fires. Not one but two waves in August and September devastated western states, including California. The fires destroyed a few wineries but caused extensive smoke taint damage to the 2020 vintage for a larger group. The media descended, and reporters were everywhere convincing consumers to stay away from a Northern California that was in flames, leaving wineries the practical duty of reporting the actual impact to their mailing lists.

•    The fire of different views on how to handle the virus and inequality in our country was fanned brighter in the fall with a very contentious national election. September and October saw media ads and email boxes jammed packed, so there was very little else on anyone’s mind.

•    Finally, in Q4, there was no letting up with another wave of Coronavirus underway with several states considering going back to strict stay-at-home guidelines. Some expect the most significant online holiday shopping season yet, but that will uncover itself in time.

  Throughout all of this year, our customers have endured. They have accepted their club shipments and opened our emails, and God bless them, they have ordered wine.

  A lot of wine, actually. Early in the year, Wine Intelligence reported initial growth in wine consumption frequency due to the shift to at-home occasions more than compensated for the loss of on-premise occasions. Thus, making our emails more critical than ever.

  However, did this trend continue? Hubspot says no. The marketing juggernaut released a report at the end of October this year asserting that after initial explosions of emails and subsequent consumer mass consumption, the responses to emails, and sales, are dwindling.

  With the outrageous context of 2020 in mind, we widened our scope for this year’s benchmarks and leaned into the data. We pulled statistics for the past year on 222 wineries with over 9,000 campaigns and just shy of 46 million emails, and what we found was interesting.

THE RESULTS

  We all increased our email campaigns. The average number of campaigns sent per winery in our 2018-2019 report was 1.88 per month, equating to a little less than 23 emails a year or a frequency of one email every 2-3 weeks for sales, events, or wine club communications.

  The average number of campaigns sent per winery in 2020 is double this at 3.63 per month, which means that on average, we sent one email a week to communicate with our customers this year. It seems that we followed suit with other industries who jumped on email as the logical replacement for in-person customer care, sales, and support. And why not? Email is relatively inexpensive, and it does not require staff to be present in the office or consumers to be in a particular location either. It is, actually, the perfect COVID marketing platform.

  However, did these emails work?

Open Rates Fell

  Initially, we look to open rates to gauge if customers are receptive to our messages. An open rate is how many people, expressed as a percentage, opened an email and is largely a factor of three things:

•    The sending address or who the email is from.

•    The subject line.

•    The teaser text that appears in browsers to

      provide a summary of the email.

  However, environmental factors that contend for attention can trump all of these rules. The data exposes that after an initial spike in March during the initial COVID Shelter-In-Place orders, there has been a steady decline in Open Rates in 2020. Moreover, although this study ended on 9/30 – we can also assume we will experience lower rates in November and December with the election and the standard holiday email burnout.

Bounce Rates Increased

  Bounces fall into two classes. A soft bounce is when the receiving server recognizes the email recipient, but the address is blocked at the moment: such as an out of the office response. A hard bounce means the address is no longer on the server.

  With office closures and unemployment hitting the double digits mid-year, we can confidently assume that many email addresses changed this year.

  This hypothesis played out in the data as we saw bounce rates jump by 20% from pre-COVID to post-COVID months.

Click-Through Rates Skyrocket

  The Click-Through Rate is how many people click on an email, expressed as a percentage, and mostly depends on how compelling the email is. What is considered compelling is mostly subjective but includes the offer itself, the copywriting, and the presentation, such as an image, text, or a button.

The exciting thing about the Click-Through Rate is its independence of other metrics – such as Open Rate or frequency. Click-Through Rates are an accurate indication of a customers’ interest in the message.

  The closure of thousands of wineries and restaurants forced customers to look to other channels for their essential wine needs. The most obvious of these channels is emails directing sales to eCommerce. Therefore, consumer attention and consumption of email messages swelled in March and Click-Through Rates stayed high through the summer. But then we see the exhaustion and distraction set in the fall and we fall below previous years. When we pull data next year, we hope to see the typical Q4 spike in 2020 with results in strong eCommerce sales for everyone.

Want To Hear More From the Report?

  Go to our website www.wineglassmarketing.com/2020_Emails for the full report that dives into frequency, subject lines, and eCommerce conversions. Alternatively, use this QR Code.

  Susan DeMatei is the President of  WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California.  www.wineglassmarketing.com 

Software for Wineries: Time-saving Technology Lifts Wineries to Higher Levels of Productivity

Credit: Vintrace

By: Cheryl Gray

Software applications are helping wineries worldwide manage day-to-day operations from vineyard to table, including that often elusive commodity: time. From tracking product inventory to monitoring grapes’ ripeness, time-saving winery software choices are available for virtually every business need. The question of what applications are on the market is immediately followed by where to find it.

  Process2Wine:  Leave it to the south of France to provide an answer by way of Process2Wine, a cloud-based SaaS vineyard and winery production management platform for desktop and mobile devices, developed by Ertus Group in Bordeaux, France. Created by a team of technicians, winemakers and oenologists, Process2Wine has been in use in wine regions of France, including Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and Languedoc, since 2013. To expand into the United States, Ertus Group acquired Wine Management Systems in 2018. Clement Chivite, an experienced winemaker turned business manager in California, spearheaded the adaptation of Process2Wine to fit the U.S. and Canadian markets.

  “With Process2Wine, you can record all operations from vine to bottle. The software helps winemakers and growers manage record keeping and allows them to monitor their production by creating reporting at every stage of the winemaking process. Comparing procedures, inputs, analyses and costs year-over-year helps viticulturists and winemakers make the right decisions and find efficiencies based on accurate data. Plus, it saves so much time to be able to generate a 5140 report or a pesticide use report at the click of a button.

  “The software is continuously being updated. Our R&D aims to help the industry respond to new challenges, such as climate change, using the internet of things and precision agriculture.”

  Process2Wine customer assistance includes training sessions, online support and direct contact with client account managers.

  Vintrace:  Arriving from Australia to the U.S. in 2008, vintrace is a cloud-based global competitor, serving wineries of all sizes in North and South America, Europe, New Zealand and its native Australia.  Heather Crawford, general manager for the company’s North American division, told The Grapevine Magazine why the word “trace” is part of the company’s name.

  “Starting in the vineyard with assessments for harvest planning, creating bookings, writing work orders for grape processing, labs and all movements, ending with the final packaging and tracking of inventory, vintrace enables every part of the winery. With accurate, real-time information, time is saved at critical moments, like harvest, and fewer mistakes are made as all tanks, all vessels and all wines are tracked.”

  Crawford added that using vintrace’s application programming interface makes it possible for clients to expand the software’s productivity.

“Increasingly, we are seeing wineries extract production information from vintrace to put alongside other data, such as planning and forecasting, in tools like Microsoft Power BI, to better measure their operations. Using vintrace APIs makes this completely self-service.”

  Clients have access to either self-help or hands-on technical support from the vintrace team. Crawford said the application increases scanning capabilities and is available on Android and iOS for mobile connectivity.

  TeraVina:  Oztera, based in Pleasanton, California, partnered with Microsoft to offer TeraVina, a winery software application built on the Microsoft Dynamics Business Central (NAV) platform. Oztera provides both cloud-based and computer-installed winery software. Michael Stallman is the company’s director of business development.

  “We took the base functionality and underlying technology from Microsoft and extended that solution to provide winery specific functionality. We were fortunate to work with some very prestigious wineries and seasoned industry veterans to really focus on winery requirements and automating common tasks. We continue to grow our solution to meet the needs of all our clients and push the buck on technology. It is important to note that we can move more quickly with changing technology trends because we have Microsoft behind us. We can extend their technologies to keep up with the larger market and not bootstrap wineries to specific technologies.”

  Oztera can also apply its toolset to integrate with external systems, allowing wineries to keep existing functions they like and improve the output of others, even if that application is an Oztera competitor.

  “A good example is a recent integration with Winemaker’s Database. We encountered a scenario where the winemaking team really liked where they were at with their winemaking systems, but the rest of the business needed help. While on the surface, WMDB is a competitor of ours, we were willing to work with them and provide a solution that helped our client achieve their goals.  We delivered a system that provided them with the gains they needed on other fronts while building a bridge to WMDB, making that part of their business more streamlined. “

  VinNOW:  Another choice for wineries with small budgets looking for big package solutions is VinNOW, the brainchild of Ted Starr. A software engineer, Starr put his 40 years in the industry to work by creating a software system that he said can handle just about anything. 

  “VinNOW was created in 1999 as a custom program for wineries with a need: telesales, customer records, inventory tracking, order discounting and invoicing. It has been growing ever since to include point of sale, robust wine club processing, QuickBooks integration, compliance and shipping integrations with multiple vendors, comprehensive reporting and time cards, to name a few. “

  Starr and his wife, Deanna, an experienced winemaker, use VinNOW in their Milano Family Winery, based in Hopland, California. He explained to The Grapevine Magazine how the software helps to save time. 

  “We utilize our integration with ShipCompliant to collect and submit various states’ compliance reporting for sales tax and excise taxes, saving countless valuable hours of time. Our extensive reporting capabilities allow us to get the information needed to complete various reporting requirements such as sales tax, wine sales by alcohol level, and shipments, inside and outside of our state. 

  In addition, we use our VinTracker bulk wine and custom crush billing module to track the wine’s containers, volume and work performed, as well as generating work orders for current work to be completed.”

  Starr said that VinNOW offers an alternative to cloud-based software systems, which can be a problem for wineries with poor internet connections.

  “As many wineries are in areas which experience this, that is a major challenge.  On a busy day, if you can’t use the solution, you lose sales. Using software that is on your computer ensures you are in charge of your data – it is located at your site. With cloud-based systems, if your internet is down or slows, it will hinder your ability to sell your products.”

  Starr added that product installation and data maintenance are intuitive and VinNow also comes with free unlimited live support and training. New features and functions are added continuously, including some adaptations to accommodate the demands that COVID-19 restrictions have placed upon wineries.

  “We have redesigned our point of sale to facilitate the sales process. We are also able to process credit card transactions away from the winery or tasting room.”

  InnoVint:  Ashley Leonard started her career as a winemaker nearly a decade ago.  Frustrated by winery software that didn’t quite fit her needs, Leonard founded InnoVint, a cloud-based, mobile software solution managing all aspects of the winery. Backed by a team of experienced winemakers and modern software engineers, Leonard said her company is the first to bring mobile-driven software to the wine industry.

  “The software goes beyond activity tracking as a digital workflow productivity tool, uniting winery teams both within production and with other departments such as finance and compliance. Daily activity is recorded in real-time, whether in the vineyard, the lab, the cellar or on-the-go. Production integrates seamlessly with compliance and costing, so the winery has confidence that their entire operation is running smoothly.”

  Leonard said that InnoVint puts the winery back in charge of time management, taking the head-scratching out of technology use.

  “Winemakers are not software gurus. They shouldn’t have to waste their time figuring out clunky, legacy databases to fit their unique processes. They deserve purpose-built software that caters directly to their specific vineyard and winery activities. InnoVint is designed by a team of winemakers with 75 harvests under our belt, and it shows in how catered our solution is for them.

  Whether the winery is a small boutique producer, large custom crush operator or bulk wine supplier, we save them hours of time per week by reducing communication friction, bringing relevant winemaking data to the surface and uniting production with the other departments at the winery through a single pane of glass.”

“Marietta Cellars: Spinning Magic in Sonoma County”

Scott Bilbro and his late father, Chris

By: Nan McCreary, Sr. Staff Writer, The Grapevine Magazine

Marietta Cellars owner and winemaker Scot Bilbro remembers growing up and watching his late father, Chris, perform magic in his winery in Sonoma County.  Not magic with cards or sleight of hand, but magic in transforming cardboard wine boxes into suits of armor for his boys or grilling sweet but spicy ribs and blending a fruity Zinfandel and a hearty Petite Sirah to make a perfect wine pairing for dinner.

  It is that same magic — the magic of creativity and possibility — that inspires Scot, second generation winemaker at the small family winery founded by Chris Bilbro in 1978.  “I’m building off what my father started,” Bilbro told The Grapevine Magazine, “and keeping a lot of his creeds and thoughts in my head and heart while also making it my own thing.”

  The hallmark of the elder Bilbro’s winemaking was a certain freedom of expression, his son explained, which inspired him to create unique blends of wines atypical of Sonoma County, and all of California for that matter. “Dad was just a pleasurable, comfortable gentleman who did things that made sense to him,” Bilbro remembered. “It wasn’t that he threw the rulebook out; it was just that he hadn’t been classically trained so he did things in a way that made sense to him.”  One such blend was his now-iconic Old Vine Red, a combination of Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Syrah and Carignan that Chris Bilbro created in the 1980s. The proprietary blend put Marietta Cellars on the map and earned a stable of dedicated followers that continues to this day. What makes this wine especially distinctive is that it’s a blend not just of varieties, but of vintages. “This is a delicious wine that has become a well-known table wine for people across the country,” Bilbro said.  “And yet it started as a little brainchild created by my father in a little cow barn in the hills above Dry Creek and Healdsburg.”

  Bilbro, with a winery as his childhood playground and a degree in Viticulture and Enology at U.C. Davis, has been continuing his father’s legacy since Chris retired in 2012.  While that legacy was well established — Chris’s success with OVR allowed Marietta to grow and purchase its own vineyards rather than continue to source fruit from friends and farmers — the younger Bilbro has access to Marietta’s 310 acres of estate-based vineyards in Alexander Valley in Sonoma and McDowell Valley and the Yorkville Highlands in Mendocino.  Marietta still chooses to source a small amount of grapes from a few select growers with whom they have significant history. 

  Marietta’s vineyards offer an ideal climate for grape growing, with hot days for ripening and cool nights for developing acidity to balance the flavors. All grapes are farmed organically, with no synthetic herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers.  “This means lots of hand labor,” Bilbro told The Grapevine Magazine, “but most of our vineyard crew has been with us for years — some for decades —and they know what needs to be done and when.”  Bilbro and his crew tend the vineyards year round, and when harvest time comes, they pick the grapes with care and precision.  In some years, they may harvest multiple times per block, depending on the ripeness of grapes in that block.  “All of this is time-consuming,” Bilbro acknowledged, “but there are no shortcuts in the vineyard, or in the winery.  Everything is determined by information we’re getting at the time rather than by going on autopilot.”

  In the winery, Bilbro is now spinning wine with his own magic, just like his father before him.  “My winemaking philosophy is an amalgam of my father and my education at UC Davis,” Bilbro explained. “We ferment in stainless steel tanks and age in neutral oak, because we want the grapes to preserve the properties of their terroir.” In any given harvest, the volume of a grape variety may exceed the room in the fermentation tank, so Bilbro and his team separate those grapes into individual tanks for fermentation and aging.  Typically, Marietta has 80 fermentations with each harvest, sometimes with two fermentations from one block, separated by ripeness.  Once the separate fermentation lots have matured in barrel, maybe as long as a year, they bring individual lots of wine together to create the final wine. “It’s much better to make sure the wine is balanced before wrapping the fermentations together rather than finding out a year later that the wine is not as balanced or complete as we like and having to resort to additives,” he said. “We want to make sure that everything that goes together deserves to go together.”

  Marietta creates three series of wines: the OVR series, the Family Series and the Single Vineyard Series.  The OVR series includes wines made from old vines: the Old Vine Red; a Rose made from some of the oldest Grenache and Syrah in the state; and a Riesling sourced from the state’s second oldest Riesling vines. The Family Series features wines that Bilbro names after people in his life and business:  Román, a crisp, modern Zinfandel named after their cellarmaster of 34 years; Christo, his version of a Rhone-style red wine, honoring Chris Bilbro, or “Christo” as his beloved great aunt Marietta (for whom the winery is named) called him and a passionate lover of Syrah; and Armé, a Cabernet Sauvignon that balances New and Old World styles and is named for Marietta’s husband, Armé and Chris’ adventurous great uncle. The Single Vineyard Series highlights individual vineyards that deliver the purest expression of place: Angeli, a Zinfandel from Angeli Ranch in Alexander Valley, settled in 1886 and home to the Marietta Cellars winery; Game Trail, a cellar-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon from the Yorkville Highlands; and Gibson Block, a Syrah from the McDowell Valley, among the state’s oldest Syrah vines, dating back to the 1880s.

  While all of these wines are quality wines in their own right, it’s the historic OVR that’s the signature wine for Marietta Cellars.  The winery produces 50,000 cases of wine a year; 25,000 is OVR. While there’s no recipe for the wine, Bilbro said it’s always based on Zinfandel, with smaller components of Syrah, Petite Syrah and Carignan. “We have a massive barrel room, almost like a three-dimensional matrix with multiple varieties and multiple vintages,” he told The Grapevine Magazine.  “My dad and I would pick lots that we thought might be relevant to the next release, and we’d blindly taste through them and put them in different groupings, like groupings of wines with bright fruit, structure or wines with savory components.  Then we’d pick our favorites from each and blend them together to make the OVR.  We’d do all of this by feel, which is part of that freedom of expression.” The OVR is released in lots, two lots per year.  Marietta Cellars is now on lot #71.  “The blend is always different,” Bilbro noted. “I may add a half a percentage of Cabernet to bring up in some tannins, or a bit of Barbera to bring up the acidity. A percentage doesn’t seem like much, but it can make a difference.” Whatever the blend, the style of OVR is always the same: it’s an easy drinking, medium-bodied wine that’s full of flavor.

  As Marietta Cellars looks to the future, more exploration is in the cards.  Bilbro and his staff are especially excited about their vineyards in McDowell Valley in Mendocino, which is renowned for Rhone varieties and home to some of the oldest Syrah and Grenache Gris in California. “We want to play with historical varieties that are less articulated out there and rearticulate them,” Bilbro said.  “We also want to work these grapes into our existing blends to add some nuance.” These grapes, according to Bilbro, include Mourvedre, Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul and Viognier, all grapes from the Rhone Valley that are becoming more popular among U.S. growers.

  Business-wise, Marietta Cellars recently entered a partnership with VINTUS, a wines and spirits importer and marketing agent to expand its presence in the market.  The company has been named a Wine & Spirits Importer of the Year five times (2015-2016-2017-2018-2019-2020) and in 2017 was named Wine Enthusiast Importer of the Year.  VINTUS’ portfolio today includes Chateau Montelena, Gary Farrell Winery, Ponzi Vineyards, Champagne Bollinger, E. Guigal, Chateau Minuty, Ornellaia, Masseto, Pétrus, Château La Fleur-Pétrus, Château Margaux, Masciarelli, Tommasi, Sandrone, Le Macchiole, Quinta do Noval, Dog Point Vineyard, Errazuriz Finca Decero and others totaling more than 40 leading global estates.

  Clearly, Marietta Cellars, a small family winery, has been doing big things since it was founded over 40 years ago.  But the goals remain the same as they were in the beginning: to create something special and share that with the world. “Ultimately, sharing what we do with our lives — rather than our jobs — is important to us,” Bilbro told The Grapevine Magazine.  “Our wine is not a commodity:  It’s something we are pouring our time and hearts and souls into.  When people drink our wines, we hope they think about our family and how much care and focus we put into what we do so they can actually feel what it’s like to make these wines and walk these vineyards. We want people to experience our wine, not just taste it.”

For more information on Marietta Cellars, visit www.mariettacellars.com

How To Get The Most Out Of A Virtual Trade Show

By: Susan DeMatei

All indicators suggest we will continue our social distancing well in 2021, which means the late winter trade shows in North America will be chiefly virtual this year. The vast majority of us have never attended a virtual trade show, let alone hosted a booth in one. So, as we all venture into this new virtual age together, let’s discuss what to expect, how to prepare, and how to “walk through the virtual exhibition hall” to get the most out of this year’s upcoming events.

BEFORE THE CONFERENCE

  Try The Software:  Your virtual conference will use an online tool you may not have downloaded or used before. Nothing is more frustrating than missing the first 10 minutes because you had to download and install an application. Don’t wait until the morning of the conference to download the software; check that it works on your computer and that you have sufficient bandwidth and a working camera and microphone.

  Ideally, during the weeks before the conference, take a quick tour of features and set up your profile name and company name so you can present your best self to the other attendees. If you already have the software on your computer, review the settings. This is not the time to be logged in as your spouse or child. If you have a profile section, fill it out, and upload a picture of yourself. Remember, this is your “face” to your industry colleagues.

  Plan Your Calendar:  Just because you’re not traveling physically, that doesn’t mean you mentally get to check out. People attend trade shows to participate in live sessions, make appointments, network, and look for new potential partners on the trade show floor. Make sure you block out time for each of these goals. Tell your co-workers and family that you are unavailable during these times.

  When you build your schedule, pay attention to live versus recorded sessions. If your day gets full, save the recorded segments for later times and dates.

  Virtual conferences aren’t just for learning – networking is possible even through a computer. Set up appointments before the event with colleagues. Attend happy hours or breakout sessions with other attendees. And don’t forget to give yourself some open time to browse content other attendees bring.

  Build-in Breaks:  One thing you would do naturally is sit down and have a cup of coffee or grab lunch when you’re attending a trade show. Don’t forget to build these in for your virtual tradeshow. These are your responsibility to include and are essential to allow you your brain to change pace to context shift from one activity to another. To keep yourself energized, try to vary activities – so schedule networking or “virtual coffee appointments” in between sessions where you’re listening for long periods.

  Consider attending with colleagues to boost your social engagement during the conference. You can accomplish this by communicating with each other between sessions or schedule a meeting afterward to share key takeaways and discuss how what you’ve learned might impact your work. You can also chat with people with Microsoft Teams or Slack during presentations. But be careful you don’t have too many channels going simultaneously, which will distract rather than focus your attention.

DURING THE CONFERENCE

  Accessing Booths and Exhibits:  When you register, you’ll create an account with a secure username and password. At a later date, the conference should send you an invitation email containing a unique link to the virtual trade show. When the time comes for the event to begin, click the link and sign in.

  The conference should greet you with a welcome page, which may appear like you entered an actual lobby with people conversing and meeting. It should guide you into the exhibition hall, where you will find dozens of booths. Click on each booth to see what their services are, chat with an associate from that business, see a brief demo, and ask any kinds of questions you might have. You can also book a video chat appointment, or a booth might invite you to book a 1-1 time later that day. If you do schedule an appointment, the conference tool should track that and notify you via email. You can click on the various parts of the screen to access the exhibit hall, auditorium, or info desk.

  If you need help, there will be a technical help desk where you can speak with an event organizer directly or have questions answered about policies, terms, or the event in general.

  Attending Keynotes and Presentations:  Like any trade show, the conference will provide you with a booth map, a session schedule, and speaker bios. The difference here is this information will be accessible in the main navigation of the website versus on a printed program.

  If you have decided to attend speaker sessions, make sure you know the link/location for the talk and be there on time. Live notifications will appear on your screen with reminders about upcoming panels or keynote sessions so that you don’t miss them.

Overall Tips For Attendance:

1.  Participate: It may be tempting to remain an anonymous voyeur, but you’ll get so much more out of the session if you reach out to others:

•    Introduce yourself in session chats.

•    Contribute to discussions and ask questions.

•    There’s usually a networking lounge to connect with other attendees per session where you can talk through group or individual chats.

•    Participate with hashtags to continue the conversation on social media channels such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and Twitter.

2.  Pause: Zoom exhaustion is real when you are staring at a screen watching video presentations for too long without taking any breaks. You can get very tired, so a good recommendation is to periodically take a short break, stand up, walk around and get some food or something to drink. That way, you’ll get the most out of the event with those brief, regular breaks throughout the day.

3.  Focus: You’ll have to work a little harder than you would if you were physically there to be present.

•    Take written notes. The act of writing allows your brain another way of remembering than just auditory or visual cues. It also makes you take your fingers off the keyboard, which signals your brain to focus on the screen.

•    Take screengrabs of interesting charts or items to refer to later.

•    Watch in full screen, and turn off all alerts, so you don’t get pulled into an update on social media or an email.

4.  Stretch: Did we mention breaks? We will suggest it again. It is essential to get up and move every hour to give your brain a quick recharge.

AFTER THE CONFERENCE

  Most people plan on watching some of the on-demand sessions, but they rarely do. If you have recordings on your plan, schedule time to watch them within a week to keep the context and connections fresh. Also, reach out to your new contacts and review any downloaded videos or PDFs from vendors that first week after the conference.

  Above all, adjust your expectation that you’ll be passively watching other people online in your PJs at home. If you actively include yourself in virtual conferences and are committed to focused participation, you’ll be surprised by all the rewards you’ll find.

Susan DeMatei is the President of  WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California. www.wineglassmarketing.com

An Open Letter to Winery Owners: Things I Would Do If I Owned A Winery

By: Susan DeMatei

It’s tough out there right now. COVID cases are on the rise, scaring both our customers and employees. Bank relief programs are ending, but the virus looks like it is just getting started. Even if we are in an area that can open a tasting room, we’re not sure what the rules are this week, or exactly how to alter our protocol to keep everyone safe. With harvest looming and the farming community profoundly affected, some wonder if they’ll get their grapes picked at all this year. My day is spent hearing the stories and struggles of so many within our community, I wish I could do more to help. All I have to offer is my experience. This is not a sales article. I’m not pitching anything. I don’t have a silver bullet, but I can share some advice on how to help your businesses.

Waiting is not a Strategy

  The first day wineries were closed in California we lost 5 clients – all calling to apologetically say they were cutting spending while the tasting room was closed and would be back when it reopened. 5 months later, most of us realize there is no going back at this point. We’ve also recognized acting like an ostrich with our head in the sand isn’t going to work, either. The keyword for 2020 is “pivot,” and the Darwinism of survival will favor those who adapt quickly and are flexible.

  My favorite example of a pivot is Tuco, a turn of the last century subsidiary of the Upson Company, which initially produced 3/16” wallboard for home construction. This was all good until the Great Depression hit, all construction stopped, and Tuco found itself stuck with warehouses of drywall and construction equipment. Not giving up or waiting it out, they realized they had boards, printers, and jigsaws, so they could, theoretically, print images on the board and cut them into pieces. By 1932, Tuco was the largest producer of picture (jigsaw) puzzles throughout the early-1980s. You can still find them all over eBay, and they’re now quite collectible.

  I’m not suggesting we all start making board games, but we have one client who began turning their alcohol into a grape-based hand sanitizer, which I thought was clever. We are also witnessing a surge in others making their websites more streamlined for sales, and a swap in traffic efforts redirected toward website traffic over tasting room traffic.

My point here is, don’t just turn off the faucet of tasting room traffic and sales without having plans and programs to replace that stream somewhere else. You need alternatives to sales and new list signups and engagement with your members and customers that can’t come to visit. How well you continue those three critical goals will determine if you make it to whatever “normal” will be post-COVID. Let’s look at each one next.

eCommerce is Now Critical

  Since February, you should have been focused on optimizing your website sales wherever possible. But if you haven’t, it’s never too late to emphasize this channel, and you still have time to get your act together before the critical Q4 selling season. Let’s break down some specific things you can do to help shore up this sales channel.

  Search Engine Optimization: SEO is all about Google (or other search engines). Google scans sites and pages to serve up results that match search queries. SEO is the hidden message in which you tell Google what is on your site’s pages. Part of SEO is the meta tags, which are like a little ad for each page. Put your winery website in Google and see what comes back. If you don’t see an “ad” for each page, then Google has pulled random words, usually the navigation or footer, because it didn’t know what the page was about. Meta tags are essential and should be action-oriented 155-character statements that describe what is on the page and why someone would want to go there.

  How do you do this? If you’re on WordPress, many plugins make this easy. We like Yoast. If you’re on a proprietary platform, ask them or look at your documentation site. It is unlikely that there is no way to access these page tags.

Website Presentation

  You wouldn’t open your tasting room if it wasn’t stocked and clean and ready for visitors so, why do so many fail to keep their website store updated? Takedown old products, update new ones with scores or notes. Update your shipping options and tables. Please invest in professional bottle shots or, at the very least, buy a $40 product table-top lightbox on Amazon. Review everything on mobile. Put in test orders to confirm your work and ensure it is easy to purchase, and the shipping is calculating. If your eCommerce system allows, use every tool they have, such as carrots or bundles or automatic emails. Your website is your tasting room now and for the foreseeable future. Put as much care into it as you would your property so it can do the heavy lifting.

  Drive Traffic to Your Newly Refreshed Website

  At a high level, you can bucket your efforts into three buckets – existing customers, existing non-buyers on the mailing list, and new potential customers.

  For existing customers, make sure you have a strong email campaign touching them at a minimum once a month (twice a month is better.) They may not feel comfortable visiting you in person, but you can keep in touch with them. Alternate your sales offers with general news, recipes, and information about the winery, vineyard, or people. Everyone is feeling isolated and a bit disconnected now, so they will appreciate your outreach.

  For non-buyers on your mailing list, follow much the same strategy as the existing customers but target them with “trial” offers with low barriers. This is not the group to send a case offer to. Lean toward 2 bottle packs and comp shipping to nudge them to make their first purchase. And possibly lean more toward introductory copy about you and your winery since they don’t know you as well as your existing customers.

  Gathering brand new customers is a must. Consider that we’re experiencing double-digit unemployment at the moment and that databases, in a good year, decay at a rate of 2% a month. This equates to my prophetic prediction that if you check now, you’ve lost, at a minimum, 12% of your mailing list since the COVID closures in March. All those newly canceled business emails will only increase your bounces. You’ve got to start working on accumulating qualified leads as soon as you’re done reading this article.

  There are two significant ways to get qualified signups to your mailing list and get sales from new customers online: Facebook ads and Google Adwords. Facebook is, by far, the easiest. If you can Google Search, you can find tutorials and blogs written about how to set up Facebook ads. I can’t encourage you enough to do this right now. You should have two, maybe three campaigns running at all times. The first one, with a smaller budget, maybe $100 a month, with the goal of “like-ing” your page, so you are continually gathering a community online. A second campaign with a slightly higher budget, maybe $150-$200 a month, should focus on lead generation. Facebook has collection forms and a whole ad category for collecting leads. Just follow the directions or Google for help. The third campaign would be for sales. Pick that same introductory two-pack you’re offering to your non-purchasers on your database and create an ad on Facebook. Upload your purchasers and unsubscribes to Facebook and target this sales campaign to a “lookalike” audience.

  Google can be very effective at these three objectives as well. We have had particular success with the sales approach. Targeting is more complex, and you’ll have to watch a few online tutorials to master this, but I would encourage you to give it a try. Expect to spend about $600+ a month, however, to see decent results.

What Do You Say?

  It is understood that times are tough, and you need sales. It is also understood that your wine is delicious, award-winning, handcrafted and that if you are open, you are doing everything possible to keep it clean and contact-free. It is so universally understood – try to avoid saying it because it isn’t about you… it’s about them.

  They are feeling lonely, isolated, unsettled, burnt-out, and exhausted. While we don’t want to market ourselves as an alcoholic elixir that will solve all problems, wine is a lovely balm for much of what ails us. Over the past months, we have seen plenty of creative emails and social media posts about zoom happy hours, food and wine pairings, wine and toilet paper offers, and everything from updates on winery dogs to staff members to keep us engaged. Don’t forget to remind them there is good in the world and you are part of that good, and they are good and should treat themselves with your good wine. Keep it positive and heartfelt.

  We didn’t mention discounting. On the whole, discounting (beyond what you usually do) isn’t an effective strategy for a downturn. Why? Because in times of stress, people tend to purchase for emotional reasons, not logical ones. If you were to re-read that list in the previous paragraph of what our customers are feeling right now, a 35% discount doesn’t solve them. So, don’t rush to devalue your product. Instead, position your product as an integral part of their new reality.

One Last Point: Do Something

  I realize many of you are feeling very alone now. You’ve had to furlough or let go of staffers and are now winemaker, general, tasting room, wine club, and marketing manager. But, to circle back to the beginning of this article, doing nothing is not a strategy for success. Please don’t sit back and watch all that you’ve built fall apart around you while you wait for tasting rooms to return to their former glory.

  You don’t have to be radical or expensive or even   innovative – just pivot your efforts and your businesses toward online sales. I tried to give you tips here to get online sales on your own. If you still need help, you can literally Google how to do almost anything. But, if you don’t have the time, don’t give up. Instead, get some help. You don’t have to hire WineGlass Marketing; there are many other capable agencies. You could work with one of the hundreds of consultants out there that specialize in email or social media or website editing. And don’t forget about recent graduates. We have an entire graduating class with nowhere to go who are eager to get started with their lives. A quick and free ad on Craigslist might find someone capable who can help you for a very reasonable hourly rate and have you reaping in online sales by this time next week

  Susan DeMatei is the President of  WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California. www.wineglassmarketing.com

Covid, Community & Commerce: The Emergence of Online Engagement & eCommerce

By: Carl Giavanti

Many wineries, business partners and consumers are at home in some form of quarantine or under stay at home restrictions. This is a communications opportunity – to interact with other tasting room and wine industry professionals on social media – as well as with your customers, and not just to sell wine.

  Consumers will want to know what’s going on with the winery, and may be interested in engaging with you online. DTC marketing outreach by old school mail, email and social media will keep people informed and updated, as well as offer them online opportunities to enjoy your wines shipped direct to their homes.

  Be authentic and genuine. What is Your Brand really all about? I’m reading that people don’t want more pitches for wine, but want to know what the winery is doing to accommodate followers and community during the crisis. I would hedge a little on promos, and err on the side of subtlety and indirect offers, by focusing on wine education and entertainment experiences which are brand appropriate.

  Is this the long-awaited inflection point to meaningful winery eCommerce? Now is the time for wineries to find creative ways to shift their business models and shift their sales channel strategies. The last 10 years saw an adjustment from reliance on distribution sales to selling Consumer Direct. Small producers with fully established DTC programs are the most affected by this disruption and many are reacting very quickly and creatively with online solutions. I think this will be the point of transition for those wineries that have not fully embraced eCommerce, to establish online sales as a significant and ongoing part of their DTC programs.

  In addition to curbside pickup and drop-off services, there has been lots of interest and many calls for Virtual Tastings from the winery associations and the media. They are looking for events that are part of your programming, so scheduling and publishing well in advance – to allow for system testing (Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Zoom, Skype, etc.) and presentation practice is important, as well as providing ample time for shipping if customers are interested in acquiring specific wines for the event. From my perspective, this could and should become part of your ongoing DTC program – post pandemic – to reach out-of-state and other targeted groups, i.e. consumers, out of state club members, trade or media – so why not get a program in place now and take a leadership position?

  I also suggest you do the math and focus on “Shipping Included” promotions versus discounts. Develop a progressive schedule of different packages and gift packs for instance. Consider which wines to offer for virtual tasting events featuring winemaker and staff. You might be surprised at people’s willingness to meet and taste with you online – with either your wines or for wine education. Finally, remember the phone? I know its old school, but the human voice is reassuring. Keep your staff engaged by having them contact your best customers, not just club members. Check to see how they are doing, let them know what’s happening at the winery – and just this one time – don’t ask or mention selling them wine. You might be surprised at the results.

  Here are some best practice marketing articles I’ve read that you may find helpful:

•    Wine Direct – scheduling, engaging and selling wine direct to consumer: https://www.winedirect.com/resources/knowledge-center/covid-19-and-your-winery

•    Amber LeBeau, SpitBucket Blog – discusses the importance of authenticity. Offers recommendations and creative ideas for winery pandemic responses: https://spitbucket.net/2020/03/19/the-coronavirus-email-id-like-to-get/

•    Rob McMillan, Silicon Valley Bank – eCommerce is your pivot from tasting room sales, and Rob offers fun ideas to engage, sell and ship wines to consumers: https://svbwine.blogspot.com/2020/03/selling-wine-in-pandemic.html

  For my part as a publicist, I’m focused on shipping wines to reviewers across the U.S., not only the large national publications but also critics and writers whose opinion matters. Their reports and reviews will help my clients stay top of mind and provide important content to support their marketing efforts. I’ll also reschedule canceled March and April visits, and hopefully start booking media tours again late spring, early summer. That’s my best guess timing at this point. Of course, pitching client stories to national and regional outlets including magazines, broadcast and radio seemingly never ends.

  Things that wineries can do on the digital and marketing side are:

•    Website – update all pages with current information, virtual offers and photos. Position the site as if you are an online only business, with tasting room and in person experiences coming soon. Special focus now should be on the shopping cart and mobile shopping experience. Is the site fully responsive? If not fix that. What shipping or “quarantine” promos can you run to capture online sales?

•    Photo Gallery – setup or update your gallery by category (Seasons, Views, People, Vineyard, Harvest, Events, etc.) and populate with best available high-resolution photos. Someone will need to curate your library of photos. I use this resource often for media image requests. Why is professional photography so important?

•    Content Schedule – setup and maintain a schedule for email and social media marketing. Identify content in advance – news, promos, photos, etc. This also helps me coordinate media outreach and with your marketing department.

•    Wine Club Retention – you are likely to get some cancels or credit card rejections. Offer membership suspends for 3 months, downsize club levels or at least keep them on the general email list for future “we want you back” campaigns.

  I believe the 2020 pandemic will trigger an industry-wide transition to more meaningful digital and social communications, and most importantly eCommerce as a profitable channel. Not all wineries will get it done. Those that do will be in a better position going forward.

  CARL GIAVANTI is a Winery Publicist with a DTC Marketing background. He’s going on his 10th year of winery consulting. Carl has been involved in business marketing and public relations for over 25 years; originally in technology, digital marketing and project management, and now as a winery media relations consultant. Clients are or have been in Napa Valley, Willamette Valley, and the Columbia Gorge.

www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.com/Media

Keeping it Social: How to Approach Your Online Connections Post-COVID

By: Tracey L. Kelley

Aspects of target marketing are quite fluid right now and are projected to be for some time. As the world continues a slow but seemingly progressive recovery from COVID-19, and as the United States, in particular, addresses other key issues affecting its citizens, how you approach a purposeful social media presence for your brand has a significant impact on your turnaround.

In an article for Scientific American, tech expert David Pogue said, “No longer are you on top of the mountain, blasting your marketing message down to the masses through your megaphone. All of a sudden, the masses are conversing with one another.” These are the conversations and actions you need to engage in on your social platforms to reposition your wines, tasting room, community engagement and other advances of your business.

Community and Locality Matter Now More than Ever

You may have experienced extra support from existing and new customers during the pandemic. This momentum, said Meaghan Webster, is essential to maintain through online channels. “People are sourcing inspiration from social media for how to support local businesses and their employees. There’s been a huge push from consumers to support local restaurants and beverage producers they know are struggling, and wineries should acknowledge this sentiment on social media, emphasizing the local nature of their products.”

Webster is the founder of Meaghan W. Marketing and current marketing manager for First Batch Hospitality, the group behind urban winemaking and events at Brooklyn Winery in New York, District Winery in Washington, D.C., and RiNo Point Winery in Denver. She told The Grapevine Magazine that how you use social media to enhance alliances in the community—both with your charitable partnerships and to celebrate the efforts of employees and customers—matters now. So steep your posts with gratitude. “For example, if a winery is donating a percentage of its sales to recovery for their laid-off employees or a special industry fund, then social posts referencing these efforts should thank followers and customers for contributing to the stated cause,” she said. “People love when you show them the impact that their purchase has made. Therefore, follow up and post about how much ended up being contributed to the cause.”

Chad Richards is vice president of Firebelly, a “social media marketing agency on a mission since 2007” based in Indianapolis. Firebelly has worked with JUSTIN Winery and Landmark Vineyards, as well as breweries and restaurants. Richards also recommended taking a less self-serving approach. “Whatever you do, make sure the hero is the charity or community you’re supporting. Nothing elicits eye rolls faster than ‘Look at us—we’re so charitable!’”

If you shredded your social media plan already, don’t worry. There’s still strong potential for authentic communication. “Humans like stories, and we’re storytellers by nature. It’s how we connect to one another, and right now, people are seeking connection more than ever,” Richards said. “And don’t worry about trying to be creative or clever—just be honest.”

We all appreciate uplifting stories right now, according to the media team at Happy Medium, a full-service digital creative agency in Des Moines, Iowa. Keeping this intent in mind helps you craft social media content that showcases community involvement as a result of the energy of your brand and, by close relation, all your customers.

“Overall, audiences tend to react well to community involvement because it’s inspirational and aspirational. If your team is volunteering, share a photo of employees at the volunteer event. If you made a charitable donation, ask the recipient to share digital assets that align with the cause you’re helping them support,” the Happy Medium media team said. “This demonstrates how your brand builds and supports communities in a way that’s relatable and impactful. Write a brief caption about why the cause you’re supporting is relevant to the brand. Always tag the organization!”

Creating Evocative Content

The critical nuts and bolts of pandemic communication are still necessary. On your website and across all social media channels, points about safety, sanitary practices, operational hours and tasting room traffic allowances, among others, must be continuously updated and with proper sensitivity. But, Webster added, you can also use this time to create a haven of comfort.

“Offering a bit of escape from reality is received very well, according to social media analytics for the wineries I work for,” she said. “People are longing for normal times of the past, which means they enjoy seeing photos of what wineries were like before everything shut down. All businesses should be especially cognizant of the tone they use, and always acknowledge the current state of the world in their captions in some way. But providing the nostalgia and temporary escape that followers are looking for right now is a good way to keep people engaged.”

Webster suggested showing the human side of the business through Instagram stories and static posts to “connect people of the business with people who want to support the business.” What’s going on in the vineyards right now? Who’s putting wine shipments together while the winery is closed? What’s the origin story of the winery and vineyard, how did it evolve pre-COVID and how is it navigating this difficult time?

“While the entire story may be long and not fit into one social media post, a winery should know its full narrative, so when it writes a shorter Instagram caption or creates a few slides of an Instagram story about their business, they can distill the most important parts down into a digestible format, and weave it into posts whenever they can,” Webster said.

Happy Medium advised using interactive content whenever possible, to build confidence and trust. “Customers are more likely to engage with content that entertains, educates and tells an authentic story. Engaging customers with your content makes your brand more memorable and creates a deeper connection,” the media team said. “Try incorporating polls, question and answer stickers, or feature the people who make your brand what it is in Instagram stories or by hosting a live stream. Both of these are growing social trends that bolster higher engagement and should be a staple to any social media strategy.”

Don’t feel you have to do all the heavy lifting of brand awareness and connection alone. Once again, Richards said, think about potential alliances. “Get your bottles into the hands of influencers—allowing people to learn about your product via someone they already trust or admire. And think outside the box. These don’t have to be wine or foodie influencers. A travel, fashion or beauty influencer could easily weave your brand and bottle into their story.”

And if the budget allows, boost your social media ad views. “I realize they may be a luxury in times like these, but ads really are the fastest way to get the right message to the right people in the right places,” he said. “Many brands have cut their ad spends, so the marketplace is less competitive right now. You’ll get more for your money if you’re able to participate.”

As reopening continues, your messaging to various demographics might change slightly. Take time to evaluate your core audiences and cater to how they might be feeling. For example:

• Promote your best practices for safety and cleanliness to reassure and comfort people who want to visit your winery but express concern about contagions.
• Consider how other individuals, including those new to the wine tasting experience, might want to know about both your in-person and virtual interactive opportunities.

• Finally, there are additional people, especially those in younger demographics, who are eager to get out and make new memories. Show them through social media why your establishment is the perfect choice for safe-but-fun gatherings.

Remember the message of online interaction: simply ask your followers what they might be interested in, and listen carefully. Their suggestions might be different than what you’ve tried before, but now is the time to take advantage of fresh ideas.

Social Media Tips for the Next 12-18 Months

“Flexible consistency” is the action plan for your social media efforts now—and the foreseeable future. Maybe your marketing manager is temporarily furloughed. Perhaps your state allowed gradual reopening, but as you approach early harvests, you don’t feel you’ll have time to maintain your online presence like you did last year.

The media team at Happy Medium suggested three areas of focus:

• Post consistently. While so much consumer activity has slowed during this period, it’s especially important for brands to stay top-of-mind with their consumers. Even if operations are currently paused, still send at least a couple of posts per week.

• Stay positive. Audiences have been overloaded with COVID-19 messaging over the past few months and are starting to become jaded to overused marketing verbiage. Send positive messages while still being respectful to the current situation.

• Don’t post content exclusively directed at sales: share photos and stories about your team, industry news or fun facts about your winery and operations.

A 2017 study from the American Express Customer Service Barometer reported that Americans are “more likely to post about good experiences (53%) than poor experiences (35%).” So, in addition to staying realistic and flexible about your content and posting efforts, reaffirming customer service is one of the strongest messages Webster offered.

“For small wineries without dedicated marketing or social media staff, that means digital customer service often gets put on the back burner.” She suggested navigating it this way:

• Respond to comments from followers on your posts—or “like” them at the very least.

• Acknowledge when an excited customer shares a photo of your wine on their Instagram story by at least “liking” it. More preferably, respond to it with thanks, and re-share it to your winery’s story.

• Not only “liking” a photo that a loyal fan tagged your wine in, but also commenting on their post and thanking them for their support.

“This kind of gratitude and engagement is always important for building brand loyalty on social media, but it’s especially crucial during this pandemic when financial difficulty is rampant, and fans are giving your winery free, unprompted promotion,” Webster said.

Also, pay close attention to direct messages and respond promptly, and help customers find links to website pages. “This is an important aspect of social media management that many wineries and small businesses could improve on.”

Finally, be realistic, Richards told The Grapevine Magazine. He provided these tips:

• Be flexible. These are unique times, and we’re not sure what will happen next. That’s okay. Nobody does. Be prepared to update your plan and approach as needed.

• Think short term. Take it month-by-month or maybe even week-by-week. Any really long-term campaign planning will likely be disrupted.

• Show vulnerability. If you’re struggling, say so. It makes you relatable, and people will want to support you and come to your rescue.

“Know that it’s okay to ‘not know,’” said Richards. “Uncertainty is uncomfortable—especially when it comes to business and finances—but we’re all in the same boat right now. A ‘best guess’ is sometimes the best you can do.”

The Media Team at Happy Medium
https://itsahappymedium.com/
Social Media Handles on Instagram/Twitter:
@itsahappymedium

Chad Richards, Vice President, Firebelly
https://www.firebellymarketing.com/
Social Media Handles on Instagram/Twitter:
Chad Richards: @chadrichards
Firebelly Marketing: @wearefirebelly

Meaghan Webster, founder, Meaghan W. Marketing
meaghanwebster.com
Social Media Handle on Instagram:
@meaghanwmarketing

Email Is Not Dead…But You Can Be Deadly With It!

Woman watching online videos on desktop

By: Susan DeMatei

I actually looked it up; AOL started in 1993, which brought in a revolution of using email for personal and business communication. Because this is not a new marketing channel, people assume it is passé. In fact, if you look at Google searches, “email is dead” as a searched term appears very frequently. But the fact that there are so many of us using a 27-year-old technology shows just how alive it really is.

  But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In 1997, online emails got a 7% response rate because it was new and shiny and relatively few companies were using it to communicate with customers. In 2019, we saw a 48% conversion rate on winery emails because today’s brands understand the value of this channel. As more emails are sent, we compete for attention and the stakes have increased.

  According to Statista, the daily number of emails received and sent today is 306.4 billion– and 55% of them are spam. Templafy tells us the average office worker sends out 40 work-related emails a day – but gets back 90. With so much demanding attention in the inbox, you’ll need each email to exhibit a killer performance.

The Six Drivers of Success

  About once a month I get a call from a client that says, “my emails aren’t performing well, I want to talk to you about redesigning them.” My response is usually to ask them a bunch of questions about their database and collection plan, which confused them. So much work needs to be done before you get to the design to make sure you have a successful campaign. There are six key drivers to the success of any email campaign:

1. The quality and the rate of the list sign up.

  Even if your tasting rooms are closed or limited, you can still grow your list, so don’t panic. Capturing leads digitally is nothing new to online retailers who don’t have a physical location – they’ve been doing this for years. In a study by 250ok.com of the top 500 online retailers:

•    7.7% put email sign up in the header

•    44.4% used pop-ups to collect emails on their sites

•    54.3% added an email sign up below the fold or in the footer 

•    29% of retailers incentivized people to opt-in to their email program

  So, formulate a plan to capture emails on your website, Facebook page, and send-to-a-friend links in emails. There are probably other touchpoints you can capitalize on if you brainstorm with your team. The point is to not just give up on this objective if your physical operation is closed or limited.

2. Once they click to sign up what are they greeted with – what’s the landing page?

  Landing pages are so important. Don’t just drive people to your home page––drive them to a specific landing page on your website. A specific landing page increases your conversion and is a very effective way to capture leads. Get creative with videos, images, stories, or bios––the more personalized you can be the better the conversion.

3. The management and the health of the database

  The health of the database is how engaged or responsive your database is. When you send out an email, do you get sales, or do you hear crickets? Some stats to look for here are not just the total number of your database, but also pull out the bounces and then the un-mailables. Another helpful thing to know is the makeup of your database––how many people are purchasers, and how many people are just sitting there like deadweight on your list. When you pull this data, it will give you an overview of your database and some ideas on where to start.

4. The email touchpoint strategy (the HOW and the WHO)

  So, what is the right frequency? In January 2018, we started recording our clients and tracking the data in aggregate across 3 million emails, over 1,700 campaigns over 21 months. We released the data last winter as a benchmarking study and it shows that, at least for our clients, they are choosing to email between every 2-4 weeks.

  And, please make sure to segment your list. Segmented campaigns see a 14% higher open rate, a 60% higher clickthrough rate, and a 7% less unsubscribe rate. We talked earlier about the send-to-a-friend, well targeted messages and those sent to smaller audiences are 90% more viral than untargeted messages sent to large audiences.

5. The offer (the WHAT)

  I don’t have a silver bullet here. I can’t tell you what your database wants to hear––but your database can. You should know your average open and click-through rates and look for trends in responses to tell you what your database is reacting to and what topics they are silent on.

  The open rate is largely a factor of three things; your sending address, your subject line, and the teaser text that comes up in Outlook and other browsers that gives you a summary of the email. These three things are so important, don’t make them an afterthought.

  If you can, also get a conversion rate, which is what happens after the click and is largely dependent upon the landing page and your eCommerce cart set up.

  If you succeed with your subject line to get them to open your email – what do you say? This is particularly nerve wracking in today’s market but no matter how you position it, there are a few main points that you need to hit with your copy. Those main points are your customer’s pain point, the solution you have to that pain point, how your solution works (features), how your solution will improve their situation (benefits), and verification that it works (social proof).The majority of what you write needs to address how you can help your prospect, not how awesome you are (because that’s implied).

5. And then, finally, the design

  Design is important and there are well tested and universally regarded guidelines to follow here.

  First, is text length. More is not better in this regard. As a matter of fact, the more you write the less likely you are to get a response; but don’t be too brief. The sweet spot appears to be between 50 and 125 words––or at least the length of this paragraph which is 57 words.

  A second best-practice is to break up your text––meaning layout three small paragraphs versus one long one. Also, watch your graphic elements. They should be there to illustrate, not distract. White space is very important when scanning emails so try to keep white areas around your call-to-action buttons.

  In English, we read left to right, so it is easier for us to comprehend that quickly. Left justification also works for calls to action and buttons.

  Emails are still the most popular marketing channel used with the best ROI. The shelter-in-place orders have made us even more a slave to our phones. Hopefully, some of these tips will help your email campaigns create and sustain sales for you even when your tasting rooms have limited guests.

  Susan DeMatei is the President of  WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California. www.wineglassmarketing.com

Marketing During a Crisis: Tips to Pivot Your Marketing Messages

By: Susan DeMatei

Recession Marketing Pro Tip: Understanding consumer psychology and the underlying emotions is critical when advertising during a recession.

  In the wine industry, we don’t typically analyze consumers’ psyches or emotions. We tend to think of our customers demographically – mid 40’s – 60’s, lives in New York, Texas, and Florida, HHI over $150k, and the like. But in times of stress, demographic segmentation may be less relevant than psychographic segmentations that take into consideration consumers’ behavioral reactions and the underlying emotions they are feeling at the time.

  The coronavirus sanctions have created an undercurrent of fear, worry, and stress. People are looking for stress relief and a temporary distraction. By understanding and appealing to their emotional needs you have a better chance of connecting with and engaging them. This is not a novel approach. Research shows that ad campaigns that focus on emotional engagement tend to have a higher ROI than ad campaigns focusing on rational messages (such as low prices or special offers) even when times are not tough.

  But how do you know what your consumers need to hear right now? To guide us, I found an insightful study in the Harvard Business Review that looked at marketing successes and failures of dozens of companies during recessions from the 1970s – 2010. HBR identified patterns in consumers’ behavior and resulting company strategies that either helped them succeed or ultimately fail during a recession. Additionally, they strongly encourage companies to understand the evolving consumption patterns and fine-tune their strategies accordingly.

  For example, did you know that baking yeast is flying off the shelves? An NPR article on March 27th listed the products consumers are buying beyond the necessary cleaning products and everyday groceries. Baking yeast is high on the list – people are baking bread because it is comforting to make, smell, and eat. Two other items on the list are boxed hair dye and dress tops, which speak to the psychology of “keeping up appearances.” With the increase in video conferencing, these make complete sense.

  So, how should we in the wine industry alter our strategies to fit the current climate? First, we need to understand the psychology of our customers. The HBR article suggests there are four key psychological segments and your strategic opportunities will strongly depend on which of the four segments your core customers belong to, and how they categorize your products.

1.  Slam-On-The-Brakes: These are the people who feel most vulnerable and/or are hardest hit, financially. This group cuts all their spending to the necessities. Although lower-income consumers typically fall into this segment, it also includes those anxious higher-income consumers who fear health or income changes.

2.  Pained-But-Patient: This group is the largest of the four segments and represents a broad income swath. While they are more resilient, pained-but-patient consumers are less confident about recovery, and their ability to maintain their current standard of living. So, they economize, but less aggressively. For these consumers, time is their enemy. As the current situation drags on many will migrate down to the slamming-on-the-brakes segment.

3.  Comfortably Well-Off: These are the consumers who feel secure about their ability to ride out the current and future changes in the economy. Their consumption patterns don’t change that much with one exception; they tend to be a little more selective (and less conspicuous) about the brands/companies purchased.

4.  Live-For-Today Segment: This segment carries on as usual. Typically, urban and younger, they are more likely to rent than own, and they spend on experiences rather than stuff (except for consumer electronics.) They’re unlikely to change their everyday consumption behavior unless they become unemployed.

  In addition to the customer segmentation, the HBR article gives us some guidance with emotional product prioritization:

1.  Essentials: Necessary for survival or perceived as central to well-being.

2.  Treats: Indulgences whose immediate purchase is considered justifiable.

3.  Postponables: Wanted or needed items whose purchase can be put off.

4.  Expendables: Perceived as unnecessary or unjustifiable.

  Wine is a luxury item no matter which way you slice it. But your price point and your target will fall into one of these four segments, and your product into one of these four prioritizations. Are you a high-priced allocation wine that mostly sells to the comfortably well-off that are comfortable spending money online? Or are you a strong on-premise brand for the pained-but-patients that would benefit from positioning yourself as an affordable treat in these uncertain times?

  Wine over $20 is best targeted at the Comfortably Well-Off (our traditional wine club target audience), and the Live-For-Today-Segment (our emerging target, and typically our tasting room traffic) and should be positioned squarely in the treat/affordable luxury category.

  So, how do we sort through all of this to create marketing and advertising campaigns and programs that recognize your customers’ psychological and emotional state? Here are my recommendations:

 #1 Support your brand by staying true to yourself:

       Look at your current plans through the lens of “would my winery do this if it wasn’t a crisis?” Tweak your messaging to dovetail with the psychological and emotional pressures your target market is feeling. When sales start to decline, the worst thing companies do is alter their brand’s fundamental proposition. If you have a high-priced and valuable wine, you may be tempted to decrease your price. This may confuse and alienate loyal customers. Drifting away from your established base may attract some new customers in the near term, but you will find yourself in a weaker brand position when the crisis is over. Your brand can acknowledge the new world but fundamentally should remain unwavering.

#2 Move budgets toward measurable channels that fit with customers’ digital lifestyles:

       The Harvard Business Review article reported during the recession of 2008, marketers spent +14% more on online ads than they did over the same time frame in the previous year. Even before most of us were asked to “shelter in place,” our purchasing behavior had shifted significantly to digital platforms, driven by technology advances, access, and convenience. For marketers, the shift allows us to surgically target, show results, and pivot quickly. Even without a recession environment, marketing departments are under pressure to do more with less and demonstrate high returns on investment. Digital advertising is targeted and relatively cheap, its performance is easily measured, and it is where our customers live.

#3 All businesses will increasingly compete on price:

       You may think that discounting is in opposition of #1 – but we didn’t say don’t offer discounts, we said don’t discount outside of what your brand would typically offer. Also, watch the frequency as you will likely feel pressured to increase the frequency of temporary price promotions. Three tips here:

a)   The article notes research shows discounts that require little effort from consumers and give cash back at the time of sale are more effective than delayed value, or “buy more” promotions. Look for the quick benefit, keep it easy, and keep the barriers low. Know your average order value. If your customers are used to buying 4 bottles an order, a case offer might be pushing it.

b)   Make sure you sign up for lots of mailing lists and carefully monitor consumers’ perceptions of “normal” price levels. As an industry, we need to watch over ourselves and not create “a new normal” that we can’t sustain. Excessive promotions lead consumers to revise their expectations about prices and this threatens profitability in the recovery period. People will resist the steep increases as prices return to “normal,” and extreme price deals only lead to costly price wars.

c)   Focus on giving extra value to consumers. As much as it may pain us, this is about them, not you. While it is tempting to ask for help from your most loyal customers, this is not of value to them in their current state of mind. In addition to offering temporary price promotions or list-price changes, improve perceived affordability by reducing the thresholds for volume-based, club member, or allocation discounts. Expand loyalty programs to reward not just big-time spenders, but also people who purchase small amounts frequently.

#4: Keep your messaging calm and trustworthy:

     Last, but not least, in stressful and uncertain times consumers in all segments see familiar, trusted brands and their products as safe and comforting. Reassuring messages that reinforce your brand’s humanity and creates an emotional connection demonstrate empathy, as evidenced in the popular hashtag #alonetogether. But, remember empathetic messages must be backed up by actions demonstrating the brand is on their customers’ side.

  The Harvard Business Review article concludes after 40 years of research, those brands that come out the other side of economic crisis will be stronger. First, the discipline around marketing strategy and research we develop during this time, and the ability to respond nimbly to changes in demand will continue to serve us when the economy recovers. And second, we should prepare now for a possible long-term shift in consumers’ values and attitudes, and a certain shift in where and how they shop.

   Susan DeMatei is president of WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm operating within the wine industry in Napa, California. Referenced and reproduced by approval from the April 2009 Harvard Business review article “How to Market in a Downturn” by John A. Quelch and Katherine E. Jocz. www.wineglassmarketing.com