I recently attended the 5th Wine Industry Technology Symposium in Napa. There was much discussion about social media, which was also the case at the February Oregon Wine Symposium. Social media can be a useful form of communication to engage customers, inform them of special events and winery news, and monitor what's being said about your brand. In short, it's a communication tactic and can be an important part of an overall marketing strategy.
But as Robert Celsi, Vice President of Corporate Services for Trinchero Family Estates, reminded us during his panel on the three-tier system, there is still a great need for "shoe leather". Social media is a form of communication and engagement, not a direct method for selling wine, especially within the current system. Any winery owner or operator who thinks Twittering and Facebooking alone is the magic bullet will be sorely disappointed. When formulating a social media approach, it is critical to determine the winery's goals and devise a strategy that makes sense for the brand given target audience and positioning.
One of my favorite presentations was given by Dan Michael, Marketing Director for Consumer Direct Sales at E & J Gallo, as part of a panel on "Consumer Direct Metrics, Benchmarking & Best Practices". Michael pointed out that keys to success for a winery looking to manage its consumer relationships can be found in a great marriage. And that long-term engagement and loyalty are what we should strive for, not merely a visit, purchase, sign up or club registration. Below is a summary of his thoughts from the winery consumer's perspective:
1. Acknowledge commitment
2. Keep your brand promises
3. Know what I like
4. Surprise me
5. Celebrate anniversary
6. Listen and communicate
7. “Don’t forget who party is for”
In the first step, you're thanking your new consumer for establishing this relationship of trust, which is important because commitment leads to loyalty. Examples of doing this include hand-written cards, thank you emails, personal phone calls, etc. The second step involves holding up the winery's end of the bargain, or better yet, over-delivering on service expectations. (We want to be married to the person we chose for the wedding day, not someone who has gone down hill in time.)
Number three involves customization, where as step four is about customer delight. To customize -- i.e., substitute when you're sending Sauv Blanc because Mr. X doesn't like the variety, you have to be able to track preferences, which usually requires an investment in software. To delight, you must be willing to personalize, "go the extra mile" and deliver the unexpected.
Step five again acknowledges commitment and thanks the customer for remaining true -- by this time loyalty can either be established or waning. Number six relates back to customization, personalization and delighting, and also involves taking care of any problems immediately. The final step means that you continue to look outward toward meeting and exceeding your customers' needs, not simply getting what you want (a sale).
Michael's "Don't forget who the party is for" also well relates to a thought I kept having during the WITS presentations: our valued consumers have lives outside of wines (even if we don't), and we can't forget that. We all know it has to be delicious, but we must remender that it needs to be fun. Consumers are coming to us to help commemorate, celebrate, relax and live welll When your winery experience detracts from that, you're at your most vulnerable.