Do more than just sell wine to your customer. Involve them and interact.

By: Kathy Kelley

The last time I blogged I focused on examples that select wineries had used to create tasting room experiences for their visitors. Today, I would like to focus on how businesses are involving their customers in promotional efforts and even in certain decision processes. As with the examples, below, wineries should consider how to create excitement that can results in a memorable experience for consumers and that can help the business differentiate themselves from competitors.

How can you involve customers?

Involvement can range from relatively low effort to a more complex undertaking. Certainly this is not an exhaustive list, but I think you will find some that are innovative and quite clever. I have also segmented them into categories based on the amount of time and energy needed in the preplanning and implementation stages.

Low involvement effort

If you want to test the waters, so to speak, and gage how your customers or social media followers will respond to being asked to be “involved,” consider one of the following example where it took little effort on the part of the business to reach out to customers and for customers to participate.

Do you ever find that you run out of “things” to post online? Consider asking questions. You may not get a response to every question you ask, but it is a way to break up posts that are mostly about your business. The Lehigh Valley Wine Trail (@LVWineTrail) asked a rather timely question earlier this year via Twitter. Even if they had not received any responses (which they could have then reported or responded to), they could have posted their suggestion the following day. So, this effort resulted in at least two posts.

Think of all the possible occasions/types of food pairings that could be the focus for questions you pose. Or, consider asking followers what they do with their empty wine bottles. Do they save them, repurpose them (vases, wall art, display them), or just recycle them? What about closures? Do them collect them? For both of these, ask followers to share their pictures with you so that you can then repost.

Aug 2014_Kathy_Cork Keychains

Another way to build up a reserve of images for your Facebook Page, blog, etc. is by asking your customers to send you pictures to post (with their permission) of them sharing and enjoying one of your wines. At least one fashion magazine encourages readers to take pictures of themselves holding the current issue while they are on vacation or celebrating an event. These images are then published online and in the print magazine. You could do the same and also encourage your customers to post their pictures on our Facebook Page, on Twitter, Instagram, etc. along with a #hashtag that includes your winery’s name and/or your handle (@yourwinery) so that you can learn that an image was posted, “like” the image, and then repost/retweet it.

Aug 2014_Kathy_Pouring Wine

A bit more effort

Verizon Wireless did something similar to the previous example. Customers were encouraged to take pictures with their Verizon Wireless smartphone (thus demonstrating how well their device took photos), which then became the focus of a promotional contest. Submissions became the cover photo on Verizon Wireless’s Facebook Page, not only did these photos provide content for Facebook posts, but also gave the “photographer” bragging rights (listing his/her name and the phone used to take the image). Who wouldn’t want their photo to be featured on your winery’s Facebook Page?

Aug 2014_Kathy_FB post

How else could you involve customers?

  • Ask customers to vote for a cause that your winery could support based on sales of specific bottles of wine
  • Solicit ideas for the theme for an upcoming event at your winery
  • Task them with selecting the winery’s employee of the month (which could be based on information that each employee provides)
  • Or, capitalize on something “trendy” – for example, ask customers to vote on the name(s) of businesses you could nominate for the “Ice Bucket Challenge”

Each of these options could be implemented quite easily by asking customers to vote when they visit your tasting room. With a little more effort you could allow those who visit your website to vote, and you could create a poll on your Facebook Page. If you use a blog, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and similar – ask customers to provide comments or retweet/repin what you post, that way you can “count” these efforts as votes.

This “voting” activity can also help drive traffic to your website or a new social media outlet that you just started using.   It does take considerable effort to alert consumers that you have started using Twitter and convince them to follow you. By making Twitter the primary way that you capture votes (for example, which label you should use for a new varietal or blend), ask customers to make their selection by tweeting a message that includes your Twitter handle (for example, @WineNews4You) and what label option they prefer (which you should tweet often as a way to remind them to get involved, post on your Facebook Page, website, etc., and put on display in your tasting room).

A LOT more effort

One vineyard that experienced great response to an effort that completely involved consumers is Silversmith Vineyards located in Redwood Valley, CA. In 2011, the owners enlisted customers in “making” wine by giving them the power to make actual decisions (via a voting app on Facebook) such as when to press off the wine, when to rack the wine, and other processes.

Certainly, the vineyard did not just hand over control to Facebook followers blindly; rather they implemented an interactive effort that helped educate the public about these winemaking processes. Each voting opportunity started by asking consumers to watch a short video that discussed what they would be voting on that week (for example, how the cap should be managed throughout fermentation, see figure below).

Aug 2014_Kathy_YouTube

Then, the viewer would make their selection from the available options (see below for outcome pertaining to choices for aging vessel).

 Aug 2014_Kathy_FB Poll

Voters did not need to commit to purchasing the wine; however, the winery did make the wine available first to Facebook followers.

Sounds like a decent amount of work, but what was the pay off? They were able to grow the number of Facebook followers from between 150 and 200 to 800 and Twitter follows from zero to 442 during the first year of their “crowd-made” wine project. I would imagine that they also increased their YouTube following, too. If this seems to be a bit more than you want to take on, you could simplify this activity and ask customers to help select the artwork for your next label.

As attractive as customer involvement is, wineries will need to devote a certain amount of time and, perhaps, money to ensure the effort is executed well. The worse thing that any business can do would be to involve customers in any process and then not act on the information collected or do less than was promised. You want to be memorable – in the right way!

Do you have interest in a particular marketing topic that could be the focus of a future blog posting? If so, please email your suggestion to me at kmk17@psu.edu.

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