The world of wine is brimming with excellent products, which now need to communicate their selling points more effectively than ever before. Winemakers must prove the quality of their products in a market filled with ever-more attentive and knowledgeable consumers who use the web to find information and advice. That's why it's important to have a website for your winery.
We spoke about this with Lisa de Leonardis, Content Manager at Argoserv by Sandhills Italy, co-founder of Elledue, a brokering company that supports wine cellars in the process of internationalization, as well director of the Masters in Wine Export Management, which will open in October for its seventh edition.
Lisa, why do you believe it's important for a winery to have its own website?
Sometimes, when we visit a company for a first time, or during my training sessions, people ask more in-depth questions: such as how to make a website, or what are the most important elements in a winery's website.
But I like how straightforward your question is! Especially because it implies the possibility of the reverse statement: meaning, are there cases in which a wine cellar does NOT need a website? I'd like to start with that counterpoint actually, and list some reasons why a website may not be a necessary investment.
First of all, I think of those companies who say they don't have time to update the website. I'm talking about the many small- and mid-sized companies that aren't confident using computers, or who may not know (or recognize) their potential.
Because of that mindset, those companies don't intend to invest in consultants, or may not have the internal resources with the appropriate training or ability to be trained to take care of it themselves.
In these cases, I think it's better not to do the job badly, and allow potential visitors to browse search results, even if that means that they find a competitor instead.
Another example of a case in which it might be better to not have a website is when the website exists, but hasn't been updated in 5 or 6 years. That's because I consider that it's better not to have a website at all than to have one that isn't maintained or updated.
It's like saying, "Welcome to my store!" And then displaying cobwebs, broken-down, outdated furniture, and rooms that clients can't access. What kind of impression does that give visitors?
With that in mind, we can turn back to the original question: why is a website important for a winery?
- First of all, and most obviously - to display your services and products, the company's philosophy, awards, and acknowledgment, and anything else that may help draw in and interest visitors;
- Second, a website is a fundamental tool for dialogue with other players in the industry, especially importers and distributors, who need to know what a company's can offer. They primarily find this information on company websites: after a trade fair, for example, or after a tasting at an external restaurant, they'll look for more information about the company they just discovered on the web.
- Next, a website can also become a useful means of increasing sales, and not just through an online store, but also by disseminating the brand through the various digital communications challens;
- Finally, and this is a more advanced perspective, a website allows you to keep control of your communications. Even if a company doesn't talk about itself through an official channel, there will certainly already be someone else doing so elsewhere: from the various industry marketplaces to the websites of the restaurants that distribute the wine and consortiums the winery belongs to, etc.
Of course, in order to satisfy all of these elements, you will need a professionally-made website, that's as up-to-date as possible, and connected with other digital tools that can serve as a loudspeaker (like social media). It also needs to be managed by industry professionals, who should start with a concrete and organized development plan.
Just like in the real world, haphazard work won't get you far in the virtual world.
In your experience, what are the key features a winery's website needs to succeed?
When a client asks me that question, I try to find out more. It's kind of like if a friend were to ask, "What's the best trip within the United States?" There isn't a single "best" option, there's the best for you, the trip that best matches your interests (so you need to know what they are), the trip that fits your budget (so you need to be clear on it), the trip that satisfies your expectations (so you need to express them before setting off), and so on.
The question then becomes: what do you want your website to do for you? How much do you want to invest in it? What do you expect to gain from the work that goes into your website?
Generally, we can say that an effective website for a winery or vineyard needs to start with a good analysis of the business and the target audience. You need to be clear about the key words you want to base your work on. You need to ask yourself: what is it that should lead people to you? what do you want to be known for? Without clear answers to these questions, the project will be touch-and-go, and considering your company's finances are involved, that might not be the best choice.
Another key tools a website can offer vineyards (and others) is a blog. Only with a blog can you climb the search engine results latter and foster a real conversation with visitors. This allows you to keep them informed about your work, as well as giving you the option of using your content on other channels, increasing their potential.
Many wine cellars are amazed by the opportunities this tool provides, both in terms of communications and marketing. It means becoming a small-scale editor, which is a job that is very different than the everday work of many companies, wineries included.
Even so, there are many cases in which - thanks to a blog - companies have built great value around their brand, both in terms of direct business and indirect opportunies. The results won't be immediate, which is why, without the guidance of a professional or a trusted agency, many give up: it takes at least a year of work to see the first results.
Another fundamental element are the measurement tools, which allow you to keep an eye on everything the site is generating, its strengths, areas for improvement, results, competitors, and potential gaps to address. If you're not doing this yourself, you should ask your consultant to deliver reports at least once every three months. This lets you assess the work you're doing. Without effective, optimized measurement tools, you'll never know how your website is performing: it's like paying a salary to a total stranger without ever asking them for an account of their work.
Any final thoughts on how to create a successful website?
A succesful website is a website that delivers business advantages, meaning it grows your database of potential clients, improves your visibility and your brand's reputation, or increases direct and indirect sales.
Think of it as an investment, not as a purchase, and remember that yes, this is tool can deliver tangible results. That means that you need to start with a clear idea as the website's foundation: the marketing and strategic communications project. Only then can you move on to actually developing the website itself. It needs to be easy to use and navigate, but above all, it needs to serve your business goals.
My job, for example, isn't developing the website itself: it's to strategically design the web marketing plan and produce content that can intersect with potential clients' web searches, at various levels of expressed interest: from blog posts to interior page content and product pages. This strategic plan includes every step, from the right tone of voice for the client, to the channels to use to share messages, to the choice of images, etc. In order for all of this to be perfect, you first need to launch a website."
Thank you to Lisa for sharing her expert opinion on how useful a website can be for a winery. Thinking of creating your own website? Start now - with WebSite X5 Go, it's free!