Over at the REthink blog Paul writes about an interesting email he received from Jennie Haug from Titus Vineyards. In it Jenny points Paul to an article on the resurgence of the “porch sitting” phenomenon in Sonoma County and says that “as a winery I think it’s worth some pondering to consider how to apply this idea of porch sitting to a website in terms of connecting and encouraging folks to come by and sit a spell.”
Paul responded by listing three ways to make your online home more porch-like.
How do you turn your site into a porch?
Change content regularly
Put items up exclusively for your club (remember, your club is not just an annuity program, it is really developed to REWARD your top customers)
Contact your customers often to invite them to YOUR PORCH (your winery)
Great advice. It’s no surprise though that the most obvious way to turn your site into a porch, i.e. a quasi-public space where you can engage and converse with the public, isn’t mentioned. Paul has recommended to clients in the past not to start blogs, arguing that the ROI on time invested isn’t great, and that a poor or neglected blog could do more to hurt your image than to help it.
But really, there is no better online analogue to a porch than a blog. Not only does a blog meet Paul’s requirement that your content be regularly updated (assuming that you do post regularly), but it is a place where you can actually have short chats with current and potential customers as well a spin a yarn or two. If you enjoy people, and liking people should pretty much be a prerequisite for working in the wine industry, then interacting with folks via a blog will come naturally. Just like a porch, a blog post is an informal visit where you can share gossip, talk about the weather, ask for feedback, or bounce opinions off your neighbors.
No one really knows yet what a successful blog can mean for a winery. They are just too new. Those who do blog often say that the benefit to them is indirect, and hard to quantify. However, I hardly think that this is a good reason not to have one. PR is nearly as impossible to quantify, and yet we as an industry wouldnâ€™t think of going without our bi-monthly attempts to get our names printed on some dead wood. Charity fundraisers, besides being great for the community, are often seen as ways to â€œbuild the brand,â€? but are supremely hard to justify solely on business grounds. Hospitality and customer service in general are hard to track, and more than anything else ours is a hospitality driven industry.
But there are things we can measure (comments, links, mailing list sign-ups, online orders) and Iâ€™m here to say that based on those measurables alone that having a blog, and putting in the effort to make it a good one, is well worth it.
Since I began the Capozzi Winery blog weâ€™ve had over 600 mailing list sign ups, over a hundred links to the blog, and 350 comments (not counting spam). And we don’t even have any wine to sell yet. Think how much better you could do with an established brand and an actual product to sell. Many of our sign ups were driven by a tee-shirt give away. Some close to me have suggested that, well, those are people looking for something free, not potential customers willing to shell out $45 for a bottle of wine.
I think thatâ€™s a foolish attitude. As I outlined here, people are more than willing to trade up for what they want regardless of how frugal they may seem when they are shopping for items that they arenâ€™t emotionally attached to. Our free tee-shirts are our first crack at creating a relationship and kindling a passion for our winery, our family and our wines. It is our first chance to make a case to these folks why they should take the time to trade up for our wine and, best of all, these are people that most in the luxury end of the industry are simply ignoring. If we can wow them with superior service and a great product (in this case a free organic cotton tee-shirt with our logo on it), they will be happy customers, perhaps even become brand ambassadors to their friends, and will be much more likely to buy our wines regardless of the price.
If we are going to grow demand for wine, we canâ€™t all keep fishing in the same pond. Your online porch is the best place to cast your line out into the deep waters.