Can social media help small producers who don’t have the resources for a big marketing push or the money to hire a high-profile ad firm? Perhaps, as these three examples from California demonstrate.
The largest of the trio is the family-owned Pedroncelli Winery in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley, which makes about 60,000 cases of wine a year. The other two are even smaller – one in little trafficked El Dorado County, northeast of Sacramento, and the other in Geyserville in Sonoma County. Each producer used social media to accomplish a specific goal: Pedroncelli to raise brand awareness, as measured by website visitors, during its 90th anniversary celebrations; the El Dorado County winery to increase direct to consumer sales; and the Geyserville producer to boost tasting room numbers.
The strategies in action
Understand, says Sonoma wine marketer Robert Larsen of the Larsen Projekt, that Facebook and the like are not a marketing panacea. “Social media has to be part of the mix,” says Larsen, who worked with Pedroncelli. “It can’t be the only thing in the mix. But social media can be a useful and encouraging part of the mix, and especially to show brand differences.” Hence the approach of each of the three wineries.
“We wanted to do something we hadn’t done before,” says Julie Pedroncelli St. John, whose family bought land in Dry Creek Valley in 1927 and had to sell grapes to stay in business during Prohibition. “We wanted to find a way to demonstrate our longevity and our quality, but to tell that story to people who didn’t know about us. That’s why we wanted to try social media. It does seem to be the new word of mouth.”
At Pedroncelli, the goal was to raise brand awareness as measured by website visitors, using a series of virtual tastings in 2017 and 2018 with 18 influential wine bloggers across the US. The bloggers’ audiences were different from the typical Pedroncelli customer – more diverse geographically and less California-centric. The winery sponsored virtual tastings with the bloggers five times in 2017, with plans for five more tastings this year. The tastings focused on pairing Pedroncelli wines with food, and included recipe cards for the bloggers. Costs were minimal – three bottles for each event; printing the recipe card; an ingredient from the recipe or a kitchen item; and a $25.00 gift card for recipe ingredients. This was in addition to Larsen’s fee for setting up the first couple of tastings.
The March 2018 tasting metrics showed new visitors to the winery website accounted for 77% of the site’s traffic in the week after the tasting. As a bonus, those new visitors accounted for 92% of the site’s dollar traffic during the same period. Says Ed St. John, Julie’s husband: “As we look forward, our goal is to expand this concept to our club members. We’ve found these to be a great way to engage people.”
The two smaller wineries are clients of Astra Digital Media in Napa, one in El Dorado County and the other in Geyserville. The El Dorado County winery has always held an annual two-day wine sale, using mailers and limited email for marketing, and no other social media. Astra added Facebook ads to the mix, and the results were impressive: A $6,000.00 budget, which included Facebook ads, had a 537% return on advertising spending – almost $40,000 in sales, with an average order of $277.00.
The Geyserville winery spent $250.00 per month for six months to boost tasting room traffic and convert those visitors to its wine club. The winery focused on Saturday and Sunday mornings with a sparkling wine theme, using Facebook ads and CellarPass, a winery guest management platform. The end result: almost $8,000.00 more in wine sales over the six months, for a cost of $1,500.00.
The difference between these approaches and what has been done in the past, say those interviewed for this story, is the use of metrics: they now know exactly what results they’re getting for their advertising spending. That’s something that wineries underestimate, says the CEO of Astral Digital, Ron Scharman. “The question they try to answer is not what’s the most effective advertising, but what’s the cheapest. Wineries will spend a fortune on the winery, but not 10 cents on marketing. They don’t need to spend money marketing to make them feel good. They need to spend money on marketing to deliver results.”