What Wine + Digital Marketing Have in Common

If you know me, you know I love wine. And marketing. Those two are right up there behind God, family and friends. I’ve been fascinated with wine ever since my parents took me on a wine tasting trip through Napa Valley almost 15 years ago. It was amazing. It was fall, which is my favorite time of year anyway, but to see the wineries going through harvest and crush was an experience I’ll never forget. There is just a distinct feeling in the crisp air when it’s harvest time. Excitement. Anticipation. Camaraderie. We had an absolute blast. And now that both of my parents are gone, it is one that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

About 5 years after that I landed a pretty awesome job as an assistant winemaker at a boutique winery in Hood River, Oregon where I stayed, learned and tasted for 4 years. (If you are ever near the Columbia River Gorge, go check out their amazing wine scene and stop by Wy’East Vineyards). What I learned was that there is a unique blend of science and creativity in winemaking… which is pretty similar to digital marketing.

Both have a foundation, a process and an end goal- but there are many variables and each element dictates the journey and the ending.  

The Science

First, let’s talk about the science aspect of both…

In wine you start with the terroir, which comes from the French word terre, meaning “land”. Simply put, this is where the grapes are grown. Simple enough, right? Not really… you see, there are different elements that affect the soil such as elevation, climate, vineyard slope and the abundance (or lack) of minerals in the soil. Keep in mind this has nothing to do with anything that humans do such as vine training or irrigation. And it can vary in close proximity. For instance, the winery that I worked at had two different vineyards only a few miles from each other and you could taste the difference. The one at higher elevation with a south sloping vineyard was more robust, full of flavor and a more polished & lengthy finish. The vineyard at lower elevation was great, but the flavors and notes just weren’t as complex as the other.

This can easily happen in business- similar companies have similar goals but their end results are so different from each other. Why? Their foundation and process(s).

In winemaking the terroir is critical because it gives you an idea of the different nuances that you can expect in the finished wine, from the acidity to the alcohol level. Depending on what that terroir is known for and the grape itself- these different elements will dictate the flavors, mouthfeel and style of wine.

How does this correlate with digital marketing? Well, the terroir in digital marketing is the different elements that you’re going to utilize in your marketing strategy – your foundation. Where are you starting? Who are you trying to reach? What tools will you be using? i.e. PPC, social media, inbound marketing, etc.? What are your goals? What problem are you trying to solve for your customer? What do you want to see in the end product/result?

Different elements will dictate different outcomes, but it all starts with your foundation.

The Creativity

In marketing, creativity is what will get you places. It’s how you can stand out from your competitors. But how do you do it? Where are you now? Where do you start? What tools and strategies are going to help you break away from your competitors?

The same is true in winemaking- what can you do to produce a wine that keeps the traditional aspects that people love, but also add in new techniques that make it a stand out wine that people will remember? (And therefore, remember your winery and become, not only loyal customers, but brand advocates?)

This creativity is up to you (whether you’re a small business owner or winemaker). You get to decide and I think this is sometimes where SMB owners get caught up. They’re unsure of where to start, how to incorporate new tools and who they’re talking to.

In winemaking this could be letting your grapes sit on their skins for 5 days as opposed to 2 to get a deeper color in your Pinot Noir, or putting half of your Chardonnay in steel and half in oak to get a balanced wine with qualities from both. Perhaps it’s blending two grape varietals that don’t usually go together and you end up with a truly unique wine.

In marketing your small business this could be creating a Youtube channel to really connect with your audience. It could be creating an awesome customer loyalty program. It could be a giveaway or a contest. It could be creating new events that showcase not only your products, but your business’s personality. In my first small business we hosted Brewmaster Dinners where we would pair our craft beer with our seasonal vegetables at a local restaurant.

So many amazing memories from these events! But, it was something we had never done before and were pretty nervous to do- what if the food (we cooked) sucked? What if we didn’t have enough for everyone? (We had absolutely no culinary training) What if nobody came? What if they hated the beers we chose to pair with the food? And a million other doubtful questions, but we put ourselves out there anyway and people came. And requested more 🙂

Another bootstrapped marketing tactic we used was to reach out to popular beer bloggers in our region. We hosted a Beer Blogger Open House weekend where we invited both popular and newer bloggers to come out to the farm and taste all the beers we had on tap. This ended up getting us not only on popular blogs and increasing our SEO (Search Engine Optimization), but soon after that we were featured in publications like The Oregonian, Portland Monthly and The Seattle Times.

These creative ideas don’t have to be off the wall crazy, they are meant to help you really connect with your customers and potential customers, because that is what is going to grow your business!

Set your foundation and then get creative on how you are going to achieve your goals.  

Don’t give up.

Like a fine wine, getting results from your marketing efforts takes time. It’s not instant. The best champagnes take years to produce. Start where you are, do what you can and keep making improvements along the way. 

There will be a lot of testing (this is true in both winemaking and entrepreneurship- just in case you’re thinking of making wine after you read this blog 🙂 ) Some things will work and resonate with your audience and some won’t. That’s part of the process. Write them down. Look at your metrics- you’ll see trends, dips and other vital information that will help you define your marketing goals. It can be frustrating, but it can also be fun- enjoy the ride!

If you’d like some help with your foundation, I’ve created some free resources to help you get started! They help you define your goals, discover who your ideal customer is and create your unique messaging so you know how to talk to them! Head over here to learn more and grab them.

As always- feel free to reach out with any questions or comments that you have- I honestly love talking about business (and wine) and helping other entrepreneurs grow!

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