5FORESTS Rethinks The Wine Marketing Model


5FORESTS Rethinks The Wine Marketing Model

Since the advent of social media and lightning fast internet connections, digital marketing has seemed like a necessary evil — murky, expensive, ever changing. And, sadly, the popular model of digital marketing supports this belief, with winery websites easily costing upwards of $20K. (Can you hear the inner monologue? “So, I can buy four new barrels to make more wine, or one new website that I won’t be able to update and will look old in three years?”)

5Forests director Polly Hammond explains how they have transformed winery marketing into a solution that brings more customers and protects cash flow.

5Forests - We're Changing the way Wine Business Looks at Marketing

Digital marketing is a tough subject for the wine industry. Why do you think that is?

Wineries shouldn’t feel bad — right now, it’s hard for most businesses! Digital marketing is a moving target, with customer expectations evolving faster than we’ve ever seen. For a business that doesn’t have a team of marketers and researchers and designers and developers on board, how are they supposed to respond quickly?

A great example: Google updates their algorithms 500-600 times per year — PER YEAR! — and several of these can impact how your winery is discovered by new customers. I don’t know a single winemaker in NZ who wants to track these changes and update their digital marketing, but I do know a lot of winemakers who want to get to the top of the Google search results.

Polly Hammond - 5Forests Director

Polly Hammond – 5Forests Director

What about social media? Doesn’t that help?

It can. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram — they each have their role in building your fanbase. Consistent storytelling, coupled with authentic interactions, build relationships. But this takes time, strategy, work. AND, to get it right, you need to know your audience.

Have you ever seen a brand where their social media communication felt completely off brand, like they didn’t know whom they were talking to? That’s one of the earliest challenges we address with new clients.

In the wine industry, we are bombarded by news about millenials. Is that why digital marketing is important?

Millenials are a big topic in our office, but not for the reason you may think. There has been a lot of push back by the wine industry, who thus far has not been impressed with the actual financial impact of this generation. So let’s reframe the discussion, and talk instead about how the millenials have helped ALL of us redefine brand communication (personally, I think marketing to millenials is a lot like marketing to the average Kiwi!): millenials can spot BS manipulative marketing straightaway, and if they feel like you are conning them, they will turn on you.

The corollary to this is that they expect a consistent experience with your brand no matter where they go, from Facebook to your online shop to your tasting room to meeting you at Pinot Palooza. This means is that you must have dynamic, evolving content and communication across all channels.

So what exactly does 5forests do?

If it involves an internet connection and customer engagement, we do it: websites, direct-to-consumer, virtual cellar doors, email newsletters, social media, content creation, the list goes on. We produce reports to show how your marketing is performing. We can even tell you which day and time you should be posting to access your fans in Blenheim, Auckland, Tokyo or any other location!

Now you have us curious, what is the 5forests story?

We just wanted our friends to succeed! We have many friends in the NZ wine community, and we noticed that many Kiwi wineries didn’t know how to get a handle on their digital marketing. They may have spent $10-$20K on a website, but then couldn’t maintain it; or they were paying for social media ads, but were unable to track ROI. At the time, I was working with artisans and boutique producers in the States and realized that what I was doing for those clients was what our Kiwi wine friends needed.  Our challenge was to how to make winery marketing affordable, as well as effective.

And you figured that out?

We did, and it only took a year of start-up hell to do so! We knew that niche expertise was key to our prices, so in that year, I studied with Tim Hanni MW, to make sure that I felt confident with wine business decisions; and we identified a team of wine writers, designers, and developers who produced great work together. By working exclusively with wine businesses, our discovery process is faster, we can source targeted data, we watch trends in wine consumer purchasing, and we stay current with our industry.

Then, we took a page from the tech industry and created a set-fee-per-month for our services. We don’t demand contracts, and each subscription is customized to suit the client’s needs, budget and goals. The wineries know exactly what it’s going to cost them every month, they know that their digital marketing is going to stay current and up-to-date and they won’t ever again reach that crisis point.

Any last words?

“When we started mulling this over, many moons ago, we had one goal: take the hassle out of all this “digital stuff” so that our clients could embrace one of the great joys of winemaking: talking to and engaging with people who love your work. Our data shows it’s working.”

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