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March 16, 2007


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Totally agree with you Lenn, and share your pain. I'm sorry but there is no excuse for something like Brian Loring's website in 2007 (1997, maybe... have a look: http://www.loringwinecompany.com). And he's a cult winemaker selling juice for $50 a pop and up. Many others are much worse from a customer service and brand standpoint. Your example of not calling customers (or bloggers) back is unacceptable no matter how bad or out of date their website is; it's plain rude.

The bottom line for me is that wineries and marketing don't often come together except for very large brands and websites are thought of as projects and not part of an ongoing process of customer acquisition and retention.

You've struck a nerve here... I'll continue my rant at my own blog.

I've got to agree with both of you, why have a site that encourages interactivity if you won't update it, or respond to people who visit? You would never ignore a customer who came into your tasting room....oops, scratch that, that's a rant for a different day!

PS Lenn, you'd be surprised to know how many people older than "your generation" use the Internet in just way you desribe, my mother (76 years old) for instance....

And how about annoying online stores that list available wine, and then when you order it tell you it's out of stock?!? Must everyone be a jerk?!?

I can't agree more with your rant. In the Finger Lakes, there are several wineries that fall very short with their webpages.

Take, for instance, Ravines. The owner is a French-educated oenologist who used to be the head winemaker for Dr. Frank's. His wine is extremely good and his style is very unique. Several of his 2005 wines received 90+ ratings from all the usual suspects, which is no small feat for a FL winery no matter one's opinion of ratings.

The webpage, at www.ravineswinecellars.com, has not been updated in over a year. Beyond a sleek frontpage, the site is basically useless except for the phone number, map, and address. It breaks my heart because I know that his growing following would increase expotentially if a word-of-mouth recommendation was followed up with an informative and order-ready website.

I'm not trying to pick on this one winery (an excellent winery at that) but I think this example strongly illustrates Lenn's point. There are so many great institutions that fail in the website department. In my opinion, it is better not to have a website than to have one that poorly conveys quality, information, or is badly oudated.

Perhaps this is a generational problem, but I also think it is inherent in those businesses which have an on-site focus such as a winery or restaurant. Since commerce occurs on the premises, maybe there is a lack of recognition about perceptions that are created outside of the creative process.

You've obviously struck a nerve with this topic, a daily frustration of my own, to which I say amen. The quickest, most direct route to marketing hell is big promise, little delivery. Actually better for the offenders if they hadn't tried at all.

And, btw, Happy Birthday! Whatta ride...

There isn't any excuse for not returning an email or phone call.

I understand everyone's frustration about websites for wineries and restaurants. I know a restaurant I've been trying to get to update their site for years. They have this "famous award winning Website company" that did their site, and updating it is costly and a problem since the code is so complicated. Did I mention that the website company is on the east coast?

From a wineries point of view there are a couple of problems. From what I've heard, it's the same with restaurants.

First, it is very difficult to find a great website company/person. There are a bunch of companies out there that will get your site going and make it all pretty with buttons and pictures when YOU provide them with all the content and the details.

I've built sites before, and can tell you most of the time and effort comes from providing content. Winemakers and owners are expected to have the time to do that (they don't). So they feel like they spend all this time actually doing the website themselves (in theory), and the website company just posts it.

That's where some people who know a thing or two about computers think they can do their own site. But they don't really have time/knowledge to make it pretty, or keep it updated (kinda busy making wine and traveling all over selling it).

Then updating your site can be like getting a bill though Congress. All you want is a current release and tasting notes posted, but the website company/person acts like you have to build the site all over again! (been there)

I finally found a GREAT website guy, and I no longer have any of these problems. When I notice another wineries' site is old, and I know them, I ask why they haven't updated and I get one of the reasons I posted above.

In my opinion, the problem isn't the wineries, it's the lack of website companies/people who are willing to MAINTAIN a website on a monthly basis, rather than just sitting back waiting for the customer to call them to 'redo' their site. It's not an excuse, it's just the reason.

Well, you already know I agree with you on this one, Lenn, as I tried to build a publication around evaluating winery Web sites, which turned out to more interesting to me than it was to wineries.

Probably the number one problem we observed with winery Web sites was "freshness" - they simply aren't kept up to date. There are two keys to success: a site which is easy to update (i.e. designed to be updated without costing a fortune), and a plan for regular updates.

Your rant is about a larger issue - responding to inquiries (whether from the press or the public). Seems the winery in question simply has bad manners (and no common sense). You might as well shame them publicly - it appears they don't care anyway.

A question for Tracy of Selene Wines: how much cost/effort does it take for you to keep the Selene site/blog up-to-date?

Well, why don't these restaurants or wineries BLOG?? Even Blogger does automatic domain referrals. If you own your domain name, then no problem. If not, and you want people to visit you via www.bobsrestaurant.com and not bobsrestaurant.blogspot.com then buy the domain, set up a blog, have the blog point to your domain and hey presto, you have an easily update-able place to post whatever you want to post. OK, so it doesn't have Flash. Right now my pet peeve is with wineries who put Flash on their front page and after 2 minutes of annoying visual fade-ins and have absolutely nothing of interest on any other page or just "page under construction." AARGH.

As far as staffing goes, my websites are about as understaffed as they get - it's ME! If you can write a two page wine club newsletter every other month, you can keep a web site updated, in principle.

But I also understand the problem of dealing with the traditional web designer - getting the darn site updated without paying an arm and a leg. I once paid a well-known design house to build us a site - and I specifically asked for a site that I could update myself on a weekly basis. I got the exact opposite and tossed it all in the trash and did my own (somewhat crappy but functional) design.

If someone asks me today, I tell them to get a blog site and use it as their web site. At least they can keep it fresh and alive themselves, which is way more important than flashy graphics, etc.

I'd invite any wineries that are local to LENNDEVOURS to contact me...We've setup tons of websites for restaurants where they can easily update their own content whenever they want...Almost every time for under $2k, and most for under $1k...It really doesn't need to be any more than that...Honestly, I don't mean for this post to be spam-my, but companies that charge more than that for something simple drive me nuts.

I can't explain how frustrating it is when a friend says "hey, I had this wine, check it out". Before I go to buy it I check their website for some info on it, only to find that the most recent vintages they have online are 1998.

There are 5 key things that I think belong on every winery website, and most of them don't come anywhere near having them all;
1-News section [blog] (having an event at the winery, new cool release out?)
2-Store - and keep it current (Simple enough. Most local wines can't be found in stores, and I can't always drive out east. Make it easy for me to get).
3-Wine Club. If you've got one, let me know. Let me sign up. Don't ask me to call, that's so 1995.
4-About your winery. 2 Paragraphs will do. I need a hook to get attached to you. Give it to me.
5-Description of wines - and keep it current. When I go in the tasting room, I get at least 2 sentences about each wine. Why can't you have them on your website? Label image, as well.
6-(Goes with 5). If you've got a "sell sheet" that you use to get your wines into liquor stores with extended info, why not put it up on the site?
7-Address, Phone, Email, Directions from the LIE.
(ok, that was 7 things)

I hear your pain and we give wineries dynamic tools to update their sites. The reasons behind this gap are really about the lack of emphasis of direct sales and marketing. The website usually falls in the arena of being maintained by an administrator (no expertise), a tasting room manager (no time), or in the marketing department (no priority). I hope your blog helps emphasize the need to focus on the website as an extension of the brand and tasting room. Direct sales and marketing are the future of the wine business and it all starts with the website.

Inertia - Powering the Wine Revolution

---Paul Mabray - CEO

I have mixed feelings about jumping in on this thread, which is appropriate, since I have designed quite a few winery and restaurant websites, and some are always fresh, while same never are. I have some clients who understand the importance of keeping their sites current and work with me diligently to keep them that way. I have others who only have websites because somebody told them they should and cannot be bothered to give me current info even if I pester them for it. And I have many more that fall somewhere in between.

Paul is correct that his expensive solution can help a winery stay caught up, as can any good custom or open-source CMS; ElJefe is also correct that a free blog software can do the same; or you can use a good web guy, as Tracy suggests, or you can invest in a copy of Contribute or Dreamweaver. But ultimately the method isn't important. What matters is that the winery, restaurant, or any other business understands the importance of their website, and is committed to keeping it both current and fresh. Once you have that commitment, the rest is easy.

DrD. - I always suggest blogging to wineries because it can do wonderful things for both traffic and search engine results, but it's just not right for most people because they can't or won't commit the time to it. In fact, at least half of the clients I have who have blogs should pull the plug because they don't post often enough.

Nice rant, Lenn!

Couldn't agree more with your post and the comments from others.

The industry (i.e., 3-tier) has, it seems to me, trained winemakers not to think about or see themselves as responsible for TELLING THEIR OWN STORY (i.e., marketing their stuff).

But the only way to get attention in a world with such an abundance of wine choices (especially for small wineries) is for the winemaker to invite people behind the bottle to interact with the people and the land behind the wine. Wineries need to own that (not that others won't assist them, of course).

You wouldn't outsource to someone else proposing to your girlfriend would you? or sitting in for you on a job interview?!

Reminds me of my rant last month and I feel your pain.

But on the other hand, the ones who do get it will end up on top when the internet takes over, and those that don't will wish they had. I deal with it everyday and as I start to try to help wineries here in Spain to understand, I need to remember it's going to take awhile before they all "get it".

Cheers, ryan

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