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Ben Salisbury

Ben Salisbury

Ben Salisbury is the founder and president of Salisbury Creative Group and a former sales executive with Constellation Brands, Ste Michelle Wine Estates, and Glazer’s Distributors.

For the last six years, Ben and his team have been providing new solutions, new skills and new strategies to struggling wine & spirits brands giving them the edge they need to survive and thrive in the new reality.

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5 Key Components of a Minimum Viable Winery (or Distillery) Website

Minimum Viable Winery Website -five things that every winery or craft distillery website should have
Minimum Viable Winery Website

Take your digital sales to new levels

I love the term “minimum viable product” (a.k.a. MVP) because I am one of those people who tends to tweak and tweak something attempting to achieve perfection before showing it to the world. I do not WANT to be this way, but alas, I am. So, the MVP concept is very freeing to me. The idea is to launch quickly with a minimum viable product and iterate and improve as quickly as possible from there. In this post, I’ll walk you through the 5 key components of a minimum viable Winery (or Distillery) website.

Knowing what that “minimum” is, however, can be tricky. This is especially true of websites because there are SO many variables. I am hoping this article will help those of you stuck in the vicious cycle of endless adjustments.

I think this information will also be useful for those of you who have already launched your website but are not getting the results you want. Think of this as a free audit or tune-up along with practical tips that will be super easy (and inexpensive) to implement.

Stop breathing your own exhaust

Before I jump into the practical stuff, I think it is worth mentioning, no one likes being told their website sucks. It is common to fall in love with your own brand and overlook some of its flaws. This is especially true if the object of your affection is something YOU created yourself. Therefore, it can be extremely valuable to get an outside, objective opinion.

It is not easy to see your website through the eyes of an average user if you try to do it yourself. But asking the opinion of a website marketing expert (or two) is very wise indeed.

man smelling wine glass Minimum Viable Winery Website -five things that every winery or craft distillery website should have
Stop Breathing Your Own Exhaust

The five things that every winery or craft distillery website should have

Below I have listed the five things that every winery or craft distillery website should have. Four of them are completely free and one is super inexpensive.

Ok so time for some “tough love.” If you are serious about using your website as a vehicle for selling more wine or spirits, these five things are not optional. Do not make the fatal assumption that these components do not matter simply because YOU are not familiar with them. As I explain each one, I will do my best to help you see the value in them.

1. The Facebook Pixel

Facebook conveniently and generously provides for its advertisers (large and tiny) a piece of code that you can put on every page of your website that allows Facebook to a) capture the identity of all your website visitors and b) create an audience for you to use in your ads called, “Last 30-days Web Visitors.”

It is common marketing wisdom that potential buyers need to be “touched” many times before they buy. To organize and plan a series of meaningful “touches,” you need to be able to reach (multiple times) those who have stopped to look at your website. This is not rocket science and you do not need to learn how to code. Check out this video to learn exactly what you need to do.

The Facebook Pixel Minimum Viable Winery Website -five things that every winery or craft distillery website should have
The Facebook Pixel

2. Google Analytics

The first thing I do every single morning is click on the link to my Google analytics and check on two things. How many people visited my website yesterday and what did they look at while they were on it? This is a daily “report card” of how my website is doing when it comes to meeting the needs and interests of my potential customers.

There are certainly other important metrics to study when it comes to Google Analytics, but this would be the minimum you should look at every day. If you do not have Google Analytics set up, please check out this article and remedy the situation as soon as possible. This is not something you should put off!

Referring to my earlier comment about “breathing your own exhaust,” knowing what your web visitors are (and are not) interested in is crucial to leveraging your website as a sales tool. Otherwise, why even bother with it?

Website Analytics /Minimum Viable Winery Website -five things that every winery or craft distillery website should have
Website Analytics

3. Email Signup Forms

I could really go off on a rant about this because I see so many wineries and craft distilleries missing out on a steady stream of new, engaged email subscribers because they fail to recognize the importance of this feature of their website. I can tell with one glance at their website it is not being taken as seriously as it should be.

Here is the quick and dirty: you need multiple places for people to sign up, you need to give them a few compelling reasons to sign up, and you need to make it as easy as possible to sign up.

You also need to have an automated “welcome” email that fires off immediately when a new subscriber enrolls. This welcome email should not try to sell them anything (unless you are offering a special discount for first time customers). The spirit of it should be “Let us show you around.” Include helpful links to various parts of your website such as recipes, pairings, articles, videos, etc. This would include links to your Facebook and Instagram pages.

Email Signup Form
Email Signup Form

4. Traffic Strategies

Just because you HAVE a website does not mean people will visit it. Now more than ever, you must actively work hard to get traffic. There are two types: paid and organic. Ideally, you will use a combination of both.

One of the best ways to get organic traffic is to focus on SEO (see #5 below) and the best way to leverage SEO is with lots of great content such as videos and articles (blog posts).

When it comes to paid traffic, I prefer running “traffic” ads on Facebook & Instagram as opposed to paid Google search simply because I find it infinitely easier. You will need to experiment with different audiences and messages but here are a few rapid-fire tips to help you get started.

First, make sure your traffic ads do not look like ads. A beautiful vineyard shot will “stop the scroll” but a beauty shot of your bottle will hasten it. Next, keep your message very concise and give viewers a reason to visit your site. Short videos work great for enticing people to visit your website.

Traffic Strategies> Minimum Viable Winery Website -five things that every winery or craft distillery website should have
Traffic Strategies

5. Basic SEO

I say “basic” because the complexity of SEO prevents most winery and craft distillery marketers from leveraging it and this need not be so. It is far better to employ a few of the basics right away than to wait for the courage to dive into the deep end of the SEO pool.

Here is why: in 1996, there were 250,000 other websites to compete with for eyeballs. Today, there are over 6 billion. Every minute of every day, people all over the world are searching for something online (most often via Google). Google’s search algorithms have become incredibly sophisticated and powerful. And yet even the tiniest family winery can participate and benefit from this very real and modern phenomenon.

The fulcrum on which SEO turns is keywords. While key word research CAN be complex it does not have be. I suggest you install the Chrome Extension Keywords Everywhere on your browser for free. Then just start typing various words and phrases such as “selling wine on premise” or “how to sell vodka” into the Google search bar. Keywords Everywhere will display all the top search words that are similar. Start using some of these in the “copy” or writing of your website.

Key Words Everywhere
Key Words Everywhere

Blog posts are another great way to utilize key words and related phrases to help your website appear higher in Google search results. And the keys to getting great search results with your blog posts are, a) “readability” (break up the text with headings, b) images, c) keeping your paragraphs short, and d) the use of internal and external links. Use THIS blog post as an example!

How does YOUR website stack up?

I recently spoke about these 5 key components of a minimum viable winery (or distillery) website at two different state-run winery organizations’ virtual conferences. In preparation for my talk, I did a little research. I inspected the websites of ten of the most popular wineries in those two states, according to the number of Google reviews.

What I found was shocking. Less than 1/3 of the wineries were able to check all five “boxes” contained in this article. My best interpretation of this discovery is many wineries relied too much on their tasting room foot traffic in the past, making it easy to neglect their online presence.

It is also possible that winery and distillery owners are so hyper-focused on the products they make. As a consequence, marketing and sales take a back seat. This is all too common in our industry, but things are changing and woe to those who hesitate to adapt.

Admitting you need help is the first step…

If only making great wines and spirits was enough. If only “unique” stories and provenance were enough. If only you could get more visitors to your tasting room. If only your distributors would sell more.

The game has changed. A lot. The battle is now a DIGITAL battle and the rules of engagement (as well as the weaponry) have changed. But the silver lining is that technology can be the great equalizer. It benefits the small producer as well as the large producer IF you know what to do. Small brands truly CAN box above their weight class by taking the necessary steps (most of them free) to up their game. I hope these 5 key components of a minimum viable website opened your eyes to the power your website can have in accelerating your sales.

The wine selling game has changed. Watch my video on what you NEED in today’s selling environment

A call to action:

If you are reading this post and would like someone from my team to look at YOUR website and provide recommendations for improvement (for free), we would be all too happy to do so. I am totally serious. Here is my email address: [email protected]. Just put “minimum viable website” in the subject line.

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