Quick: Describe your company in 10 seconds…

You’re traveling on business and a stranger asks, ”what do you do?” If you don’t have a good answer—the so-called “elevator pitch”—this post is for you.

For many wineries, our focus, the difficult part of the elevator pitch is not what to say, it’s fitting it into 10-15 seconds. But the art of clear communication is simplicity. Many wineries err on the side of completeness because they don’t want to leave things out. But a complex answer is difficult for the receiver to remember; a confused mind says “no.” And for many wineries who rely on direct-to-consumer sales – that is, most wineries—they’ve just missed an opportunity to interest a prospective customer.elevator-pitch2014

For some unknown reason – an improving economy or perhaps a hyper competitive retail market — we have had a lot of requests lately for our Brand Consulting Service. Coming up with an elevator pitch is part of these client projects, and for winery brands, here are some tips:

  1. Anchor your winery in a wine region.
  2. Tell them one compelling point about your winery that doesn’t necessarily have to do with the juice.
  3. Invite them to engage in your brand.

Let’s break these down. First, most wine consumers naturally associate a winery with a geographic location. Sounds simplistic, but if you’re located in the Willamette Valley, say so. But also add “Oregon” in case they don’t know where that “Valley” is. So, you might say, “I work for Winery ABC in Willamette Valley, Oregon.”

Second, tell them one interesting fact. And please avoid winery clichés like “handcrafted” and “artisanal,” or throw-away words like “quality.”  You might say, for example, “We were the first Oregon Pinot Noir served at the White House.” Or, maybe, “We started our winery with a group of friends from college.” Something interesting to the listener, something they can relate to. And never underestimate the power of the personal story; if you used to be a rocket scientist, that’s interesting.

Third, close the deal. Wine brings people together, so invite them to visit your winery, in person or online. “Next time you’re in Portland, we’re just a short drive from downtown.”

Let’s put it together: “I work for Winery ABC in Willamette Valley, Oregon. I started the winery with a group of friends from college and we’re best known for Pinot Noir. Next time you’re in Portland, come by for a visit.” Ok, maybe it’s longer than 10 seconds, but you get the idea.

Simple, colloquial, but strategic and welcoming.

5 Tips on Photographing A Wine Event

Sometimes you may not have enough time to hire a photographer while other times it just doesn’t work in your budget. Assuming you have a decent camera and not just a camera phone, here are a few tips to prepare you to photograph your event.

Step 1: Plan accordingly

Research, research, research! It is always best to visit the venue prior to the actual date of the event. You can get a feel for the lighting, the best perspectives, areas where you can move around freely and run over compositions in your head. Like any project, the more knowledge you have the better prepared you will be, so do the same here.

Step 2: Prepare your shot list

FloorPlan Shotlist

After taking a look at your venue, you may want to do a quick run through of the images you will need to tell your story. Whether it’s unveiling a new product, a tasting event or blessing of the grapes your images will need to reflect the scenes taking place. Here are a few shots you don’t want to leave out.

  • Exterior. Most people forget to get shots of the exterior building. These can also tell a lot about the event. Was it an event at a well-known restaurant? Does it capture the hustle and prestige of a big city like New York City? Maybe play up the beautiful landscape of the countryside? Even if the exterior isn’t that pretty, take the shot. You don’t have to use it if you don’t want to, but you may not be able to go back again.
  • Interior. Arrive early to snap some close-up, detailed shots of the décor. Lots of time and effort went into decorating this event; do it justice by capturing little details.
  • Shoot establishing shots from the corners or someplace high up. Is there a balcony? Or a stage? Can you get a shot of the entire crowd? These are establishing shots that show the entire venue. Take one before anyone arrives and another when the place is packed.
  • Profiles. The looks and expressions on the attendees will tell a lot about how the event is going. Laughter, excitement and other reactions to the event can really show how successful it was.

Step 3: Shoot a lot

Great shots can pass at a moment’s notice and you will not get a second chance. Take as many photos as possible to capture spontaneous actions. Most digital cameras have a continuous shot mode where multiple shots can be taken at once; learn this setting. Even after the event is over, stick around; a smaller crowd can give you more intimate shots you were not able to collect earlier.

Step 4: Avoid the common mistakes

Remember you are not here as a guest, don’t shoot what they normally see. Many people at wine tastings have their back to the room as they hover over the wines spread out on a table before them. But we don’t want to see their backs! Navigate to areas guests are not normally allowed to get interesting perspectives. Do not take a million photos of just the bottles being served. We see this so many times. Take photos of the bottles to have them, but focus on the broader event.

Step 5: Know where the photos will be presented

It is always best to shoot for the highest resolution photos. You can always lower the resolution of your photo for the preferred outlet (like a website), but you can never add detail to a low quality one. Knowing the final placement and audience of the photo will also aide in preparing. Certain blogs and social media outlets have different requirements on dimensions depending on the image.


With very little effort, a nice lens and a big memory card, you can document all the details of your events without spending a fortune on photographers. While this won’t make you a pro and there are times where a pro is certainly needed (dark rooms, evening events), this should be enough to help you better document your events.

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Instagram vs. Vine: Where to Share Video During Harvest?


What’s the best way to give your fans a behind the scenes look at harvest? Video! With harvest upon us, wineries across the country will document. This year we have a few platforms to choose from when posting videos: Facebook-owned Instagram or Twitter’s Vine. But where is the best place to share your awesome harvest footage? Let’s explore:

Instagram Vine
Length of video 15 seconds; non-looping 6 seconds; looping
Sound Yes Yes
Share-ability Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, email, Foursquare Facebook, Twitter
Embeddable No Yes
Geotagging Yes Yes
Ability to delete clips Yes No

Now, what do you need to take into account for your harvest videos?

Video Length –
This is one of the biggest differences. For Instagram users, the longer video is a plus when it comes to capturing more detail. However the shorter video time that Vine allows (and the looping feature) can be seen as a challenge for the most creative users.

Verdict: Instagram works great for showing the process of how things work. During harvest there are a lot of steps along the way. Create a video that shows the harvested grapes as they go from the bin to the destemmer to the fermentation tank. Fans will get a better idea of the sequence of events.

Features –
Instagram users are familiar with adding filters to photos and giving them a cool vintage look. This same feature that made Instagram a popular photo sharing platform can be used to spruce up videos. For Vine, the feature that makes it unique is the looping video. The 6 second video automatically re-starts once it’s finished giving the illusion that it never really ends (which makes for some fun videos: http://mashable.com/2013/06/09/perfect-loop-vine/)

Verdict: It depends. Both of these features give their respective platforms it’s “cool factor”. Enhance the look of your video with one of Instagrams filters. Feeling creative? Attempt a seemless looping Vine video in 6 seconds or less.

Editing capabilities – Both platforms allow you to shoot disjointed clips and string them together. However, with Instagram you can easily delete the last segment you shot. Vine doesn’t allow any editing features.

Verdict: Thinking you might need a few takes? Use Intagram, purely because Vine doesn’t offer editing.

Embeddable –
Do you plan on using these videos on your website or blog? How about any sales training materials? You will most likely want the ability to embed videos elsewhere.

Verdict: This is a huge advantage that Vine has over Instagram. Embed harvest videos onto your website or blog to keep content fresh for new visitors to your sites.

Both apps will continue to thrive, for different uses. Vine users (just hit the 40 million mark this week) see the time constraint as a creative challenge [See our creative attempt at a Vine video just after it launched: https://vine.co/v/bP2Ya1etDZB]. Instagram’s faithful following (now up to 130 million monthly users) are familiar with the platform, want the freedom to create longer videos and jazz them up with filters.

For wineries, especially during harvest, efficiency will always win. Go with Instagram. The longer videos allow more time to capture the harvest process and the easy integration.

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Developing Your Stable of Press Contacts


It may seem obvious, but when it comes to your press strategy, there is absolutely no substitute for a ‘Rolodex’ of contacts. While the physical Rolodex might not exist anymore, the idea of nurturing a stable of key contacts is very much alive and essential for a successful press strategy. blank-office-rolodexJust how you do that is where the rubber hits the road.

Think of your press contacts as someone you met on an online dating site. You know a little bit about them (and mostly what they want you to know) and you want to get to know them better. If this were Match.com, you’d ‘wink’ and write a clever note and wait for their response. For a writer you want to get to know, it’s as simple as saying hello and explaining how you think you can be of help to them. Here are some others tips that we use to nurture our press relationships.

Tips to keep in mind:

  1. Do Your Homework: Are there writers you love reading? What have they been writing? Can you see yourself or your winery in their column? If so, tell the writer just that. Keep your message short, but meaningful. Share what it is that you think is relevant to their readers.
  2. IRL: How many of the press you talk to by email, social media, and phone have you met face-to-face? Make it a goal to meet for coffee or a glass of wine. Take advantage of your market travel schedule to meet newspaper columnists and bloggers in smaller markets too.
  3. Start with your Supporters: Is there a writer you find yourself effortlessly communicating with? Suggest a time to go out for coffee or a drink to discuss what they’re working on. In addition to talking about your own clients, talk about other relevant brands as well. It’s important to be a trusted source within your industry.
  4. Beyond the Job: WHO are your best contacts really? Do they have a day job? Find out their hobbies and interests. Perhaps knowing that they’re an amateur mixologist or an avid gardener will help a future campaign.
  5. Mix it Up: While you’ll want to plug some of your latest projects, don’t have it be the only thing you talk about. Mix up the conversation by talking about work, life, etc. You’ll get a better sense of who this person is, and in the end, what types of stories they’re looking for.
  6. If you don’t ASK, you won’t GET: Depending on how the conversation is going, be honest and ask them what they think of a particular story idea. Consider the feedback they give you and use your judgment as to what to do with it.
  7. Say Thanks: There is no substitute for common courtesies. Make sure you send a brief e-mail the next day thanking them for taking the time to meet. Provide any information on specific projects you discussed and ask for any material they mentioned giving you.

If you work in PR and marketing, chances are you’ll get to know a lot of people over time. It’s so important to establish relationships both online and offline and try to make them as meaningful as possible. The journalist will appreciate your interest in knowing who they write for and what they have on their radar. Watch your results grow as your relationships do.

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Are Trade Tastings Dead?


Everyone wants to sell more product or break into a new market, and doing events specifically for the trade can be very beneficial to achieving this goal. But like press tastings, their structure and design should be considered carefully to have maximum effect. The audiences are different, so the events should be too.

Ask yourself these questions before conceiving your event:

  • Goals/Target Audience: Defining your goal also helps you to define your target audience. Is your goal:
    • To increase distribution or imports to the US? (Note: if the wines you are seeking to exhibit are not currently imported into the US, getting them into the country is a challenge that will require careful planning)
    • To boost sales of wines in new or existing markets?
    • To increase your presence on or off premise?
  • Offering: What will you show? Make it clear what is on offer; guests will be frustrated if they cannot find what is useful to them. Will you be including:
    • An entire region’s wines or a smaller sub-set?
    • Wines from only one winery or company?
    • Those which are already locally available or those which are seeking distribution?
      • Make sure all wines are clearly labeled and identified in an accompanying tasting booklet

Trade Tasting Event

  • Added Value: What else can you offer? What tools or additional experiences can you provide to capture people’s attention? Strong educational elements, like a seminar, encourage attendance and take-aways with wine names and prices are key.
  • Attendance: Recruit local experts and create ambassadors; work with the local industry to spread the word. Consider your goals for quantity vs. quality
    • You want visibility but having a large turn-out for the sake of numbers doesn’t necessarily help you reach your goal
      • What we’re seeing: reception style trade tastings are no longer effective at reaching top buyers in major markets
    • A more intimate gathering of key people can be more impactful for your product than a large event

One last Note: Keep the atmosphere light and engaging for your attendees. It is work, but doesn’t need to feel like it. Get them excited about your wines, and be sure to offer them something good to eat!

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Making Events Work for You

Every year it seems that we are approached by more and more wine events asking our clients to buy sponsorships at consumer events but, at the same time, we and our clients become more and more skeptical. In most cases, the events offer a “sampling opportunity” but unless there is a larger strategy to make the event to drive sales, sampling can just be another word for wasted product. However, there are ways to get benefit beyond the event itself. Here are some ways we do it:

Wine Tasting Event

  • MAKE A BIG IMPRESSION: Big events are expensive and it’s easy to get lost among the crowd at a “grand tasting,” but for launching a new product or positioning, a high-level sponsorship can be worth the spend.

EXAMPLE: Burger Bash at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival for Rosé d’Anjou. This off-dry rosé was once very popular in the U.S. but now it needs a re-launch. Burger Bash is a high profile event for 3,000 people, where 35 celebrity chefs from around the country compete for the best burger in the show. As exclusive wine sponsor,  we made sure each chef got a bottle, and we collected contact information so that sales teams could follow up. In addition, the event is well chosen to communicate Rosé d’Anjou’s positioning as a fun wine for casual drinking, grilling and outdoors. We poured 82 cases worth of samples in 3 hours.

  • GIVE VISITORS SOMETHING EXTRA: Exclusive sponsorships are not appropriate or affordable for all clients, and we need ways to stand out from the other tables in those big rooms where thousands of guest are trying to taste as many wines as possible. Give them something they are not getting at other tables, and that doesn’t just mean swag.

EXAMPLE: Loire Valley Wines at Wine Riot. Loire Valley wines are gaining in popularity but they are still not widely known, so education is essential. We give our staff talking points for each wine that are clear, memorable and can be delivered in a minute or less. They include the grapes, the style and a suggested food pairing for each wine. Of course, if visitors are interested, we can tell them much more and people love learning something new, but you only have a few seconds to get them interested.

  • KEEP IT SIMPLE: Too much variety is confusing. After four wines, people want to move on to the next table. Don’t ask people to remember too much.
  • MAKE THE EVENT WORK FOR YOU: But how will visitors remember what they have learned once they move on to the next table? We print pocket sized cards for all events with the names of all the wines, prices and where they are locally available. This may seem obvious, but it is surprising how few brands do it. If visitors cannot buy on the spot, we need do all we can to remind them what they tasted and where they can buy it.

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Message in a Bottle: What You Need to Know About Creating Successful Press Sampling Campaigns

We’ve learned a thing or two about press samples. What’s effective. What’s not. When to be creative, and when it’s necessary to only send wines with technical data, and nothing more. Excuse the pun, but don’t box your wines into the same sample strategy every time.

Since the primary goal of every sampling campaign is to generate positive reviews or stories about your wine, it’s important that your shipment stand out from the other 100+ samples press get each week. That requires some creativity (don’t mistake that to mean it can’t also be simple), relevancy, solid execution, and that special “wow-factor.” Here are some rules to live by:

Wine Writers

  • What’s Your Intended Outcome? Before executing on your sampling campaign, think about what you want to accomplish. Do you just want reviews? Make a bold statement? Predict or create a new wine trend? Raise eyebrows? Your goals should always determine the path forward on how elaborate or creative to get.
  • Think Outside the Box: The focus shouldn’t always be about what’s in the bottle. Consider clever, yet appropriate ways to connect your wine to newsworthy current events, food pairing trends, or consumer consumption data. For example, if you’re releasing a new Moscato, insert relevant market data on the rise of Moscato. If you really want to stand out, take a non-traditional wine industry approach by creating a bartender tool kit with some delicious Moscato cocktail recipes.
  • First Impressions Matter: If this is the first time you’ve sent samples, make sure everything matches what you want your wines to convey. There are no second chances, so your first impression will leave a lasting memory – good or bad. Pay attention to every detail, from what you say to the look and feel of the material. If it doesn’t match the wine’s branding, it won’t have the desired impact.
  • Go Big or Go Home: If you’re samples have a theme, make sure every aspect of the mailer reflects that. If you’re encouraging entertaining at the beach, wrap a beach towel around the wine instead of foam inserts, or use a tote bag instead of shipping boxes. Create an experience beyond just tasting the wines.
  • Look Outside the Wine Industry Bubble: Wine marketers take for granted all the alternative media who are not accustomed to receiving wine samples as frequently as their wine writing peers. Match your pitch or theme to writers covering those topics. For example, if you’re wine is on the pricier side, send it to editors at luxury publications who cover expensive watches, purses, etc.
  • Don’t Forget We Live in a Twitter World: Make sure the look/feel of your sample mailer is something you wouldn’t be embarrassed if it appeared on Facebook or Twitter. In this day of 24/7 news cycles, media are impulsive and may want to post something immediately. Be prepared and ready to respond.
  • Famous Last Rules: Trust us, writers HATE receiving wine samples that are unavailable in their market. So, make sure to confirm your distribution before mailing out samples. Finally, make sure you’re not breaking any laws by shipping wines to states that ban wine direct-to-consumer shipments.

Wine Writers
For an example of a successful creative sample mailer campaign that was graded an A+ by the media, visit http://www.businessinsider.com/austerity-wine-unwrapping-2013-2?op=1

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Wi-Fi in Winery Tasting Rooms

How does offering public Wi-Fi in your tasting room affect your online engagement? Our curiosity led us to drive up and down Napa Valley’s Highway 29 testing public Wi-Fi connection at 20 of the major wineries. What we found was only four out of the 20 wineries surveyed offered free public Wi-Fi (No passwords required). As smart phones have increasingly become a staple of everyday life, offering free Wi-Fi can benefit a winery in a few simple ways:

Wi-Fi in the Valley

  • Social ‘check-ins’ – The act of checking in allows visitors to share their location with friends. Check-ins are a great form of indirect marketing for wineries and boost engagement on your brand’s Facebook page. When someone checks in at your winery a story is created in their newsfeed, which expands the reach of your brand to people outside your existing fan base.
  • Online sharing – Uploading photos to Facebook, writing reviews and Tweeting have all become “normal” ways people share their lives and experiences. Facebook and other channels act as digital diaries chronicling where people travel and what they are eating and drinking. Social media is built for sharing the exact type of experiences people have while visiting wineries. Offering free Wi-Fi can facilitate the free word-of-mouth exposure social media provides for your brand.
  • Building relationships – One of the goals of tasting rooms is to foster relationships with customers not only when they visit but also when they leave. Having Wi-Fi in the tasting room makes it easier for people to get online to ‘like’ a Facebook page, join a wine club or sign up for an email newsletter – all easy ways to stay connected to the brand after leaving the tasting room.
  • Providing information – The internet is where most people turn to answer questions and research unfamiliar things. If a customer would like to find your wines near them or read more about your current vintage on your website, then making it easier for them to connect to the internet is going to give them access to information and lead to a deeper involvement with your brand.


Why do we want people online in the tasting room versus simply enjoying the experience? The reality is we want them to do both, but making it easier for customers to engage with you online is something wineries should want to facilitate. Even if your winery has good cell reception there isn’t always the best coverage for visitors trying to connect to the internet. This is an area of opportunity for wineries to support their current marketing efforts in a simple way: create an environment for people to easily engage online.

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Is your website share-able?

Optimizing your website for social media can help people find your social media sites and sign up for your updates by following or fanning you there. This can also help generate more interest in your content and traffic to your site, social media platforms and online store through social media posts and updates. Here are three areas that you should review to make sure your content is able to be shared easily and effectively:

  1. Add social media icons: Dedicate a certain area on your website to link to your social media platforms. This can be as simple as the icon at the bottom or top of each page on your website as this example from the Crate & Barrel website demonstrates. We recommend putting these icons in a very visible spot, such as the top of the page or next to the login section (if you have one).

  2. Add social media “plug-ins” (3rd party applications that link your website to social media platforms) so people can easily interact with your website through their personal social media profiles.
    • Facebook’s social plug-ins offer a variety of options including: commenting (so people can comment as their Facebook account), Facebook sharing (so people can share something they like from your site with the click of a button) and the option to like your Facebook page from your website.
    • Twitter sharing is also a great tool on your website so people can easily share on Twitter if they like something from your site, such as a specific wine, photo or article from a blog post. Make sure your Twitter handle is included in the share so that it is automatically included in the Tweet and more people can easily see the Twitter handle.

  3. Confirm images can be pulled from your website, be it by Pinterest, Facebook or another social media site to get peoples’ attention before they actually click through to your website.
    • Pinterest can pull images from a website if there are images available. These images can click through back to your website, driving traffic. Test that the images on your site can be pulled by going to Pinterest and adding a Pin (with the url to your website). If no images display, your webmaster should be able to fix this.
    • When linking to a url on Facebook or Google+, an image (“thumbnail”) is automatically pulled from your site.  Test that the thumbnail you would like is being pulled by going to Facebook or Google +, update your status with a link to your website and see what image is shown. If no image appears, your webmaster should be able to fix this.

Example of image pulling from a website:

Example of no image pulling from a website:

All of this is helpful in making user interaction easy and keep the consumer engaged in your site and social media presences.


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Is Google+ something you should add?

Google+ launched in June 2011 and currently has over 170 million active users. The Google+ Brand Page is Google’s social networking platform. It is similar to Facebook — individuals and businesses maintain profiles and share information and updates with friends.

But Google+ is not right for every brand. Should your brand be on Google+?


  • Integration with other Google platforms: Search, YouTube, Google Maps, Zagat to help create a unified brand message and link the information on these platforms
  • Better Google search results for your brand because “social search” provides relevant results for individuals signed into their Google accounts as well as optimized results based on keyword usage in page posts
  • Opportunity to target posts to people in “Circles,” which are categories created to organize connections and can selectively share information with specific circles
  • “Events” for people to interact with each other before, during and/or after physical or online events (includes invitations, RSVPs and photo sharing)

Google Plus

  • People appear to be less active
  • Not as large an audience as other social platforms
  • It is another social network that needs to be monitored and updated


  • Better search results when people use Google to search for your brand, topics relevant to your brand or keywords that you have used in your posts
  • If you have a physical location, you can control the information provided on the Google+ page for your location (“Local”) and map results
  • You are active on YouTube and want to better use the available options to interact with fans


  • Launch with a similar strategy to Facebook but keep checking and readjusting as needed
  • Don’t expect the same results as on other platforms right from the start
  • Have fun and test different approaches on how to interact with fans!

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To receive these one-page reports via email when they become available, sign up for our mailing list here, or email Jeremy Benson at benson@bensonmarketing.com