You know me as Dan’s Papers’ fearless wine writer (or the owner/editor of LENNDEVOURS), but Monday through
Friday, I play a very different role – that of an Internet marketing
manager in the high technology industry. Rarely do the two careers
cross paths, but my experience with the local wine industry’s Internet
marketing initiatives (or lack thereof) has finally driven me to
consider Long Island’s wine region from my “day” job’s perspective.

Simply put, the Long Island wine industry deserves good grades for its
wine, but when it comes to using the Internet to promote itself and its
wares, it gets an F.

Don’t get me wrong. This is a bit of a generalization because there are
a few websites that do a better-than-average job of telling their
story, but they are the rare exception. More often than not, winery
websites are poorly designed, offer no interactivity and get updated
once every year – if we, as visitors, are lucky.

Most local wineries don’t have the money to hire a full-time marketing
manager, let alone a Webmaster, but there are some simple things every
winery owner and general manager can (and should) do to improve their
websites and email marketing. This requires very little effort in the
grand scheme of things and can bring big returns – particularly now
that the rest of the country is being introduced to Long Island wine
for the first time. Your website is your number two way to build brand
and customer loyalty (your wine being the first one).

Build a Website.
In this day and age, the first place most people,
especially those new to wine and in their twenties and thirties, are
going to look for more information about you is the Internet. You need
to be there.

Update at Least Once a Month. There is nothing worse than a website
that is obviously out of date. Some Long Island winery websites list
wines from vintages that have been sold out for months (if not longer)
and feature events calendars that highlight events from last spring,
but offer no information on upcoming ones. This information doesn’t do
any visitor any good and it makes you look like you just don’t care.

If You Offer an Email Newsletter, Actually Send One Out. As a local
wine writer and lover of our wine region, I’ve signed up for every
email list I can sign up for. How many emails do I get every month?
One……maybe. People sign up for your email list because they are
interested in your winery and its happenings. Take advantage of that
and talk to them – again, at least once a month – and make them feel a
part of your winery’s family.

Make Buying Wine Easy
. Most existing winery websites offer some sort of
ordering functionality, but most are antiquated and so convoluted and
tedious that people are going to give up long before their credit card
gets charged. Upgrade your eCommerce system and make it easier to use.
This may not be as important to local customers, but if someone from
the Bay Area reads about your wines in the San Francisco Chronicle and
wants to buy some, why make it difficult? If you do, they’ll just buy
from someone else who does.

Check Your Email Every Day.
We all have busy lives and the life of a
winemaker or general manager is no different. But potential customers
are probably sending you email to the address listed on your website,
so you should check it every single day. Again, this is about building
relationships with your customers. They are important to your success –
treat them that way. The same is true for “Contact Us” forms. It’s
annoying to fill out a form and click “submit” only to never hear from
anyone at the winery again.

These are just a few general suggestions because every site has its own
strengths and weaknesses. The Long Island Wine Council site (www.liwines.com)
is pretty good, as are the sites for Macari Vineyards, Wolffer Estate,
Bedell Cellars and Galluccio Family Wineries. But overall, Long Island
wineries are missing the boat. The Internet is the most powerful
marketing tool in the world – and one that is relatively inexpensive.
It’s time that everyone start taking advantage.