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Interview with Direct-to-Consumer Marketing Rock Star - Chris Oggenfuss

May 02, 2010   |   Andrew Kamphuis Recommended for:   Marketing, Ecommerce, Tasting Room & Hospitality
Chris Oggenfuss Chris Oggenfuss

Chris Oggenfuss is a 13 year Direct-to-Consumer wine marketing veteran working at wineries such as V. Sattui Winery, Benziger Family Winery and Imagery Estate Winery. In 2009 he founded Oggenfuss Wine Marketing and over the last year has executed several marketing initiatives. My two personal favorites are the V. Sattui iPhone App and his OWMarketing Channel on Youtube

I've had a few opportunities to talk and work with Chris and I have always been impressed. This past week he agreed to an interview about Direct-to-Consumer marketing and here is what he had to say:

Chris, for wineries just getting started or ramping up their direct-to-consumer marketing plans, which key tactics should they prioritize?

Start with the end in mind and develop a strategy. Ensure that you are customer focused; create a great experience for the consumer and build a relationship. The next step is to focus on data collection. This needs to happen across all customer contact points.  I cannot stress enough how important this is! The goal is to get everyone’s email information whether you're connecting with the customer through your tasting room, website or phone. No one will ever get 100% conversion, but that should be what you strive for. Next, get yourself a database or software that helps you manage the customer data that you are collecting. Best case is to have a POS and E-commerce solution that automatically feeds this database or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software, that way you are not only collecting customer data, but customer behavior and purchase history. The end goal should be a 360 degree view of your customer.

Relationship marketing: what are some simple, effective ways to provide personalized touches that can help deepen a winery's relationships with its customers?

Follow up on purchases no matter where they are made (either virtual or from your physical site) with a personalized thank you note.  I can’t stress enough how far a personal thank you note can go in cementing a long-term relationship.
Acknowledge your best customers by interacting with them. Don’t let this be a one-sided relationship where the only time you communicate with them is when you send them a receipt or email them an offer.
Be available and engage where your customers and potential customers are. Be it at your winery, in a virtual sense or in social media. Are you listening to what is being said about your brand? Are you engaging at the point of need or demand? Are you adding to the conversation as opposed to broadcasting a message? When someone speaks of your brand positively follow up and thank them. If there is negative conversation engage and exercise the opportunity to convert that person into an evangelist.  Some of my clients have had great success in doing this.
Humanize your brand by understanding your customer. This comes from listening and paying attention to each individual customer's needs. How do you accomplish this? Data collection - the more data you collect on a customer the more information you have to act on and personalize each contact point.

How does social media, location-based apps like Foursquare play a part in that? Anything in the pipeline that we should watch for?

Social Media allows your brand to be available 24/7, it allows you to build your peer-to-peer brand ambassadors who will help you build trust and earned media.  You can continue that one-on-one conversation or relationship virtually. By becoming part of the conversation your relationships are strengthened and become even more genuine. When you build a relationship you do a lot of listening and respond according to the other persons needs, when this happens trust is built, resulting in brand loyalty and profits.
Foursquare is great in that it allows businesses to do some pretty creative things when it comes to recognizing loyalty and rewarding visitors who put you on the social map. You can see who has checked in and reach out to them in real life and start a relationship that is sure to continue.
I think we are just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to social media and augmented reality, especially as far as businesses can leverage the potential. I would look for more social media integration across a winery’s digital and physical assets. We are actually working on a project that does just that and also integrates data collection to convert the visitor into a customer.

One of your recent YouTube videos on the OWMarketing Channel addressed the hub and spoke analogy. Tell us more about that.

Well, the way I see it is that your website should be the hub of all your activity, meaning that this is where you want the revenue producing engagement to happen. I see Twitter, Facebook, etc as the spokes that should be used to drive traffic to your hub. I can’t tell you how many websites are doing just the opposite. They are driving the traffic, conversation, and interaction away from their sites onto the ancillary social networks. In my mind the role of social media is to help you not only engage and acquire new followers and friends, but then to help drive them back to your website where you can convert them into customers. This is how the ROI question about social media is going to get answered. The sites that are themselves set up for social commerce will be able to do this most effectively.

Your newly developed iPhone and Android app for V. Sattui Winery: Tell us about it and how wineries can use mobile apps in their marketing strategies.

We are very excited about V. Sattui’s iPhone app, they are one of the first to leverage an app to help strengthen consumer relationships and deliver relevant content to a mobile device. The app was originally developed for the music industry but we saw that a lot of its functionality could be adapted to a winery’s needs, so we approached V. Sattui winery and got them excited to the possibilities. The app allows wineries to take advantage of push notification and even geo-target that notification. Imagine you are a winery and your winemaker is in Chicago selling wine in the market. With the app you would be able to send a push notification to all your followers who are in Chicago and invite them to a special winemaker dinner. You can send push notification when a new wine is released and drive traffic to your shopping cart or tasting room. The marketing possibilities here are endless. The app also allows for full social media integration with Facebook and Twitter as well as having it’s own fan wall. It has an events calendar, allows for purchases within the app, mailing list sign up, and streaming video. It even allows you to stream live video direct to the user's phone. Basically it allows the winery to be available around the clock on a device that people carry around with them everywhere, freeing the information from the constraints of a computer. It also allows the winery access to rich analytics.

Which tactics do you recommend to increase a winery's online sales?

Here again it’s about fostering your relationship and providing a great experience.  Let’s address the relationship part first. Do you understand your customer? (This goes back to being able to collect data). Are you able to target your offerings and campaigns to those customers that are most likely to purchase? Do you know what a particular customer's preferences are? Customers want to be understood and have their needs met and a well-crafted and targeted email campaign does just that. Now for the experience part, you need to make sure that your ecommerce site is easy for the consumer to use and navigate. Nothing is worse then a shopping cart that requires the user to hunt for what they want and then requires them to click through 7-10 pages to execute a purchase. Remember Amazon has defined how users expect the online shopping experience to be. Do some RMF analysis of your database to identify your top customers and then tailor an experience accordingly. Make sure that every offer you send has urgency and a clear call to action. The final point is to make the content of your site, email campaign, and social media efforts exciting and engaging. Use video! A recent comScore study shows that online video viewers spend 20% more on e-commerce than the average Internet user.
Remember you are not just selling a product; with wine you are selling lifestyle and romance.

How do you feel about wine product pages that feature consumer reviews?

I absolutely think that is the right way to go because it leverages peer endorsements.  Studies have shown that next to trial tastings, friend and peer recommendations are the second biggest driver of wine sales. I am always surprised at how many wineries have not yet incorporated this in their e-commerce solution. The future of online sales is in integrating social media in your website (aka social commerce). Think Amazon and Zappos. Remember your goal is to engage your customer on your site, why would you force them to review your products somewhere else? Think of it as your 24/7 focus group.

What do you say to wineries who are afraid to receive lukewarm or negative reviews?

You need to get over it! People are going to talk about your brand and products whether you give them the opportunity to do so on your site or not. Customers trust peer reviews because it helps them make a decision. Reviews drive sales. If you make a great product, have great service and meet your customers expectations why be afraid? When you are delivering on the aforementioned fronts you are sure to have more positive reviews then negative, plus your good and regular customers are going to be your biggest supporters and allies, they will help self-moderate the reviews and defend you against the negative ones. I have seen this happen time and time again. Besides, I am of the mind set that a complaint or negative review is a gift, as it allows you to take action and win over one more customer.

Which areas of direct-to-consumer marketing do you see wineries struggling with the most? Why do you think that is? Your advice to them?

The Direct-to-Consumer areas that most wineries struggle with are strategy, technology, customer data analysis, and how to use social media to drive conversions and sales.  
Develop a clear direct-to-consumer strategy! While tactical actions can get you only so far, a well-developed strategy can help you make the most of your resources. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?
Invest in technology across your entire direct-to-consumer business and make sure that technology is integrated and talks to each other. The goal here is a 360 degree view of the customer not only for the winery, but also for the customer. Your strategy will dictate your technology needs.
Spend time analyzing your customer data and applying RFM principals to this data. This is the low hanging fruit! It is far easier and cheaper to increase revenue from an existing customer and extend their lifecycle and lifetime value (LTV) then it is to acquire a new customer. Yet time and again I see wineries spending their time and efforts on customer acquisition and neglecting their current customers
Use social media not just because it is there, use it to build your business!  Again strategy here is key. Contrary to popular belief you can drive conversions and sales using social media. It all starts with building a relationship and setting expectations. A consumer following a business on social media is doing so to have access to information, stay in touch and yes, receive special offers. A recent eMarketer study supports this.

Chris, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Your recommendations to our readers are much appreciated.

Chris can be found on Twitter, Facebook, his YouTube Channel or contacted through his website.


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