Best Practice Awards
Sales & Marketing Award
Vintners Circle Franchising LLC
What the company does: Vintners Circle Franchising, headquartered in Hackettstown, NJ, offers wine-loving entrepreneurs the opportunity to run their own winemaking shops that allow customers to create their own wine, attend classes and events, and purchase wine-related gifts and accessories, all in a sociable environment. Customers can produce about 28 bottles of wine over three half-hour visits in a seven week time period.
Best practice: In 2010, Vintners Circle launched its Social Winemaking 2.0 initiative, geared towards driving customer referrals, increasing brand awareness, and ensuring repeat customer business by combining traditional marketing models with new media marketing. Vintners Circle provided the seven Vintners Circle franchise locations with a website marketing platform, which offered their customers the opportunity to share their experiences through social media, and helped the franchises develop a customer loyalty and referral program to encourage word-of-mouth marketing.
The company developed websites for each franchise location that echoed the brand’s image. These sites were search engine optimized for their respective local markets and allowed the franchisees to feature their involvements with local partners and their communities.
All the shops participated in a Facebook campaign, designed by Vintners Circle to enforce the standards of their brand while still allowing the franchises to interact with their respective local areas. Fan and Place pages were developed for each franchise, and Vintners Circle developed guidelines for the franchisees in regards to how to participate, engage, and share content through their pages. Facebook’s event management system was integrated into the franchise’s individual websites, so that customers were able to personally invite friends to the shops’ events.
Vintners Circle franchises also enacted a loyalty program that functioned as word-of-mouth marketing. The Circle of Friends rewards and referrals card gave loyalty awards for customers such as discounts for their friends for items in the store. When the discount was redeemed, the original customer received points based on the amount purchased, which then translated into a discount for their own next purchase. Thanks to the success of these programs, the company’s Facebook Likes increased 68 percent and Facebook user interactions increased 344 percent.
Tips for implementing your own best practice: The best way to make a social networking marketing campaign work for your company is to not treat it like a marketing campaign. “You have to engage in a conversation like you’re talking with a friend,” says company president David Schmeltzle. “You don’t want to focus on selling, you want to engage in conversation.” He suggests, if possible, taking pictures of your clients and uploading them to your Facebook page, or asking them to upload their own photos. Highlight one individual to be a Fan of the Week or Fan of the Month. Take videos, upload them on YouTube, and link to them through your Facebook page. Taking advantage of social media is a must, and it will, in the end, accelerate your word-of-mouth marketing. “Traditional marketing and mailers are just not where your customers are,” says director of marketing and brand development Jennifer Alviani. “Usually before customers come into your shop, they know a lot about you.”
Michelle Court is the managing editor at The New York Enterprise Report. She can be reached at email@example.com.