Sustaining a Virtual Tasting Regime?


The Good, the bad and the boring! 

The use of craft beverage virtual tastings erupted frantically when the economy closed as producers sought means to engage with potential consumers. And participation was quite active as consumers looked for entertainment during the shutdown and proactively desired to support their local craft beverage producers.  But like most engagement activities, enthusiasm wanes over time, and producers must continue to entice consumers to join these virtual tastings.  Particularly if craft beverage producers choose to continue this means of social engagement once the economy re-opens.

This post will illustrate several best practices that the BevFluence team has drafted as well as ideas for attracting sustained participation. These practices are generally equivalent across all craft beverage industries with only minor deviations between them. And the tips provide opportunities for producers to attract a larger audience and engagement and sustain this marketing technique.

The loss of tasting room access across the nation means that brands struggled for an alternative. Many haphazard tastings, winemaker events, sales pitches, cocktail classes and promotional sessions all held virtually have clogged the already strained content highways. Be above the fray, and follow these best practices and ideas to take your tastings to the next level. 

With so many brands flooding the web with content this will help stand out. 

Best Practices

Determine the goal of each virtual tastings

Obviously, the end goal is to increase sales but determining a goal for each session will provide a better return on your marketing dollar. It will force you to stay focused and brainstorming ideas. Are you introducing your brand, a particular product, or a marketing campaign?

If your only goal is to increase sales then you will probably not do well. The goal needs to be education, engagement, meaningful content and outreach. 

Determine the hosting platform

Zoom and Facebook Live seem to be the most prevalent platforms being utilized at the moment. YouTube Live and a slew of other platforms have all exploded on the scene.  Instagram Live or Twitter chats are also possibilities and are considered important in some circles. 

Inform the public

Our Denver BevFluence Experience

Once you have discerned a topic, notify consumers as early as possible and frequently. Most importantly provide participants the ability to purchase the featured product(s) as soon as possible. Shipping can get complicated so plan ahead since logistics vary based on geographic location.  We recommend a minimum 14 days notice before the event.  Producers will receive much greater participation during the virtual session if participants are sipping along with the presenter. Do not waste the chance to get the customer to taste alongside the presenter.  The better you plan, the more chance you can get people to buy before the tasting and after. 

In addition, when sending notifications via email, blogs, or social media posts, add links to create calendar reminders so that consumers can easily save the virtual tasting date. Here is one source to generate the calendar event across multiple platforms: Add to calendar button. 

Finally, follow your initial announcement with daily or thrice weekly reminders and updates until the tasting. Do not bombard people but get the information out early and often. 

  • Advertise far enough ahead. 
  • Get the wines so people can watch and taste along. 
  • Discounted shipping and a promo code. 

Planning the tasting session

Before you begin, choose a physical broadcasting location that not only provides sufficient audio and lighting, but also a sense of comfort and security – particularly if the presenter has any sense of self-consciousness or insecurity.  Will broadcasting from a tasting bar or similar structure in your home provide more comfort or authority?  Or will a bookshelf filled with craft beverage books and awards?  Next, draft a sensory experience for those participants who were unable to purchase the featured product(s).  How are you going to explain the tasting notes to those not tasting along?  Finally, accumulate graphics to display throughout the session which should include bottle shots, photos of the establishment, andor maps – lots of maps. Show attendees where you are located as well as specific vineyard locations as regards wineries.

Interact with participants

During the tasting session, encourage questions and participant input. During marketing or registration, ask participants to submit questions beforehand and reserve time to answer and engage the questioner. Be sure to mention the person who asked it; they will appreciate hearing their name.  Also, directly engage with attendees you recognize by recalling shared experiences or asking them to discuss a topic in the chat. DO not neglect this, have someone monitor the chats or streams for questions during the event. 

Followup

Post links to the recorded session and to purchase the wines and distribute to consumers via email, blog post, or via social media. Start marketing your next tasting session. Mention the wines or products you are tasting on the next session so people in theory have the time to get them. 

We have used affiliate links to track how well sales do for the brands during our tastings. If you can track the data you can better understand how well you are doing and learn your true ROI. 

Tips for Sustaining and Widening Engagement

Widen the audience

Do not think entirely of the subset of existing consumers, but look towards other genres for new customers. Music lovers love craft beverages. So do gardeners.  And cooks.  Thus provide virtuals sessions on these subjects by inviting an expert and pairing with a craft beverage. Cooking demonstrations are already being presented as they are easiest to implement.  Reach out to a local garden center or within your own staff for someone knowledgeable enough to demonstrate creating a custom plant container.  Or pair your targeted beverage with music; maybe an album, song, or musician.  Many musicians are performing at home in similar settings so reach out to one and trade a sample for a song.  And with all these examples, the actual demonstrations or performances could be recorded earlier and showed during the session.

Use social media targeting when promoting your event. It will help you narrow down the theme and the audience. Look outside your comfort zone, you never know who could be watching. Collaborations are a great way to expand your audience across many platforms. These are often overlooked due to the legal and regulatory hurdles, but given the virtual 

Cocktails

Yes, cocktail demonstrations are obvious for craft distillers, but they are also intriguing options for breweries, wineries, and cider producers. For the latter, think of a Josie Russell, Hemingway’s favorite cider cocktail using hard cider and rum.  For craft brewers, check out Craft Brewing. Or Liquor.com.  And sparkling wine is an obvious candidate for cocktails, but what about red wine? Try these Red Wine Cocktails.

Glassware

Over time, even your most rapid supports will start to wane interest so plan educational sessions to keep them engaged. We recommend discussing glassware, which is appropriate for each beverage style and how the sensory character of the beverage can change based on the serving vessel. If you have a glassware partnership all the better; this is another potential channel to get your message circulated when they share your content. 

Specific Educational Topics

Depending on the industry, there are other topics that a producer can present that may include additional planning and logistics, but should be engaging and interesting topics. Wineries can discuss and demonstrate cellar practices such as racking and blending sessions.  Vineyard managers could present grafting, pruning, ground cover, pests, or grape varieties.  Brewers can discuss malting, hops, sour programs, and beer styles such as lagers versus ales. And distilleries can present bourbon regulations, casks, or historic liquors.

Courtesy of The Dwelle

Conclusion

This article was not written to encourage every brand to rush out and produce online virtual tastings. In fact, the opposite is true; not all brands need an online virtual tasting regime. How can you discern if you should be hosting virtual tastings? Look at your email list, look at engagements online, look at the number of people who follow your brand on Facebook or other social media platforms. Is your audience still engaged?  Have you never been able to sustain continual engagement activity?  Then perhaps this may not be worth your time. However if you are committed to establishing and maintaining your brand’s online presence, then online tastings could be a valuable tool to expand followers and potentially sales. 

Making the choice to market your brand in a virtual tasting format is complicated. 

You must have 

  • Great Video(the aesthetic is important) 
  • Great content 
  • Incredible delivery 
  • Knowledgeable presentations 
  • An interesting story 
  • Time and energy to promote yourself
  • And… the audience to care

Good luck! 

The BevFluence Team! 

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Craft!

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