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1830 Soscol Ave., Suite C
CA, 94559
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Ryan Neergaard


We are strategists, storytellers, sales drivers: Cultivating communities of engagement by passionately connecting consumers to brands with purpose.

Astra Digital is a firm of 15 professionals based in Napa who have executed strategic social media content creation and utilized action-based tactics for over 50 wine brands in our 3-year history. 

Lead by owners with 40+ years experience in both the three-tier and DTC channels, we strive to deliver best practice digital marketing strategy to make a difference in the lives of our customers and their audiences and consumers.

We know that every client has unique needs that require custom strategies and execution. Our goal is to exceed your expectations and build a lasting relationship forged in hard work.

At Astra, we care about our clients, and it shows.


There are many ways that we can partner together. Here are just a few!



Your time is valuable. Take the time to do it right, not do it over. 


Social Media Marketing and Management

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Email Marketing

All hail: Email is king of the marketing world for growing your business.


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Content Marketing

Success is 85% strategy and 15% magic - and the magic is in how we help you tell your story. 


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Increase organic traffic & increase revenue. 


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Give the people what they want, and they will give you data. 


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Visual content connects us. It reminds us of people, places, feelings, and stories. 


Website Development

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This is how we DoNapa
This is how we DoNapa
Created for our proposal for the City of Napa
This is How We DoNapa
This is How We DoNapa
Created for our proposal for the City of Napa

As a new and growing channel, the digital wine club has come of age — and consumers are ready. Just ask the eCommerce operators at Winc, DryFarmWines, and FirstLeaf, among others, who have signed up millions of subscribers online over the recent few years. So what should wineries be doing to join in the fun? First, let’s talk about the wine club model as we know it today. The wine club model has had a long and successful run in the wine industry, serving for many years as the ATM for wineries. It’s a quintessential piece of the cultural backdrop in NorCal — kind of like Beach Blanket Babylon, the long running show in SF which recently wound down after 46 years.


What is a wine club, and why should anyone care?

Wine clubs began as a way to build relationships with customers after coming in for their first tasting room visit which was typically a 5 sensory experience. Each time a wine shipment arrived at their homes, wine club “members” could relive the memories of their winery visits and recreate the experience with family and friends. On the winery’s end, this club idea turned out to be a great way to balance stock and move inventory. Many wineries started enhancing their wine clubs with added benefits and transformed them into “Loyalty Programs”, with the idea that the most loyal customers of the winery (the big spenders) should be treated with extra special benefits.

But what is loyalty all about anyway? Is it granted, earned, acquired, or sold? Most of us would say that loyalty (like respect) is earned. So how have most wineries earned the loyalty of their customers? It’s true that wine clubs have been created to provide incentives that were not available to non-members, like special discounts, access to certain wines, free tastings on premise. But it’s also true that wine club membership has generally revolved around what was best for the winery and not necessarily for the consumer.


So what about the virtual wine consumer?

This kind of consumer might not occur to you, but think about how many you probably have or could attract. This is the customer who can’t or won’t visit the tasting room on a regular basis, but wants to be included. It’s the wine lover who consistently re-orders and engages with you on social media, but maybe they live several states away, have young children at home, work on weekends, or are unable to travel, so they can’t enjoy your winery in ways that your local, abler members enjoy. With these types of consumers, you have to help them be loyal. You have to show them how they can be loyal. And you have to remember that while there may be obstacles between you and this customer, there is also one other thing — your wine. So, how can you nurture and enhance loyalty through a genuine, virtual relationship?

Let’s do a quick refresh of the relationships we build by simply reordering products:

Subscription:  A signed agreement between a supplier and customer that the customer will receive and provide payment for regular products or services, usually for a one-year period.

  • The subscription business model is a business model in which a customer must pay a recurring price at regular intervals for access to a product or service. Think magazines, Netflix, your software as a service.

Continuity: The unbroken and consistent existence or operation of something over a period of time.

  • A continuity program is a company's sales offer where a buyer/consumer is agreeing to receive merchandise or services automatically at regular intervals (often monthly), without advance notice, until they cancel. Think vitamins of the month.

Replenishment: the act of filling something up again by replacing what has been used

  • A replenishment program is a business model in which a customer signs up for the replenishment of needed products on a prescribed basis. Think the Amazon Dash button on your refrigerator door that allows you to push the blue-tooth enabled button to reorder detergent, toilet paper, or other out of stock items.

Member: People who together make up a group or organization.

  • A membership club means any membership-based club or program which has as a primary purpose of offering to members thereof products or services and/or discounts related to areas falling within the primary focus of the Applicable Membership Clubs. Think your everyday wine club.

Loyalty:  Faithfulness to something to which one is bound by pledge or duty. Staying true to someone or something even when other things call attention.

  • A loyalty program is a marketing strategy designed to encourage customers to continue to shop at or use the services of a business associated with the program. Think Foley Food & Wine Society that allows you to earn and spend accrued points at any one of Bill Foley’s wineries, resort hotels, restaurants, or shops.

Most wine clubs began more as subscription or continuity programs rather than as “membership” programs. As visitation benefits were added and infused with more concierge-like services,  the concept of wine club membership or loyalty programs made more sense. But virtual wine clubs are another animal. An animal with expectations that can’t be satisfied by just emotional connections established during tasting room visits. These expectations need to be set and met by other factors, such as:

  • Cost/Value

  • Uniqueness

  • Convenience

  • Access

  • Customization

  • Personalization

  • Trust

  • Education 

  • Entertainment

  • Aspirations

  • In-home experience

  • Lifestyle

  • Culinary tastes

  • Accolades

  • Peer reviews

  • Personal socio/philosophical preferences

  • Packaging

  • Other

That’s a tall order. So how to tackle this as a winery? We can learn a few things from companies outside of the wine industry.

Club members of the Dollar Shave Club receive personally chosen razors and grooming products however often they choose. It’s simple and special, and the Dollar Shave Club begins with a quiz that lets members describe their shaving routines and preferences. Similar, more upscale companies are Harry’s Shave Club and The Art of Shaving. From the jump, it’s all about the members.

Let’s move from shaving to what we’re all really here for — the wine! Winc is a poster-child for online wine clubs. It’s nice to look at, it’s straight-forward, it’s fun, and it’s all about the members. You tell Winc about your taste buds, and they start sending you wines to try, every month. They’ve already become sort of a blueprint for other wine-subscription clubs.

Dry Farm Wines is another one that’s become a hit for several reasons. They pride themselves on selecting natural, low-sulfur wine varietals from small farms all over the world, and with our society prioritizing health and natural food more and more every day, Dry Farm is really leading that market. Their wine selection is also impressively targeted for the virtual wine club audience. Dry Farm finds varietals that are so unique and exotic, that it’s not just for non-Californians. It’s for anyone who likes wine and wants to explore it.

There’s a handful of other digital wine clubs, too. WineBox uses a similar quiz to Winc, but includes food pairings in their deliveries. FirstLeaf utilizes the quiz tactic as well, and includes a custom intro shipment to get you started. And similar to Dry Farm Wines is Bliss Imports, who specializes in organic wines from small vineyards that their team personally visits to select from.

Hopefully those examples get your creative juices flowing, and now is when a cup of coffee, a blank sheet of paper, and some brainstorming comes into play. Get back to the basics, get in the mindset of being just a normal wine-loving person, and imagine: you’re surfing the internet and stumble upon a wine club that you’ve never seen or heard of before. Listed on that wine club’s page are member perks and features that are so unique and special and customizable, you feel like it’s a no-brainer. You have to sign up. This is the coolest thing ever.

So what is it? What are the things listed on that page that speak to you?

To me, the components of a virtual wine club can be aggregated into three levels of benefits – Basic, Advanced, and Outside the Box. This trifecta of offers certainly doesn’t apply to any and every winery. Wineries and their members each have distinct personalities and tastes, but I guarantee you can take one of these ideas, tailor it to your look, feel, and capabilities, and design a strategy to promote it, launch it, and let your members run with it. Let’s browse all the possibilities… 


  • Customized Wine Shipments – Members can receive the winery’s wine selection or opt to pick out the bottles they want.

  • Included Wine Club Shipping — Wine club shipments should have shipping included, and $5 or $10 shipping on any other orders under a case.

  • A Deeper Discount — Go big on discounts. The cost of subscriber membership will be greatly reduced because of all the expensive benefits at the winery that virtual members won’t have access to. 

  • Free Virtual Wine Tastings — Up to 4 times per year, members can book complimentary “1 on 1” virtual tastings for themselves and/or friends, or for a work team, book club, or any other sort of group that is used to meeting in person. 

  • A Welcome Package — Upon joining, members would receive all kinds of "swag", such as branded glasses, a branded wine key, a blanket, a hat, etc.

  • Exclusive Virtual Experiences — Members will have access to special happenings like cellar tours, behind-the-scenes during bottling, harvest or crush, or the ability to gift a virtual tasting to someone else.

  • Share the Wine — Members can send their friends the same wine that they will receive in their shipment so that they can taste it together.

    • Your winery can also have add-on offers that can ship to a different address with member discounts and shipping offer

    • Create a SKU that allows members to ‘Add On A Tasting Kit’ to any order. 

    • It might include a glass, an aroma wheel, potentially more detailed tasting or production notes. 

  • Members-Only Monthly Offers — Offer members large formats or bundles that are best sellers, or had limited stock and were first come first serve. Discount the bundle or large format bottle, and have a different offer every month. 

  • First Dibs on Non-Wine — Members get first dibs on products like t-shirts, hats, olive oils, jams, or anything else the winery makes


  •  Member Holidays — Members pick their personal 10 favorite holidays and receive discounts for those events or on those days. Offers like free shipping, 30% off, customized and discounted 3-pack or 6-pack, etc. 

    • They should choose holidays like family members’ birthdays, anniversaries, religious holidays, Super Bowl — days that the winery won’t already be promoting. This can be a very personal offer like, “Our winery is here for our members’ most important moments.” 

  • Virtual Winemaking — Be in the room virtually when the winemaker(s) are tasting and blending

  • Anniversary Benefits — Perks that will grow with the length of the membership 

    • 1 year - dinner voucher to a restaurant in the member’s area that carries your wine

    • 3 years - one night Airbnb near member stocked with dinner ingredients, recipe, and wine pairings 

  • Rotating Partnerships — Partner with other special subscription services at a discounted price

    • Meat butcher boxes

    • Spa products

    • Cheese

  • Care Package — Ship wine as a gift once a year to a friend or family member to help them discover the wine that the members themselves love. It could be for a special celebration (Mother's Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Birthday etc.) or just because.

  • Quarterly Wine Pairings with a famous chef. This would be for all members to join since it would be very difficult to do this on a 1 on 1 basis. The other issue is having the members buy the food to cook and pair with the wine, which isn’t a huge perk. But it’s a fun activity if a chef and a wine professional could tackle this together

    • A winery would work with a Chef who would create a personalized menu to pair with the wines being offered in each shipment, from appetizer to dessert. 

    • This would be a virtual offer as well. Members could tune-in & watch to prepare the meal with the Chef and if the member couldn't make the time of the class it will be recorded and sent over to them. 

    • Another option is Food Feature of the month. Your winery sends ingredients with the wine shipment. Following will be a virtual experience for club members to cook the food and drink the wine that came in their shipment.

    • For up to X amount of people you can reserve a Chef for a virtual dinner party with friends. Wine club member discounts could apply on the wines to have shipped to their friends or a certain dinner party pack could be created.

  • Pantry Pairings — What's in Your Pantry? Send a survey to club members asking the top ingredients currently in their pantry. Pick an ingredient for that month and offer up a dish to make with it and a wine to pair it with. It'll be a surprise every month.

  • “The Napa Valley Package”, “The Sonoma Coast Package” — Depending on what AVA the winery is located in, create a specialized package that would be included in a shipment with local olive oil, specialty chocolates, etc. This would be a good way to help unify small businesses within a community. 

  • Wine Preservation — Including some sort of wine preservation system within club levels could be a good option if tasters don't want to drink through their whole bottles at once.

  • Virtual Bingo or Trivia Night — Play with club members & game pieces can be shipped to them beforehand with a curated wine pack at a discounted member price.

  • Assortment of Discounts with other hospitality and service providers


  • Digitized Club Booklet — Printed recipes + Live Cooking Demo with each shipment. 

  • Live Vineyard Tours — Have the vineyard manager get a Go-Pro and take members on a hike through the vineyard. Or set up a Vineyard Live Stream, so members can check in with the vineyard as a momentary escape. 

  • Introductory Shipment — Since they haven’t visited the winery or may be unfamiliar with the brand, find new ways to entice members. A sampler pack of all current vintage wines…  

    • All bottles are sample-sized splits (or full-sized bottles & a complimentary Coravin). They rank all the wines in order online & receive a discount on their first full-sized order, free shipping on all orders, customized pack offers

  • “First Day of Spring/Summer/Fall” Virtual Vineyard Walks — Done seasonally with your winemaker, owner, or vineyard manager.

  • Access to the Winemaker’s Journal — This can be formatted as something very organic like a private blog with scanned photos of notes, or can be a vlog series that features anyone on the winemaking team who is interesting or has a good personality, like “Follow Our Cellar Boy Around for the Day”

  • Membership Anniversary Gift — A package including one bottle of wine (member’s choice), merchandise, personal card from the winemaker or owner, etc.

  • Blind Virtual Tasting Pack — This can be a game with a vertical of wine vintages, all white wines or all red wines, or you can do this with unreleased wine.  Members receive vials of the wine & write their notes during the tasting on an online form to submit — “Help Us Write the Tasting Notes”

  • Quarterly Club Meeting —  A fun hangout with topics everyone helps choose in advance, like a wine, music, movie, or each month can have a theme with a dress code like “Flashback to the 70’s”. The type of club would really depend on the winery but should drive home the sense of a casual club hangout. Emails to members would have language like, “What are we talking about this month? Let us know, we’ll choose the best ones to put on the agenda.” It’s a cool way to let your members meet and get to know each other, as opposed to just the winery staff.

  • Rewards Program — Let members rack up rewards points. The more you buy, the more you unlock with savings, exclusive releases, special virtual tastings with the winemaker, etc.

  • Vineyard Packages — Along with a wine from each vineyard, include a small jarred sample of the soil/terroir/pressed grape leaves/a snack that’s nonperishable/a polaroid photo of the vineyard with a winemaker note or something special to go with it, so it’s interactive and truly brings all aspects of the wines to their doorstep. 

    • If they have a virtual tasting with a Winemaker and are talking about the soil that the wine comes from, they could see photos of the vineyards on the screen and hold the soil in their hand to feel more connected. 

  • Virtual Blending Seminar — Instead of full bottles, members are sent smaller bottles and they go through and create their own blend with the Winemaker. The winery can send test tubes, a blank label, an entire fun mixing kit to go through that process with them.

  • Wine Quiz — When customers go to the wine club page they are taken to an optional quiz where the winery can get to know them and their wine preferences.

  • Local Artist Features — Shipment can include a print, jewelry, keepsakes, whatever resonates most with the winery. This can evolve into local business features and could range from art, jewelry, local music, homemade soaps, household items, plants, etc. 

  • Music & Books — Your winery could offer a free month of a music streaming service with a club sign up or include a vinyl record with each shipment, create custom playlists, feature musicians during the virtual tastings. This can also be an Audible subscription with a list of the winery’s favorite podcasts.

  • Culinary - Subscription to monthly online cooking classes with tie-ins to online wine education and /or wine pairings.

  • Incorporate Augmented Reality — A few wineries already use AR for their wine labels. Examples are in this article:  

    • This is a fun way of telling the story of the wine. Wine Club Members would get instructions on how to access the AR feature (which app to download). It can be a label, a card with greetings from the family, a digital version of the tasting room, something significant to the brand.

These are Your Next Steps

  • Evaluate your wine portfolio, pricing structure, storytelling content, digital assets, and other resources. A lot of these ideas depend on your winery’s story, what wines you offer, and how you offer them. For example, if movies and trivia aren’t aligned with your overall brand, introducing them may feel sort of random to members. This doesn’t mean you can’t do it, you’ll just have to promote and launch it in the right way.

  • Develop a strategy for launching a virtual wine club that has as many “outside the box” benefits as realistically possible. If you’ve got a great idea, figure out how to make it work for your winery logistically. You may have to start on a simpler scale and develop as you go, and that’s okay! Where there’s wine, there’s a way.

  • This can be an added tier to your existing wine club, or an entirely new offering. You can try integrating it into your current wine clubs, first!

  • Hone in on who the target audience is most likely to be. This is a big piece of the puzzle. Segmenting your emails and geo-targeting with ads will be really helpful here.

  • Develop a highly targeted digital marketing strategy to build awareness and acquire new members. Narrow down all the channels you need to launch the offers you choose. For example, if you’re going with membership perks like partnering with local businesses or restaurants, collaborate with them on the advertising.

  • Learn from what works and what doesn’t and do more of the former and less of the latter. Don’t get too overwhelmed, it’s all a grand experiment, anyways!

It’s benefits in the “Outside the Box” tier that are the most promising for maintaining interest and building loyalty for wineries looking to grow their audiences. These are just a few examples that anyone can build on. For those brands able to inspire and edu-tain their members beyond the essential magic of their wines, there is a big upside and an unblazed trail ahead of you. 

Remember, this is a great way to get NEW customers and advocates for your brand. Most of the existing virtual wine clubs of recent years started with no customers and acquired them mostly online through social media, digital advertising, and referrals. And with a reduction likely in tasting room traffic visitation by those in older demographics, the traditional wine club enrollees, there will be a new paradigm required for offsetting wine club attrition with new members through effectively targeted digital marketing.


News Archive

So Many Webinars, So Little Time! Register Now
08 June, 2020

You know what they say: if it ain't broke, don't fix it, and our webinars have been working out pretty well. Coming to you live on June 17th + 24th, it's Astra Digital with back to back webinars for you and your winery.

June 17: DtC Digital Trends & Action Items for Wineries

We're thrilled to be a guest-host for VinSuite! Our Director of Business Development Ryan Neergaard will discuss what’s working in the digital world of winery marketing, with a focus on tools you can start using today & best practices that go beyond COVID-19. Register for free!


June 24: Digital Wine Clubs Have Come of Age

Is the traditional winery wine club model dead? No, but it is evolving with the change in lifestyles and work-from-home habits brought on by Covid-19.

Our CEO Ron is going to discuss what the future holds for Digital Wine Clubs. Join us for a talk on the evolution of wine clubs, and how to use virtual experiences + unique offers to create relationships with members who don’t visit your winery.

See you there!


Stay tuned for more updates, and we hope to catch you at one of our upcoming webinars!
(Or both webinars if you're a true Astra fan)

DTC Marketing Dilemma: Covid 2.0 and Beyond
12 May, 2020

As marketers, where do we go from here?

The landscape of consumer behavior has changed forever

As Doug Stephens of the Retail Prophet blog recently voiced in his podcast, “Covid is like a wormhole in space that we are all passing through”. We are at last finally leaving the vestiges of the age of the industrial revolution behind us and fully embracing the digital age, and businesses will need to adapt to this reality.

The work-from-home requirement of the Pandemic has opened peoples' eyes (both companies and employees) to the potential of having remote office operations while still maintaining company culture and productivity. This will affect the recent trends towards increasing urban growth and population, as people look to leave the crowded and expensive cities and work in suburban and more rural communities to raise families and have a better quality of life while still having good jobs. This will dramatically affect what the "new retail" will look like and how it serves the new urban population. Same for restaurants. Retail inevitably is a reflection of how we live our lives.

As a result, luxury brand marketing is bound to change. The baby boomers who fueled luxury purchasing of goods as “life milestone markers” are being replaced by younger consumers who value experiences and the intangibles over buying goods. They watched their parents celebrate conspicuous consumption and asset accumulation while they grew up, only to see everything wash away in a series of economic meltdowns.

These next-generation, more sober consumers will choose to replace "things" with experiences and this will impact how retail experiences are henceforth defined.

The pandemic, and our emotional response to it, will also temper our feelings about how workers work and their compensation. It will also likely affect consumer opinions about robotics and their roles in manufacturing, retail, restaurants, and elsewhere. The need to ensure the safety of workers and the public will increase the inclusion of robots in ways we never imagined or would have accepted before.

The adoption of new technologies will also accelerate. The idea of using touch screens, buttons, personal data input, and other manual payment options will feel uncomfortable and unnatural to many consumers after the pandemic. "Touching things" will not be cool as consumers get more cautious. This will accelerate the implementation of technologies in retail and restaurants which allow for touchless mobile payments and data collection.

We are navigating both a health/medical and an economic crisis at the same time. Undoubtedly, there will be new ideas for products, businesses and services that will capitalize on the chaos caused by the pandemic. That is our nature as an entrepreneurial society. But there will be more losers than winners in the days ahead as we work our way through the New Normal, whatever that may mean for us all. The world of the future will likely look very different once we are there looking back.

Now, for the Wine Industry.

As a wine industry digital marketer, I see the gap growing between the haves and have nots as the tasting room experience under Covid 19 restrictions and beyond changes. Larger wineries with more resources and capital will be able to invest in diverse experiential tasting room experiences and newer technologies to drive engagement, customer acquisition and sales, both at the winery and through virtual experiences.

But of the 2,077 wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties, 74% produce fewer than 5,000 cases of wine annually, according to Wines Vines Analytics. How will smaller wineries compete and prosper with reduced visitor traffic, lower wine club enrollment, and the higher costs of operating under pandemic induced government regulations? A strategy of driving down the road by navigating in the rear-view mirror will likely lead to failure.

Only a strong digital marketing strategy and execution plan will help level the playing field. One that finds new digital customers while creating entertaining digital experiences for the loyal followers that wineries already have and need to retain. Virtual tastings and other live streaming events will become critical as a starting point to augment live tasting room traffic. But investments in digital advertising, data collection and data segmentation, and analytics supported by fresh and engaging content and storytelling will be essential to gain new customers and grow brands.

THAT must be the future of winery DTC.

22 April, 2020


I love talking to wineries about their customers, and how they strive to keep them engaged from vintage to vintage. It can be a struggle. But when it comes to enhancing customer retention and loyalty, I am often asked the question “how much is too much?” in terms of the frequency of emails, phone calls, or other outreach.

I’ll get to some takeaways later on this post to address this more fully, but let me first put the problem in context.

I find this question to be a challenging one because, when asked in a vacuum, there is no right answer. If every contact with a customer is a relevant one for the customer, then there really are no limits. This means once a week, once a month, or once a quarter could be okay if there is a “what’s in it for me” approach, with the “me” being the customer. But if it’s just a batch and blast approach to a general email list, then even one email may be too much.


However, right now we are not in a vacuum. We are in an unprecedented pandemic with no real end in sight. So right now, the answer is the limit does not exist. Your Facebook Ads and Mailchimp accounts should be firing at full capacity, so long as the content is clever, generous, and overall, relevant.

Relevance is the key. Typically, the messaging is about what’s only relevant to the winery and not to the customer, like inventory to move, an event to sell out, or something the winery thinks is important to their brand. But what you should be asking, especially right now, is what’s really in it for the customer? What does the customer want right now? What would they think is a great deal or an awesome idea?



Relevance = Content + Context………If you miss either, you’re sunk. A perfect example of this is the local butcher offering an organic, hand-raised turkey at a great price right before Thanksgiving, which sounds compelling. But make the same offer the week after Thanksgiving, and it falls on deaf ears. Context is everything.

If you want to take advantage of the online purchasing going on during this pandemic, relevance should be your motto. “No end in sight” doesn’t mean you have a few weeks to prepare a winning strategy to launch for the summer. It means this could all end in May, and then what? You stood by while your customers were getting special vintage offers or thoughtful care packages from other wineries, and whatever you had planned is no longer relevant. So you have to drop the prideful disdain against offering $1 shipping or opening club-level access to nonmembers. These are uncertain times, for sure. But one real, solid fact right now is that people are drinking and they’re buying online. So contrary to how it may feel, now is not the time to play it safe when it comes to your brand’s traditional content or usual monthly strategy. Like my grandfather always said, “Don’t worry about the mule going blind, just load the wagon.”


This brings me to the “fear of marketing”. For years, I’ve met with wineries who sought me out because they were treading water in keeping up their wine club rolls and growing their email lists, two vital components of the DTC channel. The common theme among them is that their wine club enrollment is falling, as are wine purchases from these same constituents. In addition, their email marketing and ecommerce sales are unsatisfactory to their expectations.


What these wineries share in common is a philosophy about their customers and about themselves. Whenever they send emails to their wine club members, they get a significant number of customers canceling their memberships. And when they email their non-wine club members, they get significant numbers of unsubscribes to their email list. Their “logical” response is, therefore, to communicate as little as possible, in the order of 1–2 times per year to each segment.


We tend to think of loyalty in business as just customer loyalty, but like all relationships, reciprocity is crucial. You have to be loyal to your customers, too. But rather than trying to find out where the love went and how they can make their customers fall in love with them all over again, wineries will run for the hills out of fear of rejection. The self-fulfilling prophecy here is obvious.


The same goes for phone contact, direct mail, and other channels of communication. Some wineries have expressed their concerns to me that phoning their customers would be a “pestering form of communication”. But these wineries forget that they are actually a positive difference maker in consumer lives; that they remind their customers of the great experiences and relationships that they have built with the winery. The phone call therefore becomes an extension of the true service heart they exhibited on their customer’s first visit to the winery, and is a highly relevant act of reaching out. 


So, what to do? Some tips for the wise in sending out your emails:

Think of how you can make your customers love your emails rather than just worrying about how to make sure they land in the inbox.

  • Know your audience — demographics, location, average purchase, history, etc.

  • Find out what your subscribers want and deliver on that.

  • Have a clear value proposition for subscribers and customers — deliver value, not just email.

  • Don’t just batch and blast — segment your list and use preference-based marketing data.

  • Think responsibly, and responsively — make sure your emails are mobile optimized.


Lastly, learn from your fellow wineries. Certain ones are killing it right now with their offers and content. Why? Because they didn’t waste time or shy away, and they care about their customers. They didn’t drop off the face of the earth when the quarantine hit — they thought, ‘Our tasting room is closed, our events are canceled, our customers are stuck at home. How do we let them know that we’re still here, we miss them, and we can still enjoy wine together?’


Some deals and content we’ve seen work:

  • Special Shipping for a dollar, a cent, or included on certain order amounts.

  • Branded Care Packages with two bottles plus something from your winery, like merchandise, a food you serve, a voucher for a future tasting. You can get really creative with this one.

  • Virtual Tastings or Virtual Vineyard Walks with the winemaker and owner(s). We’re seeing attendances north of 150, and those attendees are buying massive amounts of wine before and after the Virtual Tasting.

  • Opening the Cellar or Storewide Sales of at least 15% off to sweeten the pot. Anything lower is dust in the wind.  

  • Wine and Food Pairing Tastings where wineries partner with cheese, caviar, or charcuterie businesses to provide the fuel for the fire.



How to Produce a Virtual Wine Tasting Like a Pro
02 April, 2020

As your trusted advisor, we are always keeping our ears to the ground in search of the best nuggets of information that will help you reach your customers, sell more wine, and continue to help your brand develop in the digital space. To that end, virtual wine tastings are all the buzz right now. People are consuming digital media at a frenzied pace. If you haven’t performed one yet, it is time to get in the game. If you have performed one or two, you know that it is a bit more challenging than some people make it look.

Either way, we have your back and are here to give you the best practices in the pre, post, and during stages of executing a successful virtual wine tasting. Even more, we have some tips for reaching more of your fanbase and their fellow drinking buddies. I think we all need one of those about now! Let’s get to it!

Simple right? Well, with many of the tastings we have seen so far, we have seen some virtual tastings appear very disorganized. If you’re Ryan Seacrest that’s not such a big deal, but having the appearance of sitting in a poorly lit room and not having a focus can get stale very quickly. So here’s a pre-tasting checklist for you to think about:

  • Tell your audience what will be covered. This can be as simple as a time limit, picking 2 wines, planning a walking tour of the winery, talking about the vintage, and having a special offer for attendees at the end.
  • What do your participants need? Cheese and crackers? Tasting mats? Give a list of must-haves with the tasting so you set them up to succeed. Some things that can truly enhance the tasting experience are no brainers for you but could be overlooked by your fans.
  • What platform are you using, Skype, Zoom, Facebook Live? Make sure you rehearse your performance with your team prior to the live show. You have most likely gone to a meeting where someone fumbled around with the technology before. Don’t be that person.
  • Plan the location where you will be hosting the virtual tasting. Dark rooms with a Nirvana poster on the wall don’t say “luxury wine tasting”. Take the time to frame your shot while checking out the lighting and acoustics. You don’t want an echo echo echo…
  • Get your fans used to the platform you are using. Do they need to download something? Do they need to set a calendar reminder? If you had any trouble setting your virtual tasting up, chances are they will have trouble too. Be a good host and prepare them the best that you can.

You’ve spent the time inviting and preparing your audience. You have told them what you will be covering. Now it is time to shine. Here are some tips to help you in the live portion of your tasting:

  • First and foremost, check in with your audience to make sure they can hear you. Thumbs up if they can hear you/thumbs down if they can’t. If you’re using zoom, be sure as the host to mute your audience, show them how to unmute or hide their faces.
  • You have set the expectations of your audience, now live up to your word. Don’t get off track…well not too far off track. Being spontaneous is good if it is the minority of your presentation, not the majority. Being funny = Good! Telling a drawn-out joke you can’t remember the punch line to = Bad!
  • Chat with your audience. Although you’ll have a plan to stick to, make sure someone off-camera is responding to the chat board. This can be one of the most entertaining parts of a virtual tasting. You may make wine better than your fans, but chances are that they may be funnier than you. Engaging with a group can be invigorating. Having a tasting where no one on your team engages them is an opportunity wasted.
  • Where possible, have a special offer that they cannot pass up. This should be better than what you send out regularly. Make them an offer they can’t refuse and make it easy for them to purchase. It can be a link in your chat or it can be having them call your winery, but just make it simple.
  • Make sure to smile. Unlike the photographs taken in the 1920s, you can see what you look like in real-time. Smiling is always better than the alternative and it even makes the wine taste better for your audience.
  • Don’t forget to capture your tasting for social media. Maybe a screenshot of attendees or the presenter. Maybe pictures of prepping the wine for the tasting. Give people more ways to connect with your tasting.

The people that attend your tastings have friends who may love your wine too. Here is how you can reach them post-tasting:

  • Tell them you love them. I don’t recommend this for a first date, but I do with your follow up to your tasting. Put whatever offer you gave to them in the live stream in an email. Out of sight, out of mind. Don’t let at home distractions for your customers make you lose your opportunity to sell.
  • Make your offer sharable. Right now, many people are only purchasing things they have tried before, but just like a good stock tip, friends love telling friends about good wines. Let them help you do the work by incentivizing them. Try giving a $25 gift card to your winery for every friend they send your way.
  • Invite them to another virtual wine tasting. If you’ve ever watched Breaking Bad, you know that waiting for the 5 second Netflix countdown for the next episode is almost unbearable. If you planned and executed your virtual tasting well, people will want to come back!
  • Ask your fans how they liked it. A simple survey can go a long way to helping you understand what to get better at and what they want to see next time.

So there you have it. A blueprint for a successful virtual tasting. As with most things in life, the devil is in the details and we learn as we go. Take the time to plan each of these stages so you can put your best foot forward and represent your winery authentically.

Why a Digital Marketing Strategy Matters Now More Than Ever, While Living in Uncertain Times
16 March, 2020

As a citizen of our great country and state, and a longstanding member of the wine industry, I have lived through crises and turbulent business cycles before. We will get through this. But to do so requires a realization that in the near term, we need to pivot whatever strategies we had in place for 2020 and be proactive. I lead a team of almost 18 professionals serving almost 30 wine brands. Right now, we’re using this strange waiting game as preparation. It’s a time to sharpen our swords and work on our swing, so that when the world regains balance and wine lovers are ready to travel and engage again, we will be ready. This is what is clear to me.

Digital marketing will be increasingly important for the health and wellbeing of your business. If you don’t have a fully integrated digital marketing strategy with a strong social media marketing core, you need to start building one now.

Here are the facts that matter.

We are now in mid-March in the midst of a declared national and state emergency which affects peoples’ willingness and ability to travel. Compounding this is the significant impact on the financial wellbeing of households from business/job disruptions and the perceived changes in the “Wealth Effect” from the stunning stock market declines. While this will likely have more impact on the numerous high-end wineries in Napa/Sonoma selling expensive wines, it will still affect all wineries and wine retailers in the near term and even longer. The fact that restaurants around the country are closing or operating on a limited basis with major reductions in traffic will result in potentially bigger problems for wineries dependent on 3-tier sales for contributions to their annual revenue stream. Many restaurants may ultimately be forced to close from the fallout from lost business during the crisis, and the ones that stay open will likely still be in stock of wine.

And on top of the recent heavy harvests which have depressed grape and bulk wine prices, the backup of wines sitting in distributor warehouses across the U.S. will create a severe backlog that will be an obstacle for 3-tier sales for all wineries. It will also likely force extreme wholesale price reductions by wineries reminiscent of the financial crisis of 2008-09. For wineries trying to gain new access to distributors or to restaurants and retailers through self-distribution, the competition and obstacles will be fierce.

DTC Impact

In the near term, tasting room traffic will get hit hard by this crisis. Even when it recovers, it may be weaker than last year due to the financial impact on families and longer-term uncertainties. It is possible that there could be a positive “staycation” effect from travelers who had planned trips abroad, cruises, or flights to other parts of the U.S., who choose instead to vacation within driving distance of the Bay Area. But this is unknown at present. So, what to do?

Digital Marketing Reboot

A combination of boosted engagement, empathetic social media, segmented email marketing, and digital advertising is the best way to maintain and nourish your existing customer base, building your audience of prospective customers for your brand and converting them to purchasers and wine club members. And yes, digital marketing can be your most cost-effective way to do this when visitors are NOT coming to your winery’s tasting room.

If you don’t have an existing digital marketing strategy, build one now. Start telling your story in engaging ways on the major social media platforms with boosted posts and social ads. Execute segmented email marketing campaigns, particularly around ones that differentiate between your subscribers that are within driving distance of your winery, from those that need to fly to make a visit. Think of creative ways to nurture and reward your wine club members and most loyal purchasers. Use geo-targeted local SEO and Adwords to capture whatever local traffic is out and about looking for places to visit and shop. Be proactive. Once the market starts to return to near normalcy, consumers will remember the love and attention and hopefully reward you.

If you have an existing digital marketing strategy, make sure you revisit it to take into account the consumer’s current state of mind and needs. If ever there was a case for it, now is the time to make the story and engagement about them and not about you. How can you make a difference in their lives by engaging with your brand and sharing your wines with those around them? Be empathetic, sell softly, and let them share their stories with you.

While waiting for the market to return, here’s a summary of things you should do:

  • Refresh your website with relevant content including more photography and lifestyle imagery that reflects the visitors you want to have as your customers, as well as edutaining blog content. If you want potential visitors to discover you online to drive more tasting room traffic, you need to optimize your site for SEO and for Google My Business visits.
  • An ongoing SEO strategy should be implemented to optimize the website and ensure ongoing SEO maintenance to maximize visibility in consumer search, both local and national.
  • Your data should be cleaned, deduped, and appended with current email addresses to ensure the highest rate of deliverability. Based on a customized segmentation strategy built on your specific customer attributes, a customized rolling 90-day promotional calendar should be created to target key segments. Example: Wine club purchasers, large and/or frequent purchasers, 1-time purchasers, never purchasers, Bay Area purchasers, specific SKU purchasers, etc. Emails should not all be promotional sales emails, but should also feature relevant content and imagery around the winery and brand to keep subscribers interested.
  • A fully engaged social media marketing strategy should be implemented on Facebook and Instagram that aligns with your promotional calendar and email campaigns.
  • An Adwords campaign strategy should be implemented that aligns with your SEO strategy, email campaigns, and social media marketing strategy. This would include both local, Bay Area, and national markets.
  • Wine club growth – in addition to driving wine club membership in the tasting room and through your planned referral program from existing members, wine club growth can be accelerated by:
    • Email/social outreach to existing purchasers with incentives to convert to membership
    • Digital ads targeting audiences for wine club signups (this was worked for other wineries)
    • Enhancing your wine club page on your website – add testimonials from loyal wine club members.
  • Three-Tier Sales - We find that a fully engaged and integrated social media marketing strategy has positive impacts on the wholesale marketplace. Buyers in the trade follow social media around winery brands, and our efforts can lend credibility and confidence to the sales team promoting your brand in this channel.

Final Thoughts

We are all in this together, but you also each have your own unique challenges as competitors in the wine marketplace. Be creative. Be bold. Think outside the box. Try things you might never have considered for your brand marketing. You and your customers need to get through these uncertain times, as long as these times last. But if you have a digital marketing strategy that is relevant to the times we live in and beyond, you can come out on the other side with a head of steam. 

Who Wants to Sell More Wine?
10 March, 2020

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What Is the Value of a Winery Email?
27 February, 2020

Ronald Scharman


I’ve always been fascinated by human behavior pertaining to email, particularly regarding the field of “behavioral economics”. A well-known past economics professor of mine, Richard Thaler, currently a University of Chicago professor and economist, has written numerous books about this subject. The themes are essentially based on the fact that conventional economics assumes that people are highly-rational, super-rational, and unemotional. They can calculate like a computer and have no self-control problems.

But we know that’s not the case, which is why it’s a fun subject. Now about those emails. I have done a number of webinar surveys over the past two years of winery DTC professionals and posed the question: what is the value of an incremental email to you?

Do You Know The Answer?

The answers have generally fallen in the following ranges:

  1. Less than $1.00 – 5%
  2. $1.00 – $5.00 – 10%
  3. $5.00 – $10.00 – 20%
  4. $10.00 – $15.00 – 40%
  5. Greater than $15.00 – 25%

These surveys were administered to different winery groups over a two-year period, and while not completely scientific with respect to research survey methodology, they clearly tell a story. Everyone surveyed believed emails had an economic value and, in most cases, a value that was in excess of $5.00, if not $15.00. Why then, is it so common for wineries to reward their tasting room staff with incentives to sign up wine club members, but not for capturing email addresses? And when they do provide incentives, why are they frequently only $1.00 or less per email captured?

Professor Thaler would call this “quasi rational economics“.

Why This Matters

What do Nordstrom, Best Buy, Gap, and hundreds of other bricks & mortar and online retailers know that wineries don’t, in regards to the costs and ROI of customer email acquisition and email marketing?

As the chart above shows, these retailers and marketers across all industries know that email is the best performing marketing channel compared to all others, and is essential for building consumer direct sales.

The Equation

The equation is formulated by gaining access to a few stats that are often hard to accurately quantify:

  1. The cost of acquiring an email subscriber; and
  2. The potential return on cost (ROI) of an email subscriber, based on Lifetime Value(LTV)

In the case of wineries with an established presence with physical infrastructure, staff in place, and CRM and IT systems already embedded as fixed costs, it’s helpful to start with the marginal cost analysis. ie: What does it actually cost to acquire the next email subscriber and send them a marketing offer? This depends on how emails are acquired, which could include any of the following sources:

A marginal cost analysis would not include the cost of the tasting room facilities, overhead, and staff, unless an incentive was paid to associates (we’ll get to this later) to solicit newsletter signups in the tasting room. The same is true for other winery events and off-premise events, and online signups on the winery’s website. However, contests, social media promoted posts, paid search (PPC), affiliate marketing and other digital advertising driving email acquisition will all likely have a specific performance based cost associated with a “click” which hopefully translates to a “conversion”, or data capture. One can quibble over whether the cost of marketing staff or agency time required to produce emails as well as the email platform costs should be included as well, but it’s easier to start with the question of what that next incremental email will cost to acquire and to market to.

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder.

So what about the ROI? I know that not all emails are created equal, nor are the wines produced by the wineries sending the emails. I created what I call a “Lifetime Value Coefficient” to distinguish the loyalty and response rates to be expected from different email acquisition sources. Starting with the best case of on-premise acquisition at the winery (1.0), it decreases based on where the conversions take place (down to .40). This may vary by winery brand and success of outreach, but in any case it should affect how much to spend on driving email acquisitions though the different channels.

The good news is that you already probably have enough data to start figuring all this out.

Let’s start with your last 12 months of data on marketing emails you have sent to your existing customers. If you can, it’s best to segment your wine club member marketing data from the rest of your subscriber lists. Opening rates for winery emails tend to perform better than the national all industry averages of 16 – 22% (MailChimp October 2019) due to the high consumer interest level and post-visit loyalty. In my experience, it typically ranges from 30 – 50% for a clean, deduped and updated list, and sometimes even higher.

Next you need to look at how effective your email’s engagement was as measured by your click-to-open (CTO) rates, which is the % clicks you got from those that opened the emails. Across all industries for ecommerce and retail, this % is around 15% (Smart Insights October 2019). Now for the fun part – how many orders did you get, and what conversion rate did you achieve as measured by the % of subscribers who bought vs. the number that clicked on the offer? Likely 2 – 10%, which is the range for all industry ecommerce and retail (Hubspot 2020). And, what was your average order size from all campaigns?

So let’s do the math:

  • Let’s say you sent 12 marketing emails in the past year to your subscriber list of an average 1,000 members during the year.
  • That’s 24,000 emails sent, and you had an opening rate of 30%, or 7,200 emails opened.
  • Your CTO calculated out to be 20% of 7,200 emails, or 1,440 unique clicks.
  • You ended up with a 5% conversion rate, which resulted in 72 orders totaling $14,400, or an average order size of $200 (exclusive of shipping & tax).
  • Your net revenue for the year was therefore $14,400/2,000 emails, or $7.20 per email subscriber.
  • Assuming an average 3 year tenure for an email subscriber (LTV), the net revenue jumps to $21.60.

So, back to the question of what is the marginal cost of acquiring an email subscriber and what’s it worth. If your data tells you that over 3 years, you generated on average $21.60 from an email subscriber, what can you afford to pay your staff in incentives, or pay for social marketing, paid search (PPC), contests, or referrals going forward (adjusting for Lifetime Value Coefficients)? And what special offers, discounts or otherwise, are you prepared to give to encourage visitors to your tasting room and website to sign up for your newsletters, email offers, etc. in order get their email addresses?

The math should be clear based on your existing historical data.

And now imagine if you upgraded your email marketing tool kit for email delivery, improved your website CRM, enhanced your email content, implemented A-B testing of subject line, promo offers, and content, and segmented your member lists to target your customers with the most relevant of offers……..The sky’s the limit.

You Can Have Two Birds, Not One

Let’s return to my earlier comment about wineries giving incentives for wine club sign-ups, but not solely for email acquisitions. Why are these two options mutually exclusive? Why shouldn’t tasting room staff and signage be prominent to drive customer email acquisition as well as wine club signups, and why shouldn’t there be meaningful incentives given to visitors and staff to drive data acquisition?

Do the math – The truth is self-evident

One of the best parts of my job is helping a wide range of wineries gain insights on ways to constantly improve a local ecosystem that I love dearly. I openly invite your thoughts, insights, and conversations on this blog or in person. 

21 January, 2020



One of the questions I get most often from wineries is, “Can you help me attract and acquire new customers for my winery?” My answer depends on the winery and their specific circumstances. Before answering, I ask these questions:

  • Do they have a tasting room open to the public and do they require/accept reservations?
  • Do they have a customer/prospect database of size and substance that includes email addresses and wine club members?
  • How long has the winery been in business, and are they in 3-Tier distribution?

Based on the above, there is usually a customized strategy that can be executed utilizing a number of digital tools in our arsenal. One of my favorites is developing a targeted Google Ads strategy based on the customer acquisition goals that meet the winery’s targets for the “right kind of customer.”

When I first speak to clients about developing a Google Ads strategy alongside SEO, they often have a puzzled look on their face that says, “really?” From their personal consumer perspective as online shoppers and information seekers, they see Google Ads as much a nuisance as shopping or search ads. But the reality is that Google Ads are extremely powerful for targeting people with a predisposition to buy, visit, or learn. While we also employ Facebook ads, retargeting, email marketing, SEO, and other techniques for our clients, when it comes to new customer acquisition to drive traffic, we find Google Ads to be one of the best tactics.

And it’s not just us. Here are recent stats for advertising spend across all industries:

According to Forrester Research, 93% of online experiences start with search – Google accounts for 90.1% of this. Because of this, companies have turned to paid search (PPC) to supplement their organic efforts due to the growing competition on search engine results pages. Google Ads, in particular, dominates PPC advertising and is the largest platform available.

Unfortunately, the wine industry continues to lag behind other industries with online advertising, including PPC and SEO. A recent 2019 study published by Sonoma State University surveyed the wine industry on winery digital marketing efforts and illustrated the gap (see below). 36% of wineries surveyed execute no digital advertising and one-third of those that did spend less than $100 per month doing so. The statistics on SEO, a complimentary marketing tactic to paid search, were even worse with only 18% of wineries outsourcing to specialists and one-third of wineries not doing anything.

Over the past several years, we have successfully incorporated Google Ads, alongside SEO, into most of our clients’ digital marketing campaigns.

Case Studies

Winery A is in need of help driving more reservations for their personalized wine tasting experiences in Sonoma County that focus on highly rated Russian River Pinot and Syrah. By creating several ad campaigns targeting local search and same-day visitors within a 75-mile radius, and nationwide searches for future visitors, Google Ad campaigns that spent $17,000 drove over $95,000 in tasting room reservations and wine sales over a 9-month period. In addition, 60 of these visitors joined the wine club.

Winery B had a different problem. A producer of very high-end Napa Cabernet produced from prestigious, well-known Napa vineyards does not have a tasting room and offers allocation only. Their goal was to accelerate signups for their allocated wine list, and ultimately get conversions off this list when wines were released in Spring and Fall. While traditional Facebook ads failed to generate sufficient traffic, a highly effective Google Ads strategy was created around targeting consumers specifically searching keywords related to the prestigious vineyards themselves. Anyone knowledgeable about the vineyards was likely to be a candidate for their high price point wines, and so it proved out. Over 300 consumers signed up for the allocation; a 23% conversion rate in sales (70 customers) and an AOV of $1,200; projected LTV of $6,000, or $420,000 in total LTV of new customers. While the price per click of $4.50 was high in order to get a highly targeted customer, the conversions justified the 9-month spend of $18,000.

Winery C was a Napa winery that had a tasting room visitation problem. With their large property packed on weekends and ample room available on weekdays, the winery needed to find ways to get new customers to the tasting room Monday through Thursday. Utilizing an aggressive geo-targeted local Google Ads campaign that ran only on those 4 days for visitors already in the 75-mile radius of the winery, coupled with a national campaign that ran all week, the mission was accomplished. Weekday traffic increased by more than 10% over a three-month period.

Each of these wineries had a customized Google Ads strategy that was augmented with social ads, SEO strategy, and email marketing to maximize traffic to the website and conversions. Social media alone would not have had the same success. Incorporating Google Ads as part of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy is the best way to achieve winery sales and visitation growth by finding the “right kind of customers.”

Five Steps for Mastering OND Sales
14 October, 2019

With the holidays quickly approaching, it’s time to start thinking about how your brand can successfully utilize the most popular shopping months of the year. October, November, and December (or OND, as we call it around here) is the ideal time to make your year-end sales goals and provide enticing deals for your customers. Give us 5 minutes of your time, and we will give you 5 tips on how you can make the most out of this holiday season. Happy OND planning!

Step 1: Create a Calendar

Which holiday sales will you be participating in this year? Take a look at your revenue from last year to determine the pros and cons of your efforts. This will help you to make a decision regarding how many sales you want to participate in and what discounts you should offer.

Step 2: Segment Your Data & Audience

Now let’s think about what the audience is going to look like. Segmentation is the process of dividing and organizing your audience into manageable groups. With segmentation, brands are able to tailor their messages to a specific group in order to connect. During this stage, determine what characteristics you already know about the groups to create the most effective sales strategy.

Step 3: Develop Enticing Offers

There is an endless amount of possibilities for you to engage audiences and provide them with the most enticing offers. Sit down, get creative, and think about your target audiences. Will you participate in Thanksgiving-themed packs? Or will you find yourself promoting Small Business Saturday? Whichever route you decide to take, it is always important to sell your brand and create a personalized experience for your customers.

Step 4: Let’s Advertise!

It’s time to get the word out regarding your planned sales! Ideally, this will take place at least three weeks before the sales are set to launch. The best way to get the most bang for your advertising buck is by communicating with your audience ahead of time. Get creative, wow your customers, and help them remember your brand! Keep in mind, this is not the time to try to reach a new customer base. Focus on the ones you already have and ways you can make them repeat purchasers.

Step 5: Track, Track, Track

How are your advertising efforts performing? Take a look at how people are responding to your messaging. It may be time to reach out to another audience or switch up your marketing strategy. P.S. Don’t be afraid to decrease your ad spend each day as you approach the sale date! 

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start planning your OND strategy. The holidays are coming!

Free Webinar - Digital Trends 2019
31 July, 2019

People have transformed how they live, work, shop & play. Businesses need to adapt. We're diving into the top digital trends of 2019 and the 5 thinks your brand should focus on for the remainder of the year. 

In July, CEO Ron Scharman hosted a free webinar on Digital Trends in 2019.

Click here to watch

5 Hot-Button Topics for the Wine Industry in 2019
19 June, 2019

1. ADA Compliance on Your Website 

The American Disabilities Act states that businesses must facilitate full and equal access to “goods, services, facilities and accommodations” for all individuals. In what capacity that extends into the digital realm has come into recent question. By the logic that there are more and more online-only businesses and that even businesses with a physical location receive an increasing amount of website traffic, this digital point of business nests itself within the “accommodations” category.

There have been a few lawsuits directed at major retailers in recent years (e.g. Target, Five Guys, Omaha Steaks), but there have now been lawsuits filed against 15 New York wineries.

With this in mind, there’s no better time to take a moment and understand the implications of California Law and ADA Compliance and begin taking steps to bring your site into compliance. Where to begin? Reviewing the resources below is a great place to start.

Free Evaluation Tool: Functional Accessibility Evaluator

Read 5 Tools to Help Make Your Website Ada Compliant


2. GDPR Compliance

While GDPR isn’t new news in 2019, it certainly is worth revisiting or catching up on if you didn’t take care of it in 2018. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is aimed to protect the personal data of European citizens. Whether your business is based in the EU or not, you’re impacted if you have EU users (i.e. visitors to your site or tasting room) or customers.

What’s at stake if you fail to comply? Up to 4 percent of your yearly profits. So what should you do? Focus on transparency and ensure you’re using GDPR-compliant data collection on your site for all emails collected.

Read: 5 Easy Steps to GDPR Compliance on our blog


3. Proposition 65: California Health Warning

Also known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act this legislation has been around since 1986. The requirements we’re discussing here went into effect on August 30, 2018, and apply to businesses with 10 or more employees. What’s new? You’re now required to place the Alcohol Beverage warning language on winery websites and DTC shipments to California, as well as post it in California tasting rooms.

So how do you proceed? Look for resources in your eCommerce platform help center. For example, Wine Direct has integrated easy options to fulfill these requirements online and to only display these warnings to California customers.

Read New Prop 65 Warning Requirements for Online Sales and DTC Shipments on The Wine Institute


4. Shipping Compliance

Of course, it’s no surprise that you need to know where you can and can’t ship wine to your customers, but the rules are always changing. Staying up-to-date on Direct-To-Consumer Shipping Laws should be a routine part of your business. 

Moreover, you should take a minute to ensure that you are displaying what states you do or do not ship to on your website and on your order forms to improve the customer experience.

The Wine Institute is a resource for you to explore the ins and outs of all state policies, and also provides alerts on changing policies.


5. Missing Millennials

The 2019 Silicon Valley Bank Wine Report covers a number of insights on how the wine industry will face challenges over the next five years, but one topic stands out among the list: millennials are not increasing their hold as wine consumers. The SVB annual report author, Rob McMillan, elaborates on this singular issue in his article, “The Lost Wine Consumer of 2019.”

Notable takeaways that are affecting millennials decision making include: wine’s growing price point compared to the perceived cheapness of beer; the negative health perception of alcohol; and the propensity to purchase spirits from their celebrity-touting labels.

So what’s the solution? Although there’s not a concrete answer, one place to start looking is at tasting room visitation and wine clubs. McMillan notes that millennials are extremely underrepresented in these areas. How could you consider structuring your club differently to attract this particular audience? 

Looking for more great content? Check out our other blog topics here.  

Free Webinar: Social Media Tactics for DTC Success
17 April, 2019

In a changing digital landscape, you can't be reactionary. You must push the limits. This session covers the changing environment of the wine industry and focuses on the best techniques to achieve success in the DTC channel leveraging important social media platforms.

Join Astra for a FREE webinar aimed at teaching you methods to improve conversions driven by your social presences.


Tuesday, April 23 at 10:00 a.m. PST


Online: Register Now! It only takes 10 seconds!


Hosted by Ryan Neergaard, Director of Business Development


FREE WEBINAR - Social Media Tactics for DTC Success


  • State of social media and what you should know
  • How to profitably segment your current customer data
  • How to create strategic content
  • Steps for taking action to find new customers
  • Case studies of proven digital marketing tactics for wineries 

Free Webinar: Benchmarking Your Business for a Successful 2019
26 December, 2018



New Year, New Opportunities...

Planning for the new year is too important to wing. So why is it that year after year many companies seem to do exactly that?

For small and large wineries and businesses alike, often times the year seems to fly by quarter after quarter without taking the time to reflect on what is working and what isn't. We want to demonstrate why benchmarking is a key step in setting yourself up for success.

So if you haven't started your 2019 planning, or even if you are on top of it, let us walk you through some targeted ways to get organized for the new year and implement lessons you can learn from 2018.

Join Astra for a FREE webinar focused on bringing a fun and fresh perspective to letting metrics that matter power your success - both digital and in the tasting room.



Tuesday, January 15 at 10:00 a.m. PST



Online: Register Now! It only takes 10 seconds!



Hosted by Ryan Neergaard, Director of Business Development & Guest Host, John Keleher, Founder of Community Benchmark



FREE WEBINAR - Benchmarking Your Business for a Successful 2019



Learn why benchmarks are paramount to your business success

Explore what relevant data you should be tracking

Learn how to make better-informed decisions using data you already have


Click Here to learn more and register for the webinar. 

5 Key Ways to Master Black Friday
26 October, 2018

Black Friday is just around the corner and there’s no time like the present to prepare. So take 5 minutes, maybe even 10, and take a look at ourtop 5 ways to set your brand up for success. From planning to executing, here are some points to consider when optimizing your ads this Black Friday.

5 Key Ways to Master Black Friday

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Facebook Ads That Work
27 September, 2018

The Importance of Creating an Evergreen Sales Funnel

Run Facebook ads, they said. It will be fun, they said. And most importantly, it will pay off, they said. And yet... It doesn’t seem to be working and it just doesn’t make sense. You think you’re doing all the right things. You’re using your data, targeting relevant interests, selecting age ranges and using geo-targeting to the best of your abilities… Sound familiar?

Well, the truth is even if you have all the pieces of the puzzle in front of you, they have to be in just the right order for it to work to your advantage. And to have ongoing success? Now that’s what dreams are made of.

So, what’s the secret to an evergreen sales funnel that works? Let’s take a look.


Know Your Audience

The Facebook ads funnel will look different based on who you’re talking to. So first things first, are you sending the same message to different audiences? The biggest mistake we see in Facebook advertising is to ask for a purchase from both your high loyalty customers and your new prospects. Each of those groups are in different phases of a relationship with you – different phases of the funnel – so it’s important the content of the ad you’re serving reflects that.

Take a minute to identify who these groups are. The more specific you are, the more engaging your ads will be to the target audience. Keeping in mind that you should capitalize on your data when building custom audiences, some common groups are high lifetime value customers, email lists, tasting room visitors, website visitors, lookalikes of each of these, and targeted interest groups.


Establish Your Steps

Once you’ve mapped out who you’re talking to, it’s time to tailor the right messages to each audience. For example, your longtime wine club members’ evergreen ad funnel may simply look like a reminder of their wine club benefits or ongoing sales.

However, a lookalike of a wine club member who is new to your brand and will require more steps on the path to conversion and consequently a higher cost per acquisition. So lay out what those steps are and the timeline for each, and think about how you like to interact with brands. Maybe the first step is to introduce the consumer to a blog. This leads them to the website where, with the Facebook Pixel, their data is captured and they can then be retargeted with additional content. From there, perhaps website visitors are directed to learn more about the brand, be it team members, winemakers, events, etc.

After a few touchpoints and building brand trust, then the funnel moves to be product-facing – but reality check, this could be a year out from the first touch point. Introduce the consumer to your products with an entry-level purchase offer. Take advantage of Facebook’s Custom Events so you can segment even further and retarget cart abandonment with either a shipping offer or simply a reminder of what they were browsing in your shop.


Review and Pivot

Evergreen Facebook Ad funnels are beneficial for the omnichannel marketing process, but they can’t be left alone forever. “Always be testing” is a marketer’s favorite mantra and it absolutely applies here. Check in on your funnel periodically and pivot accordingly. Using Google Analytics, if you have applied UTMs to your campaigns, you can take a look at time spent on your website, bounce rates, and ultimately conversions. Based on the information you find, make changes to your funnel in terms of art, content, and offers.


Efficient and Effective

Creating ads that run well and are worth your money can be tricky. The best way to maximize your budget is to accept the fact that not every group will be amenable to the final sales pitch at first introduction. Segmenting your audiences as much as possible and serving them each with the appropriate messaging will allow you to build qualified, quality relationships with new customers. Meet your consumers where they want to be met!


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Everything You Need to Know About the GDPR
15 August, 2018

General Data Protection Regulation

Customer relationships are at the core of the wine industry, and in the digital age, a new customer relationship can start anywhere. The new data protection regulation launched on May 25, 2018, reinforces EU individual’s rights, and it should have raised more than one eyebrow in the wine industry, especially for businesses that have a web presence and/or ship products purchased online. Have you hosted international visitors in your tasting room? Do you have “clear” consent to use their data? Here’s what you need to know to safely continue communicating with your EU customers.


The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new set of rules to protect the personal data of European citizens. Moving forward, all business with European customers must ask permission before collecting personal data from them. Replacing the old 1995 Data Protection Directive, GDPR specifies what type of data a business may collect, how it should be stored and used. The goal? Strengthen data protection policies for residents of EU member nations. Data is defined as “any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person” such as name, email or location, for example, of a wine club member.


The GDPR impacts any business, EU-based or not, that has EU users or customers. If you offer your goods or services to any EU resident, then your business must comply with GDPR. Even if a company does not have a European presence, it’s all about the data you process. With these new regulations, the geographical scope is borderless. Napa law firm Dickenson, Peatman & Fogarty illustrates how the wine industry may be impacted (1): “for example, a winery that had a single sale to an E.U. person in its wine club database might appear to meet the requirements to comply with the GDPR.”

Sunlit Napa Valley Vineyards


A heavy fine. The GDPR could bring costly penalties for noncompliance. If you are not storing data properly or failing to report a data breach, you may be fined up to $24 million or 4% of your worldwide turnover of the previous financial year, whichever is greater. The numbers are scary. The exact fines will depend on several factors such as the importance of the personal data breach or how noncompliant your business is. “Based on 2017 figures, penalties could top $1.6 billion for Facebook” stated Don’t forget that this data regulation does not apply to data about a company or any other legal entities. Just a short time after the launch of the regulation, it’s still too early to know how effective the 11 chapters of the law will be but it’s better to be safe than sorry.


Become GDPR-compliant. The purpose of this regulation is to protect data of EU individuals more efficiently. The first step for businesses is to be sure to have clear consent before collecting any data from EU citizens. No more passive acceptation, opt-out or pre-ticked boxes. You want to send email to your European customers to invite him to a Mediterranean wine cruise? You need to clearly specify how you will use their information at the moment they give it to you. Not sure if you are GDPR-compliant? Play it safe and start your GDPR journey with an audit of all your data. Update your privacy policies and start a conversation with your customers to inform them you care about the information they share with you. The keyword in all of this? Transparency.

Ready to become GDPR-compliant? Get started with these 5 easy steps here.

Customized Winery Marketing: Astra Digital Marketing Services
20 July, 2018

Just a two-year-old in the wine industry, Astra Digital Marketing Services is redefining direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing and pushing wineries of all sizes to think outside the bottle. Much like their clients’ wine, Astra’s process is hand-crafted. They know that no winery is the same, and neither is the team at Astra. Taking on a client means starting from scratch, forging a genuine relationship, and absorbing that brand’s product, heritage, personality and goals. Their buffet of services include strategy, content creation, social media marketing, digital advertising, blog writing, email marketing, website design & SEO, analytics & reporting and data capture.

“Our mission is tailored content marketing,” says Ron Scharman, CEO. “We hire people from all over with amazing skill sets, which allows us to present a diversity of experience to those clients who can’t or don’t want to hire a full-time marketing position.”

Ron Scharman, CEO

While many wineries have an in-house marketer, oftentimes it is not their only focus – tasting room host, DTC manager, wine club manager are just a few of the titles that might also be responsible for marketing. But as the only marketer in-house, it’s easy to get stuck in an unevolved limbo of marketing wine.

When you go in with Astra, not only do you get a dedicated account manager, but you get the whole team – a team with collectively more than 40 years in the wine industry that lives and breathes in the digital world – a talented patchwork of strategists, designers, analysts, writers, and even interns from Bordeaux, France. They’re constantly collaborating, experimenting and learning with the newest tools, developing new skill sets. Astra keeps a foot in the vineyard, but their minds are always on the brink of innovation, making them a weapon for the wine industry with a razor sharp competitive edge.

Astra’s small but mighty operation is in the heart of Napa, but they don’t stop there. Once the contract ink is dry, Astra hits the ground running with their clients, visiting the properties and winery owners in what they call an immersion meeting. Getting their hands dirty allows Astra’s business owners and account managers to create ideas and produce content that’s one-of-a-kind.

Ryan Neergaard, Director of Business Development and Social Media

“Each client has their own unique needs,” says Ryan Neergaard, Director of Business Development and Social Media. “We work to understand all aspects of their brand, from the tasting room staff to the winery dog. Their story needs to be personal and authentic.”

Perhaps the most methodical and crucial part of Astra’s tailoring process is their Starter Package. They pull out a fine-tooth comb and audit a client’s social media channels, email marketing, third-party profiles, Google Analytics, website performance and design, and SEO, measuring and analyzing the bones of the business to come up with a tactical marketing plan based on data and best practices. The Starter Package is the rock-solid foundation for Astra’s sales objectives and strategies, as it allows clients to, “… move beyond a ‘gut-feeling’ approach for measuring success to a tangible system that defines what success looks like based on specific metrics,” says Scharman. “Don’t guess what is working for your company.”

Out of the starter package, one of the paramount findings for wineries is the health of their Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Oftentimes, Astra sees wineries that have poorly implemented SEO, sort of like a puzzle that still needs pieces, or no SEO at all.

Nick Billings, CTO

“We have had wineries, big and small, come to us with stunning, brand new websites, but there’s not a single trace of SEO built into them, and they had no idea,” says Nick Billings, CTO.

SEO is easily brushed aside because it isn’t pretty or visible to consumers, and it can be intimidating. But Astra tinkers with these wineries’ crude or nonexistent SEO puzzle pieces and fastens them into a compelling mosaic – a masterkey to wineries’ online traffic and sales in the digital realm. Astra’s work is proof that when you properly build and consistently track your SEO, it acts as the backbone of both marketing strategy and a winery’s success.

It’s clear that Astra does what many firms and agencies fail to do for the wine industry – radiate a culture of wine knowledge, individualism, passion, and loyalty. The marketers at Astra are in this niche industry not only because they love what they do (and love wine), but also because they want to make a difference in the lives of their clients, their client’s consumers, and the wine country community. They believe wholeheartedly in the power of digital marketing and the promise it brings to the evolution of the wine industry.

Ashley Cummins, Senior Account Manager

“We’re telling [a winery’s] authentic story, which gives winery brands more stickiness in the market and stronger selling power online and on the shelves,” says Scharman. “We’re always striving to provide that unique, personal 3D tasting room experience in the 2D world.”

Using modern, data-driven strategy to connect with a profession as ancient as winemaking is no simple business deal – in fact, it’s bridging two, polar-opposite worlds. And for Astra, it’s working.

Learn about Astra’s services and see how they can transform your winery in the DTC marketing field by visiting

22 May, 2018


BottleRock Crowd

Now in its sixth year, BottleRock Napa Valley is the wine-iest music festival around—and thousands of fans are expected to attend in 2018 alone. With one-day passes selling out in mere minutes, and three-day passes selling out in less than an hour, the demand is clear. The hype is for good reason, too — from featuring exquisite food and wine vendors at the festival to bringing dozens of top performing artists, this three-day experience showcases Napa culture and presents a real opportunity to neighboring businesses to engage with the demographics who attend the festival.

To make the most of the influx of visitors, we put together a few best practices.


Start by discussing your offer with your team. What unique experiences might your winery offer to visitors? Try an exclusive tour or wine pairing for those with BottleRock tickets. Or maybe you want to boost tasting room traffic. Either way, you’ll want to make sure there are measurable key performance indicators in place so that you can determine what results stem directly from your marketing efforts. Embed your reservations widget directly on your website so that the traffic from your advertisements land on your site.

Napa Valley Sign


Let’s start with the basics. Using geo-targeting within Facebook’s ad manager allows you to engage with relevant and potential customers. Leading up to the event, start with a wider radius and target cities around the Bay area with interests relating to BottleRock. Optimize your campaign during Memorial Day Weekend by narrowing the geo-targeted area to Napa Valley. Focus on local traffic during the weekend.

Wine bottle pouring


Supercharge your ad delivery within Facebook by using the custom audience feature. Upload your email list to a custom audience. Then, expand on that rich data by selected lookalikes, which helps find people like your best customers based on the data you provided.

Next up is the interest feature. You can select interests such as “BottleRock Napa Valley,” “music festivals,” or “Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival.” Use these selections and the data above to build your ad with your desired expected reach. Audience still too large? Consider narrowing your audience further with specific wine interests relating to your brand.


Lastly, let your optimization work its magic. This festival continues to grow and grow, so your strategy should be improved upon year-to-year. Having an event with such prestige and popularity in the summer allows you to showcase to visitors all of the fabulous reasons to visit Napa Valley. So, in the musical spirit, let’s put on one heckuva show.

Looking for tickets to the sold out BottleRock Napa Valley festival? Enter our ticket giveaway for a chance to win 3-day passes to see all your favorite musical acts!