Five questions with August Briggs Winery general manager Mark Koppen

by TrevR on February 5, 2008

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A couple weeks ago we welcomed August Briggs Winery to the blogosphere. After discovering their new blog, we reached out to Mark Koppen, the winery’s general manager, who was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about the venture into the blogosphere, their marketing plans for 2008 and much more. Enjoy!

CB: You recently launched a blog, called Briggs Big Wine Blog. Tell us about the blog–what’s it all about? How did the decision to launch a blog come about and why is it important to the overall operation?

Koppen: Our new blog at www.augustbriggswines.com is all about connecting with people about what goes on at a small, family owned winery, and why, in our own small way, we’re unique. I think a blog is a great way to keep in touch with everyone who’s interested in your wines, whether they are club members, other wine lovers, or our trade customers across the country.

August Briggs Winery in CalistogaLast summer I was doing a bit of research into blogging and “internet 2.0” marketing, and by the time I came on board here at ABW in the fall I was convinced it needed to be a part of a renewed marketing effort for the winery. As a very small winery, we need to look at the most cost-effective ways of getting the word out there on our wines – I felt the best way to do this was through a dual effort of 1) website/blog and 2) public/media relations. The blog is important to us as it allows us to communicate directly with our best customers and anyone interested in fine wine.

CB: There was some discussion here on The Cork Board about Briggs Big Wine Blog not currently having some of the basic features one would expect (RSS feeds, ability to accept trackbacks, etc.) from a blog. Talk to us about that–can we expect to see such features in the near future? Why launch without them?

Koppen: I have wanted to kick a blog into gear for us since I started here in September. When we decided to rework our entire website, I decided to wait on the blog until it went live. So I was perhaps a bit over-anxious to get started with the blog – we have been working hard with our website partner, eWinery Solutions, but the blog platform wasn’t quite fully developed for us. I wanted to use their blog platform as part of a totally integrated web solution, which is why I didn’t immediately go to Typepad or something else. So I probably jumped the gun a little, but over the next few days we will have subscription capability, an archive, and a few other key features. We will then be able to more effectively market the blog, which we have not yet done.

CB: In your opinion, why haven’t more local wineries recognized the marketing power of a blog and entered the blogosphere? Better yet, how come so many seem to have a web presence from the late 90′s?

Koppen: I don’t know if many wineries understand the power of blogging yet – everyone wants media, but a blog allows “self-generated media,” making your own news, that can be picked up by search engines to reach consumers and even media. What turned me on to this is an excellent book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, by David Meerman Scott – it outlines well what can be done not only with blogging, but other internet marketing tools. It’s not a 100% solution – there is definitely room for more traditional media efforts, but it sure seems like use of the internet for news and information is only accelerating. A blog, of course, can also help to build community – a winery community may begin in the tasting room, as is traditional, but a compelling site and blog can extend that reach.

I also think blogging is a real commitment that can be a bit scary or easily underestimated – the content has to be compelling and timely to keep people coming back and interested, and that is not an easy thing to do. It’s something you have to keep in mind all the time, and then take the time to write frequently.

CB: You mentioned the website/blog combo is the cornerstone of your marketing efforts for 2008. Talk to us about what you’re plans are and how you’re measuring success for your online marketing campaigns in 2008.

Koppen: As I mentioned earlier, in our marketing I am looking at the most cost effective ways we can get attention for August Briggs wines in the marketplace. So I’ll be looking at ways to bring people to the blog and draw them in via comments and feedback. I’ll also look to connect more with some folks who are already doing excellent wine blogs; I’ve already contributed to a few of them, and want to keep doing that. We’ll be measuring website and blog traffic via built-in website metrics and services like feedburner, and we’ll also look at what kind of on-line sales, club memberships, new contacts and media that is generated over the next year. No one can tell our story better than we can, and we look forward to directly connecting with a large new group of folks about our wines.

CB: Finally, a bit of a softball question for you–what makes August Briggs unique?

Koppen: I would say that there’s two things that make us unique – first of all, August “Joe” Briggs himself. Joe is a great guy who has been working very hard at his craft for almost 25 years – he’s made a lot of friends all over the state, and his talent in finding great little vineyard “gems” for his brand, as well as his winemaking ability, is truly outstanding. Secondly, even though we are small, we have a fun, broad portfolio of wines (mostly red) that can satisfy a broad range of tastes – everything from silky Pinot Noirs to classic Cabernet to big brawny Petite Sirah and Charbono – and every one of them is delicious!

CB: Thanks Mark!

[techtags: Napa, Napa Valley, wine, winery, August Briggs, August Briggs Winery, blog, August Briggs Winery blog, blogging]

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has written 724 posts on The Cork Board. He was born and aged in the Napa Valley and has a passion for wine, writing and social media, which led him to co-found this blog in early 2007. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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