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Simon Bennison: how to transform your customers into brand ambassadors online

Published:  05 April, 2012

Simon Bennison works for digital marketing agency Alienation Digital, and spoke about how to turn your customers into brand ambassadors online at last month's Harpers' Consumer Forum.

One thing I learned at Harpers & WineOption's Consumer Forum is that there is plenty of opportunity for thewine and digital sectors to collaborate more often, as there seems to me to be a fantastic opportunity for wine brands to have a stronger presence online.

I presented on how to engage your customers and turn them into brand ambassadors online; something I think the brightest brands are achieving fantastically, taking the age old technique of word of mouth marketing and amplifying this through social media.

Your website is generally there for people who are interested in your product. This means you first have to get their attention, and then you need to give them something more. Don Q Rum has developed a website which presents its products through the story of rum production. This story is balanced off with imagery and description, which gives you a feel for the rum.

Yes it's just a drink, but it's a drink with a story behind it. Your customers are not just buying a drink; they're buying a story too.

For Benromach whisky, we built this story around provenance, hand made qualities and a commitment to using ingredients from within a five-mile radius of the distillery. Benromach knows that this commitment transpires in the flavour of its whisky. Clear and comprehensive descriptions of flavours and scents are provided, and products are integrated with Facebook and Twitter to enable drinkers to join conversations around the products they love.

Something I gathered from the event was the feeling that the wine industry as whole finds it difficult to encourage consumers to become attached to particular brands. I wonder if in part this is because there is an expectation that brands can target all audiences in the same way. If you can segment your audience by levels of interest and knowledge, it will be possible to target different messages to different groups. You can provide something for customers at all levels and tell them what they need to know to buy your wine. Even better, give them something to tell their friends about how great it is.

Finally, if you're apprehensive about getting started with social media, don't worry about failure. It's far worse to sit back and do nothing. One of the most successful strategies on the Internet is 'fail fast and fix it'. Everything you do online will happen as part of an iterative process, and what you learn from experience is invaluable to taking things to the next level.