I’ve been awake in a strange bed since 4:30 a.m., obsessing over story telling.
I’m in Eugene, Oregon, attending the Oregon Wine Industry Symposium, and speaking on a panel on “How to Make Your Web Site Work Harder For You” in a couple of hours. At our panel’s practice session and the annual wine industry dinner last night, I was impressed by simplicity and effectiveness of the storytelling going on… every award had a story, every acceptance speech had a story, and every vineyard, vintner and enthusiast had a story.
It seems the wine industry itself is a compilation of stories, and the people in it are natural story tellers, which is a great attribute for making the web work harder for you…
So the theme that’s going to be called out this morning, as I speak to my section of the panel - Engagement - is the art of online story telling.
It’s simple: people are captured and compelled to action by great stories.
As prospects and shoppers go online, they might be researching people, products, healthcare decisions or (like millions of us) posting our random thoughts, photos, videos, for friends, family and perfect strangers to see.
(”You’re either on the screen, or watching the screen, baby!” my friend Paul shouts in my ear…)
Simple, engaging stories serve to: 1) attract our attention; and b) provide the power of persuasion, once we’ve offered it. And so, in an effort to capture my thoughts about storytelling before I share them with attendees, I find myself here… in the quiet of my hotel room, at my desk, looking at a laptop, telling a story.
Our room is going to be the smaller of the two large rooms at the Hilton Hotel, which was built sometime in the 70’s and hasn’t been updated since. Three things that could have an effect on our attendance:
- We’re the first session of the dreaded “Morning After…” You know the drill, the big dinner (with lots of wine) was last night, and everyone had a good time. The last thing they want to do is get up and go anywhere but The Big River Grille, and order up an “exceptional northwest cuisine-themed” breakfast.
- We’re up against a session called “Impact of Grape Maturity on Wine Flavor” and I’m hoping people will say, “Yep, it does!” and come listen to our session instead of the learned folks from Oregon State and UC Davis. And another session called “This Just In: Extension Research Updates,” with speakers from Oregon State, Cal Poly and USDA Prosser, where ‘Short Shoot Syndrome’ and ‘cover crops’ will likely attract a healthy audience.
- We’re in the “not geeky” track for oeneophiles. What a hoot.
I expect (fingers crossed) 100 or so people to brave their way in to listen to us. We’re focusing on simple, effective, FREE tools you can use to improve your web presence for attendees.
Our Panel’s Story:
Digital Footprints Don’t Lie - Debora Geary from Fireweed Analytics, will show us that using Google Analytics, which is a free analytics tool (and Google is the only one you’ll ever need, no matter what your ISP says, according to Debora), anyone can see the ‘digital footprints’ their customers will leave as they walk around a web site. What captures their attention, and what you can tell about their paths and meanderings are quite telling.
She studied the Sokol Blosser site in preparation for the panel, and found one of the top pages people visited on the site has been the “meet us” page - a simple compilation of photos of the people behind the wines. (JLJ: People love to buy stuff from people they like. Especially foods and wines.)
Capture Prospects with Content - Katherine Gray, content strategist, will speak to the importance of content on a site that will both support your brand and deliver the message you think most important. She’ll speak to authenticity of voice, and how to use words (first and foremost) and design to effectively tell your brand’s story. But it doesn’t stop there.
She’ll point out the critical links to a site’s shopping cart (JLJ: when they have them… most wineries take their orders by fax, and the abandonment rate off of “buy now - send us a fax!” pages are huge.) that could be vastly improved by simply adding a bit of contextual content here and there.
Think Like a Spider - Ben Lloyd of Amplify Interactive will tell attendees to go online, turn off the graphics in their browser, and look at how search engine spiders “see” their sites. (JLJ: go to your browser’s Preferences… Content… Uncheck the “Load Images Automatically” button. You’ll be amazed at what you see or don’t see…) Then sprinkle relevant keywords (pinot noir, pinot gris, pinot blanc…) in your title tags (most importantly!) body copy and headlines to give the spiders a notion of what your site is about. That will give you the opportunity to come up in search results when people are looking for a lovely pinot to take to the party Friday night.
Get Into the Magic F - I will wrap the panel by talking about how easy it is to use blogging, sharing, tagging and social networks to engage readers, tell great stories about your wines (and the people behind them), and improve your chances of showing up at the top of a Google search results page (”the Magic F”). And how to easily manage and monitor your online reputation using free RSS readers (like those from my client Attensa), so you’ll know exactly who’s talking about you, when they do, delivered right to your inbox if you like.
Dennis Hahn, ID Branding CEO and our panel moderator did a wonderful job of pulling all of our presentations together into a story… and he’ll lead our lucky attendees through the session in a memorable, compelling manner.
I’m off for coffee - fuel for the stories I’m about to share.