Small Enterprises Competing with Multinationals and Winning Online

In the recent International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) the first prize for the Top Pinotage was awarded to Stormhoek, a small independent winery in South Africa. Two years ago they were virtually unheard of in their own country – let alone the rest of the world. Now you will find their wine stocked in supermarkets all over the UK and they are rapidly expanding into the US.

So how did they manage to gain so much growth in so little time?

Yep, that’s right – you guessed it – because they started a blog.

The wine industry is renowned for alienating potential customers by marketing wine as pretentious and elitist. Stormhoek sought to popularise their product by demystifying claims such as corked wine tastes better than screw caps, and that grapes grown in South France always produce superior wine.

Their blog was launched two years ago by UK blog consultant Hugh MacLeod of Gaping Void fame (a site featuring his cartoon impressions of modern marketing). The blog rapidly started setting benchmarks for other blog marketers and helped write the rulebook on viral marketing.

Everyone loves a freebie and Stormhoek used their product to create a ‘buzz’ by giving away 100 bottles of wine to bloggers in exchange for comments and also sponsored ‘100 Dinners in 100 Nights’ in cities throughout the US. These stories spread through the blogosphere like wildfire and even reached the national press. Stormhoek were the pioneering example of using a blog for customer feedback – and gaining the publicity and exposure as a result.

In this year’s Drinks Business Awards Stormhoek won first prize for their “trail-blazing” consumer campaign. They were competing with hundreds of thousands of other wineries and multinationals with multi-million pound marketing budgets. The cost of their campaign? $288.53.

Stormhoek’s site now receives 350,000 hits a month and there are 225,000 links (now 225,001!) dispersed throughout the web. Within twelve months of starting the blog their sales doubled – this equates to selling tens of thousands of more cases of wine. Their exposure and marketing has all been promoted purely over the Internet and has allowed them to reach a global marketplace in a very short space of time.

I’ve noticed from their most recent post that they are happy to continue watching the multinationals lumber along with their dated approach to marketing. Stormhoek are carrying the torch for all aspiring business bloggers out there, and proving how the speed and flexibility of David can beat Goliath in the online world.

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