The following was originally posted on the REThinkWine blog in Oct 2008. Thanks to IBG for the repost rights..
No one doubts that when it comes to electronic commerce and e-marketing in the wine industry, wineries with a tasting room have a significant advantage. The visitors that walk into the tasting room immediately become customers or well-qualified prospects that can be added to a winery’s “contact list” for future outreach. But if you don’t have a tasting room, building a contact/customer list is a much more daunting task. But if email marketing and online sales is part of your direct sales strategy, then it’s a task you must take up and address.
Here are just three creative strategies for building customer and contact lists that have been successful for other wineries without tasting rooms.
1. Business Teaser Cards: A few wineries, when printing business cards for all their employees, have used the back of the card to offer the holder a 10% or even 20% discount on their first purchase. Often each card has a code on it that buyers can use to assure their online discount and to track who’s business card led to the sale. It’s a creative way to invite new acquaintances to the website when without the discount/invite you’d only be handing out a business card with no call-to-action.
2. Event Giveaways: One Sonoma winery with no tasting room but with a guest house on their property always brought a sign to the tastings they attended announcing that following the tasting a drawing would take place for a weekend getaway at the winery’s guest house. The sign carried beautiful pictures of the guest house and the property. All the attendees had to do was drop their business card in a fishbowl or fill out a simple slip of paper with name, state and email. Within a day of the tasting the winery did their drawing, contacted the winner and set up when they would visit. But more importantly, the winery would also contact via email every single person who entered the drawing with a “thank you” message and an offer of 15% on their first purchase. Their list continues to grow.
3. Contests: A number of wineries without tasting rooms have found that contests are a fantastic way to draw prospective customers to their website. The best contests should be easy to enter, but also give the entrants a feeling of participation or connect with the winery, winemaker or brand. One winery has used its back label as a canvas for the contest by inviting entrants to design their own 100-word back label on a specific subject. The winner had their entry published on the label when the wine was bottled! The contest was announced with a press release and an ad, and the winner was announced on the website and in a press release. They received hundreds of people visiting their site to participate, all providing their entry of back label copy along with their e-mail address. The winery grew their mailing list and customers were able to engage with the brand. Win-Win.
Prospecting and building your email contact list must be an ongoing project if increasing online sales is part of your marketing strategy. If you don’t have a tasting room, you’ll need to think creatively. The time and effort that goes into a very creative customer prospecting program will pay off in an enhanced email list, and ultimately increased sales.
It’s no revelation to say that we that we live in a digital world. Technology is prevalent. And no more so than with today’s “smart” phones.
What is a “smart phone”? Your Blackberry or iPhone. Or, per O’Reilly Media,
“A Smartphone combines the functions of a cellular phone and a handheld computer in a single device. It differs from a normal phone in that it has an operating system and local storage, so users can add and store information, send and receive email, and install programs to the phone as they could with a PDA.”
Consider these facts:
There are almost as many people buying smart phones as there are people buying laptops: 115 million smart phones were purchased worldwide last year
Website visitors using a mobile device increased 34 percent year-over-year, to 56.9 million in July 2009 according to The Nielsen Company.
The most popular non-phone activities among smart phone users are visiting websites (80%), taking photos (74%), and using email (73%).
Over half (53%) of U.S. smart phone users download mobile content from the web at least once a day or thereabouts, and click on mobile ads.
Thirty-five percent request coupons or further information and a quarter (24%) make purchases.
eBay alone saw mobile sales worth more than a half a billion dollars this past year, which equates to 5 million item transactions.
In this recent holiday season, according to a recent Motorola report, 51% of 2009 holiday shoppers across 11 countries used their cell phones to compare prices, find consumer product reviews and locate discounts while in stores shopping this past holiday season. Consumers are using digital tools like their cell phones more than ever, to inform which brands they purchase, where, when, how and at what price point they will purchase.
The media is clearly abuzz with iPhone mania these days. And of course, there are a number of wine specific iPhone apps; they aggregate wines available in the U.S. market and provide reviews, price comparisons, consumer user generated content, food & wine pairings, etc.. See VinTank’s report here for a complete evaluation on the latest.
But if you aren’t in the market to build your own iPhone app, it's still important to ensure you’re giving consumers the information and experience they need via their smart phones. Your email and website executions are critical places to start.
Example Mobile Email from Sony
Email Marketing for the Mobile Age
A recent report by Experian CheetahMail revealed that over a quarter of total U.S. consumers now read emails on their smart phone. Most emails are being deleted before being read, however. The main reasons? Poor formatting and a lack of brand recognition. If you’re marketing to your own list, brand recognition shouldn’t be an issue. But formatting can be.
Think about the last email you sent. Open it up on your own cell phone. Can you read it? Does it load quickly? Does it give you quick information to take action? Best practices in email marketing have always been to keep them short, to the point, easily read/understood and with a clear call to action. Now more than ever it’s important to follow that direction.
In addition, ensuring your emails are relevant to your audience is critical: segment your list for appropriate messaging, and optimize your subject line to ensure action is taken by that segment. The closer you can make your brand, message and promotion relevant and meaningful to your customer, the better. If you only had a few seconds on a computer to entice the reader to open your email, you have even less on a phone.
Most importantly, make it easy for the consumer to access more information. A clear message that links directly to a web page that allows the consumer to complete the desired action is critical. Slow page loading on a smart phone can lead to huge frustration if the information sought is not found quickly due to image loading or excessive and unnecessary content.
Refining your website to meet the needs of a mobile user
How well is your website being browsed on a smart phone? Want to see something scary? Check out these sites to see how your site may be presented on a handset:
Clearly one solution is to create a mobile website (.mobi) or top level domain specific to a mobile user experience. This will allow for a distinct website which you can market to your mobile users, and which presents a more mobile-relevant presentation and click path.
Not ready for a mobile website strategy? You can still review your site for best practices in clear navigation, simple messaging and a reduced “click to purchase” path. Ensuring the same can help your site read well in a mobile environment. And please, if you do create a mobile site, make sure you offer access to that site clearly from your .com home page: “Click here to read on your mobile phone”.
For mobile web navigation, make sure the action desired to be taken by your audience is no more than 1-2 clicks from the homepage. Slow loading pages on mobile phones will make people leave quickly if they’re left waiting for loads and having to click through too many pages.
In addition, since browsing in a mobile environment can mean a lot of scrolling around pages to find what you’re looking for, consider breaking the traditional rule of keeping navigation and page frame consistency… a change in the basic landscape can quickly indicate to a customer that they’ve successfully moved to another page. Keep only the necessary framed items (logo, homepage link, headers) consistent.
Finally, in a web environment, the navigation is still critical. But it needs to be short and directed. Your .com environment may have the task of addressing several potential audiences, each with distinct goals. In a mobile environment, consider what you want to accomplish and for whom. Keep it as narrow as possible and it will be far easier to reduce the navigation, page layout and format to the basic elements necessary to guide that audience to its main goal.
It’s no surprise that the mobile world is here to stay. It’s only getting more sophisticated by the day (with some pretty exciting stuff happening in Japan and Europe already). Next holiday season is going to be even “smarter” – use the next 9 months to consider, test and begin finding the mobile strategy that’s right for your business.
Sources: Compete Smart Phone Survey 2009, Forrester Research, 2009, eTailing Group Mobile Survey, 2009, Universal McCann/Platform-A Mobile Survey, 2009, Crowd Science Smartphone Survey, 4/09
I've been running through my personal list of 2010 resolutions and it occurred to me that each of them applied quite well to any wine business seeking improvements in their DTC initiatives. Thought I'd share a few quick thoughts on each...
Clean up your mess. How's that customer database looking these days? Probably ready for a little spring cleaning... oDepending on how and where your customer contact data is maintained, now’s the time to review and clean up duplicates, dead links, missing email addresses, old physical addresses. Whether it’s a manual clean up or working with a hygiene service, your data should be reviewed and cleaned on a quarterly basis.
Go on a diet.Has your proverbial waistband gotten too tight? Might be time to pare back on the overindulging. oTrying to do too much? Resolve to scale back. Consider your top 5 producing DTC sales and marketing initiatives. What makes them successful? ROI? Customer engagement? Deconstruct them to fully understand how and why they’re working for your brand, and then define ways to improve them even further. Now consider your bottom producing DTC sales and marketing initiatives. How much are they costing you – in both time and money? Have you exhausted attempts to revive them? What will you lose by giving up 1, 2, or all of them?
Take risks. You'll never know until you try... oTry one sales or marketing tactic that you’re not quite sure about and see what happens. Find something that you’ve not considered, attempted, or incorporated into your marketing mix in the past. Make sure it's relevant to your target customer, of course. Not sure how to get started with it? Just do it. Jump in and see what happens. Don’t be financially foolish, of course, but you may be surprised at what you learn.
Mix it up. Life is about balance. Everything in moderation... oDon’t think 2010 is exclusively about going social. Or about video. Or about email. You can’t neglect a balanced and integrated marketing mix. Consider your customer and the ways which they can - or want to - interact with your brand. Are you available through the channels they’re frequenting? Is your brand visible or active in the vehicles they’re using?How well are your marketing and communications aligned through each vehicle?
Be true to yourself."Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive more youer than you." Dr. Seuss oDefine your "one thing". What is it that you’d like your customers to know about your brand? Your winemaking style? The family heritage behind your winery? Your sustainable farming practices? Think about that one thing and how well you may be communicating it through all the vehicles discussed above. If your customers aren’t “getting it" after visiting your tasting room, shopping your website, attending an event, watching your latest winery video, etc., review your marketing & communications for opportunities to communicate and identify or distinguish yourself better.
The following are a few "quick win" considerations to help refresh - or perhaps even jump start - your winery direct-to-consumer efforts in 2010. None of these cost very much to implement, but the return on each can make a big difference to your brand presentation, the experience your customer's have with your brand/s, and even your revenue bottom line.
1.Imagery getting stale? Refresh your product and general site photography. oFor site uniformity, and a user experience that’s easier to browse through and digest, make your product images consistent; i.e. all category page images are label close ups, all product page images are full bottle shots with no context in the background.
2.Get back to basics. Review your site for the fundamentals: clear information, brand alignment, easy navigation, engaging content. oTake a look at other successful winery and retaler websites. Now, review yours. Do you have clear navigation on every page? Clear descriptions of your products? A non-cluttered, brand-aligned experience? Pretend you’re a consumer looking for information. Can you easily find what you’re looking for?
3.Let your customers speak for you. 67% of shoppers spend more online after recommendations from online community of friends (Internet Retailer, September 2009). oIf you’re not already doing it, simply ask your club members what they thought of the latest shipment and post their comments on your website. Or, ask tasting room visitors to fill out a product, event or tasting room experience comment card and post their responses.Don’t forget to ask permission first.
4.Get social. oIf you’re not testing the waters on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or the like, give it a go. Engage in at least one social media community and participate frequently. Start a conversation with your customers and see what happens.
5.Refresh your email templates. oLook at the email templates for the major e-tailers; nearly all have a similar format (logo placement, navigation, header placement, body structure). Now take a look at yours. Time for a refresh? Develop 2-3 new templates for the following messaging types:
Multiple product marketing
Featured or single product promotions
1.Tackle credit card expired and declined rates. oEnlist someone in house to track and manage declined and expired credit cards in your wine club list. Spending just 2 hours a month on this task can make a big difference. For larger clubs with greater turn, consider outsourcing. Even a 10% improvement in your expired/declines can mean critical dollars to your bottom line.
2.Get to know your club members. oSurvey your club members, both during and after they leave your club.There are a multitude of online survey providers out there – all easily used and managed. Find out why they joined, what they like about the club, what they would be interested in seeing more of, what products are their favorites, what types of events they would be interested in participating in. And after they leave – thank them for being a member and ask why they left. Use the information to adjust your Wine Club program and marketing outreach.
3.Surprise and delight. oDo something unexpected for your customers at least once in 2010: Send a mid-year thank you card hand signed by the winemaker, or send a personal birthday wish to your club members. Surprise them with something relevant to your winery or brand and give your customers a reason to remember you outside of the normal shipment frequency.
1.Help your staff engage. oNot everyone is a natural born salesperson. Your tasting room staff may be engaging and witty and fun in the break room, but entirely different in front of customers. They might be overselling your wine club, and under-whelming your visitors. Help them out with training. Write scripts and role play. Take a field trip to other tasting rooms and discuss their experiences. Lead brand discussions so they understand and feel empowered. Give them the tools they need to become better salespeople.
2.Ask for the email address. Your customer list is your most valuable marketing asset. Leverage every opportunity to grow it. oIf you’re not already capturing or asking for the email address during the sale or wine club sign up process, do so. Incentives are common, but not mandatory. If you’re having trouble capturing emails, offer 10% discount on their next purchase when providing an email address, for instance.Let the customer know that an email will be sent to them with the applicable discount code (this will help validate correct addresses).
3.Refresh your merchandise. oIf you’re offering incremental merchandise in the tasting room, is there an opportunity to refresh it? Better display it? Improve signage to provide better information on the products? Is your merchandising relevant to your brand or wines? This is the environment in which you’ve asked your customers to experience your brand and engage. Create an inviting and engaging environment in which to allow your customers to experience your wines… and use non-wine merchandise to upsell.