Building up a mailing list

Discussions and questions (vintages, winemaking, etc) for those ITB. All are welcome to post.
Ed Kurtzman
 
Posts: 262
Joined: January 29th 2009, 11:10pm

Building up a mailing list

Post #1  Postby Ed Kurtzman » February 22nd 2012, 12:58pm

Fellow winemakers:

I always get a lot of questions from friends who are starting new wine labels and they want to know the best way to get their names out there and build up their mailing lists. What do you think of these methods and their effectiveness?

1. Sending free wine to active Berserkers with the hopes/expectations that they'll give the wine positive and numerous Cellartracker reviews.

2. Inviting wine writers who appreciate your style to come visit your winery, and spending the time and money to wine and dine them with exclusive "other" wines after they've tasted your wine.

3. Enlisting the help of wine and food focused P/R people to get interviews on local and national news networks so you can get some positive press.

4. Participating in Berserker Day with a special sale.

I personally know that #4 works very well! [cheers.gif] The others seem to require a pretty big budget, but would they be worth it? And what other ideas are out there?

Advertisement

User avatar
Bill Tex Landreth
SubscriberSubscriber
Colonel-General
 
Posts: 19432
Joined: January 27th 2009, 12:45pm
Location: Virgo Super Cluster

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #2  Postby Bill Tex Landreth » February 22nd 2012, 2:25pm

<<<<Deleted post because I thought better of it.>>>>
Last edited by Bill Tex Landreth on February 22nd 2012, 2:31pm, edited 1 time in total.
NOTHING goes over my head!... My reflexes are too fast, I would catch it.
User avatar
David K o l i n
SubscriberSubscriber
Born Under Punches
 
Posts: 8202
Joined: June 2nd 2009, 5:29pm
Location: ChiIl

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #3  Postby David K o l i n » February 22nd 2012, 2:27pm

Bitter man. [snort.gif]
ITB through 1982

"The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding." - Louis Brandeis

"A great point if it were true!" - Dana Perino
User avatar
Bill Tex Landreth
SubscriberSubscriber
Colonel-General
 
Posts: 19432
Joined: January 27th 2009, 12:45pm
Location: Virgo Super Cluster

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #4  Postby Bill Tex Landreth » February 22nd 2012, 2:28pm

Is it not correct? I think it worked perfectly for at least two wineries.

Nothing bitter about it.
NOTHING goes over my head!... My reflexes are too fast, I would catch it.
User avatar
David K o l i n
SubscriberSubscriber
Born Under Punches
 
Posts: 8202
Joined: June 2nd 2009, 5:29pm
Location: ChiIl

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #5  Postby David K o l i n » February 22nd 2012, 2:31pm

Bill Tex Landreth wrote:Is it not correct? I think it worked perfectly for at least wineries.

Nothing bitter about it.



It did for a couple. Others, not so much.

I was one of the group who took a flier on Jamie. I admired his goals, his determination and his dream. Thought of it as seed capital. I'm very glad I did. But what do I know. I bought Manlin's first release, too
ITB through 1982

"The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding." - Louis Brandeis

"A great point if it were true!" - Dana Perino
User avatar
Bill Tex Landreth
SubscriberSubscriber
Colonel-General
 
Posts: 19432
Joined: January 27th 2009, 12:45pm
Location: Virgo Super Cluster

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #6  Postby Bill Tex Landreth » February 22nd 2012, 2:31pm

I should buy some of Scott's wine...
NOTHING goes over my head!... My reflexes are too fast, I would catch it.
User avatar
Ian Brand
 
Posts: 569
Joined: January 21st 2010, 7:50am

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #7  Postby Ian Brand » February 22nd 2012, 10:42pm

My advice:

Don't plan on a mailing list to run your business. It's great when it happens, but even great wines don't always garner attention (and really poorly made ones sometimes do). No guarantees, but if you can't make it as a new label selling through tasting room or trade and three tier systems, you need to rethink your model. There's a lot more noise on the top end of the spectrum than there was even a decade ago and overall quality of wine is much higher. A mailing list and direct sales if you have no prior reputation are a slow build based on consistency of product, relationships and hearing positive things about your work as much as possible from as many people as possible. Otherwise known as a labor of love.
ITB - Le P'tit Paysan, La Marea,
User Avatar
Andrew Morris
 
Posts: 893
Joined: July 26th 2010, 11:31pm
Location: Southern Humboldt, CA

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #8  Postby Andrew Morris » February 22nd 2012, 11:09pm

Ian,

Your advice and analysis both seem sound. What % of your production is sold direct to consumer on lists and what percent at tasting rooms?

How long did that take to get established?

Nearly all of our wine is currently sold to stores and restaurants by us, so no 3rd tier. My goal is to have a good % of our growth over the next few years be direct from the winery, local and shipped. Any comments on how to best accomplish that would be greatly appreciated.

Ian Brand wrote:My advice:

Don't plan on a mailing list to run your business. It's great when it happens, but even great wines don't always garner attention (and really poorly made ones sometimes do). No guarantees, but if you can't make it as a new label selling through tasting room or trade and three tier systems, you need to rethink your model. There's a lot more noise on the top end of the spectrum than there was even a decade ago and overall quality of wine is much higher. A mailing list and direct sales if you have no prior reputation are a slow build based on consistency of product, relationships and hearing positive things about your work as much as possible from as many people as possible. Otherwise known as a labor of love.
Andrew Morris
User avatar
Rick Gregory
 
Posts: 8729
Joined: January 27th 2009, 1:42pm
Location: Seattle

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #9  Postby Rick Gregory » February 23rd 2012, 12:07am

Andrew,

While not ITB re: wine, I consult on how to use online channels to build businesses and I'd say that the biggest mistake made by people who want to move in the direction that you're envisioning is to not lay the groundwork ahead of time. They don't have a list that they've been building and communicating with over time, so when they want to go direct so they need to build one. My advice? Start building a list now. Make it easy and enticing to signup for a mailing list at every consumer interaction. Maybe that list is nothing more than a quarterly newsletter now... that's fine. Start getting names. Do a quarterly newsletter so people are reminded of you and what you're doing. Put a signup form on your site, take along signup sheets at events, etc (keep those... if someone complains about spam, you can show them that. More to the point, you can show the email provider if they question you).

Also, participate in social media. Peter Tryba is active on Google+ and has a bunch of wine folks circled. Setup a Facebook Page for the winery and use it to keep people up to date, even on mundane things like buying a new press, etc. Some people love to feel connected to the behind the scenes stuff. Use the page to tell people about events, press, etc. Get people to "Like" your Facebook page and give them an offer for doing that (10% off an order of 3 bottles or whatever).

None of this is magic, it all takes time. But it's like compound interest... a year or two from now you'll have hundreds of interested people on your list that have been getting newsletters from you, etc. When you go direct, those people are gold.
Dang Rick, I think that's right
Ed Kurtzman
 
Posts: 262
Joined: January 29th 2009, 11:10pm

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #10  Postby Ed Kurtzman » February 23rd 2012, 9:31am

Ian, very realistic and wise advice. From your post, someone might think you've been in the business for 40 years!

Andrew, I hope your customers don't require so much of your time to make sure they stay current with their invoices. That seems to be the most time consuming part about sales other than the initial sale, collecting the $$. Good luck with growing your business.

Rick, thanks for all the great ideas.
User avatar
Ian Brand
 
Posts: 569
Joined: January 21st 2010, 7:50am

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #11  Postby Ian Brand » February 23rd 2012, 9:48am

My experience with building mailing lists at tastings/social media is that you get such low stickage that its hardly worth the time. Now, I'm a cellar rat and vineyard dork, not a marketer, so someone slicker could potentially do better, but if you don't have enough buzz/scarcity to attract and retain the compulsive wine-buyer/berserker (really tough right now with the softness in the over-$30 segment and everybody and their mother still wanting to be a boutique winemaker), your best bet is to do something special and have people seek you out -- and in that aspect, Rick is right. You have to be semi-available/findable or twittering your head off so they take notice, and the discount to build a following is a great idea. I've put next to zero work into it (look for my website) other than hanging out here and pointing fingers, but I've accumulated a list of several hundred,. That's misleading as most just like to read the newsletter (I'm like the Richard Brautigan of the wine world!). I do work with a few wineries who have been successful developing there direct sales and others that have not. It comes down to experience (with the owner/staff or at the winery/vineyard/tasting room), undivided attention, and having wines that close the deal/support that model. I'll pm you my number Andrew and I can give you the more nuanced essay length view. As I said before, there are no easy answers -- but its mostly common sense.

There was a lot of white noise before the recession over the way you need to build your winery through scores, media, scarcity, aspiration, direct sales, etc. and keep your prices high damn the torpedoes! that was pretty much silliness. I had dinner with John Alban in 2005 and he called it way back then; the escalator to the top is mostly over and you have to build it the old fashioned way -- hard, consistent work and better wines/concept/value. I've been growing hand over fist (for a small guy with no checkbook) making nice little 'village-level' wines for urban markets. There's excess demand for fruit off of Coastview, so we keep that label small and precise, just making the portions of the vineyard that we really want to make. Its a labor of love and the wines are slow-developers. But, if you can do well enough with the more widely available wines, you get to have those labors of love and grow organically... and avoid the false scarcity/allocations, forced purchase, peacocky bullshit that seems to occur at the top of the market, making it much easier to honestly relate to those that do find you.

The question I always ask when I hear 'new label' is what are you doing that isn't being done? You have a much better answer than most, Andrew. If you don't have a decent answer, don't waste your money.

PS, buying a (decent) new press is a boatload of money, nothing mundane about that at all. When I get there, I'll be grinning ear to ear and crowing.
ITB - Le P'tit Paysan, La Marea,
User avatar
Ian Brand
 
Posts: 569
Joined: January 21st 2010, 7:50am

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #12  Postby Ian Brand » February 23rd 2012, 9:51am

Ed
Sometimes it feels like forty. And mostly its just wisdom I collected from hanging out with folks like you. You gotta watch what you tell me.
ITB - Le P'tit Paysan, La Marea,
User avatar
Todd F r e n c h
Site AdminSite Admin
Head Babysitter
 
Posts: 30370
Joined: January 27th 2009, 9:46am
Location: San Clemente, CA

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #13  Postby Todd F r e n c h » February 23rd 2012, 9:59am

Who needs a mailing list when you have BerserkerDay, right Ed?
Apparently I'm lazy, have a narrow agenda, and offer little in the way of content and substance (RMP)
Alan Koehler
 
Posts: 203
Joined: March 11th 2010, 12:28pm

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #14  Postby Alan Koehler » February 23rd 2012, 10:15am

I am not a winemaker nor ITB but rather a consumer and member of numerous mailing lists. I am responding because I find this to be very interesting topic of conversation.

I think that Rick has provided some very good advice as to how to grow a list of potential customers at virtually no cost. Ironically, the one area that he omitted (probably because it should go without saying) is to be more involved in the dialogues on boards like WB. I tend to join and stay on mailing lists after developing an understanding (albeit virtual) as to the character of the winemaker, their passion, and what they are trying to accomplish in their wines. Often this is conveyed by other WBers who post flattering comments/reviews but more importantly is when the winemakers themselves are participating on threads on a variety of topics, not just the wine they currently have for sale. Examples are commenting on the challenges they are facing during the growing season (the weather threads), field reports on what is happening in their growing region, tasting notes on wines made by others who they admire and/or wines that align with their palates, etc. Sure, it takes time out of your busy days but it doesn't cost you a thing and is a great way to allow potential customers to gain a better understanding of what you are all about.

A great case study that is in process is Roy Piper. I do not know Roy, do not know anybody that knows Roy, have never communicated with him, and really know nothing about his background. However, through his postings, I have found him to be a knowledgeable source of what is happening in the Napa Valley during the growing season. I have also learned that he will soon be going live with a web site which, undoubtedly, will provide users with the ability to sign up for his mailing list in advance of the release of his first vintage of wine(s). All this info was gleaned over time just from reading posts by Roy and about Roy. I would not be surprised if his mailing list grows quickly just from WBers who have gotten to know him in person and virtually over the years.

Now, my purpose is not to pound the drum for Roy Piper but to illustrate how being an active participant (he has over 2400 posts on WB) can greatly expand the pool of potential customers. There are lots of other examples, and this is already getting too long-winded, but it still surprises me that more winemakers are not taking full advantage of a free resource to communicate with exactly the people they are trying to attract to their mailing lists/customer base. Be sincere, be knowledgeable, be transparent, be responsive, be timely, but most importantly be engaged in the conversations.
User avatar
Rick Gregory
 
Posts: 8729
Joined: January 27th 2009, 1:42pm
Location: Seattle

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #15  Postby Rick Gregory » February 23rd 2012, 10:23am

Alan,

Excellent point. Participating in online interest communities can be powerful. You do need to be cognizant of the fact that you're representing your brand and that, here at least, the board is indexed by the search engines, i.e. what you say is public (aside from the member only fora). And face it, the board can be a timesink. The way I suggest people deal with the demands of social media (here, Facebook, twitter, etc) is simply to make it a task that they schedule every day. Put in 30 minutes during a time when you are usually near a computer. Check and post here, post on FB or Twitter, check saved searches for topics that interest you.

There are tools that can help streamline this too - Nimble as a CRM seems interesting, Sprout Social, Hootsuite and, for people ITB Vintank too. No connection to any of these and people should trial and evaluate them, but there ARE tools that provide a surprising amount of power to small businesses for a very reasonable cost.
Dang Rick, I think that's right
User avatar
Brett Johnson
SubscriberSubscriber
 
Posts: 1164
Joined: January 29th 2009, 10:14am
Location: So Cal

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #16  Postby Brett Johnson » February 23rd 2012, 10:24am

Ed,

Great idea for a topic and the information that has been posted so far is truly helpful, especially to someone like me who's been working on launching a wine label since '08.

I think Ian sums it up best as describing it as a "labor of love".

Cheers,
Brett
User avatar
Rick Gregory
 
Posts: 8729
Joined: January 27th 2009, 1:42pm
Location: Seattle

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #17  Postby Rick Gregory » February 23rd 2012, 10:59am

Incidentally, while everything I said above will help, there are two other things that come into play. One is foundational - your product needs to be very good. Not merely run of the mill good, but above average; remarkable in the literal meaning of the word, that it's something that's worth making a remark about. Second, a very high score or other prominent accolade by the right source will give you more signups in a month than you might get in a year of consistent work. That doesn't mean you abandon doing the work in hopes that someday you'll win the marketing lottery, but it does mean that if you get such a mention you should be ready for it. What happens if 500 people signup and want your current release wine that just scored 98? What if 50 people signup because of a local news mention and send you emails about your wine?

What I mean here is that you need to get people on the list but you then need to engage and be responsive. Someone just sent you an email? Don't let it drop... reply. They made a comment on your Facebook page? Comment back if it makes sense. There's a question there? Answer it. Here's an example: I sent a shop I do business with an email asking who distributes a wine here and if it was available, etc. I got the name of the distributor so I sent back a question on what was available, price, etc. Crickets. Nothing. A friend of mine once put this really well - "People will work hard to make their money. They won't work hard to spend it." Don't make them work hard to be a customer of yours. If you lose track of email conversations easily, use a CRM system that tickles you about open inquiries. Need to check on something? Mark that email as a task and set a reminder. Use the technology to help you overcome your weaknesses because, at the end of the day, a customer doesn't care why you don't respond, only that you don't.
Dang Rick, I think that's right
User avatar
Ian Brand
 
Posts: 569
Joined: January 21st 2010, 7:50am

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #18  Postby Ian Brand » February 23rd 2012, 12:12pm

Rick Gregory wrote:Incidentally, while everything I said above will help, there are two other things that come into play. One is foundational - your product needs to be very good. Not merely run of the mill good, but above average; remarkable in the literal meaning of the word, that it's something that's worth making a remark about. Second, a very high score or other prominent accolade by the right source will give you more signups in a month than you might get in a year of consistent work. That doesn't mean you abandon doing the work in hopes that someday you'll win the marketing lottery, but it does mean that if you get such a mention you should be ready for it. What happens if 500 people signup and want your current release wine that just scored 98? What if 50 people signup because of a local news mention and send you emails about your wine?

What I mean here is that you need to get people on the list but you then need to engage and be responsive. Someone just sent you an email? Don't let it drop... reply. They made a comment on your Facebook page? Comment back if it makes sense. There's a question there? Answer it. Here's an example: I sent a shop I do business with an email asking who distributes a wine here and if it was available, etc. I got the name of the distributor so I sent back a question on what was available, price, etc. Crickets. Nothing. A friend of mine once put this really well - "People will work hard to make their money. They won't work hard to spend it." Don't make them work hard to be a customer of yours. If you lose track of email conversations easily, use a CRM system that tickles you about open inquiries. Need to check on something? Mark that email as a task and set a reminder. Use the technology to help you overcome your weaknesses because, at the end of the day, a customer doesn't care why you don't respond, only that you don't.


[thumbs-up.gif]
ITB - Le P'tit Paysan, La Marea,
User avatar
Rick Gregory
 
Posts: 8729
Joined: January 27th 2009, 1:42pm
Location: Seattle

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #19  Postby Rick Gregory » February 23rd 2012, 1:12pm

Ian -

I missed your earlier reply. Some thoughts...

More than putting a lot of hours into marketing, the key thing is to do it consistently. Maybe one would like to spend 10-15 hours a week on marketing, but that's not going to happen. Fine, spend 2 or 3. But do that *each* week.Think of it this way... 30 minutes a day is 2.5 hours. Almost anyone can spare that time.

Too often people look at marketing like sales - if an activity doesn't close a deal right away they move on. You DO want to figure out ROI, but you also want to consistently, week in and week out, build awareness. Where you can, definitely have a call to action that converts someone... but realize that conversion isn't only sales but is also a mailing list signup, etc. This is one big reason I feel people should just make this a daily task on the calendar. Yeah, sometimes it will drop, but keep it in front of yourself and spend a bit of time on it as much as you can. Got emails? Send a regular newsletter. Doesn't have to be long... just a "what's happening, what's coming up, stuff that we like" newsletter.

Finally, DO build a website. Why? Because it's your online home. You get to write up descriptions of your wines, the vineyards, etc. It's something that you completely control. Be smart about wine descriptions - use the varietal name and the vineyard. If you're one of 8 people making wine from Vineyard X, your potential market isn't just people who know about you but people who try any other wine from that vineyard. Say I try a wine from there and then want to see who else makes wine from there... so I google the vineyard name. If you have a site and have pages that talk about the wines you make from Vineyard X there's a chance I'll see you and come to your site. Your own site also gives you control over things like directions to your place, hours, etc.
Dang Rick, I think that's right
User avatar
Ian Brand
 
Posts: 569
Joined: January 21st 2010, 7:50am

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #20  Postby Ian Brand » February 23rd 2012, 7:54pm

Spring newsletter comes out in a couple of weeks. Website has been in process for a couple of years. We're getting it 'really' right. No directions to our place (it's through four gates and you have to drive through a stream), but pictures, philosophy and ideas about what winemaking should be about. I'll send along a copy when we get close if you don't mind giving me a critique.
ITB - Le P'tit Paysan, La Marea,
User avatar
Rick Gregory
 
Posts: 8729
Joined: January 27th 2009, 1:42pm
Location: Seattle

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #21  Postby Rick Gregory » February 23rd 2012, 7:56pm

Happy to. Honestly, though, a website shouldn't take that long... You're better off getting it mostly right and live than trying to be perfect. Why? Because you can't start being indexed and linked to if you're not live
Dang Rick, I think that's right
User avatar
Ian Brand
 
Posts: 569
Joined: January 21st 2010, 7:50am

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #22  Postby Ian Brand » February 24th 2012, 6:14pm

How'd this become a discussion about how badly I need a website?
ITB - Le P'tit Paysan, La Marea,
User avatar
Rick Gregory
 
Posts: 8729
Joined: January 27th 2009, 1:42pm
Location: Seattle

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #23  Postby Rick Gregory » February 24th 2012, 6:39pm

Is your site up? Hmm?? And what's your mailing list look like? [drinkers.gif]
Dang Rick, I think that's right
User avatar
Paul Romero
 
Posts: 560
Joined: July 1st 2009, 1:33pm

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #24  Postby Paul Romero » March 1st 2012, 2:37pm

Ed Kurtzman wrote:Fellow winemakers:

I always get a lot of questions from friends who are starting new wine labels and they want to know the best way to get their names out there and build up their mailing lists. What do you think of these methods and their effectiveness?


Ed - I've thought about this a lot and Ian's reply too. I know it's something Ian and I have talked a lot about. I think the first thing anyone should ask themselves is do they really want a mailing list? How does that fit into their overall marketing plan and do they have the personality to maintain it. If they don't do they have the resources to bring to bear to build it inorganically including a celebrity winemaker and access to the big 4 critics (Tanzer, Suckling, WS, WA because no one else is going to generate more than 5-6 sign ups for them).

If you have a tasting room or a facility that can host visitors I think you shouldn't bother at all with a mailing list. Build a wine club, focus on events at the winery. Use the wine club's popularity to build local trade sales. Here locally Leal and Martin Ranch have had success with that approach. Probably not names familiar to most people but both are doing well with that approach. When I talk with Dan and Therese Martin they really have no interest in doing what I do with a mailing list. For them it's too much work to figure out and maintain and they would rather focus on their club and the events they do at the winery. That fits their personalities too.

Jim Varner gave me great advice. He said there are two parts of the wine world. There are huge companies that have huge marketing machines, and that includes the score driven small production wineries. They are about a marketing campaign, a label, a 'mystic'. The rest, and it's a part getting smaller and smaller he said, is about small personal wineries. That's individuals and their stories behind their wine. He said there are people who will seek out those small wineries and you as a small winemaker have to connect with those people and tell them your story.

How you connect has got to be about your personality. For the Varner's they knew lots of people in the trade who respected them and liked them and they were able to focus on those relationships and let those trade people build a following for them in small stores.

I encourage Ian, bug him actually like a pest, that he needs to get out and travel and meet people. He has a great story and he's really great in small groups of 8-10 talking about his wine. He's funny, engaging and passionate but it takes him relaxing a bit to bring all that out. The 45 second pitch at a trade show I never see working for Ian, but sitting down and answering questions and giving details in a personal way is his strong point. When he does that not only does he get sign ups but he gets customers who buy and buy from him. I never see him shooting a shotgun from a Ferrari but that will work for you too if it's your personality.

So the answer to the question on what's the best way is it depends on who is asking the question. What works for me, isn't going to work for someone else and what worked for someone else might not work for me.
ITB-Stefania Wine
User avatar
Steve Manzi
SubscriberSubscriber
 
Posts: 12201
Joined: January 27th 2009, 2:55pm
Location: North/Central NJ

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #25  Postby Steve Manzi » March 1st 2012, 2:42pm

David K o l i n wrote:
Bill Tex Landreth wrote:Is it not correct? I think it worked perfectly for at least wineries.

Nothing bitter about it.



It did for a couple. Others, not so much.

I was one of the group who took a flier on Jamie. I admired his goals, his determination and his dream. Thought of it as seed capital. I'm very glad I did. But what do I know. I bought Manlin's first release, too


Oofpha!
______________________________________________________________
User avatar
Steve Manzi
SubscriberSubscriber
 
Posts: 12201
Joined: January 27th 2009, 2:55pm
Location: North/Central NJ

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #26  Postby Steve Manzi » March 1st 2012, 2:45pm

I'd say talk to Brian Loring.

He:

Participated on many boards for a long time

Made nice to great wines

Traveled and met people, brought wines, was honest about them....and actually was semi interesting as a person. neener [berserker.gif]

Talked honestly about other wine makers

Continued to do all of the above.
______________________________________________________________
User avatar
Rick Gregory
 
Posts: 8729
Joined: January 27th 2009, 1:42pm
Location: Seattle

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #27  Postby Rick Gregory » March 1st 2012, 5:54pm

paul -

I fully agree with the idea that one should run a business in ways that reflect who you are and how you want to live.


I'd disagree pretty strongly with this though "There are huge companies that have huge marketing machines, and that includes the score driven small production wineries. They are about a marketing campaign, a label, a 'mystic'. The rest, and it's a part getting smaller and smaller he said, is about small personal wineries. That's individuals and their stories behind their wine. He said there are people who will seek out those small wineries and you as a small winemaker have to connect with those people and tell them your story." It's not so much that he's wrong, but that he casts marketing and storytelling in opposition.

I think marketing, really effective marketing, is precisely telling people your story - but not everyone can drop by the winery to listen to your story. Right now, in 2012, a small personal winery has unprecedented means to tell their story to anyone who's interested, not just the people in the area. A mailing list is one way to do that.* So is a blog or a Facebook page. Now, some people might not care or need this. They might be able to sell out everything they make just with winery activities. That's awesome. But that also excludes people who aren't local. it basically says to someone in another state who loves your wine that they're second class citizens. You'll talk to them if they fly or drive hundreds or thousands of miles. The people who can drop by in February get to see you and chat with you and see what happens during downtime... but those of us in other states are left out of this because a winery won't blog and email.

Again, if that's the way someone wants things, that's fine. But the casting of marketing as some kind of faux veneer that relies on critics and celebrity winemakers is false to me. Authentic marketing is all about engaging with fans, making them aware of what you're doing and listening to what they want.

*Keep in mind that I'm seeing a mailing list not just as an ordering channel, but as a way to communicate with and engage with your fans.
Dang Rick, I think that's right
User avatar
Paul Romero
 
Posts: 560
Joined: July 1st 2009, 1:33pm

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #28  Postby Paul Romero » March 2nd 2012, 11:16am

Rick,

I can't see Jim Varner ever blogging or twittering and I'm not going to argue with his success. He did what worked for him and his personality. It was his advice. I think maybe you missed his message. It was simply that as a small winery you can't stand toe to toe with the resources of a big company and beat them at their game. You have to seize on what makes you unique and different. It wasn't a rant against marketing, I sure didn't take it that way, it was advice not to try and do the same thing as the big companies do.

It should also be intuitive that if you know my business you know that I'm not saying the only way to build a mailing list is with a celebrity winemaker and critical reviews. I'm no celebrity and I don't send wine to critics. I've got a mailing list I think most wineries would kill for. Critics and a celebrity winemaker are the easy, although expensive, way to build a list. If you can't or won't do that, then you have to build it in a way that works for you. You can't just copy what someone else has done it probably won't work for you. What worked for me, probably is not going to work for someone else, or it's going to be something that's too hard or painful to do for them and they'll never see it through.
ITB-Stefania Wine
User avatar
Rick Gregory
 
Posts: 8729
Joined: January 27th 2009, 1:42pm
Location: Seattle

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #29  Postby Rick Gregory » March 2nd 2012, 11:26am

Fully agreed Paul. It just seemed to me that Jim was equating marketing to big companies, flash and the like - perhaps I mistook his point. I'm also a bit sensitive to that because I see smaller businesses all the time that don't get that they now have tools that let them engage their fans and customers in ways that evena few years ago weren't possible. Far too many of them feel it's out of their reach, that they need to be hugely technical, etc. so when I read something that seems to say "You can do the BigCo thing or you can just focus on your in-person experience" I push back because it's not true and because it puts others off trying things.

Like I said, if someone doesn't want to try, fine. If it's just not who they are, OK. But to ignore the opportunities in online market for a smaller business is foolish. Look at them, evaluate what fits, try some things. It's not like you need to be online 24x7 or do nothing.
Dang Rick, I think that's right
User avatar
Brian G r a f s t r o m
SubscriberSubscriber
up to no good
 
Posts: 13443
Joined: February 3rd 2009, 1:54am
Location: westside

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #30  Postby Brian G r a f s t r o m » March 14th 2012, 7:09pm

Maybe it's so obvious it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway:

Step one: have a good product to sell.

Get that good product in as many people's hands as possible (i.e.: WB'ers, pros, bloggers, etc. ...), and let it shake out.
“All these characters spend their time explaining themselves, and happily recognizing that they hold the same opinions … how important they consider it to think the same things all together.” --- A.R.

CT handle: grafstrb
User avatar
Rick Gregory
 
Posts: 8729
Joined: January 27th 2009, 1:42pm
Location: Seattle

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #31  Postby Rick Gregory » March 14th 2012, 8:59pm

Brian,

Well, the second part is the harder part, esp when you're smaller and can't just send out samples willy-nilly. The simple fact is that no one blogger etc will result in many sales. Even critics like Tanzer don't usually move the sales needle, sadly. So, while I agree with you that a good product is needed, I wouldn't agree that merely giving out samples will help much.

Doing things like Berserkerday offerings can help a lot since they generate revenue and get product in front of people who tend to talk about wine but the honest truth is that short of major critic notice or major media kudos, there's no magic bullet. However, you will do better if you actively plan things and don't just let it shake out but think about what you want and how to make it happen. Want a mailing list? Give people the opportunity to sign up at every customer contact from tastings to website visits. Encourage it, make it easy to see the signup form or sheet and you'll do better than if you bury the signup form on the Contact page of your site and don't give people the chance at tastings.
Dang Rick, I think that's right
User avatar
Brian G r a f s t r o m
SubscriberSubscriber
up to no good
 
Posts: 13443
Joined: February 3rd 2009, 1:54am
Location: westside

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #32  Postby Brian G r a f s t r o m » March 15th 2012, 6:15am

Totally agree about the economics. Surely, though, a winemaker who's active on this board could (somewhat) accurately predict which posters will like their wines, and will post positive reviews of them; I think it's advantageous for the winemaker to get their wines in those peoples' hands, if economics allow it --- even if we're just talking six people, or so.

I think you bring-up a fantastic point re: making it easy to sign-up for the mailing list at tastings. I'd further suggest making signing-up for the mailing list a selling point at tastings (i.e.: "We'll refund the cost of your tasting today (if any) if you sign-up for our mailing list. Additionally, you'll receive the member's discount on all wines that you purchase today.") Have a list of all the wines and their prices: both regular pricing, and member's pricing.
“All these characters spend their time explaining themselves, and happily recognizing that they hold the same opinions … how important they consider it to think the same things all together.” --- A.R.

CT handle: grafstrb
User avatar
Paul Romero
 
Posts: 560
Joined: July 1st 2009, 1:33pm

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #33  Postby Paul Romero » March 15th 2012, 11:08am

I've found that putting up a sign up list at tastings results in a conversion rate of less than 2%. (sign ups to eventual purchase of any kind). I don't do it any more. When we do set up at events we give out mini-moo's http://us.moo.com/products/minicards.html with the website info and blog info and encourage people to go to the website to sign up. If we had a tasting room I'd probably feel differently about it but I've just found it a poor use of resources to mail out to people who sign up at an event.

Interesting thing happened when we stopped taking sign ups at events. Our conversion rate stayed about the same but the average revenue per year per conversion went up about 400%. The people who did go through the extra step of signing up or contacting us after the event went from spending $100/y on average to $400/y on average. As someone trained in Economics this behavior is fascinating but I've not really tried to figure out why it is the way it is. In a different sales model, one with a wine club for instance vs mailing list, I'd think this data might flip flop.
ITB-Stefania Wine
User avatar
Rick Gregory
 
Posts: 8729
Joined: January 27th 2009, 1:42pm
Location: Seattle

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #34  Postby Rick Gregory » March 15th 2012, 11:42am

Paul Romero wrote:I've found that putting up a sign up list at tastings results in a conversion rate of less than 2%. (sign ups to eventual purchase of any kind). I don't do it any more. When we do set up at events we give out mini-moo's http://us.moo.com/products/minicards.html with the website info and blog info and encourage people to go to the website to sign up. If we had a tasting room I'd probably feel differently about it but I've just found it a poor use of resources to mail out to people who sign up at an event.

Interesting thing happened when we stopped taking sign ups at events. Our conversion rate stayed about the same but the average revenue per year per conversion went up about 400%. The people who did go through the extra step of signing up or contacting us after the event went from spending $100/y on average to $400/y on average. As someone trained in Economics this behavior is fascinating but I've not really tried to figure out why it is the way it is. In a different sales model, one with a wine club for instance vs mailing list, I'd think this data might flip flop.

That is interesting Paul. i'd theorize that it's because they were more qualified leads - they were motivated enough to take an action after a tasting vs just jotting down their email casually.

Your story is why I think it's important to get out and try things though - it's not that everything one tries will succeed, it's that if you don't experiment, you don't know what might succeed or fail. Tracking the results is important, but you need to actually try things in order to get results that you can track. Of course, one should leverage the experience of others - if I were a winery reading this I'd skip the open signups and try your card approach. In fact I'd refine it by putting a special URL on the card for people at tastings and perhaps an event specific one for large events like the annual Taste Washington thing and I'd do specific landing pages for the folks who hit those URLs.

brian - my concern with the 'send a bottle out' approach is that a given bottle can provide ~15 tastes to people at an event. In a simple ROI view, the question is which use will touch more people. Obviously, the approaches aren't mutually exclusive, but I'd be inclined to only send bottles to folks with a demonstrated interest, who will likely write about the wine and who have an audience. One reason I like the monthly Berserkerday even Todd's doing is that it gives wineries a chance to get wine in the hands of interested people and still recoup some of the cost. Even if they only get some of the buyers as new customers that's a win.
Dang Rick, I think that's right
Ed Kurtzman
 
Posts: 262
Joined: January 29th 2009, 11:10pm

Re: Building up a mailing list

Post #35  Postby Ed Kurtzman » March 17th 2012, 10:26pm

After trying the mailing list sign ups at large tastings for several years, I completely agree with Paul that it's largely a fruitless endeavor. It seems like the people who sign up at tastings are the first people to hit the "unsubscribe" link when they receive their first email, as if they're wondering how in the world they ended up on the mailing list.

Return to Cellar Rats (ITB)