Email marketing, as we all know, can be challenging. Most of us have had the experience of not being able to think of content ideas, but, recognizing the importance of email as a tool for staying in touch with our audience, many are tempted to send out the old standby: a $1 shipping offer. Here’s how to change that forever.
Knowing the importance of staying in contact with your winery’s audience, I would like you to consider the following question. Which is worse: not sending regular emails to your subscribers, or sending emails on a regular basis even if you know some of them will annoy the recipients?
Of course, neither of these approaches is the optimal way of treating your valuable readers, but this dilemma can be solved with some forward planning in what can be called a content strategy.
What do we mean when we say Content Strategy?
In contrast to sending out scattershot emails simply to maintain a presence in your readers’ in-boxes, a content strategy describes what you aim to achieve through the complete picture of all your content (which also includes Instagram posts, Linked-In updates, web content, and printed materials — but these are described in a different post) and carries a certain expectation for business impact.
A content strategy for your winery’s email subscribers would be designed to move your audience towards higher levels of engagement, whether that means becoming a first-time customer for someone who hasn’t purchased before, or a second-time customer for someone who has purchased just once, or, for someone who’s been with your winery for months or years, becoming a more-loyal wine club member. The goal is not to push sales, but to build strong relationships with your followers, (who will then develop into more loyal customers).
Wineries in 2020 that are still thinking in terms of just getting the word out, need to be transitioning over to a content strategy for their emails, or risk losing their audience and damaging their brand.
How to develop your winery’s content strategy
With many content strategies, the goal is to convert someone who is at the edge of the sales funnel, into a customer, and once that is done, the strategy is more-or-less complete. With these types of content strategy, the content is designed to educate the potential customers about the benefits of their product, and then convince them to become customers.
For wineries, it’s a little different. Your content strategy needs to be designed for a long-term relationship. Your subscribers didn’t join your email list because they were volunteering to get marketed to; they joined because they like who you are and they want to be included as insiders. With this in mind, your content needs to treat your readers as insiders; part of the gang; someone you’d happily share a glass of wine with (I mean, they’d get their own glass — you wouldn’t have to share your glass with them).
So let’s look at the main types of emails wineries send out. They generally fall into the following categories:
- Events: pick-up parties, winemaker dinners, virtual tastings …
- What’s happening in the vineyard/winery
- Book a Tasting emails
- Recipes / Food Pairing Suggestions
- Sales Promotions: flash sales, seasonal Promotions (eg. Merlot Month, Grenache Day), shipping promotions
Plus another category that wineries give very little attention to,
- Evergreen content (such as “Should you Decant Your Wine?” or “Does the Type of Wine Glass Matter?)
Just considering this list, it becomes very easy to see how an editorial calendar for your emails would quickly fall into place by playing with the frequency of each of the categories: an email about bud break goes out at the beginning of April, a Mothers’ Day Brunch in the Vineyard email goes out after that, a story about grilling Spring veggies follows next … evergreen articles can go out during the slow months … and so on. But this is just a content calendar. It doesn’t qualify as a strategy until you define the goals for your content, and start planning your content to align with those goals. Remember: your content strategy needs to move the needle somehow.
How to align your winery’s content with your strategic goals
The first step in developing content to align with your goals is to … (ready for this?) … define your goals. A successful content strategy for a winery considers two dimensions: the needs of your winery, and the needs of your audience. And in defining your goals, you will have over-arching goals such as “increase sales by 3%” or “reduce wine club attrition by 5%” and you will have more micro-level goals, such as goals for new visitors, and goals for your most-engaged or least-engaged wine club members. These different goals come into play when segmenting your email audiences and writing content specifically for those segments.
I recommend to clients that they think about their winery email marketing as relationship-building first, and sales-building last. And strong relationships are built on giving and receiving. If all of your emails are based on Buy This! Buy This! Buy This! (in other words, take-take-take), you’re not doing your share of giving.
To swing the balance so that your relationship is more in equilibrium, you should strive to provide more value in your emails. Send emails that make your readers’ lives better somehow (without wasting their time): ask your readers for their opinion; find out what they would like to see improved; send useful articles about how long wines can be stored or where wine began, which don’t have a call to action, or send the occasional individual, personalized email saying, “We hope you enjoyed the Zinfandel we sent you. If it was for a special occasion, or just a simple moment you enjoyed, we’d love if you’d share your story with us.”
I know that not including a call-to-action in every email you send out might seem like crazy talk, but by doing this, you are building a relationship that is more mutual, more compassionate, and more rewarding.