Re-Cap: What worked and how well:
Some of these tactics you have read before – they aren’t rocket science, but concrete evidence of success can be the most motivating. Here are the top four tactics and their results, enabling the majority of my e-commerce clients to double their Q4 online sales dollar volume.
1. Communicate with your customers with authentic, relevant brand messages. This is the age old “emailing works” philosophy. By using the three non-sell brand message for every one sell message axiom, customers were sensitized to open emails for non-solicitation messages. Top reasons to email included recipes (with the highest open percentage and resulting web traffic increase,) new releases, and winery happenings. One client who followed this technique to segmented lists saw a resulting conversion of over 3.4% in Q4.
2. Spend time leading up to the fourth quarter to build your list and increase conversion. If your customers aren’t used to receiving emails from you, two things are going to occur when you start. First, you’ll have a lot of dead emails on your list so you will have an unreliable list number. Second, response will be low in the beginning since your customers will not be psychologically ready to open your communication. Frequent emails build trust, a key conversion aspect. This is also a good strategy if you’re moving from direct mail to email as your main point of contact.
3. Design good “call to action” programming. When sending out a sale offer, shipping has historically been the best cost to reduce. This past year, clients achieved higher conversion percentages and overall sales volume pushing scarcity over shipping discounts. Scarcity included limited bottling, large format, and past vintage.
4. Don’t think social media is free. Yes, social media (including emails) is a wonderful new area of interest. But, using it still takes time. Invest time in building your tweets, followers, fans. This time costs you money – money you could be spent in your tasting room or on the road. Just consider that it’s a reallocation of those designated monies. The result can be the same. Collect regional fans with whom you regularly communicate with. These customers will eventually purchase from you as they build trust with you and rely on your expertise and recommendations. Realize that this is at a cost to your overall business and consider the ROI. The most profitable outcome right now for my clients is the “tweet up” idea. Contact customers when you’re in the area to complete a sale in an established account for best and measurable conversions.
Now that we’re back at the beginning again, it’s a perfect opportunity to set yourself up for greater success as the year progresses. Contact me to start today!
Top Two things to Do For a Holiday Season:
The planning's done for your traditional sales side, how about your DTC business? Read my full blog post here on eWinery Solutions website.
Summer Dull-drums should beat a new tune
It’s hot out. No one is selling much wine because of the heat even with promises of 2nd day air (although most packages won’t see an airplane regardless of the name of this type of shipping.) Promotions continue to trickle out to winery email lists promising the usual discounts on whites and reduced shipping costs. Visitor numbers are down on weekdays and weekends can’t quite make up for lost foot traffic.
Sound like you? You’re not alone. As the dog days nip at our collective heels, direct to consumer managers struggle to balance pushing their online strategy with their worrying about tasting room numbers. My advice is to forget about the latter and focus on the future of the former. Why? Because right around the corner is O-N-D. What you do now to improve your outreach is critical to your holiday season success.
Tasting room numbers will be down this year. Just accept it; people are travelling less. That means your ability to gather an email name in person is diminished. Time to pick up the slack using other means. Popular ways to do that right now are through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. While this method is a great “fish where the fish are” strategy, the examples of resulting fiscal successes are few (not counting Murphy-Goode’s brilliant campaign.) Time spent in this foray should be balanced with other methods of name gathering.
One tactic fewer and fewer people are successfully maximizing is referrals. This term covers everything from “refer-a-friend” list building to cross-promotional emailing. These are the tried and true; “cover the basics well” before expanding into other areas. Summer is the perfect time for building outreach. Remember the old rule for emailing: three branding messages balanced with one promotion. Put some branding messages out that are interesting and authentic that might be shared. Swap vineyard management techniques with a neighbor’s list (I have leaf thinned while he has not, that kind of thing.) Gather customer feedback and repackage it around foods of the season and then send so friends can share it. These are practical ideas in a time where many are losing their grounding.
Referrals from wine club members might be your most powerful tool. Summer time is a great opportunity to plan a fall event. Consider promotions like an extra discount to the cost of attendance if a wine club member brings another couple. Look at other ways to increase overall club numbers to, like offering to comp a non-wine club member to the event in the hopes they will convert. Use this tactic on some of your best non-wine club members and increase their net value to your business.
Also on the wine club side, summer is a great opportunity to work with your production team as they try to clear tank space. Look at what’s in tank or barrel right now – is there an opportunity to bottle a wine club only wine? Consider a non-typical blend as an option. Blends are a great way to take advantage of what’s available to you in storage (or even the bulk market) and to turn it into revenue. You might even consider enlisting your top wine club customers as blending trial partners. It’s a great way to build loyalty—and maybe they’ll even tweet about the experience!
So even though it might be slow on the sales side, summer is the perfect time to invest in continuing to promote your message, expand your list, and plan for the future. Take advantage now to be ready for later.
You know the feeling: fresh resolutions, new commitments and an eager “hello” to 2009. It’s easy to turn your back to yesteryear’s plans, but now it’s more important than ever to evaluate your progress. Especially now, in today’s down-turned market, it’s valuable to know what’s working and what’s not so as to not waste your valuable time and money.
Start with your email marketing campaigns. Did you move the needle? Tabulate your results in terms of open rate, clicks, and conversions. If you’ve been optimizing your strategies throughout the year, subject lines, offers, and email design best practices should reveal themselves through these figures. Even a small improvement, for example from a 38% to a 43% click through rate is worthy of documentation. Take your learnings and integrate them into your email strategy for 2009.
If you didn’t have a plan in 2008 for your email marketing efforts, by looking at your past success you will give yourself a boost up and motivate you to put together a plan for 2009. Or, provide incentive to delegate the responsibility more effectively within your organization or to hire from outside. Adding email communication to your marketing calendar should be second-nature, a natural function just like in-market visits, ad promotions, and wine releases. Even the simple thought of communicating your traditional efforts via an email can keep your program on track.
With the start of a new year comes a fresh outlook. Why not give social networking a try in 2009? Social networking, broadly defined as ways that people use technology to interact using words, video, audio, and photos, is a hot trend and gaining traction. People usually resist this new media, questioning how it might help. The latest example of how micro-blog sites like Twitter are having a direct impact is Twitter Taste Live to be held at this year’s Zinfandel Advocates and Producers Event (ZAP) in San Francisco . A kiosk will be set up so consumers and bloggers can Twitter wine reviews as the tasting is occurring, sending the information out to an established group of wine lovers. Talk about having a qualified audience!
Make 2009 your year to maximize your direct-to-consumer program. Improve your planning, incorporate your own best practices, and get involved in social media as ways to expand your online efforts. Branding, demand, and sales will be the better for it.
Last minute ideas to convert holiday sales
We’re into the fourth quarter and now’s the time to squeeze out every sale you can before the cold winds of January put out your sales fire. Here are some strategies to help you maximize this most wonderful time of the year.
1. Make your promotion work.
If you have an existing campaign out to your customers, double up the publicity. Re-send the offer via email, post it online with a prominent offer code, and talk about it in your viral efforts. If the “tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it,” your sales will suffer. Be clear and repetitive to maximize your results.
2. Think outside of the shipping box.
Wine is heavy and sometimes takes days to ship, prematurely ending your holiday sales campaigns with an early order deadline. While you might not be able to put bottles under the tree, there’s still overnight mail for letters. What goes in the envelope? A promise of bottles in time for the next big event – New Year’s. Offer up to Dec 23 (or 24th, depending on your carrier) a holiday card announcing the recipient’s “New Year’s in a Box” gift set due to arrive before the ball drops. An idea like this can extend the offering period for wine as a holiday gift, regardless of shipping delays.
3. Use your network.
It’s past your shipping deadline and your customers really want the wine for Christmas dinner. Shipping is out – but how about your network of distributors and brick-and-mortar retailers? Offer your customers the ability to order the wine from you and arrange for pick-up at their neighborhood store. (Check with your state laws before starting this program – you might have to perform the monetary transaction with the retailer.) You might loose some profit, but you captured the sale and made your customer happy.
4. Set up sales for later.
Christmas is big time, but Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Catch the tail of holiday sales by pitching the next big thing, February 14th. While it might not add to your fiscal this year, you’ll get a jump on next year. Offer your wine club as a special shipment or put together a special recipe to pair with your most romantic bottling. While consumer’s eyes are getting tired of seeing sale signs, your approach might be fresh and just what they need to see.
5. Sell soft benefits.Even after your shipping deadline, a special message to your customers thanking them for their support or with holiday well wishes will continue to keep your product top of mind. Branding never ends, even when the year does. And this is just one more touch point and reason to communicate your customers will appreciate.
Corporate Gifting and your Wine Club
It’s well known that at the holidays tens of thousands of gifts are given by businesses to their customers. Choices usually include everything from calendars to paperweights, golf balls to golf clubs. And most of it can be personalized.
Where do wineries fit into this market? Many wineries offer some type of corporate gift program, whether it be highly personalized bottles of wine or just their most popular Cabernet Sauvignon presented in a nice wood box. However, a winery or retail wine club can be overlooked as a perfect corporate gift.
Wine Clubs as gifts are a savvy choice. For the business customer, they can be an easy, quality gift that fits their client’s lifestyle. And, Wine Clubs are often more than one shipment so it allows the company to make an impression several times a year, not just at the holidays. For wineries, wine clubs sold to businesses offer potentially expanding their existing club base, gaining a new customer, and a resulting increase in revenue.
To be successful selling wine clubs to businesses, here are a few key points to keep in mind. Follow these tips in order to set yourself up for increased sales this holiday.
While it’s easy to just throw together your regular shipment as a gift, better results will come from better planning. Corporate clients demand unique gifts that enforce their brand (most of the time to the detriment of your own.) Meet their needs with personalization in the box. This can range from at a minimum a “to-from” message on a packing slip all the way to individually addressed cards placed inside along with your own collateral. Providers such as “Card in the Box” offer this service along with other customized card printers. Consider a personalized sticker or engraving, too.
2. Wine Clubs have to have sunsets.
Corporate buyers can’t handle ongoing billing, even if they choose to send multiple months’ shipments. Consider putting together set packages (including shipping) of different durations. Common shipment numbers include one, two, four and six – however, most programs are based on time periods such as six months or a year. Design wine club packages around popular price points such as $100, $250, et cetera.
3. Think gift cards for wine clubs, too.
Gift Cards, or even more old fashioned gift certificates, can be issued as wine club memberships. Wineries can offer cards that feature the customers’ brands but act as pre-purchases of wine club shipments.
4. Customers have limited amounts of time.
Don’t even bother trying to convert corporate sales if your website or customer service team is up to snuff – you might do more harm than good giving a bad impression. Have an easy to use sign up form designed for the purpose. Make sure you have the ability to enter multiple ship-to addresses online. Accept spreadsheets with customer information and upload the orders yourself using your tasting room POS system. If a corporate customer has to spend too much time figuring out how to send 100 wine club shipments across the U.S. , you’ll likely loose the sale.
5. Convert their clients to your clients.
Design a retention program designed especially for the recipients of wine club gifting. Reach out to them inside each shipment with materials and offers for them to join your regular wine club at the end of their gift period. Include them as regular members to all of your special events. Consider calling them directly at the expiration of their gift to see if they liked the experience and would like to continue. Gift recipients are a ready-made pool of potential customers who have recently experienced your product.
6. It’s not just for holiday.
Corporate gifting occurs year-round. There are retirements, bonuses, promotions, and “thank you’s” occurring all the time. Consider setting up a special page on your website to host wine club gifting full-time. While most of your sales will occur in the fourth quarter, you can gain incremental sales and, more importantly, awareness by keeping your program front and center.
Get Marketing ready for Holiday!
One of the best things you can do to increase holiday sales this quarter is to properly merchandize your website.
1. Make it easy for your customers to find what they're looking for.
2. Gift-giving made simple - offer more than the other guy.
3. Offer wines that match common holiday recipes; take the guesswork out of it for the entertainment-oriented.
4. Place focus items like your wine club offering as a gift on your homepage as an ad or other hot link.
5. Put your shipping policies clearly on your website so customers know important cut-off dates.
6. Make your message last after December.
7. Increase promotion offerings as end of year approaches.
Keep checking back for my entire series of Tips and Help. Upcoming installments will include more about private label wines. You can also choose to receive these updates via email. Just fill out our contact form and start benefitting your business.