Integrating Email with Your Marketing Mix

By: Bryan St. Amant


For a growing number of wineries, planning for this year's holiday season includes preference-based email marketing -- a great way to turn last season's visitors into this season's customers.  As wineries rev up their email marketing engines, inevitable questions arise about integrating email with existing programs such as wine clubs, newsletters, and tasting room operations. 

Unless you're starting a winery from scratch, chances are you're already communicating with customers and prospects in at least a few different ways.  Since preference-based email is just another channel in your marketing mix, it helps to begin by identifying all the ways you communicate with your customers and prospects today. 

Then for each element in your mix, ask yourself how preference-based email will relate. In some cases, email may only share a few elements of branded design, while in other cases preference-based email might become part of or even replace an existing marketing vehicle. 

How you structure your email marketing initiative will depend on the results you wish to achieve, but to stimulate your thinking here's how wineries we've been working with have integrated preference-based email with their key marketing programs:

Wine Club Integration.  One of the most important questions to answer is how email marketing will work with your wine club.  Wine club members receive special treatment including wine shipments, ongoing discounts, and periodic 'members only' mailings. Yet many will also opt-in to your preference-based email service.

So the question is do you try to segregate wine club members in your email campaigns or do you treat them like everyone else who has requested email updates?

The ideal approach would be to manage wine club communications and preference-based email updates using the same database, allowing you to easily identify wine club participants and customize their updates based on membership status.  Unfortunately, we've yet to see a single solution that's designed for managing wine club information (payment status, allocation, shipping history, etc...) while offering the functionality required for preference-based email marketing (tracking customer preferences, bounce/unsubscribe status, click-thru rates, etc...) 

So you will probably need to export current wine club members to your email marketing system on a regular basis.  Adding personal log-in data from your ecommerce may also be beneficial, allowing you to target your wine club members with their own highly personalized campaigns from your email marketing system.

Newsletter Integration.  Another common question we hear from wineries implementing preference-based email marketing is "what should I do with my newsletter now that I'm sending personalized email updates?" 

If you're looking to email marketing as a way to reduce the time and expense of sending newsletters -- while increasing sales results -- you might want to reduce the number of newsletters you send each year or phase them out altogether. 

On the other hand, newsletters can be a great addition to your marketing mix, especially when focused on building customer relationships and reinforcing your brand identity.  So if you have the resources and desire to continue publishing your newsletter, you can continue to send it along with personalized email updates.

If you want to send both, our advice is to simply list your newsletter as one of the preferences customers can select when they subscribe to your email service.  The advantage of this approach is that you can use a single system to manage all of your subscribers, making it easy to coordinate who gets what and when.

By integrating your newsletter with your email marketing initiative you're free to focus each vehicle on the job it does best...supporting your brand's image with newsletters and driving customer response with preference-based email marketing.

Tasting Room Integration.  The final question we hear most often about integrating email marketing concerns the tasting room.  "How do we add preference-based email to an already busy tasting room environment?"

Our advice before asking "how" is to ask "why?"  One approach that's worked well is to test email marketing first with names you've already collected.  From these tests you'll know exactly how much you'll sell for each name you collect.  (Note: it's not uncommon for each email name you collect to generate $3 to $7 in sales every time you mail your list. Send 8 to 12 mailings per year and you start to get the picture...)

Multiply revenue per name by the number of names you can collect from your tasting room each year, and you'll get an idea of the sales you can generate by integrating preference-based email with your tasting room operations.  With this data in hand, you'll have an easier time justifying to yourself and your staff the effort required to integrate preference-based email into your tasting room experience.

Once you've decided to move in this direction, tasting room integration is straightforward.  First, you'll want a low cost mechanism for collecting customer names, email addresses and marketing preferences.  We've seen inexpensive computer kiosks work well for this purpose, but old-fashioned paper form still seem to work the best.  The cost of either approach should be clearly offset by the revenue you expect to generate with the names you collect.

Next, you'll need to integrate your sign-up mechanism into the tasting room experience and train your staff on what's expected from them.  The simplest approach may be to place a kiosk and easy-to-read sign in a location that's already part your tasting room's flow.  Even without staff encouragement, you might be surprised by how many customers will sign up for your list.

Train your staff to invite customers to join your list after they've rung up a sale or as they're saying goodbye, and you'll accelerate your name collection.  Add a customer incentive -- like a chance to win a gift basket -- and you'll increase your collection rate even more.

After a while email collection will become such an established part of your tasting room process, and such a valuable element of your marketing mix, you'll wonder how you ever got along without it.

Bottom Line.  Whether you're running a wine club, managing a tasting room, or directing other consumer marketing efforts, preference-based email has a place in your sales and marketing mix.  It may take a little thought to integrate this technique with your current practices, but when you do you'll be rewarded with increased sales, customer satisfaction, and the knowledge that you're leveraging one of the most powerful and cost-effective marketing tools available today.