Time to Get Past the Blast - Introducing Preference-Based Marketing

By: Bryan St. Amant


On the email marketing front, I've seen plenty of promising developments recently, but one practice that also worries me a bit...the overuse of "email blasts."

At the a recent trade show I had to a chance to speak with winery representatives from nearly every major wine producing region in the U.S.  While many are still revving up their email marketing engines, most have already started to send email marketing messages as part of their mix. 

Without exception though, all of examples I've seen or heard about have been "bulk email" or "email blasts" that target a winery's entire email list with the same direct marketing message.

Now don't get me wrong, just about any use of email (short of spam) is likely to produce good results.  Drastically lower production costs and typically higher response rates make email an attractive alternative to direct mail, especially for your in-house mailing list. 

But if you're only using email as a cheap replacement for direct mail, you're just scratching the surface of what email marketing can do for you.  So whether you're just thinking about email marketing at your winery, or you've already begun adding email to your mix, this month's wine marketing tip is: It's Time to Get Past the Blast.

Why?  Because you can have happier customers, achieve much higher response rates, and sell even more wine when you move past email blasts to a permission-based email marketing model.

If you haven't had a chance to read Seth Godin's classic book, "Permission Marketing," the term itself may sound like a bit of hocus pocus.  But the underlying principles of asking our customers about their interests, and engaging them according to their preferences are nothing new to the wine business.  Successful tasting rooms already practice the basic techniques of permission marketing.

In the tasting room, we treat our guests as individuals.  We greet them personally and introduce ourselves.  We ask about their tastes and preferences in wine.  We pour them the wines they're interested in.  We observe their reactions.  We answer their questions.  If everything's gone right, we make a sale.  And even if we don't sell them on this visit, we treat our guests to a positive experience that increases the probability they'll buy from us in the future.

So why not extend these basic acts of customer service to your email marketing?

Instead of hoping all of your email recipients will be interested in the same thing, why not ask their individual preferences?  Instead of "Dear Wine Enthusiast," why not greet your customers by name?  And instead of "blasting" your prospects with undifferentiated messaging, why not treat them to messages and offers that are personalized to appeal to their specific areas of interest?

Today's technology makes this type of customer-friendly email marketing possible for virtually any winery, small or large.  And when you do make the switch from direct mail and email blasts to permission-based email marketing, you can expect to see extraordinary results!

Compared to bulk email blasts, which typically pull in the 2% to 3% range, a personalized permission-based campaign will often boost response 300% to 500% or more.  And if you're coming from paper-based direct mail, you could easily see 8 to 10 times more response, with lower production costs.

No, these aren't typos...they're actual results that we've seen time and again when businesses make the switch to permission-based email marketing.

And boosting short-term sales is only the beginning.  What about long-term customer relationships?  Who do you think has a better experience, a prospect who's just been "blasted" or one who's received a personalized email update on a topic they've told us they're interested in?

By asking our customers' preferences, catering to their interests, even calling them by name, we are treating them better than 99% of the businesses they deal with every day.  When we respect our customers as individuals and treat them well over time -- in the tasting room or in our email campaigns -- we begin to develop real relationships, relationships that are valued and rewarded with customer loyalty, return visits, and repeat purchases.