Introduction

Benchmark's Winery Email Marketing

This white paper, Winery Email Marketing: The Successes, The Shortcomings, and The Solutions, is designed and compiled to assist the winery industry in improving their email marketing campaign efficiencies through:

Learning what other wineries have found successful... or not
Understanding the various elements that go into proper winery email marketing
Realizing the challenges of implementing an effective and legal campaign
How to obtain optimum results by discovering the coherent solution

Wineries throughout the United States and Canada were solicited for anonymous statistical information and some agreed to personal interviews regarding their email marketing practices and experience. This information has been distilled into this white paper and can be found in detail in the Winery Email Marketing Survey section.

This white paper is intended to offer a comprehensive set of questions that any winery seeking an email marketing solution should ask, and also provide the answers that can resolve the negative problems and boost the positive results. By surveying the current state of winery email campaigns, analyzing their performance, and supplying empirical solutions, it is the desire of the authors to advance the state of ethical, effective, and proper winery email campaigns everywhere.
Background
The marketing and promotional challenges faced by wineries are extensive and vary considerably from most other industries. According to marketing consultant Andy Mitchell of Proximity Pulse, "there is no other product in any other category where consumers are actively encouraged not to be brand-loyal, but encouraged to explore and to change." The prototypical decision matrix followed by consumers sequentially considers:

Color: Red, white, rose, champagne
Price Range: Bargain to Stratospheric
Grape Varietal: Aglianico to Zinfandel and everything in between
Brand: Tens of thousands to choose from

With an estimated 7,000 commercial wineries in the United States alone, and likely another 25,000 around the world, the level of competition in the winery industry is intense. Very few industries span the range of pricing that is encountered in the winery business, with some bottles selling for under two dollars retail while others can fetch hundreds, or even thousands of dollars. The size of these operations varies widely as well, with some boutique wineries producing only a handful of cases per year while corporate giants like Constellation Brands sell nearly one billion bottles of wine annually.

Even the larger wine stores may only carry up to about a hundred brands, thus shelf space is at a premium. Many wineries do not have the production capacity or the resources to achieve high penetration rates into retail locations. With thousands of American wineries alone all competing for the customer's attention, the overload of diverse winery marketing can lead to customer distraction in any form of large scale advertising.

The self-regulatory standards for the wine industry place a number of restrictions on winery advertising, including forbidding any marketing approaches when an audience consists of more than 30% of individuals who are under the legal drinking age. This restriction effectively quashes a winery's ability to place advertising in most broadcast media and horizontal print publications.

These difficulties in reaching a broad base of wine consumers are the specific reasons why many small and medium sized wineries are primarily turning to email marketing in order to provide them with the direct approach that provides the most cost effective results. Unlike almost any other form of advertising, email marketing campaigns can be narrowly targeted and focused exclusively on consumers who are in the market for a specific type of wine.

Many other industries can count on a majority of their email campaign opt-ins to be generated through online promotions and through their websites, but that is not necessarily the case in the winery industry. Most wineries build up their newsletter subscription lists through painstaking collection of email addresses from customers and prospects in a variety of ways:

Fairs & contests
In-store displays
Public events & concerts
Trade expos
Website signup page
Wine Club members
Wine tastings
Winery visits & tours

Labeling and personality drive wine marketing, and the recent focus by wineries on terroir-based geographical and appellation promotion further presents opportunities for email campaigns. Email allows for specific information on geographical characteristics of wines to be presented in a highly targeted fashion, and specifically to customers in the market for that particular feature. A single winery producing a Grenache and a Pinot Noir can segment their list to the consumers who prefer each varietal and thus conduct a conversation that specifically interests and engages the reader.

According to consultant Stephan Spencer of Netconcepts, "wine is particularly well suited to email marketing because it allows the winery to build mindshare with the end consumer inexpensively and on a schedule that the winery controls. If they need to move some stock quickly, they can push out an email campaign to their house list. If they really need to move the stock, they can offer it as a discount or provide some other incentive."