Content that Woos — What an effective content strategy looks like
July 5, 2020
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.
Which is better? Staying in regular contact with your email subscribers by re-sending the same weekly sales offers, or not sending anything unless you think of something interesting to say, even if this means only emailing twice a year?
Of course, neither of these approaches is the optimal way of treating your winery's valuable subscribers. Fortunately, this dilemma that is faced by so many wineries can be solved with some forward planning in what can be called a content strategy.
Wineries in 2021 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.
What is an email marketing 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 — including your social media channels, web content, and printed materials — and carries a certain expectation for business impact.
Creating a content strategy for your winery’s email subscribers, if planned well, will almost certainly increase engagement. For those who have never purchased from you before, the strategy would be aimed at bringing them into the fold. For your long-standing, loyal, wine club members or friends of the winery, your focus is to maintain or strengthen your bond; for these people, a generic sales pitch that everyone receives may feel a little insulting.
"Your subscribers want to feel like they have a connection to your winery."
If you track your winery’s email marketing metrics, you have probably noticed a certain number of unsubscribes each time you send something out. Depending on the nature of your winery’s particular flavor of emails, you may notice higher unsubscribe rates in response to longer emails, lower open rates for sales promotions, and higher click-through rates for member-only events at the winery. You may also notice that your subscribers become less engaged over time, opening fewer emails regardless of how entertaining your animated GIFs are, how engaging your copy, and how compelling your offers.
This sort of information is interesting for sure, but it’s how you make use of it that really matters. Let’s look at why a content strategy works, and then we’ll go into how to put this information to good use.
Why a content strategy works
Have you ever gotten caught up in a TV series and just binge-watched an entire season, only to go back for the next season? This kind of content perfectly illustrates how a content strategy works. Let’s take the series The Flash, which began airing on The CW back in 2014, as an example.
There is an over-arching arc to the series that spans many seasons: Barry Allen is a crime-fighter with super-human speed. Each series contains its own over-arching plot; a villain who appears from another dimension, who is generally defeated by the end of the series, but leaving a cliff hanger in the last episode to make sure you return for the next season to see what happens. Meanwhile, each episode contains two or three mini-plots of its own to keep things moving at a fast pace; Barry Allen’s near-thwarted romance with Iris West, tension between the folks at STAR Labs, and the introduction of one or two fresh disasters that they just barely manage to evade before the episode ends.
Designing a successful content strategy
A successful content strategy for any business takes a similar approach. A blog post is rich with detailed information which is relevant to the business’s overarching brand and their audience, and it follows a previous blog post with related content, and links to other articles on the site that tackle similarly related content. These articles are introduced in email newsletters that subscribers receive, and they follow some kind of arc.
For target audiences that are not yet subscribers, or who are outside of the sales funnel, they can discover the article from social media posts that link to it, or via a web search. If everything is buttoned up nice and tidy, any readers who are not subscribers will see a prompt to subscribe to the newsletter so they can continue to receive related content, but anyone who is already a subscriber will not see those messages.
Using the information regarding unsubscribes that we discussed above, we can spread out our sales pitches, intertwining them with super interesting information about what the vineyard crew is up to, or details about a special event with the winemaker. In this way, we keep our readers engaged, but we also provide opportunities for them to pick up a case of their favorite juice.
What is the goal of 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 this type of content strategy, the content is designed to educate the potential customers about the benefits of the 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:
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?)
Looking at these types of emails within the context of plots and mini-plots that were described above, we can imagine how these different types of emails can weave together to form arcs with different cadences. For example, food pairings and recipes could go out every week for three weeks in the Spring, and then for another three weeks in the Summer (barbecue season, right?) and Fall. They can showcase a particular wine, but the email doesn’t need to be a sales email. Emails about what’s happening in the vineyard, the cellar, or the lab bench (oak trials and such) can go out maybe once a month, and emails about events can be sent quarterly. Flash sales can happen occasionally, interspersed throughout this calendar, but should be segmented for your audiences.
"Remember: your content strategy needs to move the needle somehow, so however you plan out your content, it needs to be tied to business goals and you should be able to demonstrate how your strategy will move your winery towards meeting those goals."
Bradley Squires, the founder of Wine Chemistry, enjoys working with wineries to help them establish their place in the market through authentic storytelling. He thinks of this as “Creating Chemistry with a winery’s customers and future customers.” Bradley cut his design teeth at the emergence of the digital era and brings to the wine industry what he learned from a successful 20-year career poking around under the hoods of some of America’s largest (and smallest) brands.
Bradley Squires, a 20-year veteran of brand strategy for some of America's largest (and smallest) brands, created Wine Chemistry Storytelling & Design because wineries need help with their marketing. He understands that small wineries are not inherently a very profitable business, and sometimes just need some guidance getting noticed.