We have been selling wine online for a while now, well two years actually and there is a question I seem to always ask myself. Where to find new customers?
Now obviously we have managed to find some customers, in fact you are probably the ones actually reading this blog…if you are, thank you, carry on buying wine please! You are the people that have helped build this company, our loyal followers but how to find more of you? (maybe you should tell your friends!)
Companies such as Naked Wine have proved that building a large database of customers is easy if you partner with enough companies and organisations and give away massive vouchers to draw them into the first purchase. The latest I have heard about is that if you are a member of DenPlan you get a £40 voucher for Naked. Soon it will be difficult to buy or sign up to anything without being given a voucher for Naked Wine. I can’t criticise them, it makes a lot of sense and it demonstrates how to very quickly grow a wine business, the only issue is what it costs them to give such large introductory offers. Unfortunately the wine trade is plagued with miserably low margins, therefore given away that much money to find a new customer is tough, if not impossible. Plus I wander how many of those customers then repeat without the incentive of a large discount? They probably did when they thought Naked was a very cool, unknown online merchant seeking out fantastic unheard of wines. However now that it is hard to buy a newspaper without being given a discount at Naked, their little club of Angels does not seem quite so exciting.
So that is the massive introductory offer method out- plus unfortunately we don’t have the cash to back up such a campaign, otherwise it is more likely I would be paying someone to write this blog for me!
So what else to try? Social media? A colossal buzz when I entered the wine trade, bloggers were emerging as worthwhile critics, Twitter was their vehicle to promote their activities and to tell the rest of the world which tasting they had blessed with their presence that day. But who is reading these blogs and Tweets? Look through Twitter and you will find that most communication is limited to discussing stuff with each other, not members of the public hanging on their every word waiting to be told what wine to buy next. Before I go on, I must say that actually there are a handful of bloggers who have been a huge help to Find Wine and before you through your iphone at your mac book and refuse to read on, please do…I am building up to make a relevant point!
So, what about the traditional media? Famous wine journalists with fancy national paper columns, surely read by hundreds of thousands of people desperate to know what to drink. You see them at tasting, sweeping through the room, furiously making notes on hundreds of wines, their highly honed taste buds analysing every last flavour within the wine. Companies spend fortunes on sending their products to these people, probably even more taking them out for dinner but what for? We have had specific wines written up in every top column in the country and never once have we noticeably sold a bottle on the back of it. So what’s the point of playing the game, other than to keep Tim Atkins thirst quenched?
So, you see my predicament. Sure given endless funds I would take over Victoria train station, have lot’s of people dressed as grapes appear from nowhere, do a dance to commuters and give them all a glass of wine, film everything and play the footage during the adverts of Downton Abbey. But in the real world what should I do?
I think the secret is to do all of the above (except perhaps the train station stunt!). No one of these activities will find new customers but a sensible combination of them all and you will be reaching the people you want, the ones that really care, plus a few others that don’t really care but will spend some money on the way through!
Imagine this- You are someone who isn’t that fussed about wine, you wouldn’t normally spend time reading about it but are interested enough to take note of good advice. You buy some clothing from your favourite mail order store as a treat and as a thank you they offer you a (sensible) discount off some wine from a company they know you will like. Perhaps you don’t take up the offer right away. Then you are playing around on Twitter, finding out what Phillip Schofield had for breakfast and a random wine blogger you happened to follow recently, mentions a great wine they have just tried from the same company, you take note and remember to look at their website sometime. Then over your bacon and eggs on Sunday morning you are reading the Daily Mail, Live magazine and Olly Smith has managed to tear himself away from his comb and gel and has produced a column about the latest, coolest sauvignon and that same company crops up. You give it a go, you love the wine and the service and then you tell your friends and they forget until again they see this same name crop up here and there and it starts again.
It may not explode instantly into massive sales and a threat to Tesco but slowly but surely a a loyal customer base will grow and in the long run that will give the brand real value!
We need to get back on track with this plan, we have been neglecting certain elements and it is amazing how quickly things slow down. Who knows you maybe checking out a wine website, read a blog on it and think, they sound like lovely people, I think I will give them money!