If you don’t have a customer database, you’re making life a lot harder on yourself. A customer database – in most cases, this means an email list, though a postal mailing list still works – gives you the opportunity to market in ways that you can’t, and increases the effectiveness of any marketing efforts. [level-members]
There’s no short-cut to building a solid list. First, you have to win a customer’s trust. Without that, they’ll never believe you when you promise them that joining your email list won’t be an inbox-clogging waste of their time.
Then, you have to deliver on the promise and not make your list a waste of time. The keys are
- Be informative
- Be engaging
- Be yourself
First and foremost, you have to offer information that is interesting to your audience. It can’t be your latest promotion, over and over and over. Mix in recipe ideas, food and wine pairing ideas, wine-related vacations or news or odd tidbits like this piece about wine-drinking games
. You have to keep their interest or they’ll hit the delete key.
Being informative isn’t enough, especially if you’re a “just the facts, m’am” kind of person. Hence the odd tidbits and fun facts.
Most important of all is developing your own personality. You can be wry, you can be silly, you can be erudite, but whatever you are, stake out your claim and stick to it consistently. Not everyone will like it. But not everyone is going to like you anyway. You’re better off developing a smaller passionate following than a broader fanbase whose overall feeling is, “meh.”
So what can you do with your list? Run members-only events, offer first-dibs on popular releases, co-promote a wine dinner with a local restaurant. (If you’ve got a solid list, you’ll have promotional partners lining up to work with you.) Notice that none of those examples include coupons or discounts that can train customers to wait for an offer before buying. You’re creating excitement and opportunity with your list. (Though rewarding your best customers from time to time isn’t a bad idea, either.)
It can take some time to build a good list, but it’s not going to happen if you don’t get started. Make it a habit of inviting anyone who comes into your shop a 2nd time if they’d be interested. But be sure you’re inviting them in an (ahem) inviting way. “Hey, wanna join our email list?” isn’t going to be nearly as effective as, “As see you like wines of the Loire. We do tastings and wine dinners that sometimes feature Loire wines. Would you be interested in joining our list?”
Be sure to train your staff to craft enticing invitations, as well.