At its best, marketing is a conversation. Gone are the days when retailers held all the information and consumers had no choice but to come to you and listen to what you had to say no matter how you said it. [level-members]
Now, consumers are frequently armed with more information than the too-often, too-low-paid retail clerk they are talking to. Every manufacturer or producer has information about their products on their websites. The web and social media are crammed with review sites and friends making recommendations. As a consumer, you almost can’t avoid knowing what the world thinks about a product or service.
Which is why as marketers, we now have to engage on a different level. Dialog, not monologue. Engagement is the real goal because consumers are frequently making their buying decisions before they ever let a salesperson into the process.
That’s a bit different in our business – there are still many instances each week where consumers ask us for advice on what to serve with a particular dish. But there are also a lot more times than there used to be when someone walks in and knows exactly what he or she wants.
The big difference is that now these educated consumers aren’t just those who are passionate and knowledgeable about wine. They’re folks with good social networks and the ability to use a search engine.
Which is to say that if you want to be a part of the conversation, well, you need to be part of the conversation. You need to engage with your audience on their terms, which means digitally – on the web, via email, with social media.
If you’re at all skeptical – and you should be – you’re already saying, “I’ve tried that. I’ve never sold a bottle of wine via social media.” And you’re probably right. But without the engagement that these tools create, you’re going to have a hard time establishing any sort of brand or personality, and you’ll only attract customers two ways: convenience and price.
Price is a dead end. There’s always someone who can sell it cheaper. And with the tilt toward ubiquitous information, consumers can snap up your loss leader and nothing else. And do the same thing at the shop across town. (So you both lose.)
Convenience, of course, is neither good nor bad. A good location gets you more traffic. That should offset the additional cost of that desirable location. But short of opening additional locations, you can’t be more convenient to more people.
So you have to establish your shop some other way, and being a part of the conversation online is perhaps our current economy’s greatest opportunity to participate. That’s not to say that there isn’t value in being active in your local Chamber of Commerce or in sponsoring school and community activities – there is. Those conversations are, I would argue, individually more invaluable than any “virtual” conversation on its own. The difference is that you can have a lot more of those virtual conversations these days. [/level-members]