Last week Market Your Craft participated in a panel hosted by Craft Beer Professionals called “Rapid Fire Marketing.” Businesses asked about social, short-form video, attracting out-of-town guests and a bunch of other topics geared towards capturing summer traffic and sales. Noticeably missing from the discussion was the role email continues to play in the marketing mix. As craft beverage owners and managers, is it no longer on our radar? Have we put more or all of our collective focus on social media and other trendier methods of communication? Why isn’t anyone asking the question, “how can I continuously improve my email marketing engine?”
Same here. We looked back and found the last time we committed an entire article to email was back in May, 2019, when we did a series on email strategy, services, templates and sign-up techniques. That year we focused a lot on the building blocks of marketing success, then almost wholly shifted our focus in 2020 towards content and engagement to help producers survive COVID-19. And while we’ve never lost sight of email as a tool, it’s worth it for your team and our team both to recognize a lot has changed for email since then:
- Email services are claiming to be Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions, helping manage customer journeys from first meeting the brand to purchase and follow-up.
- MailChimp was acquired by Intuit, makers of industry-leading accounting and tax software.
- Email services started providing tighter integration with website builders like WordPress.
- New(er) entrants like Klaviyo burst onto the scene and spent significant dollars investing in awareness advertising and promotion with Shopify.
- Businesses and consumers alike have a heightened sensitivity to privacy and data protection.
And it should come as no surprise that daily email volume continues to rise in this country. So why, 3 years later, are we no better at using it? Generally-speaking, email is not a craft beverage producer’s strong suit:
- Email is poorly-formatted: senders aren’t taking the time to “design” an email to be consumed by the recipient. Content readability is part of that, and many email services provide guides to help. If we’re listening.
- Email doesn’t know the audience: we are not taking the time to customize the message by interest groups within our databases (does someone who only buys special-release bottles care about the weekly food truck schedule?).
- Email doesn’t make it easy: is the call-to-action buried? Must the recipient take two or more extra steps to act on the offer once arriving at the website? Shame on us.
- Email isn’t relevant: what is your business doing to engage your audience in a way that leverages the unique features of email versus social media, for example?
- Email isn’t visual: but it certainly could be! It owns the sweet spot between your social channels and your website in terms of timely and topical content, imagery and length.
Perhaps the biggest email miss we’re seeing in 2022 is that very few owners and managers create a content calendar to thoughtfully space-out communications via social, email, digital and public relations media. Do you remember the last time you received an email (or other promotion) and thought, wow, the timing was perfect? Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) manufacturers are experts at this, starting back in the 1950s with TV advertising by daypart, or “Soap Operas” as they came to be called. Typically, the brands that spent more on advertising generated more sales because they were top-of-mind when the need arose (frequency), not because of product quality, reputation, price or any other factors. Fast forward to today where a consumer has dozens of media and thousands of brands fighting for their attention. Plus nearly-perfect information to research a brand and a strict, individual set of criteria for consideration and purchase. Businesses must find the sweet spot where they’re not flooding a recipient’s inbox, but also not losing them to a competitor.
when to send
Your email service provider may have shared general guidelines before you sent your first email. Something like, best to send business email between Tuesday and Thursday, no earlier than 10am and no later than 2pm local time. Or they may have shared aggregate stats from other brands within the craft beverage space to help you come up with your first schedule. But since then, you’ve likely sent a number of campaigns to your database and have collected data of your own to understand when and how often your emails are being opened. Look at your previous emails to identify any patterns that exist for dayparts when your customers are most active. Start there and evolve over time. Then look at the content of the email and ask:
- Would the recipient be more receptive to the message earlier in the day? Or later?
- What delivery schedule puts the least amount of time between email receipt and decision/action?
- Are there days/times where the message would be inappropriate, pushing a customer away?
- Am I being sensitive to major and minor holidays or religious observances?
Often times putting ourselves in the shoes of our customers is a common-sense filter when deciding when to send your email. If you wouldn’t want to receive a curbside pickup promotion at 9am Monday morning, chances are your customers wouldn’t either! Similarly, if you don’t have anything pressing to share right now, don’t force it: you don’t want to risk turning someone away with filler content.
how often to send
Thankfully craft beverage hasn’t fallen victim to what’s happening in other industries: overemailing. Once a brand gets ahold of your email address – whether by sign-up or capture during the checkout process – in many industries it’s being used relentlessly to stay in your consideration set. Very much like our CPG example above with one major difference: it cost pennies to send an email. So, brands see email as a relatively cost-effective means of continuing communications with a hand-raiser: someone who has indicated any shred of interest in your product. And they’re doing it to excess. Please don’t head down this path – it’s a slippery slope!
As a part of putting together a thoughtful calendar of email communication alongside your other touchpoints (social, email, digital and public relations media), consider the following examples of email content grouped by frequency:
Special #-part series on a topic
Economic environment, rising prices
New branding work
Community support or campaigns
“Find us at” promotion
Production or release calendar
Long-lead ticket sales
New packaging available
Promote private rentals
As you can see, there’s virtually no reason for daily campaign emails! Think strategically about the momentum you want to build around an effort (like a craft beverage release or series of events) and all the tools you have at your disposal. Then perhaps it’s a little easier to see how a staggered email schedule complements and amplifies other media like social for a greater effect.
when to automate
Different from deliberately sending out a newsletter or promotional email to your entire database is the idea of sending email to individual users based on time or a triggered event. When used sparingly these can be a great complement to your promotional campaigns, serving as real-time nudges to prompt conversion closer to the point of consideration.
Here’s a sample list of the automations available in MailChimp:
- Tags: sends when you add a specific tag to a contact.
- Subscriber activity: sends based on signups and changes in audience data. Includes welcoming new subscribers, responding to subscriber updates and thanking pop-up form subscribers.
- E-commerce: sends based on purchase activity in your online store. Incudes recovering abandoned carts, product follow-up, thanking first-time customers, rewarding best customers, winning back lapsed customers, order notifications and retargeting site visitors.
- Date-based: sends based on data in a date or birthday audience field. Includes list added date, birthdays, specific date and recurring date.
- API: sends based on an API call. Includes those automations to which a customer may be added with a call to a trigger URL provided.
It is also possible to string a number of automations together to form a customer journey where unique workflows make possible an even more customized experience. Remember: separate email flows for automations may occur on the same day as scheduled campaign or promotional email. Be careful not to overwhelm your recipient!
why people unsubscribe
No matter how creative or engaging the craft beverage promotion, not everyone will love the fact you’re contacting them. Or they loved you once and now they’ve moved on. Whatever the reason, if you give recipients control over how and when you email them, some will opt-out completely. And others will opt-in in their place, hopefully in excess over time. But unsubscribes are a natural and healthy part of list management.
But what causes people to unsubscribe? Constant Contact asked 1,400 consumers that very question, with their responses below:
- 69% – too many emails from the business/organization
- 56% – the content is no longer relevant
- 51% – the content wasn’t what I expected
Surveys from Marketing Sherpa would suggest something similar, but add a little color:
- 19% – the emails are always trying to sell me something
- 17% – the content of the emails is boring, repetitive and not interesting to me
- 11% – the email is focused on the company’s needs, not enough on my needs
- 10% – the emails look too cluttered and sloppy
- 7% – the emails don’t look good on my mobile phone
It’s not possible for your craft beverage business to please everyone. However, if you deliver the right content with the right timing and frequency, your message stands the best chance to land with your audience, prompting them to take action.