Our Five Top Marketing Priorities for 2024
Tackle the New Year Like a Boss
by Susan DeMatei
If you’re like most of us, the holiday marketing campaigns are well underway, and you’re now focusing on next year’s budgets and plans. Choosing your marketing priorities for 2024 is a bit like assembling IKEA furniture—you’re looking for simple, clean lines and straightforward instructions. But, you soon realize you are missing some tools to assemble the Järvfjället and wonder if you should have gone with the Ödmjuk instead. So grab your metaphorical Allen wrench, and let’s build a marketing strategy that’s as sturdy as it is stylish, with just the right amount of snarky commentary along the way.
1. Know Thy Customer
Your customers aren’t generic – they are unique and won’t be won over by vague, generic messages. If you write copy like everyone else and post the same boring stock bottle shots like everyone else, it’s like you’re trying to impress your date with poetry you found on the internet—it might sound good, but it won’t resonate unless you know what makes their heart skip a beat.
Learning about your customer is simple and doesn’t require a degree in statistics or even that much time – you start with following their behavior. What posts do they comment on, and which ones fall on deaf ears? What emails have the best click rates, and what pages on your website do they go to? You should be constantly looking at behavioral data for your marketing. Ignoring these analytics is like throwing a surprise party and not checking if anyone RSVPed— you might be celebrating alone with a cake shaped like disappointment.
Once you see their likes and dislikes, refine your messaging. If customers respond well when discussing food, is it recipes or dining out? Is it ethnic elaborate food or simple comfort food? Understanding these preferences is called a persona and will help you brainstorm content that resonates with your customers to position your product within their lifestyle.
It is improbable that you have a single, homogeneous customer persona. You will find several groups, which you can start to parce using behavioral data (like buyers vs. nonbuyers), customer segments (like club members versus nonclub members.), or even demographic data (like Millennials and Baby Boomers). When you’re ready to take your marketing to the next level, start segmenting email lists, targeting social media content, and presenting dynamic website content to your different audiences.
2. Pay Attention to the Care and Feeding of Your Website
I know what you’re thinking: “Whatever, I can skip this section. I already have a website. I got that to a good place two years ago.” But, your website, much like a garden, requires continual attention. Regular updates with fresh content and imagery and adjustments based on evolving consumer trends and product offerings are essential. You can’t just plant it and forget it; neglecting certain areas may result in withering while others become overgrown. Keep your online landscape flourishing by tending to it regularly.
For many of you, the interweb is a confusing black hole full of acronyms and technology. But even if you don’t know your DNS from your IP Address or your WordPress from your WooCommerce, this is no excuse to bury your head in the silicon sand. I don’t know exactly what my mechanic does either, but I still take my car to get it tuned and the oil changed. Technology is constantly evolving, so websites are continually decaying. If you don’t know how to update plugins, check for broken links, or monitor your hosting server’s performance, hire someone who does. Or risk hackers, frustrated customers, and lost sales.
If the extent of your website deliberation up to this point has been limited to confirming you like the pictures, you’re not alone. But your website is a highly visible and effective tool for every step of the customer lifecycle, from acquisition to loyalty. Evaluate what you need your website to do (and there will be multiple objectives, so try to put it in a hierarchy of importance). If your number one marketing objective is to drive traffic to the tasting room, does everything on your website home page make visitors want to come to your winery? Too many times, we throw everything we’ve got to say to a visitor on the home page, and it overwhelms them, which causes them to leave. Your business priorities change frequently, certainly seasonally, so consider your website part of your overall marketing communication and update that home page regularly.
Not only does your business change and technology advance, but our own behavior evolves. For instance, as of 2022, 59.16% of all website traffic comes from people using mobile devices, compared to 47.19% at the end of 2019 (Worldwide; StatCounter). So, in those short three years, mobile viewing became more critical than desktop viewing. What do your own Google Analytics say about your site visitors? Knowing that we “read” on a full PC screen but “skim” headlines and subheads on the phone, what have you done to change your content to be bite-sized? Are silhouette bottle shots the best way to showcase your wines on the phone? Or should tight label shots be considered for a store refresh?
Websites used to be like brochures; they were designed and used until you needed a new one, and then you threw out the old one and replaced it with a new one. Now, smart marketers believe websites should be alive and continually evolving. Unless you’re going through an entire rebrand, you should be able to keep the bones of the site for years and focus on updating new content weekly or monthly. While working on your website is not as glamorous as the latest social media craze or as flashy as a viral meme, it will be seen by more people than any other channel, digital or IRL, so focusing on this area should be a high priority for any marketer.
3. Appearance Matters
The intersection of technology like smartphones, the popularity of apps and social media tools like filters and editing, and our ever-increasing pace of processing information have created the perfect storm for visual storytelling. From icons to emojis to Instagram, to say we are a society that relies on visuals is an understatement. And flawless photos are every teenage girl’s selfy norm, so you better have a game plan for decent marketing photography.
We sell a product that is glass, curved, and sometimes has foil or screen-printed text. It is not as simple as snapping a selfie of you and your bacon bloody mary for Instagram #SwineAndShine. Luckily, we all have excellent cameras on our phones, hundreds of photo editing apps for pennies, and thousands of free YouTube videos with tips on how to use them. There is literally no excuse for bad images except laziness and complacency. So make 2024 the year you say no to bright reflections, lip marks or spots on wine glasses, and fuzzy label text.
Just because you can do something yourself doesn’t mean you should. I can cook at home, but I’m not going to spend all day on a 20-ingredient Mole sauce when I can enjoy a professional chef’s version via DoorDash in 38 minutes. Your time has value, and if you’re doing other important things like making wine, selling wine, or managing the business, it’s time to call in a professional. You can save money/time on the frequency you post on social media or how complex your next club party is but don’t skimp on your marketing visuals. They are the one tool you have in your arsenal that helps you acquire, connect with, sell to, remind, and retain customers in every single channel.
You develop a visual strategy by combining your visuals with your customer data and personas above. This is next-level thinking about composition, contrast, lighting, angles, or props that tell your story. The goal is to present a style that is all your own and continues your brand’s story.
4. Invest in Marketing
I was teaching a class on social media content last spring, and we were talking about boosting strategies. A gentleman who had been quiet for most of the class finally spoke up with disdain in his voice and said, “It’ sounds like you have to pay these suckers to do anything. Nothing is free anymore.”
I don’t know why he thought marketing was ever free, but it isn’t. (If that hasn’t occurred to you, let me be the one to burst that bubble.) It doesn’t matter if you make one hundred cases of wine or one million; it is unrealistic to assume that people will magically buy your wine because you made it. You must have a marketing budget and a plan to sell your product.
Start with the items that will get you the most impact (assuming you already have a workable website and reasonably good imagery because those are priority #1.) You will need two things to survive as a business – customers coming in and orders going out. Social media and email are the typical utensils chosen for these deceivingly simple accomplishments.
You’ll want to pay your social media channel of choice to help consumers see your content – a minimum of $100 to $200 monthly. If you do not do this, expect only about 7% of your followers to see you. For emails, you’ll want a professional email platform like Mailchimp with a template to create HTML emails. That will run you anywhere from $13 up to a month.
The Small Business Association recommends spending 6-8% of your gross sales on marketing. Meta and Google are two of the most efficient places to do that. Both channels are malleable for multiple objectives, such as driving visitors to your tasting room, adding people to your mailing list, or selling wine.
If Boosting is training wheels, crafting a killer News Feed Ad opens up a world of creative possibilities, lets you target your audience with surgical precision, and can deliver superior results. It’s like upgrading from a tricycle to a turbocharged motorcycle without breaking the bank.
There are numerous targeting, message, and graphic concerns, so if you can partner with a professional, you may find that money well spent. If you are set on DIY, plenty of training videos are online. It is best to start slow, learn, and iterate. Expect to spend $500-$2,000 a month.
When your business needs more customers, you have more wine to sell, or you just want a double shot of caffeine, marketing is an effective level to toggle. There are multiple print magazines and online outlets to partner with for visibility and sales. You can also lump in sales support channels like Instacart ads in this area. A professional media planner or trained marketing professional should be consulted if you’re entering this carnival because the rides are expensive, and the media sales guys work on commission. Like the ringmaster, their goal is to separate you from your money and sell you a shiny story that is primarily a sales spiel.
5. Relax Your Grip
Our final bit of advice for 2024 is to be open to new ideas. Our customers are changing, carrying new consumption patterns, attitudes, and travel preferences. I couldn’t disagree more with the Wine-Searcher article last week saying that wineries exhibit ageism if they don’t double down on Baby Boomers as a target audience because they drink wine now. Boomers are, and have been, fabulous customers and should be provided with all the best marketing and customer service deserved by their years of support. But to assume that Millennials, who are forty and relatively wealthy, by the way, will be interested in the same products, price points, and experiences is a mistake. 2024 is an excellent year to start testing out additional bifurcated strategies.
Let’s take it out of generational context. Name one other tourist or luxury industry that has serviced customers the same way for almost 50 years without evolution (assuming wine tourism took off in the 1970s.) Cinemas now have iMax and streaming, museums have concerts and children’s exhibits, hotels have changed, spas have changed, shopping habits have changed. To offer the same essential tasting experience and product marketing that you have for decades will only be successful for a few more years before it’s phased out.
Listen and be observant of your customers and be open to new ideas. Be a willow, not an oak, and don’t be afraid to try new things. You’ll be rewarded with new customers for years to come.