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An Offer I Hardly Ever Refuse

What does it take for a message to break through?

In the case of a local liquor store, an old-fashioned email campaign is stunningly effective. This offer never fails to catch my attention, even in the overflowing inbox that’s my personal email account. But why?

Here’s the campaign:

Every couple of weeks, I receive an email touting an offer for wine. They’re usually wines I’ve never heard of. I’m only a casual wine drinker, with a baseline understanding of vintage and type. I’ll break out a bottle or two when I host a dinner or a meeting, and don’t keep track of what I have on hand. But when I get this email, I always open it, and I almost always place an order.

These emails are long; the one I received today was 640 words, not counting the boilerplate at the bottom. They have only a logo of the store at the top of the page, and no order form or other way to respond other than to reply and write an email. And yet, if I don’t see it and respond to it in an hour or less, the wines they’re offering are all snapped up, and I’ve missed the opportunity.

I’ve thought about it, and I believe they work because they follow the tried and true S-T-P of marketing: Segmentation – Targeting – Positioning. Here’s how they do it:

Segmentation: When a customer buys wine at this store—which has built a following for great selection at fair prices, with expert staff assistance–they’re invited to join the mailing list, with a promise of email-only offers on hard-to-get wines at low prices. No obligation, no cost. The audience was built, one email address at a time. Already customers, the distribution list is made up of people who know and trust this wine seller.

Targeting: The offers are crafted to go to this audience. They know the store, they like wine, they appreciate a good selection and the expertise offered by the owners, and they want value. And, that’s how the messages are crafted.

  • “95 Point Wine of the Year Contender” as the subject line scratches the good selection/expertise itch.
  • The point “to have a 95 Point rated red with a price point well under $40 is an absolute anomaly!” is made to appeal to value and good selection.
  • And making sure readers know “we are so honored to finally be able to bring you the biggest value in YEARS, the 95 Point Wine Spectator rated ‘Top Five Prediction’ Classic” hits every sweet spot for this audience.

Positioning: And here’s where they set the hook. With truly great offers – I’ve never been disappointed in a wine I’ve bought in response to these emails – the emails create a FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) scenario.

  • Get in on the ground floor, wine lovers: “We can practically guarantee that come November, this spectacular value will be not only among the Top 100 rated wines on Earth, but possibly in Wine Spectator’s Top 5 Wines of 2018!”
  • And what a price: “With a $45 suggested retail, we’ve scored our biggest allocation ever and are able to offer this 95 Point rated ‘Top 5 Prediction’ for our Lowest Price of the last TEN YEARS, for only $35.99 per bottle!”
  • So, not only is this wine available now, and at a rock bottom price, but there’s very little of it to be had: “Please know we are only getting one allocation of this incredibly rare gem, so we do kindly ask that all orders are placed at your very earliest convenience.”

Here’s what happens: these offers are so breathlessly irresistible that interested buyers have to email the store within an hour or they will not be able to participate in the sale. I’ve been told by staff at the store they have far more requests for these offers than they’re able to fill.

So, for very little money – just the time it takes to compose the message and send it – this store has a successful strategy for selling wine. Would more bells and whistles help? A name for the campaign? A special logo? A purchased contact list? An email template with more sophisticated graphics? Why bother when the tried and true S-T-P formula has customers clamoring to buy?

“Red wine” flickr photo by tobiastoft shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license