What is your customer profile?

by Brad Asmus

The North Carolina Wine and Grape Council recently released a study profiling winery visitors that generally confirmed results of similar studies in California and other wine growing regions.

The profile of visitors to North Carolina wineries shows them to be affluent, (more than 50% have incomes of $70,000 or more, 37% earn $100,000 or more) baby boomers (average age 47), educated (63% with college degrees), and female (64%).

This information is interesting, of course, but how is it helpful? What can you do with this information to enhance the marketing of your small winery?

Profiling can help you target your marketing to those who are likely to respond positivelyProfile, William Hubbard 1807-1862 and who have the ability to do what you want them to do. It helps you go out into the universe of wine buyers, identify suspects, and turn them into prospects and, eventually, customers. The idea is to figure out what your customers look like, then go out into the world to find other folks who look more or less like that profile.

I’ve often said in articles here that the most important marketing device for the small winery is the winery itself. For one thing, the North Carolina study found that each “travel party” in their study spent an average of $176 at the winery. Other studies in California have shown that the average individual visitor spends $48 per visit. So getting folks to your winery is a big deal.

Profiling and Advertising
If we are going to advertise to get people to visit our wineries, we’ll want to advertise in publications that target audiences that look like our profile. Magazines like Food and Wine, Gourmet and Wine Spectator use language and sentence constructions in their articles appropriate to college educated readers. (Compare the language in the Costco or Trader Joe’s newsletters if you don’t believe me). That’s also why they have travel articles describing upscale resorts, expensive appliances and so on–they’re targeting the affluent. Magazines sell access to their audience to advertisers and they design their books to appeal to the advertisers customers.

Most of us can’t afford to advertise in the publications I just named, but we might be able to advertise in local and regional publications that target the similar audiences. We might also be able to afford advertising on appropriate websites.

Profiling and the Web

In the past, finding the right website to advertise on has been something of a crap shoot. Little real profiling has been done for all but a relative handful of sites. Recently, though, Google announced a new service called AdPlanner that lets you search for suitable sites using gender, age, education and household income. Bingo. If you know your customer profile, you can narrow down the thousands of potential places to advertise to a few that make sense.

Direct Mail

Probably the most expensive—but most effective—form of marketing is direct mail. Once you’ve got your profile defined, you can go to a list broker who rents the lists of the most prestigious magazines serving foodies and oenophiles and they will search your list for the specific attributes you give them to come up with a list for you to mail to. Renting the list, preparing a direct mail piece and postage will result in substantial costs. But the thing about direct mail is, it works. Especially now that the volume of direct mail is so much lower than it was in pre Internet days. (It’s tricky though. We’re planning articles to address this in more depth soon).

Build Your Own Profile!

All of this depends on having a good customer profile. I wouldn’t rely on profiles from studies like the one from North Carolina. I’d build my own.

Asking visitors to join your mailing list is a best practice that every winery should engage in. Adding a few profiling questions to a mailing list sign-up card is easy and I’m always pleasantly surprised at how many people will happily give you the answers. A new name for your list is extremely valuable, of course. Profiling information is only a little bit less valuable. You can also go to your existing customer and prospect list and ask them to provide you with profile data. Whether you use email or USPS, your response rate probably won’t be that high. Doesn’t matter. The information you get back is invaluable.

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