Return on Investment and Social Media Marketing
People listen to Tim Atkin. At least wine people and wine industry people do, if not others who just think him a nice guy. But the reason the winiest among us listen to him is because for many years now he has ranked as one of the foremost wine communicators and educators. A Brit and Master of Wine, Tim has written for numerous VIPs (very important publications) and his talents are sought out by other across the globe.
So I "listened" and thought when I saw Tim write the following at his website:
"As in is so many other fields, the way that wine is sold, described,
criticized and presented is changing for ever. The surprising thing is
that many of the people who work in and around wine haven't noticed or
are in denial about the power and scope of the revolution."
Tim provides good evidence for the notion that many around the wine "haven't noticed or are in denial" about the dramatic scope of change that social media and electronic communications have brought to the wine industry. And in the end, he urges that the wine industry, essentially, get on board or be left behind.
I like to think that I've noticed this revolution. I like to think that I play in the sandbox of that revolution. And yet, I'm here to tell you, and I guess Tim too, that diving in deep to the sandbox of social media and electronic communications is not always the best choice for a wine company. I'm thinking here about Return on Investment.
I've yet to see a real good study that can show me what the solid return is for wineries of different sizes and different product lineups who dive face first into Facebook, Twitter, the multiple other social networks, interactive media and websites, blogging, etc. That's not to say that I've not personally seen a good ROI for doing such things. I have. I've helped bring them about. But in almost every case when a company or organization does find an acceptable ROI for their interactive marketing, it's after putting in considerable work.
It's important to consider what that considerable work amounts to.
Twitter: Significant time building your following and herding them with regular and significant tweets.
Facebook: Significant time building fans and delivering your message to them and interacting with them to build brand ambassadors.
Yelp & other Peer Review Sites: Monitoring them, building them out, interacting with users
Blogging: Posting regular and intriguing articles that build interest and loyalty and interacting with those that comment.
Bloggers: Reaching out to comment on various blogs to assure that your brand is represented in among the influencers that tend to navigate their way around blogs regularly.
Monitoring and Measuring: Regularly monitoring the impact and visibility your work is having within the digital domains.
The beauty of using interactive media to promote and market is that it can be accomplished with relatively few hard costs. But note, the real cost is the time it takes. And time is, in my view, the single most critical commodity in the realm of marketing.
How many smaller wineries have the manpower available to devote the kind of time to these endeavors? Some have the resources. Some don't. If they don't they can hire someone like me. But I don't work cheap and few others that have the chops work cheap either.
Again, I don't wan to give anyone the impression that interactive marketing doesn't provide a decent return on investment. In many cases, disregarding traditional public relations, which works, for a purely interactive and social media-aimed strategy can play a significant role in increasing sales, retaining club members, finding new niche markets and establishing one's brand message in a targeted fashion.
But what I would say to Tim and others who are beginning to believe that "getting on board" is the key to victory is this: There are other ways to spend one's time and money that deliver a GREATER return on that investment. It is not a matter of jumping into the electronic pool and seeing profits mount, even if you make a big splash.
It may be that pursuing great traditional media coverage or focusing on educating on-premise accounts or focusing on visiting markets and riding with a distributor representative or creating a stellar tasting room experience will sell more wine at greater profits. That's not to say that interactive marketing can't help successfully carry out these "old school" tactics.
The bottom line is this: The toolbox is large and heavy and not every tool is the right one for the job at hand, even the shiny new one. It's critical to put in place a marketing plan that utilizes the most efficient tools that are most likely to deliver the greatest return on investment. Take chances and try new things. But be wary of the the shiny tool. It's pretty and some very smart people want you to wield it with gusto. But will a well executive Twitter Campaign sell more wine at higher margins, faster? You better know before you suit up in your pajamas and forgo the trip to a market for the sake of shooting out a well-crafted 147 character message to your followers.