Interview with the Digital Wine Business Analyst Thornton Jacob

By February 26, 2014 Marketing One Comment

At last month’s Unified Wine and Grape Symposium, Mimi Gatens the  Marketing Manager at Trefethen Vineyards spoke on the topic “Mastering the Basics” for one of the marketing workshops. And there was one brief point she made that I was really excited she shared. She said that she hired a data analyst to measure her consumer sales data and  saw an increase in 30% in her eblast promotions after consulting with him. I wasn’t surprised by her results, I mean come on guys ( I mean the wine industry) I have seen your emails and there is a definite lag in best practice knowledge in the wine industry on email marketing. I had a feeling if so many wineries are sending out eblast campaigns that completely butcher best practice rules, then they definitely are not looking at their data.

Thornton JacobSo when I came across Thornton Jacob and his company Vintellisys I quickly jumped on the opportunity to interview him because he is exactly what this industry needs so badly today, but won’t really know it for about another 5 years. First I should premise why I believe data analysis is so important, in my experience data is what has driven my marketing campaigns. Data has allowed me to define what I should focus on improving, what is working and should permanently add to my marketing strategy.  Let your data and intuition be your guide on your marketing and business strategy, not what everyone else in the industry is doing.

The Interview with Thornton Jacob

Background Running Some the Biggest Wine Clubs

About 10 years ago Thorton, after working in the software industry, decided he wanted to start a wine import business. His due diligence actually began by working at The Wine Club to learn about the 3 tier system and the selling process to retail. But he quickly learned that the investment in running an import business were too high. Because of his tech background The Wine Club started having him help with basic analytics of their email marketing. Soon after they had him managing the actual wine club for the company. After that he worked for Signature Wines & Beveraages, a company that was outsourced to manage media company’s wine clubs – Sunset Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, you name it. He managed everything from the marketing, processes and Google Ads.  Leaving Signature Wines after it closed in 2009, he began working at J Vineyards (today at around 5k members) where he managed the digital intelligence and even integrated their AMS wine business management software with Sale Force’s Radiant6 – a powerful marketing tool.


Important Lessons that Data Has Taught Him about the Wine Business

Don’t Assume your Facebook Fans are Email Subscribers

Digging through the data Thornton found that 75% of Facebook fans of J Vineyards were not email subscribers. He said he was very surprised by that because there was an assumption that the same user that subscribers to emails would also be a Facebook fan. This says a few things.

1. You won’t be redundant if you send similar messages out on Facebook and email, because different people are receiving the message. An example would be a Valentines Day promotion for a delivery of wine and chocolate with Free Shipping. Make sure to send the message on both platforms, but tailor it for each communication platform.

2. This is an opportunity to expand your audience. In the offline world, businesses spend a lot of money to reach as many people in their target demographic. It is called “cost per mille”, you pay an amount set on how many people you reach with the advertising. So think social media networks – Facebook, Instagram & email marketing as different platforms with different audiences and work on developing all three to expand your reach.

Don’t Assume You Know Your Audience

So much data is available now just by buying a report to review your email lists’ demographics. The information is vast but can be broken down into 3 categories:  household data, interests, and purchase history.

Thorton said while at J Vineyards they thought only the super wealthy were their clientele, turns out when Thorton dug through the email list data he found that the consumers were of average wealth. The opposite came true when he discovered in his consulting work that Bonny Doon thought their consumers were of average income, when in fact, they were way above average.

What does this mean for a company to have this sort of data. Well for one it can help you advertise to the right audience when buying media or Ads on Facebook. If you are advertising to the wrong people than you are wasting your money. It could also help you set your promotions and price points more accurately.

Data is not limited to income levels, but Thorton was also able to disprove the assumption that the primary drivers a J Vineyards were locals, but in fact most of the business were one time visitors that were tourists, not locals. Another very important variable when it comes to outreach for advertising.

Interesting Tip: Knowing your true audience can also help inform your winery on which non-profits to sponsor.

Don’t Assume your Email List Size Matters

It doesn’t matter if you have 10,000 or 100,000 email contacts. If the user isn’t opening them, that can have devastating results for your overall open rates. As I have written about before in “Why Your Winery’s Email Marketing Isn’t Working,”  if people stop opening your emails than you risk getting your company blacklisted as a SPAM email sender and it will automatically start putting your emails in all user’s SPAM box. As Thorton said “You don’t have to have the word “Viagra” in your subject line to be classified as SPAM.” And on that note, I will leave you to start looking at your email open rates – expect nothing less than 15% – 20% open rate – 50% from your wine club list ; )


One Comment

Leave a Reply