Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Why I like email marketing

     Marketing is a lot like fishing. You put out a tasty lure and hope to get a bite now and then. A lot of the time it’s like ice fishing; a cold and lonely proposition. But once in a while, it’s like sitting in a quaint little row boat on a sunny day, with a good book, a good beverage and water so clear you can see the fish swimming near the lure. Once in a while, the fishing is even better than the catching.
     A recent email from a past metaphorical fishing trip with an old friend:

I see on your website you are out of black currant vinegar. Whenever you get it in I would like 12 bottles of black currant and 12 bottles of cherry vinegar. I think my sister-in-law wants me to pick up a case of vinegar for her as well and I believe that she'll be wanting 4 bottles of strawberry and 20 bottles of cherry but I will confirm this with her and let you know. 

I have purchased vinegar from you the past two summers.

Austin, Texas

     I didn’t have to do any fishing with Marlene. She suggested the trip, 48 bottles worth, and that’s even better.
     Then there’s the recent exchange with a well-known Chicago chef. I don’t know how he heard about Leatherwood Vinegary but chances are he was out fishing (letting his fingers do the walking on the computer keyboard) for some authentic ingredients for his new restaurant. He initiated a conversation at 4:29 p.m. and it extended into the evening.

 My name is John [famous chef from Chicago] and I will be the chef at the forthcoming [soon to be famous eatery] opening in Lincoln Park (Chicago) later this summer. I would love to know if you have any wholesale distribution in the Chicago area. I would love to try some of your vinegars.
 John [famous chef from Chicago]
 [Soon to be famous] Tavern & Inn

     We haven’t expanded our distribution into the Chicago area though it is decidedly a marvelous idea. I’m sure there are dozens of gourmet shops and delis that would do a bang-up job of selling authentic artisan vinegar. But, not yet. When we sell wholesale, we normally require purchase of a case (24 bottles) to make a eye-catching display in a new venue. At this point, I didn’t know if John [famous Chicago chef] wanted to use the vinegar in his cuisine or sell it from a shelf.

Hi John,
Sorry, no distribution to the Chicago area but if you'd like to order vinegar in quantity, I'm sure we could figure something out.
Leatherwood Vinegary

     A mere dozen minutes passed between his first “send” and the following message.

Hi Nancy,
Thanks for the speedy reply!  What would be sufficient quantity and how could I go about sampling your vinegars?
 John [Famous-Chicago-Chef]

     We’ve found that we sell much more vinegar when people have a chance to taste it. In the past we have sent small tasting lures to potentially large fish but…well…actually…I thought this would just be a flash in the pan so why not enjoy the dance and offer a taste of Minnesota instead of trying to cash in on a big fish.

Hi John,
 It would be so nice to be able to do some kind of virtual tasting experience for you. But...well...let me just assure you that in ten years of having people taste our vinegars, the only ones that weren't impressed were vinegar haters...er...ya...it wasn't that they didn't like our vinegar, they just didn't like vinegar. But, our youngest taster was about 8 months old and the oldest in the 90s and most love it. The fruit flavors hold the flavor of the fruits from which they are made. The herbals speak loudly of their herbal infusions.

 Normally we require a wholesale purchase of a case (24 bottles) which are priced at 65 % of retail. Since you're considering using the vinegar in your menu (is that right or is your query for retail sales?), and I assume emphasizing the local (domestic) nature of the product, we would be willing to reduce the requirement to six bottles. We ship via [a fast and dependable delivery service] in the five-state area and Chicago is included in this area. We can ship 6 bottles for about $14 though we would need your zip code to determine an exact amount.

 If you'd like to look at our current inventory on our website (www.leatherwoodvinegary.com) and choose six, send a check and we'll ship them. If you'd like recommendations, let me know.


     It was 11:08 p.m. and John was still on the line.
Hi Nancy,
Thanks for the helpful info.  I love your excitement about the vinegars…makes me more excited to taste and use them!  We would be utilizing them for foodservice, not retail as well.  My zip  code is 60605, although the restaurant's is different and I'm honestly not exactly sure what it is at the moment.  Here are my six to choose from…and please steer me in a different direction if you suggest something I haven't picked since you know these much better than I do).
Chokecherry (mainly because I have no idea what that is and I'm intrigued)
 Anise Hyssop in Rhubarb
French Tarragon in Grape
 Thyme in Peach

Can you send me a total and I will send you a check?  Thank you!
 John [Chicago’s finest]

     I, however, had gone to bed and didn’t get his message til the next morning. I checked with Ron and though John’s selections looked good, we only had one bottle of Anise Hyssop left and if he wanted it in any quantity, we wouldn’t be able to accommodate him until we’d made more.

Hi John,
 Your choices look like good ones. Chokecherry is a tall shrub that grows wild in this area. It has clusters of small dark cherries that are very tart. They're most often used in jelly or syrup (if the jelly maker isn't successful in getting it to gel, which happens often enough). Of course wine makers like to use them, too.

 I'd like to swap out the Anise Hyssop in Rhubarb for Basil in either Rhubarb or Tomato. As a chef you know how wonderful basil is in anything with tomatoes. Basil in Rhubarb is a very "local" thing while Basil in Tomato is a delightful twist on using basil with tomatoes. The tomato wine isn't much to write home about but when it's been converted to vinegar and infused with basil, well, it's pretty special. What do you think? (Oh, and Ron says there's only one Anise Hyssop left and if you decided to use it regularly, you'd soon be out and we may not have any more for a while. The Anise Hyssop herb is off to a slow start in this rainy spring/summer we're having.)

 So, your total for three fruit vinegars at 65% of retail ($7.80 each) and three herbal vinegars ($9.75 each) plus $12.47 for shipping equals $65.12. Be sure to include the address to which you would like it shipped.

 Thank you!

     Though up late the night before, John was awake early and thinking about vinegar again by 8:59 a.m.
Hi Nancy,
Thank you for the guidance.. I'm actually curious about both of those vinegars you suggested.. Should I swap out something else for one of them? Either way, I'll defer to you.

The address of the restaurant is [on a lovely avenue in Chicago].  Is there any way to pay online or do I have to send a check?

 John [Famous and ambitious Chicago chef]

     I’d already led poor John down a winding path so what did I have to lose?

Ooohhh...I would think you'd want to try the French Tarragon and the Thyme. For only the cost of the vinegar and 40 cents additional for shipping, you could get 7 bottles. Oh, and then there's the Scarborough Fair that has a great story. The lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel's song is from an old old poem of impossible love.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
 Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Remember me to the one who lives there,
For once she was a true love of mine.

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Sewn without seams or fine needlework,
If she would be a true love of mine.

Tell her to wash it in yonder well,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Where never spring water or rain ever fell,
And she shall be a true lover of mine.
And on it goes for several more verses in which she responds with impossible tasks for him to do if he wants to be her lover again. Our Scarborough Fair vinegar is in mixed fruit, which in this case is a blend of apple and rhubarb. The four herbs combined with these two fruit flavors create a totally new party on the taste buds with no impossible tasks whatsoever.

But now I'm just making your job of choosing vinegar more difficult! Sorry. Eight bottles, perhaps?

      Five minutes after my discretionary digression, John had made a decision.

You sang to me via email.. Sold.  Eight it is!

 Is there any online payment available or no?

 Sorry, no, no online payment option. I keep meaning to arrange something. But checks and cash still work for us.

Ok, no problem.. Can you send me an updated total and I will put a check in the mail today?

A few days later, John’s check arrived and the eight bottles were on their way. I sent him an email so he’d know they were coming.

Hi John,
No song today. How about a movie: "You've got mail!" Well, at any rate, your vinegar is on its way  : )