Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing

Shana Bull is a marketing educator and digital storyteller, working with wine, food, hospitality businesses, teaching classes on marketing, and freelance writing. Reach her with your questions about digital marketing at, @sharayray on Instagram or at

Read her previous columns.

As many who have worked in social media marketing for 10+ years can tell you, the social networks are unpredictable.

One minute you are able to connect with every one of your “fans” and the next minute the algorithm only shows your content to your top fans (and then if they engage, they show your content to more people).

Throughout the years, any time Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter changes something, adds a new feature, or takes away a feature, the rug is sometimes feels like it is pulled out from under the businesses using social media as a platform to connect with their audiences.

The way for hospitality businesses to make sure they aren’t at the whim of the social media tech companies is to establish a holistic digital marketing strategy. (I know, I know, I mostly talk about social media marketing, but it's not the only type of marketing that digital marketers should be focused on!)

Digital leads versus social media followers

Email marketing and capturing email addresses are a huge part of that.

Pre-pandmeic, email marketing in the hospitality industry was mostly focused on seasonal promotions.

But when the original shelter-at-home orders were put into place in March 2020, many businesses learned that the overly salary nature of traditional email marketing was making consumers hit unsubscribe in record numbers. (Think back to how many emails hit your own inbox at the beginning of the pandemic.)

Getting leads for your email marketing efforts has generally been accomplished through selling wine or wine club memberships in the tasting room (or online), or in the case of some restaurants and many brick and mortar shops, through a paper sign-up sheet next to the cash register.

But with a new focus on DTC (direct to consumer) sales through a business’s website, generating a growing email list in other ways has become an essential part of a brand’s digital marketing strategy.

Those email addresses are called “leads”— potential customers that are curious about your company but haven't made a purchase yet.

And "leads" are different from "followers on social media,” because as mentioned above, the platforms are finicky. They — not you — own that list.

Businesses own their email marketing list and can connect with their audience any way they wish.

And when it comes to capturing that audience — marketers need to remember that just adding a “newsletter form” isn’t really that enticing for customers to sign up. You have to give them a reason by giving them something in return.

Land more leads from your website

One of the best methods for automatically capturing email addresses is creating a landing page for which website visitors can sign up and then get something emailed to them, or a code for a discount right away.

For hospitality businesses, this landing page doesn’t have to be miles long. In fact, it should be short, sweet and to the point. When establishing a landing page or simple form for your business’s lead-generation efforts, your goals should be two-fold:

1. Attract the right people. It’s fun to see your email list number increase, but you want to make sure that audience is your target. So, create a lead magnet you think they will be interested in. (If you don’t know, ask via social media, in person, or as a SurveyMonkey survey link.) And target your specific audience with social media ads to drive traffic to your landing page.

2. Gain trust. Customers are hesitant to give away their emails because they have been bombarded with so many promotions over the past year. Let them know you will only send emails that provide value to them. Create lead magnets that are easy to understand and instantly accessible via a followup email they receive right away.

Magnets for email address leads

Here are types of lead magnets that work for hospitality businesses:

1. A simple e-cookbook. A winery could include wine and food pairings, a restaurant a few recipes. The idea is to create a PDF cookbook that consumers can easily download via email. ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers) created a digital grilling cookbook for National Grilling Month with wine and recipe pairings that are on brand for Zinfandel. Marketers could utilize a graphic design tool like Canva Pro to create an in-house PDF (or outsource this to a professional).

2. Wine pairings. If you want to create an even simpler digital book for download, you could make a checklist of wine pairings versus an entire cookbook-style guide.

3. A Guide to Wine Country (curated itineraries for your location based on your target audience). Draft a checklist PDF with suggestions of where to visit around your restaurant or tasting room.

4. A checklist for adventures (picnics, traveling with wine, creating a charcuterie board, weddings, etc). Just like the guide to Wine Country, marketers could create a checklist for anything based on a brand’s core values. (Another example is for a daily social media checklist for hospitality marketers.) Have fun with this list!

5. Promotions. This is usually the type of lead magnet consumers see. Sign up for free shipping, 10% off, etc. This is a great start, but it doesn’t normally build long-term audiences.

Two bonus ways to collect emails:

6. Reservations. Now that many wineries and restaurants are utilizing reservations, this is an easy opportunity for businesses to capture emails.

7. Wi-Fi. If your brick and mortar store has Wi-Fi for customers, then utilize this feature to capture email addresses as well. Cisco’s Meraki ( and Beambox ( are both Wi-Fi marketing platforms that capture emails and provide customers with an easier way of sharing pictures from your location.

When it comes to the emails themselves, the trick is to focus on the connections vs. only push sales or promotions. That’s one thing I have always said about digital marketing: create lasting connections, then make the sale.

Brooke Herron from Local Food & Drink Marketing in Healdsburg agrees with me.

She recommends that wineries (or any hospitality business) “focus on directly connecting with customers versus jumping straight into promoting something. Get a little personal if it feels right, and let people know just how much it means to you (the winery or owners) to be able to welcome visitors to your winery.”

She continues, “Lead with real human connection, communication, and gratitude. Then, follow up with details on upcoming events or information on outdoor tastings and experiences that are currently available (without overwhelming people with too many choices).”

When creating a lead magnet for your hospitality business, just ensure it makes sense for your target audience and utilize content you have already created, whether it currently lives on sales sheets, a blog, or in the mind of your consumer-facing employees.

Work with your website designer or email marketing platform to create a simple and easy-to-understand page to start collecting even more leads. This way, you can build your audience and take control of your marketing efforts.

Digital Marketing

Shana Bull is a marketing educator and digital storyteller, working with wine, food, hospitality businesses, teaching classes on marketing, and freelance writing. Reach her with your questions about digital marketing at, @sharayray on Instagram or at

Read her previous columns.

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