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Tito’s Vodka Distills Success out of Email Marketing

Recent statistics have often led brands to believe that social media is the best place to reach a young audience. However, social media networks are not the only avenue of marketing. As Tito’s Vodka found out, the greatest way to spread its products is directly to the individual.

A Small Team for a Big Operation

Established by Bert Butler “Tito” Beveridge II, Tito’s Vodka is the first legal distillery in Texas. Based out of Austin, the distillery produces Tito’s Handmade Vodka made from yellow corn, instead of the more commonly used wheat or potatoes.

Commercial production began in 1997 when Beveridge formed Fifth Generation, Inc., and established the Mockingbird Distillery, producing just 1,000 cases that year. In 2007, the company sold over 160,000 cases. All production is still maintained at the southeast Austin distillery, where he has expanded from one pot still to ten and from one bottling line to four, which cranks out some 3 million cases a year.

While the production continues to grow, the company remains small in numbers, with only two people heading the email marketing for Tito’s Vodka. Initially, the team created its own emails to attract customers to the site and its consumer-based Tito’s Tasters club, which distributes tips, recipes and event information.

“We were creating content on our own – from concepts to templates – for an internal and external market,” said Josie Fox, content coordinator at Tito’s Vodka, “but we didn’t have a ton of data then.”

In an effort to change the course of its content, Tito’s Vodka decided to refocus its email marketing strategy and partner with Emma, an email marketing automation company.

A Smooth Transition

Prior to meeting with Emma in October 2015, Tito’s Vodka’s small marketing team would craft the email, create the templates and develop the concepts. 

“The biggest challenge for Tito’s is that they have such a small marketing team to reach a large, passionate fan base,” said Cynthia Price, VP of marketing at Emma. “We knew going in that an automated welcome campaign would be a really easy way for them to make a big impact.”

The response, according to Fox, was immediate, as customers gravitated toward the cleaner, user-friendly email templates that displayed more information, more brand awareness and more interesting information.

“The welcome email campaign started to close the loop for our marketing approach,” said Fox. “As part of our cross channel outreach through social media, digital and email, we began to tell our story in a very integrated way.”

While most email marketing campaigns are judged by hard numbers, Emma’s Price cautioned against this notion, instead focusing more on making a great first impression to Tito’s new subscribers.

“It clearly sets expectations so they have an idea of how often Tito’s will email them and what they’ll be emailing about. It also provides them with a number of different ways to interact with the brand with quick links to recipes, store locations and social channels,” Price said. “Plus, Tito’s smartly gives new subscribers a way to manage their preferences, so they can deliver the best inbox experience right off the bat. All in all, the campaign is a crucial first step toward inspiring long-term customer loyalty and increasing the likelihood that Tito’s is top of mind whenever a subscriber wants to enjoy a drink.”

The most difficult task for the welcome email marketing campaign, according to Fox, is simply the subject line.

“The subject line is one of the last things created for the emails, yet the first thing people see and therefore the most important,” Fox said. “Luckily, we are able to test out our subject lines with Emma to get the best response from our customers.”

From Emails to Engagement

The welcome email campaign had reached over 50,000 new subscribers to date, scoring a super impressive 60% open rate.

“In fact, subscribers who receive a welcome note show 33% more long-term engagement on average,” Price said. “Tito’s was able to set up the welcome email once and trust Emma’s automation suite to deliver that amazing first impression every time someone new signs up.”

This effort has grown the external list from 48,000 to 78,000, who receive weekly emails about the Tito’s Vodka brand, recipes, events and information. ‘

And while the hard numbers are extremely impressive for any email marketing campaign, Price said, the most important lesson about its success may not be in the numbers at all.

“I think the biggest lesson that marketers can learn from Tito’s welcome strategy is that you don’t always have to be selling or promoting,” said Price. “Great email marketing is about delivering the best customer experience – being helpful, relevant and human generates some good karma that comes back around when those customers are eventually ready to buy…or in this case, drink.”

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