How a non-techie marketing manager transformed her business
In my Reality SEO series, I interview REAL LIFE HUMANS who’ve changed their digital marketing for good and used simple techniques to transform their business and brand.
These shorter episodes will include practical DOABLE advice and tips from people just like you.
Kate Toon chats with Belinda Austin Marketing manager of 6ft6 wines about how to build a brilliant brand with SEO.
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And big thanks to Kerrib100 for her lovely review.
About Belinda Austin
Belinda Austin joined her husband Scott as a second-generation owner of Austin’s Wines in 2013. Bringing with her creativity, a unique viewpoint and social media savviness she embraced the role of Marketing Manager.
Her vision was to transform their 6Ft6 wine brand into a lifestyle wine brand through an innovative marketing strategy targeting the niche millennial market. Now as Head of Marketing her focus is on transforming the Austin’s wine brand with a direct to consumer focus.
Connect with Belinda
Kate Toon: I’m not saying I have favourites on the recipe for SEO Success course, but if I did, I think Belinda Austin would be one of them. I love her brand, I love her work, and now she’s also a member of the Digital Masterchefs. She’s head of marketing at Austin Wines, and is going to talk today about her journey with SEO and digital marketing, the challenges she faced along the way, and how untech savvy people really can master technical things.
Kate Toon: Hello, my name’s Kate Toon and I’m head chef here at the Recipe for SEO Success, an online learning hub for all things related to search engine optimization and digital marketing, and today I’m with Belinda Austin.
Belinda Austin: Hello. Thanks for having me.
Kate Toon: It’s lovely to have you here. I’m going to awkwardly read out your bio now.
Belinda Austin: Oh, it’s so awkward.
Kate Toon: It is, try not to cringe, you wrote it. Belinda Austin joined her husband, Scott, as a second generation owner of Austin Wines in 2013. Bringing with her creativity, a unique viewpoint, and social media savviness, she embraced the role of marketing manager, now head of marketing.
Her vision was to transform 6Ft6 wine brand into a lifestyle wine brand through an innovative marketing strategy targeting the niche millennial market. Now as head of marketing her focus is on transforming the Austin Wine brand with a direct consumer focus.
That all sounds very ladi-la, and I will start by saying that I’m a huge fan of 6Ft6 wine. The pinot gris, is it pinot gris or pinot grigio? I never know the difference.
Belinda Austin: We have pinot gris.
Kate Toon: Okay. What is the difference? That’s a good place to start.
Belinda Austin: Pinot gris, it’s the same grape. It’s just the way it’s either picked at a certain time, and then made a little bit in a different style.
Kate Toon: So it’s about how it’s squeezed. One is squeezed on the buttocks of Italian nuns.
Belinda Austin: We’ll go with that.
Kate Toon: Okay, cool. Can put that on the label. Okay, cool.
Belinda Austin: We do have a blog post on the difference between pinot gris, and pinot grigio.
Kate Toon: Who reads blog posts, seriously? No, I’m joking. Okay, so take me back a few years. It’s 2013, you’re starting with the brand role, obviously you did the course, the big course with me in about 2017, I think. But where were you at? Were you a marketing manager somewhere else before you came to Austin Wines?
Belinda Austin: No, I was actually a photographer. So I don’t have any sort of official training. It’s just something that I got thrown into and found I was pretty decent at.
But yeah, I’ve taught myself everything, and I haven’t done a lot of official training. So when I was looking to do SEO or improve our SEO on our website, I started to contact different places that offered those services. One was $5,000 a month, another was $2,000, and I had no idea what they were actually doing, and the way that they speak, it’s like, “Only we can do this service for you, and this is why we can charge that much.”
Kate Toon: Yes, they have magic juju powder that they sprinkle. And in reality I think, $2,000 a month for brand as big as yours, and with the potential of yours, it’s not that much. And also with the competition that you’ve got. I mean, you’re up against the Dan Murphy’s of this world and the Liquorlands and so it’s actually, if I had my SEO agency hat on, it’s not that much.
You’re in a very competitive niche, and the price of SEO really does depend on how competitive your niche is, but who has two grand a month, at this early stage, to be throwing it away at SEO? We’re not throwing it away, but you want to know what they’re doing, and you want to know what the results are going to be, right?
Belinda Austin: For me it wasn’t that I didn’t want to spend the $2,000. It was the fact that I didn’t really know what I was spending my money on, and this is where it’s always been for me, “Well, how can I justify that spend if there’s no guarantees”, and…I just didn’t understand where my money was going.
And that was my biggest issue, because I’ve always done most things in house, social media in house, content creation in house, photography in house. A lot of it I was doing myself that I found it, I was like, “I don’t want to part with this money if I don’t know where it’s going.” So that’s when I started to investigate. I found your I Love SEO group, and then I just joined up to the course a couple of months later.
Kate Toon: I know. Awesome. Thank you. Thank you for joining my slippery little funnel. So you are one of the students that kind of, you turned up, you really put the effort in, and as with any course that people do, it’s all about what you put in. It doesn’t matter how good the course is.
So when you are journeying through the course and learning about SEO, what kind of surprised you about SEO? Were there any things you were like, “Wow, I’d always thought that this worked like this and it doesn’t. Hurrah!”
Belinda Austin: Look, I was on a pretty steep learning curve, because I didn’t really understand much at all. And I was really focused on social media as opposed to website, but what I realised was, one, my website was absolutely awful and I remember, I had a 10 minute Toon review because I was always like in there first, I want to respond first, so you gave it to me, and then you gave me this 10 minute Toon review and I was like, that was really eye-opening. I realised-
Kate Toon: I crushed your spirit didn’t I. Like a tiny flower.
Belinda Austin: No, no. It was great because I really started to understand more about the user journey as opposed to trying to be trendy, and sometimes you need to get that balance. And that’s really what I learned from the start. But then it was really, it’s not that hard.
Kate Toon: Don’t say that. No, I guess-
Belinda Austin: Like time consuming, but it’s so easy to learn SEO. There’s tech things that are beyond me that I outsource, but in terms of knowing what I would actually…if I went to an agency now, I would know what I’m paying for, where my money’s going, and what to look for, and I wouldn’t be spending that much a month.
Kate Toon: Yeah, and you’d probably appreciate their efforts, because you know now how hard it is to research keywords, to how long it takes to optimise a single page, and then how long it takes to build a link. So you do a lot of promotion, you get stories in the press and stuff, you know how long it takes to make that press story happen.
Belinda Austin: Yes.
Kate Toon: And that’s just one link. So if you don’t try to do that four or five times a month, you do rack up the hours, you know? And if you were to kind of put a figure against the hours that you spend on everything, because I think one of the things that we’ve discussed and I’ve seen with your brand is you take a very holistic approach to marketing. So you’re focused.
What would be your core channels that you focused on the most for say 6Ft6 wines? Is it Instagram, I guess?
Belinda Austin: Instagram and Facebook. Yeah.
Kate Toon: Yeah. And so, but now I think your marketing flows through Instagram, Facebook, and your SEO. So there’s no disconnect now. Yeah. And you’re building the brands, because I think one of the things that became apparent with you, in particular, when we’re doing keyword research is there’s only so many ways to type in buy pinot grigio online, and it’s pretty god damn competitive.
So I think one of the things that you’ve done is be quite creative in your blog posts. You’ve done some brilliant blog posts recently.
We’re talking about blog posts. Talk to us about your process and your thought process of creating those blog posts, because you haven’t just done the standard what is pinot grigio? You’ve done some really playful things as well.
Belinda Austin: Yeah, for me, it was part of the course where I discovered it was the linking of social media, driving people to your website, getting them to stay on your website for a decent amount of time. And so that’s the approach that I’ve been taking the last 12 months while I’m trying to be building the brand, knowing that I can get long tail keywords, but I can’t get those top ‘buy pinot gris’.
So I’m not getting it. So for us, it was connecting with people online, and giving them some fun content. So I was looking at it other day, and our most visited blog posts was our wine quiz. So what type of wine are you?
Kate Toon: I love a quiz. Yeah.
Belinda Austin: Our star sign, star wine for your star sign. Just things like that where it’s taking the seriousness away. And then I’ve got ones that rank higher, such as pinot gris versus pinot grigio. So I’m trying to get that balance between getting content that ranks, as well as content that people click through, stay on the website, learn about our brand. So it’s been a really nice sort of journey to take them on.
Kate Toon: I love that. So they kind of the what, when, who, how ones are really great for the whole featured snippet thing, get the featured answers, but the other ones, they do build that relationship perfect for your audience.
And I think one thing that I’ve noticed that you do really well as a brand, is you do build the relationships with people on all social media platforms. So you have conversations with people, you share fun stuff, you respond to people. It feels like you’re physically there, and it feels like it’s really you.
And that’s something that Dan Murphy’s can’t do. No disrespect Dan Murphy’s if you’re listening, but we all know that Sue is an intern in their social media marketing team. Sue is not the woman who’s out waiting for her husband to come home after squeezing grapes all day, squeezing, treading, I don’t know. You know what I mean.
Belinda Austin: I’m going to say squeezing from now on.
Kate Toon: Yeah, Scott’s been squeezing grapes. So what are some big, I mean you’ve talked about the one big change there in terms of your blog strategy and social, are there any other big things you’ve done? I mean I think we can talk about a bit of a website redesign.
Belinda Austin: Yeah. So for the 6Ft6… Yeah, so I did the website redesign that’s when I was in the course with you. I redesigned the website, which made it much more user friendly. And it’s now starting to pay off. Particularly the blog posts I did while I was in the course, and I was being very particular. They’re now ranking quite well (laughs)… Like, “What is prosecco?”.
Belinda Austin: So I’ve done that. I’ve also just designed a new website for our Austin’s brand, which has been really good to start from scratch with the learnings.
Kate Toon: Get that all, because we talk a lot in the course about the difference between a service site, and an ecom site, and the structure of the navigation and that customer journey, as you said, from first click through to conversion. I think you can see a real evolution in what you’ve done.
I mean, do you feel that the changes that you’re making are having an impact on your business? I mean, let’s be frank, are they having an impact on your bottom line? You’ve had some pretty amazing sales recently.
Belinda Austin: Oh, definitely. I mean we had our last big sale. So we typically do two sales a year, and that’s just clearing stock because wine is so stock heavy. You invest in it once a year, and then you hold onto it and if you don’t sell through, you’re just like, I need some cash, let’s keep it moving to the next vintage to come along.
But we decided that we wanted to stop doing sales and strategy for us. We wanted to stop doing them long term and build more of a premium brand. So we had our last sale, and that was in June this year. And the stuff I learned from the SEO course and the Digital Masterchefs helped me incredibly, that we had a six figure sale in two days.
Kate Toon: Woo hoo!
Belinda Austin: Yeah, it was incredible.
Kate Toon: And let’s be honest, I love to talk about click through rate and rank position, and time on site, and things like that, but the real measure of whether your SEO is working is revenue.
Belinda Austin: Yes.
Kate Toon: And I think that’s why when we go and we do speak to SEO agencies, we don’t talk about ranking necessarily. I don’t care where my keywords are ranking. I don’t care, to be honest, the strategy to get there.
I’m interested to know how you do things, but what I really want to know is, the metrics that I would use is, how are you going to increase my traffic? How are you going to increase my conversion rate? And how are you going to increase my bottom line? And some of those things won’t be traditional SEO.
They might be conversion rate optimisation. There might be some website redesign, some copy rewriting, things that most people wouldn’t think with traditional SEO, like choosing a keyword and plunking it here. It’s holistic. You can’t think of it that way. So I think that will be helpful.
Kate Toon: And another thing I think that I’ve seen you do is, because now Belinda’s a member of the Digital Masterchefs group, which is a coaching group for people who want to continue the digital journey, is you’ve actually done something quite ambitious with your Rent a Vine product, which for me would not, and could not work unless you had built up brand advocacy.
Like, explain a little bit about what it is and how that’s working.
Belinda Austin: So next year in 2020 we are launching a programme where it’s a membership programme where you come and make one pinot noir on our property. So it includes workshops, you get your own personalised wine at the end. It’s a real journey, a hands on about how to make wine from start to finish.
Kate Toon: Do you get to squeeze the grapes?
Belinda Austin: You do and you get to stomp them as well.
Kate Toon: Woo hoo!
Belinda Austin: Not that you use that in a wine, that’s just for a bit of fun. So it’s quite an investment in terms of money. It’s quite an investment in terms of time, because it does require five workshops throughout the year. And energy, and it’s what we’re asking from people is to come and pay, and make some wine, which is great, but we do require a bit from you.
And the response has been incredible. They’ve been on sale for three weeks, and we’ve sold 36 places.
Kate Toon: Yeah. And I’m not being funny, it’s not cheap. So I mean, you have to have that trust in the brand that these five workshops are going to happen, and that it’s going to be everything that you said it’s going to be, and to get people to pay that premium price. It’s different selling a $27 bottle of wine that has taken all the work you’ve done to build up that brand advocacy.
And obviously the goal now, and I think probably what you’re seeing, I’m sure if you checked, you’d be seeing a big increase in the people searching for 6Ft6 wine, as opposed to those dream category terms. People are searching for your brand, they want your wine, rather than anybody else’s. And that’s the goal, I guess.
Belinda Austin: Yeah. And that’s what I discovered in the course too. That was probably the biggest takeaway for me in terms of my web traffic. Was that I was trying to rank for chardonnay, buy chardonnay online. You know. And I instead went, “Oh, hold on. Everyone’s searching for my brand name”, because I do a lot of brand awareness, do a lot of social media, our stock is distributed so widely, people know the brand. So that’s all I changed with that and that’s been the biggest key for me going forward.
Kate Toon: Yeah. And owning that first page of the results. Every result is yours. Honing your SERP results so that they’re really clickable and people click through, and then carrying that brand message to everything you do. So yeah, I think you’ve done a fantastic job on that.
So wrapping up, we’d like to pass on a tip. Imagine you’re a newbie out there in DIY land, and you’re just about to launch a digital marketing journey. What one tip would you like to pass on to our listeners? What one thing really helped you?
Belinda Austin: Do Kate Toon’s course.
Kate Toon: No, you’re not allowed to say that, because it sounds too salesy. I’m going to have to edit that out.
Belinda Austin: No, I’m only kidding. One tip I would give is to start from the basics and know who your customer is. Know who they are, because that is the basis for everything you do ongoing. And it will set the foundation for what content you have, who you’re trying to target, what they’re searching for, and getting content that really interests them.
Kate Toon: And I think you really have to push that as well, because you’ll often ask people who are your customers, and they’re like, “Anybody with a pulse and a credit card.” And it’s like it has to be more niche than that.
Belinda Austin: It has to be more niche. It really does, and so I know with 6Ft6, our brand reaches far more people than a millennial market, but we have to niche it, otherwise I’m just selling to every single person.
Kate Toon: Yeah, I mean I’m not a millennial. I often take the piss out of Belinda’s marketing because it’s lots of kind of beautiful girls throwing their heads back while they eat salads and enjoy wine, but then you do intersperse that with really cheeky memes, and reality kind of stuff, which appeals to me as a non-millennial as well. So you know you’ve got your core audience, I think it’s fine to have a primary audience, and then have a secondary, and a tertiary, and a quadruply …is that the fourth one? I don’t know, but we’ll go with that. We’ll go with that.
Belinda Austin: Yeah, exactly. You can be too niche, but you need to have a focus.
Kate Toon: You do, and I think the other thing that you do very well is a tip that I’m going to pass on on your behalf.
Belinda Austin: Thank you. Please do.
Kate Toon: Is that you’re playful with your marketing.
Belinda Austin: Yes.
Kate Toon: You experiment, you try things out. You don’t take yourself too seriously. There are lots of vineyards, vineyards, wineries out there that are really up their own bottoms, and you don’t take that approach. You’re not going all like “Joot” and like, “Yo, yo, yo. Drink our wine.” It feels like you’re having fun with your marketing, and no, it’s not fun every day. And I know sometimes you want to pull your hair out, but it feels playful. Do you agree?
Belinda Austin: Yeah. And this is the core of what we’re about, and who we are, is that we enjoy wine because it brings people together. You have fun, you have a conversation, and it’s about enjoying life.
And this is Scott I‘s sort of approach to life, approach to branding, approach to everything. And sometimes it’s not favoured by those in the wine industry, because they want wine to be taken seriously. But at the end of the day, it’s what most wine drinkers enjoy about wine.
Kate Toon: So as well as knowing your customer, I think what you’ve also done is you really know yourself, and that’s translated through your brand, your brand values, your tone of voice.
Belinda Austin: Yes.
Kate Toon: You own that and you stick with that. Even if it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay.
Belinda Austin: That’s it. That’s it. You’ve just got to stick to who you are and you’ve got to stay with it. You can’t change the fundamentals of what you’re about for other people.
Kate Toon: No, exactly. So I think that was fantastic. If you want to learn more about your brands, where should we go? Should we be heading to Austin’s? You tell us the URLs. We’ll put them in the show notes.
Belinda Austin: Yeah, so we have go to 6ft6wine.com Or austinswines.com.au. Or just Google them, they will come up.
Kate Toon: They will.
Kate Toon: Thank you so much Belinda, and thank you to you for listening to the show. If you have questions for Belinda about her brand or how she’s been building that brand and writing those blog posts. Head to the I Love SEO group on Facebook. I’m sure she’d be happy to answer.
As you know, at the end of the show we give out shout outs to one of my lovely listeners, and this week is, is Carrie B. And she says, “Love listening to this podcast. Always spot on and informed content, but doesn’t take itself too seriously.” Boom. How apt is that Belinda? “Perfect mix of guests and topics. Keep them coming please.”
Kate Toon: So thanks Belinda, and thanks to you for listening. If you like the show, don’t forget, please leave a five star rating and review on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you heard the pod. You’ll help others find the show and learn more about the wonderful world of SEO and digital marketing. And you’ll get a shout out on the show. Don’t forget to check out the show notes for this episode at www.therecipeforseosuccess.com.
And finally, don’t forget to tune in to my other podcast, the Hot Copy Podcast, a podcast for copywriters, all about copywriting, hosted with another lovely Belinda, Belinda Weaver. So thanks again Belinda.
Belinda Austin: Thank you.
Kate Toon: And until next time, happy SEOing.