The Importance of Soft Skills

I am hearing more talk these days about the importance of soft skills in the workplace, especially for those in supervisory capacities or those employees who deal with customers.

Hard skills are those that we are trained to perform. An example of a hard skill would be an accountant or a winemaker.

Soft sills tend to be harder to quantify. These are the skills that make individuals good at jobs in customer service, sales or in staff supervision. While it is important that owners and managers have soft skills it isn’t always the case.

Employees and managers with well-developed soft skills are adaptable and able to relate to different employees or customers with ease. These people will also be good communicators. They can vary their style of speech and tone of voice to suit the person to whom they are speaking. They are also intuitive, being able to understand people and being aware of facial expressions, tone of voice and stance that allows them to understand what the people they are speaking to may be thinking or feeling.

These types of personal qualities are a must for anyone who is dealing with the public or managing a staff. Being able to understand how the other person may be feeling or see a problem from the other side is a great help to those who work with customers, are part of a team or just want to get ahead in their chosen profession.

According to an article from Realityworks,

  • 77% of employers think personality skills are just as important as hard skills.
  • 44% think that Americans lack soft skills (500 executives surveyed)
  • 46% of manager said young workers would do well to home their communication skills
  • 35% reported lower-than-needed interpersonal and teamwork skills

In today’s world with the emphasis on customer service, the competition for sales and customer expectations honing our soft skills will make us more effective, efficient and more valuable in the workplace.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Keeping Up With Research

Research is an important part of any business, marketing or customer relations plan. Even when a plan has been completed for a while, it doesn’t hurt to do more research to find out what has changed and how to update your plans. Marketing, for instance, has changed dramatically over the last few years with the advent of email, social media and the like. Who knows what is coming next.

Know What You Want To Know

Before you start your research into a business, marketing strategy or customer wants and needs, make a list of questions that you want to find answers to. For example:

The knowledge you gain from marketing research could be:

  • To attract more customers
  • To increase sales to Millennials (or Gen X or Boomers)
  • To present products to a broader audience
  • To discover what my customers want
  • Who are my competitors (and how are they attracting customers)
  • There are many reasons and these are just a few.

Know What You Want to Achieve

Again, make a list of how you want to use this information in your business. Will it drive:

  • The sales direction for the next year or two
  • How you go about attracting new customers
  • How it will influence your product mix
  • Whether you are focused on the right target market(s).

It’s important to focus on the market segment that would be most interested in your products. I speak to many companies who answer the question of, “Who are your customers?” with the answer, “Everyone.”  Try to be more specific by looking at the mix of customer you have now and discovering how you can increase the numbers. Focus particularly on your best customers and see if what the similarities are possibly in age, location, buying habits, etc.

Different Avenues of Research

Primary market research:

  • Observation of customers, yours and your competitors
  • Focus groups: Ask current customers why they do business with you
  • Surveys:  Keep surveys fairly short  (3-20 questions) and offer an incentive for completing and returning the survey

Secondary market research.

  • If you belong to a trade association, ask for any research they may have on the subject you are researching.
  • Trade publications can be a big help to your research.

Analyze Results

When analyzing results objectivity is key. Accept what people have to say whether you like it or not. Also, consider how the responses apply to your marketing and what you can use from the data to bring in more customers.

Research can be time-consuming but it also is well worth the time you spend.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Making the Most of Email Marketing

Ah, the ubiquitous email.  Let me ask you a question: How many of you don’t get enough email? Okay, I know the answer, none of you. Everyone gets more emails than they know what to do with. Well, we do really know what to do and we do it, we send many of them directly to the trash without ever opening them.

It’s important for your business that the emails that you send do not head straight for the trash, so today’s blog includes some tips on how to get people to look at your emails.

Even in emails, one size does not fit all. The first step is to segment your customer list. Break down the list into your best customers (those who are emotionally connected to you and will always open your emails), those who like to purchase when there is a special offer, customers who buy at the holidays and new customers who may not have received many of your emails. These are just a few of the ways to segment your list, I am sure you can think of others. The more you can meet the needs of the individual groups, the larger your open, click through and transaction rates will be. Here are a few ideas.

Of course, personalization makes customers feel like you have a stake in making them happy, so using first names in the emails is always a good idea.

Consider sending the same email more than once. You don’t know who is overwhelmed with emails that day, or who is ignoring their email and ending up with a boxful of emails. By sending it twice you have a better chance of a customer or prospect seeing it. Alter the subject line and resend to those who didn’t open the email the first time.

Make the content relevant to the audience you are targeting. For example, don’t send information about red wine to people who only drink white. The segmentation will help with that as you can further delve into which of your customers is opening which of your emails.

If customers trust that what you have to say is something they will want to hear, they will open your emails to see what you have for them this time. You are looking to build relationships with these people and two of the main building blocks are trust and the knowledge that you are interested in what they want and need.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Happy Thanksgiving

As everyone is extra busy today, working hard and thinking about what has to be done to make this year’s Thanksgiving the best ever, I am going to keep things short.

Happy Thanksgiving… Enjoy your day, eat a little too much and enjoy a good glass of wine or two with dinner.

Get to bed early because tomorrow is Black Friday. Whether you are out with the retail crowds trying to find those perfect holiday gifts, score with low, low prices or are working to help people get what they want, you are going to need all the energy you can muster.

However, no matter what your plans, try to sneak a few minutes for yourself. After all, it’s Thanksgiving and you deserve it.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Happy Holiday Selling!

Are you ready for holiday sales? It is only a week until Thanksgiving (where does the time go?) so Black Friday is almost upon us. After that, December is looming. So far, in my email inbox I have received a number of winery mailers offering me Thanksgiving wines though only one has even alluded to the December holidays. The holidays are all coming up: Hanukah from December 12 – 20, Christmas – December 25 – January 1, and Kwanzaa – December 26 – January 1.

While researching I found an interesting article by Laura Forer of MarketingProfs, who said that holiday-related sales in the United State are expected to surpass 923 billion dollars, a 3% increase from last season. That is a lot of sales and you want to make sure that you get your share.

Another point, according to the article, is that 35% of shoppers have finished their holiday shopping by Cyber Monday, which this year is on November 27th.

The avenues that people use to research and shop for gifts differ. Most people use more than one source. 24% of shoppers go over emails and newsletters, while 47% frequent brick and mortar stores. Television (43%) and asking for hints from family and friends (44%) are other ways people decide what to buy. For younger customers, such as Millennials or Gen Z use Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

The more specific you are about the holiday gifts you are advertising, the better chance you have of getting people to look at your advertising. Of course, you will also get more eyes on your information if you personalize, which is especially important during the holidays. Using the customer’s name in the subject line will get more people to open your emails. According to MarketingProfs, personalization of holiday emails leads to a unique open rate of 17% higher, a unique click rate of 30% higher and a transaction rate of 70% higher, bringing up revenues per email by 43%. Mobile commerce is expected to jump 38% this season.

Finally, make it easy for customers to purchase from you. Amazon has gained so much ground by making buying easy.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Keep Customers Coming Back

Yesterday, I gave a talk at the Wine Tourism Conference taking place in Sonoma County.

The subject of the talk was Keep Customers Coming Back, which should be the goal of most businesses. However, I have noticed that many businesses do not have the processes or procedures in place to ensure that when someone visits they have a desire to return.

Research shows that keeping customers coming back is important:

  • A 5% increase in customer retention can improve company profitability by 7.5%
  • Engaged customers buy more frequently and spend more per transaction
  • Your business benefits from more word-of-mouth promotion
  • Regular customers bring their friends to meet you
  • A loyal customer is less likely to be lured away to other companies by discounts
  • It gives you an edge over competitors.

How do you keep customers coming back?

By providing an individual experience for each person who visits. For that, you need to create a plan, which will be your blueprint to design, deliver, manage and measure the results.  To make your plan successful:

  • Understand that your customers need to be more than satisfied
  • Put processes in place
  • Hire people who value customer service (remember that they are your ambassadors on and off the job)
  • Create an employee handbook with an in-depth section on customer service standards and guidelines
  • Implement customer interactions that will meet and exceed expectations
  • Review the people, products, services interface and interactions with customers.

Create the kind of atmosphere that results in individual experiences for all your guests. This means that procedures need to be customer-centric:

  • Processes around sales and returns need to be set up to focus on the needs of the customer
  • Conduct regular and interactive customer service training sessions with staff
  • All employees should be genuinely interested in customers as individuals
  • Create memories for customers.

Finally, I am going to say something that you have heard many times, though I think it is worth saying again: Attracting new customers cost more than retaining the customers you have.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Engaging Your Customers in Ways That Suit Them

I have been teaching a Wine Business class at my local Junior College in Sonoma County. This eight-week class, which has students ranging in age from 20 to 60 is about wine clubs.  A couple of weeks ago we were talking about different ways of connecting with people and one of the ways was direct mail. The youngest member of my class raised her hand and asked, “What is direct mail?” It started me thinking that so many people don’t correspond by mail anymore, they text, email, Facebook or YouTube, which moved me on to how we make sure that we are effectively corresponding with our audience, no matter how we choose to reach them.

In business, what you say and how you say it is important to sales, to customer engagement and to keeping your business profitable. Knowing who will be reading or listening to what you have to say as well as what and how they want/need to hear from you is of the utmost importance.

It’s also important that you consider the age ranges of the people you are talking to. They may want information in different ways. How is the message being read by your audience? Is it going out in a blog, through email, text, tweet, or on a postcard? Write for the avenue you choose to use. Also, understand that most of your audience is going to be just as busy as you are. There are those in your audience who don’t have much time and even less patience. If you have something important to tell them, get to it quickly.

Once you have given them the core of what you have to say, you can then expand on your topic for those who want to learn more about your subject. Even then, try not to go into more detail than most of your audience can soak in. Encourage those who want more to let you know so you may send them more information.

Engage and connect with the readers or viewers, using words or pictures that are entertaining and interesting. Leave them wanting a little bit so they will come back for more.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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