What You Should Know About Wine Customers

Interesting article in Wine Business.com last week by Cyril Penn about how big data can unlock direct-to-consumer (DTC) potential and boost sales. There was a lot of good information in the article, some of which I will go into at a later date. Today I am focusing on some of the statistics about wine consumers that were discussed in the article.

1. Wine consumers are dramatically more affluent than the average U.S. consumers.

  • 57% of wine consumers have a net worth of over 1 million dollars, compared to 12% of the average U.S. consumer.

2. 71% of DTC revenue comes from 30% of the customers.

  • …Every customer matters but a lot of money is coming from the very top segment.

3. Younger women gain parity with men in wine purchasing.

  • This information should get you thinking about who your marketing and how your promotional materials are geared to. Historically wineries focused their marketing on male customers.

4. 42% of DTC customers live less than 150 miles away from the winery, most live farther away.

  • Are you analyzing your customer base by zip code to find out where most of your customers live? Do you have concentrations of customers in certain areas or zip codes? This analysis will affect your marketing and event planning? It is a great tool for planning more successful and profitable events, promotion and advertising.

5. Discover the other interests of your customers.

  • Wine consumers are more likely to be skiers, play tennis, support the arts and they tend to subscribe to financial newsletters. This should also affect your marketing and events.

These few statistics can lead you to many more questions, generate analysis and marketing ideas that can make your winery grow. Whether you are a large or small winery there are things you can put into play that will make your business more successful and your customers feel more connected to your winery.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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I have been reading a lot of winery newsletters recently and have noticed that many of them are very similar to each other. Taking into consideration that most wineries have the same goals and are interested in the same things (primarily growing grapes, making wine and selling wine) it is hard to stand out and be different. How do you differentiate yourself from others in your industry? There are ways to differentiate your business; you might differentiate by price (at either the low or high end), or create a niche for your company through innovation (wine available in disposal, sealed, individual, plastic glasses). There is differentiation through by convenience (think of Amazon’s one-click purchase) or through service, which should be one that most companies could work on and do well.

If a consumer came up to you and asked you why s/he should choose to do business with you rather than your competitors, what would you tell her/him? I suggest this as a great question to ask each one of the employees and then listen to their answers. I would then go on and ask the same question to your customers. There are reasons that people do business with you and you may not know what they are. Another good question to ask your customers would be what they value about your company, products, and services. In short, what brings them back.

As the number of wineries continues to increase (according to the U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau there were 11,496 wineries in the United States in 2016 ­- a 7.6% increase from 2015), I believe we will see the same growth for 2017. This doesn’t take into account the wine coming into the U.S. from the rest of the world.

As Entrepreneur magazines states, The majority of businesses in crowded industries fail to stand out because they don’t do anything to differentiate their brands. They simply do what everyone else does, content with scraping by and ignoring the scary proposition of taking a risk.”

The easiest way to differentiate your business is to focus on customer service. According to an article in Entrepreneur magazine, “Long-term loyalty of a customer base is the best way to guarantee profitability for years to come.” Stand out from the crowd by focusing on what your customers want. That means, asking questions, listening to the answers and putting into play the procedures the processes that will make your customers feel important to your company.

Be daring… be different.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Creating A Recognizable Business Culture

With the great number of brands these days, it is getting harder and harder to differentiate your brand from those of your competitors. A lot of that has to do with the fact that many who start businesses do so because they are passionate about the product, not because they are passionate about marketing, branding or creating the culture of the company. This is very evident in the wine business. Most winery owners are passionate about growing grapes and making wine, they are not, necessarily passionate about the culture of the company.

As you are developing your business, the grapes you shall grow, the wines you shall make, also ask yourself, “What culture do I want to create for my business?” Creating the culture will give you a template for many of your other decisions. For example, what are the traits and qualifications you want in your employees, how will you create your customer service guide and your plans for advertising, marketing, and public relations?

When developing some of your cultural items, consider the things that make your business recognizable, such as your logo, the colors you use and your tagline. Think long and hard before you choose those, as they are the things that define your company in the mind of many consumers and you don’t want to change them too often. It’s fine to tweak things to keep them current but wholesale changes make it difficult for consumers to remember you. For example, look up online the portraits of Betty Crocker, a brand that has been in existence since 1921. While Betty has changed over the years, she has always been a brunette, she is always wearing a red jacket or sweater with something white underneath, mostly a blouse, one time pearls and now a tee shirt and the drawing is always just head and shoulders. If you look at all the Bettys together you can see how much they have changed, but you would recognize every one of them as Betty Crocker. That’s the point.

Try and create a culture through everything that you do from in-person communication, visuals, and written communications, to how you deal with customers on the phone. You want to stand out from your competitors. This is a way to do it.

Finally, be patient. Creating the culture is not a sprint it’s a long distance race where you keep reinforcing the same lessons and methods.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Creating an Employee Handbook

An employee handbook is an important part of your training schedule. The handbook provides employees with a written guide to follow and refer to when they may have forgotten.

Creating an employee handbook can be a lot of work, which is why many businesses do not have a comprehensive handbook. My suggestion is that you write the handbook in small pieces. For example, a winery would write a one or two page summary of the vineyards and how the grapes are grown; another one or two pages can be dedicated to the information on how the wines are made, focusing on the information that will give customers facts they can take home with them. I start with these two things as most owners find these pages easy to write and you might as well start off with things that can be done quickly.

Next on the list, write a one-page mission, vision, and an overview of the company if you don’t already have that.

After that, a one-two page basic job description detailing the duties of each the position in the company. For example, sales and hospitality staff should be given information on the ins and outs of opening and closing, how to run the cash register, etc. You should also cover compensation, commissions, and how sales discounts work for customers.

General employee policies differ from state to state but information should be readily available on government websites. Consider employee policies such as attendance, benefits, vacation time, confidentiality, dress code, expectations, expense reporting (if applicable) work performance, discipline and termination factors.

One of the most important parts of an employee handbook is the information about the Customer Experience you expect each of your employees to provide to your guests and customers. This information should be available to everyone in the company whether they regularly come into contact with the public or not.

When you ensure that your employees understand what your expectations are, you are more likely to have your expectation met. For an outline of a suggested table of contents for an employee handbook, drop me an email at E@inshortmarketing.com and I will send one over to you.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Making the Sale

Most of the wineries I know would like to increase their sales, though many of them are not sure how to go about it. Selling is not hard, it just takes some practice and an understanding of the basics.

Occasionally (very occasionally) someone comes in specifically to buy because they have seen something or the product has been recommended to them. Those people are not numerous enough to push through all your stock. You will have to take the rest of your customers through the four phases of the sale.

  1. Opening

Introduce yourself to the guests before beginning the interaction. Follow the introduction with a few questions about what brought the guests to the winery, the weather, how they like the area. Be sure to give the guests time to answer. This portion of the interaction should not last too long.

  1. Information Gathering

Before you give guests the tasting sheet or start pouring, discover some things that are important to the guests about wine. Ask what wines they drink at home, if they enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, etc. It is important to let them know that you are first interested in them, rather than what they will buy. Additionally, asking questions about why they chose to visit gives the server the information needed to direct the conversation and the experience.

  1. Sell Benefits

How does buying and drinking the wine benefit the guests? Show the guests how their lives will be better or more interesting by drinking your wine. Offer a solution to a problem (for example, they want a wine they can drink regularly). As you are doing this, ask the guests if they have any particular points of concern or questions they would like to ask.

  1. Close the Sale

Ask a few closing questions that will elicit yes answers based on information you already have elicited: “ You prefer white wines, is that correct?” “I believe you said you enjoy dry wines?” “When you were tasting you preferred the Frontenac.” Then summarize the benefits: “You will always be comfortable serving this wine to guests.” “We have a special price on the Chardonnay right now.” (Do not use the word discount – saying special price makes it more… well, special) “How many bottles would you like?”

Selling is simple if you focus on the guest. There are some buyers who want to know all the facts, but they are few and far between. Give guests information they can pass along to their friends about when they get home.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Do You Know Your Employees?

With the workloads that many managers and owners have these days, it is easy to lose touch with what your employees are doing, how they are treating customers and how they feel about the treatment they receive from management.

Even with all the work that has to be done, one of the most important parts of a manager’s job is keeping in touch with employees both as a group and individually, especially those who interface directly with customers. I am surprised when I see employees treat customers with indifference, and wonder whether it’s because they are treated the same way. That’s not always the case but it can add to the lack of customer service in a company.

One thing to remember is that positive interaction with employees usually takes some thought and attention. Think about the words you use when speaking with employees, your tone of voice and your body language. Make eye contact with employees. Work on your soft skills (see my blog from 12.12.17 for more information on soft skills) and your ability to connect with employees.

When you are looking for information from your employees, be aware of how you ask the questions and be specific about what you want to know. It is easy to misinterpret what people want of you, whether it is manger to employee or employee to manager.

When talking about policy changes, present your case in a positive and persuasive manner. Ask for feedback, listen carefully and receive it openly. Take your time when considering suggestions before you make any decisions on whether the ideas should be implemented or not. If you can test an employee’s suggestions, do so. Keep in mind, too, the tone of your online and distributed information and the effect it may have on employees.

Work on ways to relate to your employees, take the time to make small talk with them.

Show an interest in their lives and family and look for common ground. You may find that you have more in common with your staff that your thought.

The way you treat your employees is the same way your employees will treat your customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Customer Service in the Airline Industry

The airlines have not been getting kudos lately as far as their customer service towards passengers goes. For a while, it has been one thing after another.

I have been traveling quite a bit and been spending a fair amount of time in airports and on planes. In November, I was scheduled to fly from Spokane to Seattle and then home to Sonoma County, after being away for two weeks. On day one, the flight to Seattle was late due to a mechanical problem, so late that there was no chance that I would make my connection. So the airline booked me on a flight for the next day. The bag I had checked was retrieved from the airline and, after five hours in the airport, I headed for the hotel.

The next morning, I was up at 6 a.m. to catch the 7 a.m. shuttle from the hotel back to the airport for a 9 a.m. flight. Unfortunately, the flight was coming from Seattle, which was in the midst of a winter storm and low visibility. This was causing delays in planes being able to take off (337 planes delayed and 41 canceled) so, again, everything was late. This put me back in the queue, with a long line of other disgruntled travelers. To add to the travails, it was also Friday, which meant that the airport was very busy with people heading home, and heading out for the weekend or longer.

So what does this have to do with my blog? The answer is customer service. The airline representatives for Alaska Airlines that I spoke to were absolutely terrific. They had long lines of frustrated customers, who were handled with patience and courtesy. Never once did the young woman I dealt with ever respond to the frustration of customers (including me). She got on her computer and moved travelers to other flights, and other airlines, bumping people up to better seats and generally doing everything she could to make it work. After retrieving my bags once more from Alaska (the check-in people knew me by name by that time) I was assigned to United Airlines (first class, woohoo!) coming to San Francisco rather than Sonoma County, but at least I was close to home. I also got a credit from the airline to use on my next flight.

I have to congratulate the airport personnel at Alaska Airlines in Spokane, who did a great job in sorting out hundreds of travelers in difficult circumstances.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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