How well are you tracking your social media?

While distributing information to your customers and potential customers through social media is important, it’s also important to know how the people that you are reaching are reacting to what you have to say. Are they paying attention to your posts or tweets and passing them along to others or do the posts just disappear?

Know why you regularly posting on social media: to become more engaged with your customers, to gain more publicity for your brand, to attract more customers, to sell product or to present your customers with reasons to buy from you. Keep a list of goals handy, to keep you on track.

To discover whether or not you are successful, track your social media posts to see where they go after they reach your audience. This can be accomplished through tracking keywords that relate to your company or products.

Track your brand or company name. Know who is talking about your company or products and why. Whether it is a complaint or a compliment, a response to the person who responded to the post will positively affect how they feel about you. It is easier than you think to turn around a complaint by paying attention and doing everything you can to sort out the problem either on- or offline. Tracking your brand or company may also give you more information about questions that customers are asking each other, or whether there is talk about your products.

It doesn’t hurt to track your main competitors also. It helps to know what they are doing and how they are being perceived on social media.

Track key employees through their own sites and through what people are saying about them. In the wine industry, you know how important the winemaker, the owners and even the people in the tasting room are to many of your best customers. They feel connected to these people and will be loyal to the brand because of them.

Track industry keywords to see if your brand, company or products are being mentioned in the broader industry by consumers who may be looking for the type of product you produce.

Social media may not cost a lot when compared to print or electronic advertising but if you are going to be successful it does take time to do it right.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Preparing for the Future

A few weeks ago, Rob McMillan, an EVP with Silicon Valley Bank and founder of their wine division, wrote as part of his blog about his prediction for the slowdown of growth in wine sales starting around mid-2018 and into 2019. He continues to say that while sales probably won’t decline, he expects zero growth at that time.

His predictions are well researched, based on Nielsen data of wine sold through wholesale. It doesn’t include DTC sales, which is good news for the smaller wineries who sell mostly through direct to consumer channels, tasting rooms, wine clubs, etc. That means, however, that more time and effort needs to be put into marketing.

The other good thing about getting this information early is that you have time to plan for the next couple of years, to keep your sales rolling along at a fair pace, with increased sales and profit.

It also gives you the chance to start thinking about what wines are selling and what are lagging so you can focus more on the wines that your customers prefer. It doesn’t mean that you can’t make some less well-known varietals. Though before you commit to a large planning for these varietals, know how much of those wines are being sold and whether the sales are increasing year to year.

Start planning now for robust sales and marketing methods. Branch out to include things you may not have tried before or put more attention on the content, frequency and customer inclusion of your social media, emails and other ways to contact your customers and potential customers.

Preparing for less or no growth over the next couple of years works to your advantage even if the forecast turns out to be wrong. The promotion you do will not be wasted and you may find that you have the best year ever.

Thanks, for the heads up Rob… By looking at what may be coming up for 2018 and 2019, you will be in better shape to weather whatever comes your way.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Easy Ways to Increase Sales

If you want to increase your sales quickly and simply, good customer service is your biggest asset. It will increase customer good will, willingness to buy, and return visits. We talk a lot about sales skills, but if customer service is not the major part of sales, the sales skills are not going to help much.

I have been into many businesses where sales people try to push me, bully me and sometimes even shame me into buying. I don’t buy. If you provide me with good customer service, show you are interested in me and engage me, I will willingly and happily buy from you and come back to buy more.

Customer service is a compilation of different skills that help you, the sales person, focus on the customer, find out what s/he wants, and meet their expectations with not only your service but your products.

  1. Introductions: Welcome your customers to your business and immediately introduce yourself. Usually, if you introduce yourself the customer will introduce him/herself. If you don’t have a good memory, silently repeat the customers’ names three times and say to them: “John/Julie it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
  2. Ask A Question: Any number of questions can be asked:
  • Are you enjoying the lovely weather?
  • Is this your first visit?
  • Did you have anything special in mind today?
  • Are you visiting the area (if you are in a tourist area.)
  • You look familiar (if you think they may have been in before.

3. Listen to the Answers: It may be information you can refer back to that will help close a sale. People respond to people who pay attention, it makes them feel important. Don’t present a new query until your customers have finished answering the one before.

4. Be Patient: We all work at different speeds. Allow the customer the time to formulate an answer to your question or to make a decision. Count slowly and silently to five.  Use the same 5-second rule when you ask customers if they have any questions. A lot goes through people’s heads before they ask a question. They may have trouble formulating the question or don’t want to ask a silly question or appear ignorant in front of others.

5. Relax when you are around customers. You know that you have fifty things you need to get done by the end of the day, but your customers don’t. It’s not appropriate to make customers uncomfortable because they are taking up your time.

6. Don’t Assume: You don’t know whether a stranger who walks into your business is going to buy or not. You might think you do, but truly you don’t. It is very human to judge people, we do it all the time. So, if you find that you are judging, tell yourself that you may not be right. Then go about helping them to the buying decision.

Look for more customer service ideas next week.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Take the Time to Do Some Research

One of the things I like most about the work I do is that it involves a fair amount of research on different topics. I use the information I find to create handouts at seminars and for my weekly blogs. While the Internet has certainly simplified research, it also means that there is much, much more information available. The trouble is, once you get started it is hard to stop. I can easily spend half a day as one thing leads to another.

Market research is important in any business, though with the demands of business it is sometimes hard to get around to it in a formal way. Market research sounds so formal, although it can be done through informal ways that will give you the information you really need. When you talk to people who can give you insight, you are conducting market research.

Start by making a list of questions to ask your subjects and keep the questions short. There may be a couple of things you want to know or a list of twenty. However, don’t overwhelm your subjects with too many questions. Once you have your list of questions put them in order of the least to most important.

Choose different audiences, for example:

  • Employees (those who work in the areas in which you are trying to find answers.) You may want to give employees the questions and allow them to answer anonymously on the off chance that they feel their answers may offend you.
  • Customers are a wonderful wellspring of information. They will tell you what they like about your business, products, service, etc. or what they don’t like (usually in great detail.)
  • People who don’t buy your products but are part of your target audience. They can be another good avenue as they may not buy your product because they have never heard of you. While you think you are advertising and promoting to the right people, you may be missing a large group.
  • Competitors are another group. Send someone that they don’t know to visit their premises and ask the questions.
  • Suppliers or sales reps are a good source of information as they deal with many people in the same business you are in.
  • Professional organization to which you belong may have information that could be helpful to you.

When conducting market research be open to the answers you receive. Think about each of them seriously, rather than dismiss them because they don’t suit your mindset.

Enjoy your research.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Seeing Things Differently

Today was a red-letter day for me. As anyone who reads my blog knows, I fractured my femur condyle on June 6th of this year (a day that will live in infamy). I have spent almost three months in a wheelchair without being able to put any weight on my left leg. I have to tell you it has not been a fun summer.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been allowed to put 30% of my weight on my left leg. So I have been able (somewhat nervously) to stand up, as it is hard to judge what 30% of your weight feels like on a leg that has not been used for months.

Today the physical therapist told me I can now put 50% weight on my left leg. Then he said, that at 50% I can now walk with a walker. So up I got, taking my first tentative steps with my walker.

I am sure that most people have seen films of a brand new baby deer struggling to its feet to walk for the first time. That was me! Doing something that I know so well in a completely different way, learning to balance my weight differently so while I am lifting my right foot off the ground I am still only keeping 50% of my weight on my left leg, using the walker.

It started me thinking about how many other things we do, simple things that we have been doing for so long that we don’t remember when we learned them. We just do them automatically without thinking about them.

In the meantime so much has changed in the world around us that there may be much better ways to do some of these things. For example, are we making the best use of new avenues of technology, or are we doing things we have always done?

Or what about the look for your business – is it time for a refresh, a coat of paint in colors that are more up to date, or new accessories to bring everything to life?

Time passes so quickly and we don’t realize that our way of doing things, or our business can remind customers of times gone by. Look around your retail room, your procedures and how you conduct your business. Are their updates or upgrades you can make that will make your business more profitable and more appealing to customers? Find them and make the changes as you can.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Update Your Competitive Analysis

We all know that part of a good business survival plan is a well-researched competitive analysis. Before you start a business, investigating your competition, their products, prices, marketing and public relations plans, customer service, and more is paramount.

For many businesses, once the original competitive analysis is completed, the demands of creating and running a business take over and the time to stop to take notice of what your competitors (who may also be friends and colleagues) are doing and how the competition has grown changed can be overlooked. In the wine industry, the number of tasting rooms has grown exponentially throughout the US and Canada over the last few years and shows no signs of slowing down. This uptick in the number of competitors is going to affect your business.

Dig out your original marketing plan and look at the competitive analysis. If you don’t have a competitive analysis, now is a good time to start. Discover what your competitors are doing in the areas of:

  • Products (What are they making, how well and how much?)
  • Pricing (How much do the products cost?)
  • Sales (How are sales made: directly, through distributors, via the internet, etc.?)
  • Customer Service (How well do they treat their customers?)
  • Promotion/Advertising (How are they promoting their products? Explore all avenues.)
  • Strengths & Weaknesses (What are they doing well and what could they improve on?)

Start with the competitive businesses that are most like your own. Then branch out to similar businesses with the same target audience that may be making/selling different products in the same industry) or be in different price categories. Once you have the information delve into how successful they are, the number of customers you estimate they have and how your business compares. Try to put subjectivity to one side, for example thinking your product is better when it may just be somewhat different. Whether your product is better or not is for customers to decide. Remember that customer service makes a big difference in how customers perceive products.

Finally, take the time to visit your competitors. Much can be learned from going in as a customer. Or if you are well known to your competition send someone else in to do the assessment.

Knowing how well your competitors are doing is crucial to a successful business.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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How Effective Is Your Interaction With Customers?

Important points that many businesses fail to consider when they are sending out information to customers, whether that information is through social media, emails, text or even through the mail:

  • Will customers be interested in this?
  • How much spare time do recipients have to focus on my interactions with them?
  • Are they being overrun with messaging from other companies that is very similar to mine?

Here are some ideas of how to get your customers more engaged with your emails, social media posts, etc.

  1. Know your customers: If you are keeping up-to-date records of your customers likes and dislikes (including how they want to be contacted), tailor these interactions to their needs, wants and desires.
  1. Segmentation: You will need to segment your customer records by the interests of your customers, what they buy and what resonates with them. You will also have to put some time into getting this information from your customers. Though the time you spend will pay dividends. This is especially true of your best customers. Start with the top ten customers. Once you have got all the information for these customers move on to the next ten until you have at least 100 (depending on the size of the customer list).
  1. Perseverance: It may take time, though once your customers realize that you only send them information that will make a difference to them and their lives, they are more likely to read it and respond.
  1. Response: Quickly respond to all comments and questions that come to you through social media posts, emails or by phone. Whether the responses are positive or negative it’s important that you show your customers that they are important to you. In the case of social media respond to all positive and negative comments online, though you may wish to take additional response to negative comments offline if the problem is not one that can be ironed out easily. Once the problem is successfully handled, ask the customer to go back on social media to say that everything was taken care of.
  1. Know Your Competition: Select similar businesses to yours and sign up for their mailing/social media or email list. You need to know what they are sending to their customers so you can differentiate your business from theirs.

By making your customers as important to you and to your business as you are to them, your business will grow and become more successful.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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