Terrible Week (and it’s only just started)

Nature has a way shaking us up when we least expect it. Strong winds whipped up huge fires in Napa and Sonoma counties on Sunday night, which led to unthinkable devastation in the early hours of Monday morning and on through the day.

Many people were evacuated (I was just outside the evacuation area), So many lost houses (whole subdivisions were destroyed) and businesses. The north end of Santa Rosa has suffered amazing damage.

We are grateful to the police and fire departments that did such a good job of getting everyone out of harm’s way.

The fires are still out of control, but the winds, which were up to 45 miles an hour on Sunday night, have calmed down. We have fire departments from all over California helping out, so I believe they will get a handle on the fires soon. In the meantime, those of us still in homes are packed and ready to evacuate if needed

There have been so many different types of natural disasters this year that at times it’s hard to keep it in perspective. The way I see it we are only renting this planet and sometimes it has a mind of its own. So I will finish by saying the words I have been saying and hearing so much the last couple of days: Stay safe.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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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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Tips for Keeping Your Brain in Top Form

I have been catching up on my reading lately and have come across some great articles. Today’s blog is all about “Why the Modern World Is Bad for Your Brain,” which is an article by a neuroscientist, Dr. Gabija Toleikyte.

In this day and age, many of us are continually jumping from one task to another, both at work and at home, as we try to finish everything on our To Do lists. When we jump back and forth too much, according to Dr. Toleikyte, the brain’s attention systems will find it harder to focus, which has an impact on productivity. Dr. Toleikyte has a number of things you can do to help your brain be more productive. Here are some of her thoughts:

Take Regular Breaks

Okay, hands up how many of you do that? I thought so… not many. Dr. Toleikyte tells us that when we are tired and stressed the nutrients that are usually delivered to the brain shift to the most vital organs. “This leaves out more sophistic brain networks, such as the ones involved in creative ideas, sound decisions making or learning new information… and means our performance declines.”

Take frequent breaks (10 minutes for every hour.) While taking a 10-minute break every hour seems foreign to most people, you will be more effective. Also, work the most difficult tasks in the morning when your brain is most energetic.

Stop Multitasking

There is more information emerging that our brains are not made for multitasking. In actual fact, when we think we are multitasking we are merely quickly switching from one task to another. According to Dr. Toleikyte, “That has three consequences, we waste a lot of time, we are more likely to make mistakes, and we become stressed more easily.” So, the time we think we are saving by multitasking we lose when we have to do the work over again because it is not as good as it should be. If you do insist on multitasking, find yourselves a good editor or proofreader before you submit the project.

Break Tasks into Small Steps

Large tasks can be overwhelming, so split up the different elements of the task and attack them one at a time. Work for 15 or 20 minutes without interruption. Don’t take any phone calls or be available to other staff during this time. Yes, this can be hard in many jobs, so put a note on your office door or tell others that you are not available for the next few minutes and switch off the phone (including your cell). You may find that you are more productive once you get into the habit.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Warmth, An Important Skill for Leaders

I found a great article in the Guardian online with information from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University. The article is all about how showing warmth to co-workers, employees, etc. is an important part of being a boss. This article led me to another article by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman entitled “I’m The Boss! Why Should I Care If You Like Me?” that was originally published in the Harvard Business Review.

The article reminds us that emotions are contagious. “If a leader is angry or frustrated, those feeling will spread to others. Conversely, if a leader is positive and optimistic, those emotions also spread.” Anyone can have an off day or two. Life is full of twists and turns, so being in a good mood at all times is not realistic. However, if customers and your employees see you usually in a bad mood, short tempered or generally not an easy person to be around, neither the customers nor the employees will stay with you. An ability to connect with others will bring positive results on all fronts.

Your integrity is also important. The article asked the question, “Do others trust you to keep your commitments and promises? Are others confident that you will be fair and do the right thing?” The interesting thing is while your company may be making exceptional products if customers do not believe that you can be trusted they may well choose to take their business somewhere else.

In addition to what your customers should expect, if you wish to keep your employees, ask the question, “How can I help them excel in their jobs and expand their skills?” The article suggests being a coach, a mentor, and teacher. Your employees will remember you because you helped them further their careers. I still remember when I was in my early twenties (quite a while ago) and first got into marketing. I worked for an older woman who said to me, “I will teach you everything I can and if you can do the job better than I can, it’s yours.” I have never forgotten that or her and have adopted the same outlook.

Think about what you are doing for your customers and employees. Sometimes we have to make decisions that are not going to be popular, though when you do try to look at them from the other person’s or people’s point of view. It may be very different from your own.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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