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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What Makes Your Business Different?

To be successful, your customers and prospective customers have to know (and be constantly reminded of) how your business is different from other businesses in your area that are selling similar products.

Without differentiation, consumers will have a hard time remembering your business. I work with a number of wineries and regularly talk to wine consumers about their experiences when they go wine tasting. After consumers have been to six or seven wineries during a day of tasting, they have a hard time recalling all the wineries they went to or what they tasted where. They will, however, remember a winery dog, a beautiful garden, a particularly friendly and helpful staff member or a wine varietal they particularly liked, especially if the wine was made from an unusual grape. These are some of the differences that make a business stand out from the crowd.

I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from the book Neuromarketing:

“In a sales context, the absence of contrast – especially when a prospect has difficulty understanding the differences between your product and others – will bring the prospect’s decision-making ability to a halt.”

There are many types of differentiation: products, service, price (either high or low), quality, location, are just a few. The important thing is to choose a concept, word or phrase you want consumers to think of when they think of your business. Though if you want the customer to buy it has to be something that differentiates your business from everyone else’s in the mind of these consumers.

If you are interested in delving further into how to differentiate your business in the minds of consumers, I suggest you read, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” by Al Ries and Jack Trout, which made a great impression on me when I first read it, many years ago. I have read it many times since then and it’s as relevant now (or perhaps even more so) that it was then.

If you have not differentiated your business, now is a good time to begin. Start by asking your managers and staff, what they think makes your business stand out from the crowd and then ask some of your regular customers what it is that keeps them coming back. That will give you a good start.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Design Your Customer Experience

I have been doing a lot of research lately in the customer experience and found that more than ever the experience is what differentiates our companies and our products from our competitors.

The first question to be answered is why the customer experience is so important. The fact is that the customer or user experience is the single most important differentiator and critical in today’s marketplace. There are many differentiators but as industries mature they become less important than customer service and the user experience. Your brands differentiation strategy should change and evolve as the market matures and competition intensifies.

Taking a look at some of the differentiators that have been used:

Product differentiation: This differentiation is not sustainable in many industries as the changes and improvements in product come along so quickly that your competitors can quickly outpace your abilities to change. And as quickly as it came your advantage disappears.

Price differentiation: You can be the lowest price, but that can destroy profitability and if another company comes along with even lower prices (think K-Mart vs WalMart) you are in an unsustainable battle.

The high priced differentiator of the luxury or ultra premium brands takes a large marketing and promotional budget to establish and cuts the size of your market quite drastically.

In addition, and most importantly, the majority of customers say they would be willing to pay more for a better customer experience. I am definitely one of those people.

Your customers have higher expectations of service than they used to and when they don’t have a good experience they do not go quietly, instead they turn to social media to give voice to the frustrations to a wide variety of people. Research has shown that more than a quarter of customers who have bad experience post their experiences of social media.

If you are not already focused on providing the best experience, now is a great time to shift you focus to a customer experience model by making the experience you provide personal and individual.

More about the customer experience in next week’s blog.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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