It’s the Second Visit that Matters!

Almost anyone can make a great first impression

Andy Blue of Tasting Panel Magazine, in his November 2017 editor’s letter about new restaurant openings noted the importance of first impressions. He refers to those consumers who endeavor to visit restaurants immediately after their openings as “Samplers”. They love being early on the scene, asking their friends if they have yet visited this or that new restaurant and then enjoy bragging rights as first responders by sharing their ratings and recommendations. The window for restaurants according to Andy is about 60 days, after which the “Samplers” lose interest and move on to the latest shiny food scene entrants.

What happens then?

In a dynamic and robust market, if the restaurant hasn’t made an exceptional and astounding first impression the “Samplers” will not revisit. They have moved on and may never be back. I remember the old rule that you’d try a restaurant 2-3 times before coming to a conclusion, but maybe it wasn’t as competitive then, the news cycle was longer, or the economy wasn’t as healthy as it is today.

So how does this apply to your winery business?

We all know the adage – there is only one chance to make a great first impression, so I won’t go into detail about all the things you must do today to impress customers and deliver a premium experience. However, I was recently surprised and disappointed after visiting an urban winery and tasting room with friends. I wasn’t familiar with their wines or location so I was excited about the outing, and didn’t call ahead or mention my industry affiliation as a winery publicist.

Our visit inspired this article and reminds me that if you can’t make a good first impression, the second visit is a non-starter. Here’s what didn’t happen 1) No greeting from staff or owners when we arrived 2) No menus for almost 5 minutes 3) No water was offered (although food was available to purchase) 4) Wine lists arrived without any explanation of the wines, many being proprietary blends with unfamiliar names 5) No one asked if it was our first time here in which case an introduction and explanation would be warranted 6) We waited another 5-10 minutes to order. 7) And the final straw… the owners were fiddling with their music system, selecting LPs to play (they do have good taste in music) and never took a moment to stop and introduce themselves, which would have mattered. I think you get the picture.

So what about that second visit?

We left having enjoyed the wines and our conversation, but unanimously agreed we wouldn’t return. There are too many other wine bars and tasting rooms that get it. This applies to your wine business because good wine and a hip venue are no longer enough. Exceptional and astounding customer service (however that relates to your brand) is required.

It’s the return visit that matters. Recurring revenue streams are built when new consumers have been pampered and indulged and decide to bring their friends and family. This is when they give you give you permission to market to them, buy your wines and join your wine club – because they can relate to your brand. You made them feel special. If you are interested in becoming an exceptional customer service winery business, please read What is your Tasting Room Strategy? Have you communicated your strategy and tactics, and choreographed it with your staff? If not, do it soon lest you be forgotten.

CARL GIAVANTI is a Winery Publicist with a DTC Marketing background. He’s going on his 9th year of winery consulting. Carl has been involved in business marketing and public relations for over 25 years; originally in technology, digital marketing and project management, and now as a winery media relations consultant. Clients are or have been in Napa Valley, Willamette Valley, and the Columbia Gorge. (www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.com/Media).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Does Social Media Help Me Sell Wine?

The Ultimate Question. The Ultimate Answer?

Engaging in social media is like having your own PR department. I like to call it Consumer PR. You are initiating a conversation about your winery and presenting your brand to the public. For small wineries this can be a little scary due to perceived loss of control. Traditional media approaches like press releases, media outreach, advertising, and submitting wines for review are very important, but for small wineries the potential new audience reach and the economics around social media are compelling.

One of my long time clients recently said “Social Media is a waste of time.” This is puzzling to me because this is one way many people like to communicate. Interestingly, this specific winery has more social followers and gets more engagement than most other wineries. I believe that proving social media helps sell wine is the real issue. Before social media, could a winery prove that advertising, media coverage, events and festivals, or printed materials helped sell wine? Does anything other than hand selling wine help sell wine? The answer is yes and no, and proof requires vision, commitment, patience and an earnest effort to track and analyze the results of your marketing efforts. The reality is that the path to purchase is more complicated than ever and interconnected with other marketing efforts.

Brand Impressions

Brand image is incremental. Marketing professionals have long said that it takes between 7 – 13 touches to get a new customer commitment to purchase. With social media, wineries can achieve those touches and targeted impressions much faster than with traditional media approaches. Remember that the nature of social media is social, and that winery promotions typically should be a mix of informational (80%) and promotional (20%). In other words, establish your credibility before “The Ask.” Writing educational articles for your website about relevant wine topics and responding to all queries and comments is a great way to do this.

Engaging Consumers

Your DTC strategy is predicated on having a unique message – See my article What is your Voice? With social media, it’s easy to take an image based approach. Use Instagram and Facebook. Tag people, other wineries, wine industry businesses and associations to spread your message. Use photo captions and hashtags to focus on those customers who engage with brands online to expand the conversation. These customers spend more on average and have identified wine as an “Interest.” This makes targeting the conversation much easier. Twitter now allows images without character count, and using category hashtags like #wine #pinotnoir #winery #tastingroom help Twitter users search and find your posts.

Amplifying your message

Most people won’t act unless you ask them to. Include one (no more than two) call-to-action in every post, and include a link to your website or shopping cart, or dedicated landing page. You should always ask for likes, follows, comments, shares, tags, or check-ins to prompt readers to engage and help extend the reach of your message and ultimately build your base. Additionally, and unfortunately, most of your social media posts won’t be seen unless you advertise on social media, so having a modest monthly budget for this is imperative.

Consumer PR

Wineries understand the 3-Tier system. Here’s an analogy. “Social Influencers” are the distributors of impressions and a channel to new followers and potential buyers. Influencers can be print or online writers with a strong social presence and lots of followers – photo journalists; wine, food or travel bloggers; videographers or podcasters. They can also be consumers or brand ambassadors with strong wine interests and lots of followers. You can develop and nurture relationships with these influencers on a casual organic or paid basis, but it is certainly another way to amplify your message and indirectly sell wine by using social media.

The Ultimate Excuse

The ultimate excuse I hear from small wineries is – We’re just a small winery. We don’t have the staff or capacity to spend lots of time on social media, tracking and analytics, or marketing in general.

The Ultimate Response

The ultimate response is that you really don’t have any choice, and we already know the reasons – too many wineries, too few viable distribution options, limited access to on-premise and off premise outlets, and too much big money moving into your market with the wherewithal to promote their brands. And trust me; social media is just one of the tools in their arsenal. Does Social Media really help sell wine? Probably not directly, but if you stay top of mind, you will sell wine when people are ready to buy, otherwise you may easily be forgotten.

Do Small Wineries really need KPIs?

Continuous Improvement – preparing for the competitive storm

By Carl Giavanti and Aron Brajtman

If I had mentioned KPI’s eight years ago when I started doing marketing consulting, I would have been escorted out of the room, maybe even the AVA. That is not the case anymore.

Measuring your sales performance is critical, as much as we’d like to not believe it. Remember the “field of dream” days, when you could just make great wine and it would sell itself?  Until the great recession (2008-2009) timeframe you may have had this experience. We have fond memories of inventory depletions, really big Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, and festivals and events where you sold a lot of wine. I remember many wineries saying they didn’t bother getting emails from consumers, nor doing a lot of marketing or tracking sales performance. KPIs? What?

Now we all know those days are long gone and wineries must run themselves like well oiled marketing machines to ensure their survival. I like to say that 50% of total staff time (including your own) needs to be spent on marketing – wholesale, retail, trade and DTC – whatever your channel mix.

Peter Drucker, business management guru once stated “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”, which brings us to the point of this article – Key Performance Indicators.

Don’t think these business measurements apply to your winery? Unless you are a cult winery that is fully allocated with a substantial wait list, bear with me and continue reading.

KPIs are a way for wineries to define success and measure performance, and make progress toward your business goals. For most small producers, DTC goals are selling more wine, improving sales efficiency, acquiring and retaining customers, and retaining staff and improving morale.

This article is primarily concerned with improving DTC sales performance, because the pool of high-end high-frequency consumers is limited and there are many more wineries marketing to them than ever. Additionally, we know that consumers can be fickle. They support your brand and bring their friends around when the value they get from interacting with the winery exceeds the price they are asked to pay. This is a topical issue as we are seeing early signs that the “premiumization” trend is weakening, with the introduction of new marks and second labels at lower price points.

When I query winery owners and managers about tracking and using metrics, I find that most can give me basic sales data such as total revenue by month or compared to last year, percent of tasting room versus wine club sales, DTC compared to other channels, and statistical data such as number of club members, size of email list, number of social followers, etc. However, not everyone successfully tracks total number of tasting room visitors (new, repeat, paid, comp, club), referral sources (how they heard about you), and staff performance and labor metrics.

Once you are capturing all of this data you’re ready to turn it into actionable management information that will drive business results. If you are not great with spreadsheets, or current system does not provide performance tracking functionality, find one that does.

Here are some basic winery DTC sales measurements (KPIs) to implement:

  • Sales per employee: The higher the number in the tasting room indicates whether the staff focuses on supplying the customer with value and whether staff captures a portion of that value for the winery.
  • Conversion ratios: What percentage of visitors to the tasting room actually buy? What percentage join the wine club? What percentage leave their email for further communication?
  • Average order value (AOV): Average sale per tasting room visitor? Is the trend going up?
  • Average annual wine club sales per member? What is the average add-on percentage?
  • What is the Wine Club attrition rate annually?
  • What is average tenure? What measures are taken to retain loyal customers?

Tie your winery’s goals to these measurements and clearly communicate the importance to staff:

  • Post individual, team and winery goals
  • Review and make adjustments monthly
  • Share success, and highlight team members
  • Establish a bonus program to reward staff

Continuous Improvement is the mantra for small production wineries and the key to survival in this ultra competitive environment. Start now – Create goals, track data, establish KPIs, then measure, improve and Repeat!

I track wine industry benchmarks for these KPIs. Feel free to contact me if you’d like that data.

Finally, thanks to Aron Brajtman for initiating this article, providing the KPIs from an accountant point of view and reminding me that even wineries need to be run as businesses. If you found the KPIs helpful, the next step is to understand KFIs (Key Financial Indicators) such as Liquidity, Earnings Growth, Profitability, Activity, Efficiency and Leverage. If you’d like a copy of the winery Financial Metrics white paper by Aron, please email me request at cgiavanti@mindspring.com.

CARL GIAVANTI is Winery Publicist with a DTC Marketing background. He’s completing his 8th year of winery consulting. Carl has been involved in business marketing and public relations for over 25-years; originally in technology, digital marketing and project management, and now as a winery media relations consultant.  Clients are or have been in Napa Valley, Willamette Valley, and the Columbia Gorge.  (www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.com/Media).

ARON BRAJTMAN is a CPA and the owner of a CPA firm that deals uniquely in supplementing the operational skills and talents of entrepreneurs with accounting and finance strategy. Aron has over 30 years of experience providing accounting and business solutions to small and mid-sized businesses and nonprofit institutions. He is located in a fast growing wine region in Canada known as Prince Edward County where he provides services to local wineries and other businesses. http://www.abrajtman.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Email Marketing Part II?

The Persistence and Benefits of Email Marketing

Co-Authored by Carl Giavanti & Patty Ross

This article is an update from Part One which I shared with The Grapevine Magazine readers in July 2015. It’s my feeling that email marketing is more important than ever as a strategic part of your DTC Marketing programs.

Why does email marketing persist? I ask this because there are so many other exciting marketing subjects such as next gen wine clubs, experienced based tasting room programs, paid advertising on social media platforms, text marketing, mobile marketing, and Winery PR. To paraphrase, it appears that the death of email marketing has been greatly exaggerated. And here’s why – Patty Ross, a DTC Consultant Network member, and owner of Virtually For You says “For every $1.00 invested, email marketing is shown to return $44.25 according to a study by EmailExpert on the ROI of email marketing. It has the highest conversion rate by far of any other form of direct marketing.”

Email marketing persists because it’s affordable and indispensable to your DTC success; and email marketing is one of the best ways to facilitate communications and build brand loyalty; and to promote either owned content (your website, blog, photos, videos, etc.), or to use earned media (your 3rd party endorsements, media coverage, accolades). It also persists because it is low risk to subscribers, permission based and your followers will receive information related to their specific interests.

Benefits of Email Marketing:

  • Subscription is opt in and can easily be cancelled, so there is little risk for new followers
  • Subscribers will receive your communications, unlike social posts which are now highly filtered
  • Can promote adding your email to address books, and your email will definitely land in Inboxes
  • Email Marketing System publishing is now highly integrated with social media networks
  • Analytics and Tracking allow you to see results (opens, clicks, bounces), so you can take action
  • Multiple collection options include paper signup forms, iPad or Tablets, your website, and POS

How to Get Started

If you are not already sending emails to your lists, start by creating an annual marketing calendar. Map out the full year, considering all holidays, winery club events, new releases and area events you may be involved in. Then fill in the calendar with promotions you may typically run like Black Friday specials, library releases, etc. Putting your winery business on a calendar ahead of time also helps you see what you might need to plan to attract new visitors and bring in wine club members on a regular basis. This may seem basic, but many wineries tend to operate “on the fly” and give up when they run out of ideas. You can always adjust the plan as you add events or promotions, but get the foundation down.

Test, Test, Analyze and Test

Once you start sending emails, make sure you test different types of emails, do split tests known as A/B testing to see what different approaches work best and analyze the results so you can adjust your approach next time. All E-Mail Marketing platforms provide basic analytics like open and click through rates. You can also link your emails to Google Analytics and create “goals” to follow the links and clicks all the way to a sale. You should know the basics of Opens, Clicks and Conversions to help you get the most out of your email campaigns.

All of this brings me to the point of this article. Email Marketing is a proven driver of actions you want your current and prospective customers to take. It’s inexpensive and you can segment and target your audience specific to their interests and track the results. If your winery has a tasting room, this is where you drive traffic to promote your wines, and where you’ll be able to really connect with people. And, if subscribers are out of state, you can communicate by pointing them to your website and hope to transact business there. If you’re one of my email subscribers and read this article in my next newsletter, I’ll suggest that you “click here to read more”, which takes you out to my website blog page where this article resides. I want you to read the conclusion of this article on my website, which is my point here. It’s difficult to sell wine with newsletters and social media, but you can create calls to action that take your customers where you can sell wine, either in person or on your website.

Successful Content Marketing is imperative for small producers to build their brands and to sell with direct to consumer. Targeted content increases the likelihood of success. Use strong Subject Lines to build immediate curiosity as attention spans and reading times are so short these days. Segment your email lists and deliver content relevant to specific group’s interests. Shipping promos for out of state subscribers and local events for those in state are simple examples.

How many email subscribers do you need? The answer is as many as you can get, and more specifically a minimum of 1,000 to 5,000 are good goals. If you aren’t already incenting your staff to sell signups, please do so. I attended the 2016 DTC Wine Symposium and the range of spiffs paid per signup was reported as $1-$5.00 each. Sound like a lot? Would you pay $2.50 for a return on investment of $44.25? You bet you would.

Be Consistent!

I can never say that enough. Consistency is truly the key when it comes to e-mail marketing. Don’t send out one email and then give up. Don’t be afraid to send more emails to general interest subscribers; and your club members want to hear beyond reminders to update their credit card. Use the 80/20 rule (Educate/Promote) and you’ll be fine. Your subscribers will appreciate it, and when you do offer special deals they’ll take notice. And don’t relegate e-mail marketing duties to your already busy wine club or tasting room manager where the job of sending e-mails usually falls behind taking care of visitors, doing tours and washing glasses. Find a dedicated person to help you keep the calendar on track! Newsletter marketing will boost wines sales and the effects can be immediate.

CARL GIAVANTI has been involved in business marketing and public relations for over 25-years; originally in technology, digital marketing and project management, and now as a winery media relations consultant. Carl started by focusing on DTC Marketing for wineries 7 years ago, and formed a Winery PR Consultancy over 4 years ago (www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.com/Media). Clients are or have been in Napa Valley, the Carneros, Willamette Valley, and the Columbia Gorge.

PATTY ROSS, owner of Virtually For You (http://www.virtuallyforyou.com) has been assisting wineries and other small businesses with digital marketing, social media, email marketing, tasting room support and wine club logistics for almost 15 years. Patty’s has helped winery clients in Napa, Sonoma, Monterey, Mendocino and Paso Robles, and currently resides on the Central Coast of California.

CONTENT Drives Winery Recognition; Now More Than Ever

Leveraging all three types of content is critical for small producers

Let’s face it; brand building was easier 20 years ago. Small production wineries today are in an extremely competitive environment. There are close to 9,000 wineries and growing in the U.S. alone. International brands are flooding our markets with good quality and aggressively priced imports. Add to that the consolidation of U.S. distributors, and you have lots of boutique wineries desperately seeking attention and representation from far fewer distributors. Twenty years ago it was not uncommon to be 100% allocated to wholesalers. Today, this is not a realistic model. Here are some wine market facts to consider:

  • 1995 – 2,600 Wineries and 3,000 Distributors*
  • 2008 – The Great Recession starts. Distributors consolidate their books and themselves, and focus on larger, well-known brands
  • 2015 – 8,800 Wineries and 700 Distributors*
  • Today – Distributors work hard selling major brands, and are not necessarily looking for small producers with premium-priced wines
  • Today – five or six national beverage distributors control 65% of all wines wholesaled nationally
  • Today – Large retailers have monopoly power. Retailers with private labels are proliferating and call the shots (Total Wine, Trader Joe’s, Costco)
  • Today – There are fewer print publications with paid staff journalists and wine columns to discovery and report your winery story, and review your wines
  • Today – Wine journalism as a whole is moving from print to a digital medium. How will these outlets generate revenue? They will be looking to you for advertising and/or sponsorship dollars
  • Today – Online wine writers continue to proliferate. Which ones are in your strategic markets? How many are credible and have impact?
  • Today – Wine publications are starting to screen your wines in advance of permitting submissions due to sheer volume alone
  • Today – Wine publications may want you to pay for high scores with label placement and ads in their print and online editions
  • Today – It’s a pay-to-play world and getting consumer mindshare and media recognition can be difficult and expensive
  • Today – Wine consumers are overwhelmed with the sea of wine available
  • But – All is not lost! Please read on!

Today’s challenging marketplace requires small wineries to take control of your own destiny – both DTC Marketing and Wine Media Outreach are the key. Distributors are (for the most part) not going to help you “build your brand” unless there is a quick ROI and minimal risk. It is essential for small producers to tell their own stories, and get their brands and wines to market and be recognized by consumers. I talk specifics on how to get coverage for your brand in this article: Winery PR in a Pay-to-Play World.

All of this brings me to the point of this article—the critical importance of Content. Let’s review the three types of marketing content: owned, paid and earned content.

Owned Content is what you’ve created and actually own—your website, social media platforms, winery blog and news, photos, videos, etc. Paid Content is exposure you purchase—advertising, label placement, etc. And finally, Earned Content is the most important if you want to expand your reach beyond the subscribers and followers you already have and are already marketing to.

Earned Content or Earned Media are third party endorsements by wine writers or other media outlets —media coverage for your brand that results in accolades like feature articles, media mentions, wine reviews and scores. This is also why brand building through media outreach is imperative, as there are too many wineries for writers to discover unless you are being proactive. Can you still be a wine media darling just by making exceptionally good wine? Maybe, but don’t count on it. Put a media program in place to ensure your news and Your Voice is heard.

This area of Earned Content or Earned Media is important because it contributes to the library of content your winery can use in its marketing efforts. Wine is still an esoteric luxury purchase for many consumers, and they rely on expert opinions to support their buying decisions. Links to articles, podcasts, and video interviews about your brand are great marketing content. Share your scores, medals and other achievements in your general interest and wine club newsletters, and on social media. These are the bragging rights that you’ve earned, and that makes a huge difference in today’s wine world. On the flip side, garnering media attention but not doing anything with it, such as mentioning and linking to it on your website, blog and social media pages, is a terrible waste of a precious resource.

Despite our new 21st Century challenges, these are actually sunny days for the premium wines category. Get your Marketing and PR game on now, and bank enough Earned Media content to help you weather the more difficult times to come.

*Source: SVB 2015 State of the Wine Industry

CARL GIAVANTI has been involved in business marketing and public relations for over 25-years; originally in technology, digital marketing and project management, and now as a winery media relations consultant. Carl started by focusing on DTC Marketing for wineries 7 years ago, and formed a Winery PR Consultancy over 4 years ago (www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.com/Media). Clients are or have been in Napa Valley, the Carneros, Willamette Valley, and the Columbia Gorge.

Why Email Marketing Part Two?

By Carl Giavanti

This article is an update of Part One which I posted in December 2012. Much has changed with email marketing over the last three years, especially how ubiquitous and technologically improved email marketing systems (EMS) have become, and how valuable email marketing as part of your DTC arsenal.

Why discuss email marketing at all? There are so many other marketing subjects of interest i.e. Loyalty clubs, social media, mobile marketing, winery PR. Mid-year planning is a good time to get back to the basics, and email is one of the primary branches of the content tree, leading to many other points of connection with consumers. I still meet people who are just getting started with social media, mobile devices and other tech, but I know for a fact that just about everyone already has an email address.

The value of email is to facilitate communications and build brand loyalty. It is likely that some form of social media will replace email communications in the future. Evidence of this is generational. My mother who is in her 80’s doesn’t have email and can’t be bothered. My niece who is 15 may have an email address, but has only given me her phone number for texting.

There are several things I like about email marketing compared to social media (at least right now):
· Subscription is opt in and can easily be cancelled, so there is little risk for new followers.
· Subscribers will receive your communication, unlike social posts which are now highly filtered.
· Promote adding the winery email to address books, and your email will definitely land in In-boxes.
· Email Marketing System (EMS) publishing is now highly integrated with social media networks.
· Analytics and Tracking allow you to see results (opens, clicks, bounces), so you can take action.

All of this brings me to the point of this article. Email Marketing is a proven driver of actions you want current and prospective customers to take. It’s inexpensive and you can segment your audience (prospects, buyers, club members), target specific to their interests and track the results. If your winery has a tasting room, this is how you drive traffic to promote your wines, and where you’ll be able to really connect with people. And, if subscribers are out of state, you can communicate by pointing them to your website and hope to transact business there. If you’re one of my email subscribers and read this article in my next newsletter, I’ll suggest that you “click here to read more”, which takes you out to this blog post where the balance of this article resides. I want you to read the conclusion of this article on my website, which is my point here. It’s difficult to sell wine using email and social media, but you can create calls to action that take your customers to where you can sell wine – in person or on your website.

Content has become as important as the media through which it is conveyed; and targeted content even more so. Use strong Subject Lines and one good call to action to build immediate curiosity, as attention spans and reading time are so shorter these days. Segment your email lists and deliver content relevant to specific group interests. Shipping promos for out of state subscribers and local events for those in state are simple examples.

Newsletters are just one of many ways you can build customers and followers. It is critically important that your newsletter is consistent with your advertising, presents well on social media sites, sizes correctly on mobile devices and is easy to share. Additionally, you can create integration and build your emails lists with signup forms on your website pages and your social networks.

I see so many newsletters with content that seems very noisy and spammy with lots of pitches and sales promos. I get that, but your newsletter needs to be simple and appear educational. Use the 80/20 rule (Educate/Promote) and you’ll be fine. People will appreciate it, and when you do offer special deals they’ll take notice. Newsletter marketing will boost wines sales and the effect can be immediate.

What is your Tasting Room Strategy?

Tasting Rooms are critical to your survival

Here are the facts, according to a Silicon Valley Bank presentation I recently attended, on the “2015 State of the Wine Industry” – In 1995 there were 2,000 wineries and 3,000 distributors in the U.S. Those seem like pretty good odds for getting your wines into someone’s book, right? Today we are faced with an entirely different reality. 7,000 wineries are entering 2015 in search of just 700 distributors. What does that tell you if you are a small production winery?

While entering new markets is certainly feasible, it has now become more difficult due to the consolidation of wholesalers nationally, and focus on volume based brands. This indicates the need to focus on the Direct to Consumer (DTC) sales channel. And at the strategic core of every DTC program is… The Tasting Room. When I write Marketing and Action Plans for winery clients I always start with a brand discussion, followed by the real estate. Do you have a tasting room, or plan to? Is absolutely every aspect of the room a reflection of your brand strategy? It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does need to be memorable.

Is there a better place to create brand ambassadors than your tasting room? Having one affects your ability to sell wine, grow and profit from loyalty programs, and derive new subscribers and followers to market to. So the strategy is to drive traffic to your tasting room, and use engaging and authentic service to sell wine. From a sales and marketing perspective, there are only three things that you and your tasting room must excel at every day:

1) Selling Wine (66% close rate is your benchmark)

2) Selling Wine Club (10% should be your goal)

3) Getting Emails for your newsletter (I think 80% of visitors is a reasonable target)

It falls to winery owners and managers to ensure staff understands that along with the myriad of other duties, that job #1 is to create brand ambassadors. The way to do that is to out-service your competition. So, glass polishing can wait. Service first!

On the subject of “Service Talks“, and wine descriptions walk… hire staff that are a reflection of your winery brand, that you are proud to have as representatives. It’s not enough to have an earnest friends volunteer to help if they can’t ask for wine and club orders, and don’t provide exceptional customer service. Whoever presents your wines will become the face of your winery, and experiences they provide will persist indefinitely. Hire people who are natural hospitality types and Invest in their wine education. I have a few winery clients that run wonderful tasting room operations; and some have wanted to affirm public perception. We use surveys to get anonymous feedback from visitors and club members; and also hire “Secret Shoppers” and provide a script of questions, responses and talking points to engage tasting room staff. The results go to the old saw “be careful what you ask for”. We can all stand to improve our operations, right?

So, why are Tasting Rooms so important to consumers? It is no longer enough to sell great wine! Save technical details for the small percent of visitors who ask. I tell my clients in no uncertain fashion “Stop Selling Products”; “Start Telling Stories”. People expect to interact and engage with your brand, so your tasting room should have visual displays that are consistent with your brand identify; Visitors also want to have memorable “Experiences“. And the best way to do that is with well thought out questions about their interests and wine knowledge; and in a controlled environment – your tasting room. If you really think about it, don’t we all want to discover that special and reliable place we can always go and bring our friends and “where everyone knows your name” (think “Cheers!” Wine Bar)?

Why not allow guests to choose what type of experience they’d like? There has been a very positive trend toward offering different “Guest Experiences” at your winery tasting room; to have personal hands on interactions of their choice. Examples of this might include 1) Classic standing tasting bar 2) Open seated and served tasting 3) Reserved seating wine and food pairing experience 4) private space for wine club members 5) Guided educational vineyard tours 6) separate space for club members 7) Outdoor Patio or Picnic tables. Options 2-7 have proven to both increase average sales per visit, and new wine club signups. The point is to get away from the tasting bar and people moving.

Let’s face it, these days people have too much information available and so many choices; of who to patronize and which brands to introduce to their friends. First impressions are more critical than ever, and we are tasked with being accessible and authentic in all of our interactions. This highlights the need for consistency of messaging and high-touch high-energy service provided across all your marketing platforms starting with Tasting Room. Deliver good memories and people will take home memorabilia (your wines!). Although this is cliché’, it’s worth stating anyway. It’s the second sale that matters, isn’t it?

How do you know if you are successful? Tracking Metrics and Conversion rates against goals. Tracking new daily visitors, buyers, sales, club signups, email subscribers and how they heard of you is a must; Compare your results to industry benchmarks, calculate your conversion rates, and adjust the goals and incentives of your tasting room staff monthly. You will improve your sales conversions by tracking user preferences and history – so use your POS or invest in a CRM to record, segment and target customer preferences; or at least use your EMS (email system) to track notes, history and interactions.

Other TR best practices – offer strong industry discounts (25-30%) to other tasting room – they are your best referral source; when it’s busy send staff out to network and see what other tasting rooms are doing; have staff do daily Facebook posts in your winery’s voice with the mood and a photo of the day; send email thank you notes to all significant daily buyers (you got their email correct)? Ask them to follow on your social platforms; add them to your EMS (email marketing system), and setup auto-generated offers in one week; always send hand written thank you cards to new wine club members; Tweet daily tasting lineups or promos using common hashtags. Oh, and if you’re not doing this already, please visually acknowledge me within 7-10 seconds when I walk in your door.