Browsing Tag

sales

Dear (U.S.) Wine Industry no. 2

Get in the Garage: Innovate by Embracing Limitations

Back in November of 2008 Wired magazine had a short but incredibly sweet article/essay on something they dubbed the “Garage Economy.” (Back to the Garage: How Economic Turmoil Breeds Innovation written by senior writer Daniel Roth – I highly recommend taking a look at it.)

In the article, Roth brings up an incredibly simple but overlooked point – tough economic times are the perfect breeding ground for fearless genius, but most industry leaders focus on cutting back rather than taking chances and moving forward.

In periods of economic turmoil, people are hungry and work cheap, and entrenched companies often concentrate on in-house cost-cutting instead of exploring new markets, which can explode with the next turn of the business cycle.

-Daniel Roth, “Back to the Garage…” Wired issue 16.12

For those that know me, my love affair with this concept is not surprising – it echoes one of my most firm beliefs: OUT OF STRUCTURE COMES GENIUS. Meaning that the more limitations one is given, the more creative that person must be to succeed. Structure forces us to take a look at what we want to accomplish, distill it down, take stock of all our resources, and find a more effective way to reach our goals. This “structure” can be anything from the number of hours in a day, budget limitations, non-traditional resources, or in this case, an international recession.

Welcome to Your New Office

Social media is a widespread example of this, both within the wine industry and beyond. Even as large companies cut back their advertising costs (sorry print & tv), they need brand awareness and sales more than ever. What’s the solution? Free social networks. Resources are re-directed to educate employees about social media (ideally, otherwise see this post), and instead of spending millions of dollars a year purchasing magazine ads, companies spend a fraction of that actually interacting directly with their target consumers. (One of the most incredible side effects of this is that the tiny 1200 case winery has the same chance of succeeding in this medium as the behemoth.) The question is, if all these companies weren’t being forced to cut back due to the economy, would they have made the same decisions to invest their energies in social media? Or would they have continued down the familiar path of traditional advertising?

Because of a seemingly perfect storm of economic restriction, there is a petri dish atmosphere for growing new ideas. For wineries, maybe it’s finding a way to boost direct sales when the Three-Tier System is failing them. Maybe it’s going out into the community and giving back and building a cult following. Maybe it’s forgoing glass bottles in favor of reusable metal containers/kegs for On-Site accounts. No matter what solutions companies come up with, it’s important to remember that these ideas are born out of structure and limitations. Companies that put their heads in the sand and ignore these conditions, or companies that are boarding up the windows to weather the storm, will never put themselves in the position of innovating.

Let’s admit it, the outlook is bleak when you maintain the status quo. Embrace all the limitations facing you – decrease in wine club membership, loss of a distributor, drooping sales, old-fashioned branding – gather them all up, find the smartest people you know, and GET IN THE GARAGE.

Let Your Sales Flag Fly: 5 Tips for Boosting Holiday Direct Sales

As the “O” of O,N,D draws to a close, there’s not a winery out there that’s not feeling the squeeze – or lack thereof.  It seems that smaller wineries and boutiques are hardest hit, with retailers and restaurants alike eschewing these lesser known bottles for product with recognizable names and brand affinity. This doesn’t hurt just businesses in the wine industry – consumers will only have a fraction of the choices they would normally have this season for gifts and special occasion wines. With small businesses losing ground in retail and restaurant environments and consumers looking for more variety, wineries have a chance to make up the loss this holiday season with two magical words: Direct Sales.

At one time taken for granted and simply relegated to the “Wine Club” list, direct sales will be many businesses bread and butter this season. The unprecedented access to new consumers via social media and the significantly higher profit margin of selling bottles at full retail give wineries both the platform and the flexibility they need to be creative and drive sales for the season.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds. There is a tremendous amount of planning, logistics, creativity, outreach, time and effort involved in pulling together a successful direct sales campaign. But the payoff, for this season and for holidays to come, is well worth the effort. Below are a few tips on how to formulate the plan that’s right for YOU.

  1. Assemble a Team and Make the Commitment – Hand-pick a small group of people within the business to help create and execute the plan. These should be people with different skills and interests that you can draw from to build a solid direct sales plan. Once you’ve assembled your team, make the commitment to create a plan and see it through – and ask that they do the same.
  2. Take Stock of Your Resources – Take a good hard look at the resources you have at your disposal, and I mean everything. Take into account  the obvious like your mailing list, wine club, upcoming tasting events, etc., but also think outside the box a bit. Is there an artist in your midst? Is your young tasting room employee a social networking whiz? Have you earned a nickname from the locals? Get your team together and write up a list of these resources. Keep this list in full view while you are coming up with your plan.
  3. Give People a Reason to Buy – It’s not just enough to have the product, you must give your consumers a reason to purchase YOUR product. Is it great pricing? A special bottling? Are you donating some of your proceeds to charity? Is your winemaker signing the bottles? Look to your list of resources and come up with a reason or reasons why people must have your wine.
  4. Create a Full Campaign – Sales campaigns are not just for huge corporations. Gather your team, keep your list of resources in full view and let yourself be a marketing genius. Create a fun and catchy name for the plan, set your goals and timeline, create special pricing or shipping terms, and make sure you have the infrastructure to support everything on your website and in the tasting room. Aside from having all the logistics in place, it’s also important to have FUN while creating your campaign. Using humor is a great way to get people interested in your product and campaign.  The more fun it is for you, the more fun it will be for your potential consumers to be a part of it all.
  5. Use Social Media – If you could push a button and magically reach THOUSANDS of new consumers that you’ve never had access to before, would you use it? OF COURSE. That “magic button” is social media. It doesn’t matter if you’re not on facebook, or don’t understand twitter – find someone who does. There is no reason to deny your business of the successful season you need simply because you don’t “get” facebook. Social media is a tool that businesses must use to get the most out of any campaign. Choose someone intimately familiar with social networks to be on your team and utilize their knowledge and contacts.

It’s not too late to make the most of this of this season for any winery who has the drive. Incorporate these five tips while coming up with your direct sales plan, watch an episode of Mad Men for inspiration, get up, and take the season into your own hands.

Millennials Will Spend the Money – Just Give Us a Reason

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is “Will Millennials spend the money on a $50 bottle of wine?”  Ok, sometimes the price changes, but I’d have to say I answer this at least 2-3 times a week.  The answer is YES, WE WILL.  But in order to spend more money than we normally do on wine (or ANYTHING) there must be a reason for doing so.

This spring, I compiled the data from a survey I conducted online – some of the results from that survey I included in my May 5th post, Where Millennials Are Buying Wine.  I asked over 100 Millennials (mainly residing in Southern California) questions about their wine buying habits.  None of the answers were a big surprise to me, but to many people who are not members of the Millennial Generation, the answers are a real wake-up call.

THE NUMBERS

First we need to know what Millennials normally spend on wine.  From the research based on the informal online survey a baseline was established in terms of the average amount on money respondents spend on a bottle of wine.

Average Amount of Money Millennials Spend on a Bottle of Wine

Almost 60% of respondents spend between $11-$20 on average on a bottle of wine, so we have our baseline.  According to survey results,  giving wine as a gift is one of the main reasons the survey respondents buy wine in the first place (these results to be posted soon).  I know from experience and observation that we tend to spend more money on a bottle of wine when we give it as a gift – and so the question was posed: Just how much are we willing to spend on a bottle of wine – in any circumstance – including as a gift?

Most Money on Wine

Most of us are actually happy to pay $50 and above for a bottle of wine as a gift.  Two thirds of us are willing to go above our typical price range for a gift.  So what does this mean in terms of increasing sales among Millennials?

GIVE US A REASON

Seriously. If you are in the position of selling wine to a Millennial, and you get the feeling that it may be more than this young person is comfortable spending on themselves – suggest it as a gift.  Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Hostess Gift, Birthday Present, Wedding Gift – help them find a reason to spend more money on your wine.  I’ve mentioned this before in the April 3rd post, along with a few suggestions on how to engage young people and build a relationship with them – feel free to take a look and do some brushing up.

Now that the numbers are in, let’s see what we can make happen.

Have you tried this approach with success? Without success?  Are you planning to now?  If you have a related experience you’d like to share with other readers, please feel free to tell us about it in the comments section.  We can all learn from what you are doing.

Reaching Millennials: Don't Believe the Hype – YOU HAVE THE RESOURCES

In keeping up with blogs, research, and ideally all things Millennial, I generally tend to come across well-intentioned but TERRIBLE advice. The latest was on a staffing company’s website encouraging human resource departments to create new, Millennial-friendly corporate handbooks. A fine idea for corporations, but incredibly flawed in execution – which is why I’m pointing out an alternate solution that everyone can use.

To keep things short(ish) and sweet,  I’ve decided to summarize below (though if you REALLY wanted to see the original in all it’s glory, you MIGHT find it in my @millennier tweets, and it MIGHT be under TRAGIC MILLENNIAL ADVICE: PIMP MY CO.S HANDBOOK…).

Everyone in the wine industry can learn from this far too common mistake.

The information was found on the company’s website  from June 2009.  The title of the piece was Create a GenY-Friendly Employee Handbook, and like many of these pieces, it was fairly insulting in an odd, benign way.  In the How to Write a Handbook section, the writer suggests personalizing it with current events and fads in order to really get through to us.  It gives the following suggestion as an example:  “compare customers to stars competing for ‘American Idol’ stardom.” While I realize that we may be younger than the person giving this advice, WE ARE NOT CHILDREN.  We do not need a company to create a mascot and a “let’s pretend” example for every single situation we may encounter in the big, bad world.  While I have plenty to say on this topic, I’m going to stop because the point here is that this NOT GOOD ADVICE.

I do want to say in all seriousness GOOD FOR YOU, STAFFING COMPANY. Thank you for putting in the effort to encourage your clients to support their Millennial employees. Unfortunately, you COMPLETELY MISS THE BOAT.

Not on a boat

Is it a bad idea to want a handbook for a company that will resonate with Millennials and get them excited about the company that they work for?  No. In fact it just might work, if it’s done well.  What will that take?  American Idol allusions?  In depth research on gen Y?  Watching Family Guy reruns from the first season?  NO.  It simply takes a Millennial.  If these companies selected a couple employees in their target group to actually write the new handbook, it would be completely customized to their own tastes and interests while communicating all the information a handbook needs to get across.

I don’t understand this trend.  Business has realized what a powerful consumer group we Millennials are, enough to launch campaigns for millions of dollars just to win gen Y hearts – and yet most don’t even think to reach out to us to help shape these campaigns.

Everyone in the wine industry can learn from this far too common mistake.  Many businesses are creating their Facebook pages, holding events (hooray!), and thinking of new ways to reach out to gen Y.  Yes, research is great – I recommend that you check out the links on the side of the blog for some awesome resources. However, an invaluable tool that we all have ARE THE MILLENNIALS THEMSELVES.  Consult your gen Y children, your neighbor’s kid that’s back from college for the summer, your intern, your new tasting room employee – these people can give you valuable feedback and help to shape each of your projects.  Listen to their critiques, learn from their approach – it will save you time and energy and give you a direct line in to the consumer group you want to reach.

If you want to reach out to gen Y, don’t overlook the Millennials right in front of you – they could be the most valuable resources at your disposal.

How Millennials View YOU, Wine Industry

Everybody’s attempting to do the brand new dance now – it’s called TRY AND REACH OUT TO MILLENNIAL CONSUMERS.  Well, what do Millennials think of all this?  Granted, there aren’t nearly enough people attempting, but let’s look at the landscape.

dancefloor

It looks a lot like the dancefloor at the last wedding you went to.  Now, not everyone is out on the floor – it takes a certain amount of courage to get out there.  Of the people out on the floor, you observe a few different types.  First off, there’s the “kids.”  They’re looking pretty good – they know the music, know the moves, and they’re having fun.  Then there’s the “grandparents” – we love them just for getting out there and trying.  Then there’s the “parents” – they’re a bit older than the kids, but they’re out there.  They’re trying.  Some of them are attempting to bring back their own famous dance moves from back in the day – with little success.  Some are trying to copy the “kids” since they must know best, right?  This can be pretty embarassing to watch.  Some of them, however, know the music and know the scene and can get right down to business.

Welcome to the party that is the wine industry right now.  Good for everyone on that dance floor for just getting up and trying.  As an observer, though, you can see that not everyone is… let’s say effective.  Most of the “kids” look great.  You want to go up and hug the “grandparents” just for being awesome enough to try.  But it’s the main population of the dance floor, the “parents,” that are tough to watch.  The best people on the floor know the music and the scene – regardless of whether they are 14 or 62 – the rest are trying, bless their hearts, but they’re not really getting anywhere.

officedance

Let this be a warning…

So if the dance floor is made up of companies vying for the Millennial consumer, that would make the Millennial consumer… YOU. THE OBSERVER.

Millennials have had advertising campaigns shoved in our faces since we were propped up in front of our parents tvs.  It’s safe to say that we’re a pretty savvy group.  It’s not like we don’t KNOW that we’re being marketed to. We fully realize this – we’re used to it.  In fact, we get perturbed if we are NOT marketed to, and yet a company telling us that they are hip will not make us consumers.  We are innate experts at taking in and analyzing information in order to form opinions.  And we are REALLY good at forming opinions, as any Millennial parent will tell you.  And just as it’s crystal clear to anyone looking at that dancefloor that Uncle Billy is making an ass of himself, it’s just that easy for us to see which companies are wasting their time.

Possibly the most simple and powerful example of this comes from a recent post on FineArtsLA.com.  The post is a piece on a new wine tasting group in Los Angeles (WTF LA – yes, this is my group and apologies for the plug, but there is a reason for it…).  The freelance writer, Jenia Gorton, is a Millennial and has some VERY interesting things to say about how young people are treated as consumers in the wine industry.  I think the most interesting is this quote:

It seems like there is “good” wine, which young people are expected to know nothing about, and “cheap” wine, for us ignorant 20 and 30-somethings, bums, and broke alcoholics.

It speaks directly to what many companies and marketers think of young people consuming wine today: we aren’t educated and we won’t spend the money.  Yep, we hear you loud and clear, but maybe we don’t want some company’s version of 2 Buck Chuck.  Or the new Yellowtail.  It’s possible that we want to be respected as consumers and have a company or two reach out to us based on qualities other than our wallets.  Like our tastes, our sense of humor, our lifestyles, our shared experiences – but if a company is not connected to any of these things… that effort will still be a FAIL.

So what can marketers learn from Millennials like Ms. Gorton? If you’re going out on the floor, you better know how to DANCE.

The HOW Series 2: Building a Millennial Customer Base

question-mark

A big concern for many of us in the wine industry is price points – will we have to drop prices in order  to make money these days?   Many people associate price drops with the Millennial generation because it’s assumed they buy cheaper wines.  What if instead of dropping prices and hoping to gain sales, a business could build an additional customer base with their EXISTING prices?  A business will have to change a few things in order to create a Millennial customer base, but  prices don’t have to be one of them.  Each Friday I’ll be bringing you a specific tip and serious insight on how to reach out to Millennials as CONSUMERS.  You can put these tips into practice immediately and see for yourself how effective they can be.

Last week we discussed the danger and tendency to generalize an entire generation.  This week we continue our example of the young couple in a winery’s tasting room…

ASK QUESTIONS

This is key.  As a sales person, asking questions is how you find out if your young couple that just walked in the door are looking to buy a $35+ bottle of wine or if you need to guide them.  Keep your questions casual but targeted.  Find out if they are from out of town – if they have taken a special “wine country trip” they may be in the area to buy bottles.  If so, be sure to mention some “insider tips” on wine and buying – they are obviously serious. Ask where they are staying – an old trick for finding out what their price range could be.

As a business owner, you are not only learning more about a group, but you are making a sale creatively and perhaps one that you never expected.

If from your questions you discover that they wouldn’t normally purchase a bottle in your price range, point out a special occasion or a gift possibility.  According to my own 100+ blind survey (stay tuned for full report) the majority of Millennials are willing to spend more on a bottle of wine as a gift, and 80% of Millennials sampled buy wine as gifts. Have you found out why they are in the area?  Is it a vacation? A family wedding? Getaway weekend?  A special bottle that they both enjoy could be a wonderful keepsake for these trips.  Before I even worked in wine, my boyfriend and I had a getaway to the Central Coast where we decided that we’d splurge on a great bottle we loved in order to lay it down and open it the next year.  Suggest that for a special occasion – it’s something they might not be thinking of.  You get the idea.  You can only make these suggestions if you have a working knowledge of who they are and why they are in your tasting room.  The more you know about them, the better you can tailor your sales pitch.

Again, this is a simple and logical step, but one that is not taken by the majority of business owners with Millennials.  It pays off all around.  As a business owner, you are not only learning more about a group, but you are making a sale creatively and perhaps one that you never expected.  By asking questions, you are focusing your attention and not judging them. From their point of view, they see that you are investing energy and time in them and will have a positive experience along with their purchase.  This means positive feedback outside – facebook, twitter, yelp, blogs, as well as good old-fashioned word of mouth.

Congratulations – you’ve started to build a new customer base.