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Dear Wine Industry no. 1

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.

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.

Wine's Facebook Debate

Here’s the question: Is it worth it for wine businesses to invest the time and effort into working with Facebook?

Short answer: If you care about the Millennial Generation, YES IT’S WORTH YOUR TIME.  Every argument that I have heard to the contrary seems to be lacking some crucial and basic knowledge about the use of the social networking site.  Let me fill in the blanks.

A (VERY) BRIEF HISTORY

Facebook was created in a Harvard dorm room as a student directory for the school.  This was in 2004 and was originally called “The Facebook.”  Within 4 months they had expanded out to 40 colleges.  Mark was roughly 20 years old when he moved the company to Palo Alto the following summer and you can pretty much guess the rest.

Take a good look at the picture.  This is the founder and CEO of facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

SO WHAT?

Facebook was created specifically for the Millennial generation by one of our own.  This is very important to keep in mind.  In reading and listening to wine industry social media-types rail on the uselessness of this network, I hear a basic lack of understanding in how my generation specifically uses facebook.  From all that I’ve heard from these conversations, those with strong opinions tend to dismiss facebook as simply a way for old high school acquaintances to re-connect and play goofy vampire/mob/zombie games online.  Which in all fairness may be exactly how they use the site.

For millennials, however, it is much more.  I’ll only speak for myself and my friends here, but to us facebook is a lifeblood of communication.  We get to work in the morning, log into our email then log into facebook.  This networking site is how we know who broke up with whom, who’s birthday it is, where people are going on Saturday night, and who just got engaged.

someecards.com

someecards.com

It’s also a very effective way to communicate privately via the “Send A Message” (which is an in-system email).  Carol Phillips, a Marketing Instructor at the University of Notre Dame, clearly gets it.  She is the president and owner of Brand Amplitude, LLC  and the mother of two millennials.  On her excellent blog, Millennial Marketing, she states “I completely change my habits when communicating with Millennials. To reach my daughter and son quickly, text is the only way to go. My teaching assistants? Facebook messages. I once sent my TA’s Amazon gift certificates to their email address. It took a suggestion to their Facebook account to look for it before they even noticed.” You can leverage this effectively by tagging your fans in your notes & posts.

HOW TO

When you create a page for your winery or business on facebook, you allow others out there to become your “fan.”  Let’s say we’re facebook friends and you just created a page for your winery, FB WINES.  I’ll see on my newsfeed that you’re a fan of FB WINES and I click on the icon.  I’ll be taken to the page, where I can add myself as a fan.  Done.  You can also post it to your status or publish it as a note tagging basically everyone you know.  It’s very simple to get your page out to your network, then THEIR networks will see on your friends’ profiles or in their own Newsfeeds that people are fans of FB WINES and so on and so forth.

Creating a page  facebook is INCREDIBLY easy.  Just go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php a great guide on the new pages format is here.  You can also reach a link to create a page right at the bottom of the login page at http://www.facebook.com .

GOT IT?

There’s some initial set-up time – anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour if you’re a type-A like myself – but it’s completely offset by the benefits.  Of all the Pages that I’m a fan of, 95% of them I added because I saw it on my Newsfeed from a friend or on their profiles.  Once you get your page out there, let it work for itself.

Now, once you’ve got some fans you can have as much or as little fun as you want, but remember, the more you update it, the more your name will be out there in the facebook community and the higher your chances of gaining more fans.  You can add events and invite people, upload photos of new products, even just updating your status message will bring people to your page.

This isn’t just for wineries, by the way.  A great example of a retailer taking full example of a facebook page is Silverlake Wines.  This is a local LA wine store that embraces the younger generations (millennial and x) of their neighborhood and greater LA.  Customers are rabid fans and jumped all over their page.  Next time you are on facebook, I encourage you to check it out, become a fan and see just how they’ve mastered the medium.  You can link directly from their page.

OK, GO!

Now that we’ve de-bunked some of those myths, get out there and create your page. If you’re having trouble with decisions on what to include, do a quick search and see what else is out there.  Or you can grab the nearest millennial – odds are they can offer some valuable insight.

And feel free to comment with a link to your shiny new facebook page so I can help you get the word out and become a fan.  Best of luck and have fun!

Thanks to WineDiverGirl for her great post on this topic to which I responded with a comment that was FAR too long and realized I needed to write my own.