Bookmark and Share


In Short Direct Marketing logo


Facebook Twitter Linkedin


1038 Capewood
CA, 95492
United States
(707) 836-8730
707 6577301
Elizabeth Slater

In Short - Specializing in Staff Training: Customer Service, Wine & Wine Club Sales,

Elizabeth Slater of In Short Direct Marketing is recognized throughout North America as speaker and trainer, increasing sales for wineries through staff training in sales, customer service and all avenues of direct marketing. In Short has worked with individual wineries as well as winery associations throughout North America.

E (as she is known) presents seminars and workshops on a variety of marketing and sales subjects to wineries and winery associations throughout North America. She is a featured speaker at Wineries Unlimited and presents regularly at state and province conferences working across the US and Canada.

In Short was started as a direct marketing company in 1994 and added workshops and seminars to the mix in 1997.  Elizabeth's dynamic and humorous speaking style has made her a popular and busy speaker both in and out of the wine industry.

Mystery Shopping for wineries and other businesses grew out of E's own practices of visiting wineries that were participating in workshops she presented, and is now an integral part of the services In Short provides.  Employing shoppers of all ages, socio-economic groups and levels of wine knowledge, In Short delivers in-depth reporting on the results of the mystery shopping as well as recommendations on implementation of programs and procedures to provide more positive experiences for  visitors that result in increased sales for the businesses.

"In Short Direct Marketing is an essential business tool." - Maureen Hendrikson, Patit Creek Cellars

Seminars, Workshops, Mystery Shopping

In Short Direct Marketing offers a full range of training services for staff, managers and owners on a variety of topics (see list below). The interactive seminars and workshops, presented with humor, are jammed with innovative, useful and easy to implement information and concepts that assist any winery or association in reaching direct sales, marketing and promotional goals.


Staff and management training should be as integral a part of the operation of a successful winery as using the very best grapes and producing top notch wines. Yet, despite its importance, it is the component of business operations that is most easily and most often ignored. In fact, it is frequently not recognized as a component of successful business operations at all.

Topics include all facets of Direct Sales, Customer Service, Wine Clubs,  Tasting Room Management, Events, Direct Marketing, Merchandising, Training the Trainer, Promotion, Social Networking and more. 

These are not one-size fits all workshops. All In Short seminars and workshops are individually crafted to meet clients' wants, needs and expectations. Elizabeth works with closely with her clients to set the stage for success long before the training takes place.

Mystery Shopping

The perfect adjunct to training. Discover your winery's strengths and weakness through a well defined mystery shopping program and make your training even more effective. In Short offers a variety of programs tailored to meet the needs of any winery.

E presenting a seminar at Wineries Unlimited in Pennsylvania
My logo (to the left) shows a picture of my great-aunt who was only 4'6". In the picture (taken around 1915) the chair is a little tall and her feet don't touch the floor. This picture of me (taken in 2005) shows that I too have problems getting my feet to touch the floor, even though I am much much taller (okay four inches taller) than my great-aunt, who though very small had a huge positive impact on many lives.
Time Management Tips
Time Management Tips
This three-minute "mini-seminar" with Elizabeth "E" Slater offers valuable tips on juggling your daily tasks.
Wineries Unlimited
Wineries Unlimited
An overview of Wineries Unlimited, featuring, in part, Elizabeth Slater of In Short speaking about the seminars she presents and moderates
More on Sales

When people come into your business do they already know that they are or are not going to buy from you? The answer to that question is no, they don’t. How many times have you walked into a business with no intention of buying anything and bought anyway?

As a salesperson, your job is not to assume that someone is or is not going to buy. Though if you have to make an assumption, assume that the customers in front of you are going to buy. If you assume that your customers are not going to buy, did they then not buy because they weren’t ever going to buy or did they not buy because you treated them differently in some subtle ways that may not be picked up by the conscious mind but will be stored away by the subconscious? Also, the subconscious mind contains information that we are not actively aware of but may nonetheless influence decision-making.

Research has shown that customers will make instinctive decisions with their subconscious mind. As consumers, we are not aware of what’s in our subconscious. Although that we may still be influenced by things we have heard, seen or experienced before stored in the subconscious.

As humans, we prefer things that are familiar to us as well as simple to understand. Make it simple for your customers to understand your products and to make decisions to purchase.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

News Archive

Using Testimonials to Encourage Sales
19 May, 2017

There are lots of ways to encourage customers to buy. When considering various avenues to promote sales, there are a few things you need to think about.

  1. There is always a cost involved with any option to promotion your business. Promotion costs either money or time. If it’s not costing you money, it is costing you time.
  2. Regardless of the methods of promotion you choose to use, it is important to track the results to make sure you are getting the response you want and hope for. For example, if you send out emails regularly to encourage sales, you need to track the percentage of people who open the emails, click through to the offer and how many take the final step and buy.

Shown below is an example of one low-cost way to promote your products.


Research has shown that reviews from other customers are as important to those who are thinking of buying from you as are reviews from “an expert” or someone famous. Using testimonials from the past or current customers can and will encourage new customers to purchase.

Ask your customers to review your products or service or provide a testimonial with the reasons why they buy from you.

Once you have got these testimonials use them in different ways:

  • Ask customers to phone and record their testimonial or review. Use these recorded testimonials on your business phone for callers to hear while they are on hold. These reviews will be a lot more effective than music.
  • Put customer testimonials on your website. Have a tab for Reviews or Testimonials.
  • Ask customers to leave reviews on TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other popular review sites.
  • Have a book of customer testimonials in the winery or store that people can browse through while they are waiting.
  • Put customer reviews at the bottom of your outgoing emails in the area of your contact information.
  • If you are doing these things, ask customers if they have seen the reviews or testimonials and if the service, products, etc. have lived up to reviews they read

Remember, peer reviews are important to other customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Makes People Buy?
12 May, 2017

I was looking into buying patterns on the internet, the other day, for a couple of sales seminars that I am putting together and came across some very interesting information, which I will be passing along via my blog and tips.

Consumers buy for a myriad of different reasons; here are some of them and think of what categories your products would be most likely to fall into. According to a number of sites I looked at, including Click Z, people buy for a whole host of reasons:

  1. To fill basic needs such as food and shelter. Though the idea of basic does vary a bit from person to person. Because I love to read, I find books to be a basic need for me.
  2. Something needs to be replaced or we want to replace that is getting old.
  3. Finding something at a bargain price or something that we consider a great value will light up our desire to purchase.
  4. A new or innovative product may also catch our attention. The newest iPhone is released and all the early adopters and lined up outside the Apple store waiting to buy it.
  5. Sometimes we feel we deserve a treat or a reward for something we have accomplished (even if it is just making it through a hard week). It doesn’t have to be anything big even a small reward can perk us up.
  6. Here’s one I really like, “The Girl Scout Cookie Effect.” We know that the reason we buy Girl Scout cookies (especially Thin Mints and my favorite Samoas) is because we are so unselfish. After all, we want to support a good cause.

There are lots of reasons why people buy and we will be delving into many of them over the next few blogs. We will also be looking at why people don’t buy and what we can do to help them get over that.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Get In The May Mood
05 May, 2017

There is a lot going on in the month of May.

Mother’s Day is coming up fast.

Think of different ways to wish a happy Mother’s Day to mothers and others. For example, if you are a winery that produces and sells Cabernet Sauvignon, wish happy Mother’s Day to Sauvignon Blanc, the wine that is the mother of Cabernet Sauvignon. Do the same on Father’s Day with Cabernet Franc.

Many people have May birthdays.

Invite your customers to join you for their birthday, with any customer who comes in during the week of his/her birthday gets a birthday surprise. I will leave it up to you to decide on the surprise, though it could be a flower, chocolate, preferential pricing, a coupon for their next visit, or access to a special offering or person – just to name a few.

There is something special going on every day in May. Here are a few “special” days during the month of May: On May 3rd we had Paranormal Day, Garden Meditation Day, School Nurse Day, Lumpy Rug Day (really!), for example.

Looking at a calendar for May shows me that every day in May has at least three special designations and some days have up to seven “special” designations. Some of them are important, such as May 28th which is Amnesty International Day and some less so, May 27th Cellophane (Scotch) Tape Day.

By the way, May 25th is National Wine Day, so you have plenty of time to get ready for that.

A tip of the glass from me to you, and have a great day no matter what you choose to celebrate!

Customer Service: The Good, The Bad, And The Very Ugly
24 April, 2017

After watching a segment on the television about a couple of companies that offer customer service that is above and beyond the norm, earlier this week, I decided to write my blog on customer service, talking about some companies that really go out of their way.

Last weeks along came the story about United Airlines dragging a paying customer out of his seat and off an airplane. I was amazed. Not only at the removal of the man by airline security people but also by the fact that none of these people gave any thought to the fact that cell phones (which are ubiquitous these days) have cameras. It was not a pretty video.

This was followed up by a less than stellar “apology” from the CEO of United Airlines. All in all an extremely bad day for United, its employees and (it seems from the internet) its share prices.

That takes care of the bad and very ugly, as this incident definitely fits into both those categories.

On the other side, there are some great examples of customer service. Land’s End company will always refund the purchase price of any item. In fact, the information on the Land’s End website states:

“Guaranteed. Period.

If you are not satisfied with any item, return it to us at any time for an exchange or refund of its purchase price.”

That type of service with no questions asked is bound to make consumers life-long customers of Land’s End.

Another shining example is Nordstrom, a company known for the excellent treatment of their customers.

Of course, it’s not only no hassle return policies, it’s also the quality of service, being polite, friendly, interested in the customer and ready to help. All these will increase your sales and keep your customers coming back again and again.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What About The Wine Label?
14 April, 2017

I was speaking to a group of wineries and growers recently about sales and marketing of wine and grapes. In the course of the conversation, a question was asked about the importance of the wine label. The question was about the look of the label and whether it was okay for a label to be quite plain and simple.

My answer was that yes, having a simple label is fine as long as it well executed, easy to read and it gave the government and buyers the information they needed.

The person who asked the question then responded by saying that he thought that the label was just the label and that “it’s what’s inside the bottle that counts.” While I don’t disagree that what is inside the bottle is very important, I hastened to add that the label was also of great importance.

For many people, the label is the first impression of your wine. Someone who has never tasted the wine has an impression of the label design and execution as well as the verbiage that will help him/her make the decision as to whether or not they buy that wine. This is especially true if you are selling your wines off-premise, where many buyers will not have the opportunity to talk to you.

Even if you sell all your wines through the winery, many of your customers will be influenced not only by the taste of the wine but also by the overall presentation of the wine, the label, the bottle the capsule, etc.

So while your label does not have to be fancy or expensively produced, it should be of the same expected quality to assure the customers that the price you are charging for the wine is warranted.

Keep a label simple if you wish but let it echo the quality that you know is in the bottle.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

First Emails to Customers
07 April, 2017

I was at the US Bev X conference and trade show in Washington DC in February.  It was a great conference with lots of pertinent information on a host of topics pertinent to all facets of the beverage industry.

In one of my sessions this question was asked:

“When a visitor comes to your winery and gives you their email address so you may send them information, how do you create that first email to engage with them further?”

This was an excellent question as that first email is crucial in strengthening the connection between your business and the new customer. My answer was that you have to go back to the initial encounter. This person came first to your tasting room and that is where the connection has to start. The staff members who interact with the visitors have to create the relationship from the beginning of the visit.

It is up to them to take the first steps in learning about these visitors:

Their names

Where they are from

What brought them to you

Their wants and needs, likes and dislikes

How much interest they have in the product.

These questions sprinkled throughout the conversation (rather than being asked one after the other) will be the beginning of the visitors’ relationship with the company and with the individual staff members. The staff members should also offer information, not only on the product but a trade of information about themselves, starting with their names. As the visit progresses staff members can mention the things that they may have in common with the visitors as well as giving them information that the visitors will be interested in.

These are the things that will make visitors give you their email and may turn these (possibly one-time visitors) into long-term customers, even if they live far away.

So back to that first email? It should be sent within a day or two after the visitors’ first visit. The email should be signed by the person or people the visitors connected with during their visit. It will renew the personal contact and should have some of the information they learned from the visitors. Remind them of what they enjoyed about the visit. Let them know how much their visit meant to you and that you look forward to seeing or hearing from them again.  There is plenty of time to sell to them in subsequent emails. Use the first one to engage emotions.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

It’s Important To Be Important!
03 April, 2017

It’s nice to feel important. Think about the last time someone (a friend, family member or a business) made you feel important. What does that do to your mood in the moment or the way you feel for the rest of the day?

In order to make your visitors and customers important, you have to get to know them. In the case of first-time visitors, you start by observing as they walk through the door. First-time visitors who may not be familiar with wine tasting may be more hesitant when they arrive. Being aware of that fact gives you a clue as to their level of comfort or discomfort. If visitors are hesitant, you can start by making them comfortable. There are many people who come into wineries, who have never been to a winery before. They may be unsure of how things work and what is expected from them. So reassure them that knowing about wine is not a prerequisite to having a good time. Ditch the insider lingo and speak in terms the visitors will understand while still giving them information that will make them more knowledgeable. Ask for their names and become their friend.

Conversely, you make regular customers feel important by greeting them by name, telling them you are glad to see them again and asking them how life is going for them. This lets them and (sometimes more importantly) others in the room know that they are well liked and appreciated.

It sounds easy and it is as long as you are focusing on your visitors needs, wants and desires, rather than launching directly into your regular spiel about the products and winery.

Practice being aware of body language, questions asked and answers given. You will always gain more loyal customers and sell more when the focus is squarely on the customers and visitors. The primary goal is to make friends and to create connections.

After that, the sales will follow. People who are engaged are more willing to buy.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Are You Missing Marketing Opportunities?
24 March, 2017

There are very few times when you are talking to others that you can’t take advantage of marketing your business. I don’t mean hijacking a conversation with a long monolog about your company. Keep your comments brief and make the conversation interesting, leading the person or people you are speaking with to ask you for more information.

For example, when someone asks you what you do for a living, what do you say? Are you specific, “I own a winery” or “I work for a winery,” for example, or do you talk about working for or owning a small business? Then have ready a quick sentence about something the company does that will differentiate it from other wineries. It could be a special event; an uncommon varietal or a charitable association, an interesting location or the way the business is managed.

As with people, all businesses are different. Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to find the differences but they are there.

To get to the root of what makes your business different start a list and keep adding to it. Ask your managers, employees, and customers what they think is different about the business. Once you have the list, create short stories of just a few sentences for each point of differentiation on the list. Keeping it short is important, as it’s easy to get carried away when you are talking about something that is important to you, though may not be important to someone else.

If you know your audience you may point out individual differentiations that will resonate with the people to whom you are speaking.

For example, you are out walking your dog and get talking to someone else who is walking his/her dog.  What is different about your business that may include the dog? Is the dog the wine club mascot or do you donate a portion of the proceeds to the ASPCA or other animal rescue fund? Knowing this small piece of information may bring this stranger into your winery.

Telling a short story makes your business more memorable and the more memorable you can make it, the better chance you have of getting people who may not know about you pay you a visit and make a purchase.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Conducting a Job Interview
17 March, 2017

When you are hiring new employees the job interview is critical to successfully finding the right person. In this blog we will be focusing on finding the right people for jobs that have a lot of customer interaction, whether that interaction is in person, on the phone or electronically.

The most important focus should always be the personality of the person you are interviewing. You can teach people skills, you can’t change personality and if you have a sales or customer service person that doesn’t like people you’re in big trouble.

So look for someone who is warm and empathetic. If they work with others, the ability to work well as part of a team and a willingness to follow through (whether with a project or a customer) should be considered. Also you will want to know if the person is an optimist or a pessimist. A pessimist can bring down the customers and other staff members.

Job interviews can be very stressful for the candidates and no one is their best under pressure. Experts suggest that you let the candidates know in advance the topics you’d like to discuss. Find a time that works for both of you and let them know the dress code of the company. You want to get an idea of who they really are.

Allow enough time for the interview and if you need to, bring the person back more than once. If your candidates will be working regularly with other people have them meet the people they will be working with and ask your current employees for their impressions of the candidates.

As well as telling the candidate about the job, make sure you leave plenty of time for them to tell you things. You can learn a lot about people through what they choose to tell you. By asking follow up questions you may find out what really makes them tick. So plan on listening as much as you talk during the interview.

When you find viable candidates check references carefully, as well as their online presence. Hiring people to be the face or voice of your company is an important decision. You want to build a factual picture of the person you are going to hire.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Are You Hiring The Right People?
13 March, 2017

As we rapidly approach the busy season for many businesses, it’s a good time to think about the qualities we need in the people we employ to interact with the customers in person, on the phone or via email. In addition, it’s also important to think about the job description that we present and what skills we need to focus on.

You don’t want to waste your time or the applicant’s time by interviewing people who are never going to be right for the job, so it pays to have a clearly worded advertisement detailing the type of person you want and a complete job description.

In the ad be specific about the type of company you are hiring for and also what you are looking for in a person. If you are hiring for a sales or customer service person you want to put emphasis on the soft skills (empathy, patience, communication) making sure you get a person with the right temperament for the position.

Your goal is to find the right person the first time. Not putting enough thought into the ad or the job description can lead to hiring the wrong person. At which point co-workers are not happy and you have to start the process all over again.

When you are writing a job description let the candidates know what you expect from them and also what they can expect from you. If there is the possibility of advancement or that they will be working with a talented group of people, mention it. You want will attract more qualified candidates if they know that there are benefits to the job for them as well as the employer.

Once you start receiving applications respond quickly to the candidates. Even if you just send a quick email that says you received their résumé and will be back to them within the next week. It is important for people to know when they can expect to hear from you.

Next week, I will focus on interview techniques.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Using Customer Reviews to Improve Your Business
24 February, 2017

In this era of increasing customer involvement, you immediately know how many of your customers feel about your company as you can see what they think of your products and services on any number of review websites.

Most of us in business will look at Yelp and TripAdvisor, but think about other places where we can find reviews. If you sell through Amazon, or Angie’s List take a look at their customer reviews.  Also, check Consumer Reports, Google for Business, Yahoo listings and don’t forget Facebook and Twitter.

While I was researching this topic, I found an article by Ankit Roy that gives some tips on using reviews to market your brand. He also gives a number of statistics that you should find interesting:

  • 88% of people read reviews (
  • 72% of consumers say possible reviews make them “trust a local business” (
  • Reliability, experience and professionalism are the most important reputation traits for local businesses (
  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews “as much as personal recommendations (
  • A customer is likely to “spend 31% more on a business” with excellent reviews (

Those are some impressive stats.

If you are not paying attention to reviews you are missing out on some important information from your customers. Reading them, of course, is only the beginning.

Once you have read the reviews, it’s important to respond to them in a timely manner, whether the reviews are positive or negative. A few words in answer to a positive review can make a customer who already likes you like you even more. A response to a negative review can help change a customer’s mind if your response is helpful and solves the problem. Some of the most loyal customers are those that have had a problem with a company and seen it resolved to their satisfaction.

So check the reviews regularly (all the time) and share good reviews in promotional emails with the rest of your customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Do Your Customers Want From You?
18 February, 2017

Knowing what your customers want is part and parcel of making your customers happy and ensuring that they will continue to buy from you. Here are some tips on how to engage your customers:

Use Their Names

Not only will customers remember you if you remember their names and use their names (a couple of times in the conversation), they are also more aware and interested when they hear their names. Try not to overuse the name. Sometimes when I have been on a phone call with a company and the employee has been told to use the customer’s name, they use it every second word, which is way too much and a little irritating.


A key way to make customers happy is to make each experience personal. A personalized experience not only makes customers happy, they are also willing to pay more for a personalized experience. Treat each set of customers as individuals with an individual experience.

Tell Stories

When we tell a story, customers can become a part of that story. Powerful messages about the company are left in their minds through the story. Keep your stories fairly short, so customers don’t lose interest.

Involve Your Customers

Ask customers for their ideas or present ideas you have and ask for their input. If you implement a customer’s idea, make sure they are rewarded for their input.

Surprise Customers

An unexpected treat or gift (no matter how small) will please your customers and will get them talking to their friends about how great the company is.

Time & Memories 

Many customers value time well spent and the memories that are created much more than they do discounts. Though in most businesses there is more talk about pricing than there is about what the product will mean to the customer. Start focusing more on the memories that they can make with your products.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

How Much Do You Know About Your Customers?
10 February, 2017

Kofi Annan the former UN Secretary General said, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the promise and progress, in every society, in every family.”

The only addition I have to that Kofi Annan quote is… in every business. The business that has knowledge of its customers, what they want and what makes them happy is indeed powerful.
One way to gain this knowledge is to ask your customers directly through sending out surveys.

Create an easy to answer five to seven-question survey that can be mailed to your customers. Choose as many names as you wish of customers who regularly make purchases or come to your events and e-mail them the survey. Ask the customers to complete the survey and return it to you. You may wish to add an incentive. For example, upon return of the survey the customer will be sent a coupon for 10% off their next purchase. Give the person a reward for completing the survey that also gives them a reason to come back to the business. You may wish to ask questions about how they were treated generally, if they got all the information they needed or if they were told about a special that was going on during the time they were visiting. Whatever the information is that you want or need, include a question related to that information in the survey.

Leave a place on the survey form for comments. Some people, when asked for their opinion, love to tell you everything (and much of this information is valuable to you) while others just complete the questions. However, it is important to give people the opportunity to provide you with information.

Keep the survey short (not more than five to seven questions, which are open-ended so those receiving the survey may provide a short or long answer) and thank them for completed the survey. Make sure you add in a line that you are sending these questionnaires in order to provide them with better service…

You may also create surveys that you send to people after their first visit to your business or surveys to customers who regularly attend events.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Getting Your Customers To Opt In
03 February, 2017

If you are collecting information from customers, make sure that they opt in (agree to your having their contact information). They must agree in writing and it must be unambiguous. For example, I receive many receipts via email from stores that I frequent regularly (such as office supply stores). When I use my credit card and sign for receipts to be sent to me by email that does not mean the store can start sending me other emails or texts related to sales or special offers without my express consent. So if you want to use emails and texts to communicate with your customers (and you should) you must have their permission to do so.

While emails are ubiquitous, texting is becoming more and more popular. Overall 32% of people would rather text than talk and with the Millennials that percent shoots up to an amazing 75%. In fact, a majority of consumers use their phones more for non-vocal communications than for calls. An article by states that an average of 0.4 texts per month were sent in 1995. In July of 2015 there were over 193,000 text messages sent per second via SMS and the number continues to increase.

The key to compiling a complete and effective CRM list is for everyone in the organization to be committed to the task. While it takes effort and a little extra time it is, in the long run, well worth the effort everyone puts in. When people visit your business, call, text or email, request information from them so that you may contact them later.

Start in the store if you have a retail business and make sure you expand this to phone calls and email contact. The staff should have cards that they give to visitors who have shown a specific interest in your products or business. This card should ask for their name, address, cell phone and e-mail; it may also ask for information about how they found out about your business and what they are most interested in. Primarily, it should allow them to opt in to receive information from you.

Phrase the request in a way that there is a benefit to the customers for example:

Occasionally we will send information with offers or special benefits, may we send them to you.

                                                Yes                   No

Once the customer has signed the card, s/he has then “opted in” that is given you permission to contact them. Additionally, make sure your customers know your customer privacy policy.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Is Your Employee Manual Up To Date?
27 January, 2017

It’s almost February and before we know it, the busy season will be upon us, which means it’s time to start thinking about the staffing for the coming year. While you are thinking about your staffing requirements, take the time to look over your written procedures and policies for part-time and full-time employees. The procedures need to be up to date and it never hurts to check that you haven’t forgotten something. After all, the more informed and successful your employees are on the job, the more products you are going to sell, the better connections you will make with customers and the more awareness you will gain for your products.

Procedures and policies provide detailed guidelines for all employees. They help managers organize and help staff stay organized. They minimize conflict between you and your staff and outline responsibilities and benefits (do employees get paid holidays, sick leave, etc.)

There should also be specific information on customer service. You want all  your employees to be on the same page as to how customers should be treated as well as the answers to certain questions (for example the discount policy and do the employees have leeway to give a slightly larger discount to make a bigger sale. If so, how far can the employee increase the discount and for what amount?)

Provide scenarios for employees so they know how to handle different questions or situations that may arise. If questions arise on how to handle a situation when the manager is not present, an employee can always check the procedure and policy manuals.

When writing your procedures manual, outline every item, even those that seem obvious to you, as they may not be obvious to a new employee. Include explicit daily tasks and weekly responsibilities. Always include safety procedures. If your employees need training that is specific to your type of business make sure that it is available to them. Schedule training days for new and returning employees and provide a procedures and policies list for each different positions. Employees who are given the information to be successful will be successful.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Referring Customers To Other Wineries
20 January, 2017

One of the things that visitors most comment on and it is most appreciate when they visit wine country (regardless of where the wine country is) is the impression that everyone gets along well and that we all like each other. Much of that is due to the fact that tasting room staff members give customers tips on other wineries to visit. However, we have to consider when in the visit we give referrals and to which wineries.

Here are some guidelines to follow when giving referrals.

  1. If customers ask for referrals to other wineries in your area, wait until after the tasting is complete and they have made their buying decisions before you give them referrals.
  2. If they ask for referrals to other wineries early on in their visit, the tasting room personnel may say, “Let me think about it for a little while. Once I know more about your tastes in wine I will be better able to give you referrals.”
  3. Refer wineries that also refer your winery to their customers.
  4. Refer wineries that produce different varietals than you sell.
  5. Only refer wineries that you have visited. It is important that you know the customers will be treated well when they visit these wineries. If they are badly treated it is likely that the customers will blame you rather than the winery that did not meet their expectations
  6. Tell customers to let the wineries you have referred to let them know who sent them. You may say, “Please tell them that (host’s name) from (winery name) sent you and says hi.”

Additionally, if a guest asks about a winery that you cannot recommend (for any reason), explain that you haven’t been there or tasted their wines for quite a while for ages and so cannot say. Then continue to list the wineries you are comfortable recommending. Do not say anything negative about any other wineries.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Make 2017 A Year To Remember
13 January, 2017

The beginning of a new year is usually filled with good intentions and ideas on how to make business better for the coming year. It is, in fact, the perfect time to take a long look at your business and yourself, and think hard about what is working well and what may not be work quite so well.

As business owner or employee, start with your strengths and weaknesses. What are the things that you are doing well (list those first) and then follow up with the things you could be doing better. Ask someone you trust to give you feedback on what they think your strengths and weaknesses are. It is sometimes harder to understand our weaknesses than our strengths, as we tend to play to our strengths but, sometimes, will avoid doing the things that highlight our weaknesses.

Give some thought to how you can improve your skills to better manage the business.

Next take a look at the business and what skills your employees need. Make a list of those skills and put the names of the individual employees next to the skills you believe they possess. Also, ask your employees to create their own lists of strengths and weaknesses that can be talked about in reviews or in training sessions.

The list of skills that your employees need can be used in the interview process when hiring new employees. It’s important to hire based on skill sets and getting varied skill sets within the company. This list can also be a great help in letting employees know what is expected of them.

Employees and managers should plan ahead to create a strong balance so that everything runs smoothly.

Make all employees and managers part of the planning process to make sure that everyone is in agreement with what has to be done to become successful.

Finally keep track of written goals you have made for yourself and for what you want to accomplish. Check in with these goals every few months to see how you are doing. As the saying goes, “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten.”

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Create Invaluable Customer Records
06 January, 2017

At the start of a new year, it’s good to think about things that you want to accomplish for the coming year. A worthwhile task before the busy sales season is to ensure that your customer records are accurate and up to date.

In addition to the basics, the name of the customer and their contact history (including address, email address and phone numbers – business and mobile) make sure that the customer’s transaction history is accurate and up to date. It’s important that you know what, when, why and in what quantities your customers purchased your products, whether they buy for others as well as for themselves. Having this kind of information will allow you to segment your audiences and structure your advertising and offers in more individual ways. Knowing how much customers have purchased gives you an easy way to assess their value to your business.

Also is important to create a personal profile for each of your regular customers. This information could include age, gender, profession, spouse’s name, income, hobbies, children’s names and even the charities they support. Don’t forget to ask if they have pets and the names of those pets. People are very attached to their animals.

Keep track of any individual correspondence you have with your customers as this can give you insight regarding their views and opinions.

Customer information is built up over time as you informally learn about your customers.

When customers are in your place of business, casually ask them questions about themselves (most Americans quite like that) and offer a little information about yourself to balance the conversation. If you are asking for information via email or a questionnaire couch the request in a way that will appeal to the customer. For example “In order to provide you with service and offers more suited to your personal needs, please complete this short questionnaire.” And please, if you do use questionnaire, do keep them short.

Most businesses these days use CRM systems. The most important word of the three in Customer Relationship Marketing is Relationship. Establishing real relationships with your customers will create strong and long-lasting relationships with your customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Happy Holidays!
24 December, 2016

I am off visiting family for the holidays and will be back with new blogs for 2017 (hard to believe) in January. 
Have a happy, happy holiday season with friends and family. Make the most of your time off.
A tip of the glass from me to you!

Words Change Perceptions
16 December, 2016

The words we use when selling out goods or services are as important as the products themselves. Using the wrong words may change the perceptions of potential customers leading them to leave your business empty-handed, whereas if the right words had been used, these same customers would have been happy to buy.

We all know that a pleasant greeting, a sincere smile and an open and friendly demeanor helps tremendously to put customers in the purchasing frame of mind.  These things are as important as they ever were, so be aware of how you are greeting people.

Let’s start with some of the words we should or shouldn’t say…

  1. And rather than but

The word and continues the conversation. When you say and the customer will expect to learn more information that will benefit them. Whereas the word “but” is more likely to be thought of as being followed by a negative. Think of it as “and” continues a conversation while “but” may stop it.

Example:  We have the wine you want and (more good news) we have three cases left.

  1. Because

One of the most powerful words in sales is the word because. It is very persuasive.

Example:  You should buy this because …

When you use the word because you are answering the question, which on every consumer’s mind (either consciously or subconsciously), “What’s in it for me.”

  1. Thank You rather than No Problem

It has become ubiquitous these days in answer to the words Thank You to say No problem. This is not a good habit to get into. Practice says, “You’re welcome” or “I am pleased that I could help” or anything else positive.

  1. I don’t know

I don’t know is a phrase that shouldn’t be used unless it is followed up by, “I will find out for you,” or “that’s a good question let me check.” If you don’t know it’s your job to find out and get back to the customer. It’s also a great way to get an email address or cell phone number so you may email or text to give them the answer.

  1. You chose a good day…

Compliment a customer on his/her good sense in coming in. If you happen to be having a sale that day, let your customers know that buying today will be to their benefit. It’s a good thing to say at the beginning of the interaction, as it gives them time to assess the benefits of buying today rather than next week.

There are many more words that are good or bad to use in a sales situation. If you would like a longer list please drop me an email at

A tip of the glass from me to you!

How Successful Are Your Emails?
09 December, 2016

Email has become the most popular way of communicating with customers for many businesses. Though often times, companies are not following up on how effective these emails are for them.

Not only is it important to check open click through and buy rates, it’s also important to check what your competitors or similar companies in your area are doing. For example on Cyber Monday this year I got a flurry of emails from companies (easily 35 or 40) with the subject line of “Cyber Monday.” After a while, I stopped opening them.

How many of you subscribe to emails from companies in your industry, especially those in your area?  It’s a good idea to do so. It keeps you up to date on what’s happening in your industry and helps you to realize whether you are differentiating your business from those around you.

Keep your customers wants, needs and desires in mind when you are planning your emails. Know what is important to your customers and craft your content to reflect what is important to them. You can still talk about your products, reasons to buy and any sales or special offers you have available but if you truly know what your customers want you will do it in a way that appeals to them emotionally.

Send out emails with content that your customers may not be expecting. Most people are interested in people. If one of your staff, who deals regularly with your customers wins an award, graduates from college, raises money for charity, save someone’s life, is leaving your employment or anything else noteworthy, send an email congratulating the staff member or wishing them well. Customers who have built up a rapport with this person will be pleased that you think enough of him/her to publicly mention what they are doing.

Include product recommendations or testimonials from other customers if you want to increase conversion and click through rates.

It’s essential to create an emotional connection with your email. Customers buy because they feel, not because they think. While facts and awards, etc. are important, it’s bringing out their emotions that makes customers click through to your website and buy the products.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Making the Most of Your Time
03 December, 2016

The holiday season, starting a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving and running through the New Year, seems to be, for most of us, the busiest time of the year. Work is usually busier, whatever you do, as many companies are trying to get things finished up before the beginning of the New Year. Not to mention finishing up the budget and planning chores.

If you are in retail sales it is even busier, with most retail businesses open longer hours.  There is also more packing and shipping to think about, as well as managing stock and making sure that everything reaches buyers before the holidays start in earnest.

On top of all of this work stuff, you have to organize your own holidays, which may mean shopping for gifts, decorating the house, planning holiday meals, inviting guests or making travel plans to visit family or friends. In short, a lot of extra work to be accomplished in a short period of time. For those of you who start all of these things in August and have everything finished by September, congratulations! You can stop reading now! For the rest of us, here are a few time management tips to see us through this “most wonderful time of the year.”

  1. Start by making your lists. I suggest you sort your lists into different categories, for example:
  1. Work: List everything that you have to finish before the holiday break.
  2. Home: List all the things that have to be done to prepare your home for the holidays.
  3. Shopping: List all the people you have to buy for, what you want to get for them and when.
  4. Social engagements: Make a separate list of all your social engagements (business and personal) include dates, times and anything you need to take with you.
  1. Once your lists are prepared, add the amount of time you think it will take you to complete individual items on your list. Don’t forget to add in travel time if that’s a consideration.
  2. Keep to your schedule as much as you possibly can. If you miss some things reschedule them quickly.
  3. Finally, enjoy your holidays. Let your lists keep you on track and be sure to add in some time for a little relaxation. Remember to take a break or two and give yourself a small treat for getting things done.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Sell More Successfully
23 November, 2016

Some of the biggest shopping days of the year are coming up in the next few weeks so here are a few tips on how to persuade consumers to purchase your products for holiday gifts and for themselves. From now until the beginning of January, your customers are ready to buy. What are you doing to make sure they are buying from you? I have compiled a few tips that may help.

Tip One:  Know what your customers want. Don’t try to sell them what you think is best. Find out what they think is best for them and sell them what they want to buy. If you want to sell them Merlot and they want to buy Chardonnay, let them buy what they want rather than nothing at all.

Tip Two:  Deal with objections by asking for more information and considering what they are telling you rather than immediately trying to dispel the objection. Perhaps you have explained the product in a way that does not resonate with them.

Tip Three:  Remember that your customers may have come in with their own ideas, so trying to bend them to think the way you want them to think is only going to lose you the sale.

Top Four:  Focus on the experience rather than the sale. Give your customers a top- notch experience. Entertain them, give them a couple of interesting facts they can use to impress their friends and let them know that you have enjoyed their company. Do this and you stand a much better chance of making the sale.

Tip Five: Know your products and be comfortable speaking about them. You want to speak in terms of the benefits of the products to your customers, rather than focusing on features, that they may or may not be interested in.

Tip Six: Know the answers to the questions that you are asked most frequently. You might want to have a list of most frequently asked questions. Consumers prefer to deal with sellers who are knowledgeable and can help them make smart decisions.

Happy Thanksgiving and a tip of the glass from me to you!

Encourage Wine Exploration
18 November, 2016

Today’s blog is a follow up on the blog I posted last week in which I printed an email I received from a consumer talking about why they aren’t doing a lot of wine tasting any more.

The email talked about how the tasters disliked being told what they were going to taste and how they felt that most wineries (or at least the tasting room staff) just wanted them to buy and leave.

I have experienced myself being told at many wineries what I am going to taste in the wines before I taste them. How does the server know what I am going to taste? We all taste things differently. In classes and seminars that I conduct I ask the attendees to name a food that they do not like. It is amazing how many different foods are mentioned. Why is it that we all don’t like the same food? Might it be because we all taste things differently.

It used to be that the scientists thought that the human nose could smell only 10,000 different aromas, now we know it is over a trillion. So what I detect in a wine and what you do could be totally different.

Instead of telling customers what they should taste, turn the tasting notes over and ask them what they taste? If they need some help then go ahead and help them, but encourage them to take a stab at it first. When they come up with a flavor or aroma that others have found in the wine, congratulate them on their palate. Very few of us don’t respond positively to a compliment.

Engage your customers and encourage them to start on a journey of wine exploration with you as their guide. The customers are much more likely to come back for more when you do.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

A Note From A Frustrated Wine Consumer
10 November, 2016

The other day I received an email from a wine consumer I know. This person is not in the wine business, neither is anyone in the family. As a couple, they go wine tasting regularly and are thinking about giving it up.

The note is exactly as I received it, except that I took out any reference to the location of the wineries visited as these things happen in all regions.

“For a while now we have stopped going wine tasting for one major reason: We hate being told what we are going to taste in the wine. After the n-th tasting room, where we have heard the wine notes and we were asked only where are we from, I have had enough.

95% of our tasting room hosts recited the tasting notes to us and all other customers and just wanted to see us buying a lot and get out of the door. I feel not like a treasured guest but as a “body in and body out” and I feel like they check some boxes with how much they served and how much we bought and that’s all. 

We now only have about five favorite tasting rooms in the whole area where we take guests and the hosts are not assuming that we are there in a group just to get drunk, or that we know nothing about wine tasting. 

More often than not we have had to ask for water in-between the tastes and dump buckets were available in about 2% of all the tasting rooms we have visited in the last six years. 

I used to go to discover new places and find new wines I might like. I don’t feel like going anymore. I rarely find good examples of customer service or folks who really care about the customer and want to establish a relationship (other than “buy something, dammit!”).”

Show this note to your staff, bring it up at the next hospitality staff meeting. You might not think it applies to your winery, but it might.

Next week I will talk about ways to fix the problems brought up in this note.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

Captivating Your Audience
04 November, 2016

When someone comes into your place of business, it’s important to keep this person engaged and involved in the information you have to impart. Whether you are disseminating facts or giving a sales pitch, you should be aware of how the customer is absorbing the information. Are they interested or are they bored? Are you going into too much detail or not enough detail? Have you asked them some questions and assessed their level of knowledge and interest? Remember it’s not about you.

As many of my readers know I spend most of my time training staff of retail businesses, mostly wineries. Before I start I think about how my audience might feel about coming to this seminar or training. They may well not want to be there. So how do I get them involved very early in the seminar? For me, it’s humor that does the trick. When people laugh they open up, when they open up they internalize your message much more readily. They also pay closer attention because they are waiting for the next joke or humorous story. So try to add some humor into your conversation with customers.

Stories are another way to engage people. So as you assess the customers that are standing in front of you, tell them stories that they can or will relate to. Give them inside information on the company or the products. Give them the impression that they now know things that a lot of other people don’t know and leave them with a small tidbit that they can take home with them that will impress their friends. If you do that, they will talk about your business to others.

Talk to your customers about things that make them realize that they are special to you. If you have more than one set of customers in the room, don’t say the same things over and over. Every interaction should be individual.

Most importantly don’t waste customers’ time with things that they aren’t interested in, which means you have to be listening to them as well as talking to them. Give them high-quality information that will help them to make buying decisions.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

How to Provide a Quality Experience
28 October, 2016

Next February I am moderating a panel at the US BevX in Washington DC. The panel is about providing a quality experience, so I started thinking about what providing customers with a quality experience means. Of course, there are almost as many different answers as there are customers, though there are definitely some overlaps.

Most companies work hard to create a quality product or service and that’s very important. Equally important is providing a quality experience for customers when they come to your place of business, call you on the phone, email or text you. Each of these experiences can create positive or negative feelings with your customer. So let’s go for the positive feelings.

The big question is, what can you do to make your customers feel that they have had a quality experience? Remember that people buy because they feel, not because they think, so getting them involved is step one.

  • Emotion: Create an emotional connection with your customers before you start giving them the facts. Greet them with a smile and if you have the option to do so, come out from behind a counter and walk towards them.
  • Engage: Let customers know that they are important to you. A smile can create engagement very easily.
  • Explain: anything the customer doesn’t understand without making the customer feel that it’s a burden for you to do so. It doesn’t matter how simple you think it is, they may not know.
  • Enthusiasm: Be upbeat and ready to discover what they want (rather than what you want to tell them).
  • Effective: Be aware of a customer’s time constraints, needs and wants. Ask them how you can help.
  • Empathy: Assist in resolving any problems customers may have experienced and ensure that your customer is completely satisfied.
  • Experience: Your goal is to make it the best experience you can for each individual customer.

In short, do Everything you can to make the customer feel welcome, important and liked. Creating these feelings will pay dividends with more repeat customers and bigger sales. You might even make some new friends along the way.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Educating Your Customers
21 October, 2016

There is s lot of discussion at businesses and especially in the wine business about the need to educate customers about products and services. I am definitely not against education, though it’s important to realize that education is not usually at the forefront of someone’s mind when they walk into a business. It’s not so much about education as giving customers the facts they want and need to make a buying decision.

For example, if a customer walks into a hardware store to buy paint because they are planning to paint their living room, giving them information about the latest model of kitchen sink is not going to do you or them any good.

Before you give customers the facts, you should know what it is that they are looking for, what information is relevant to them and what will make them want to buy from you. So start by asking questions, creating a personal relationship with them and listening. Let them talk first and for most of the time, you will have plenty of time later when you know what it is that your customers want.

Be sure that everyone who deals with customers knows the products and how to describe them. As an article from Forbes (April 2015) said,

If there’s a starting point when it comes to educating your customers, it’s probably this: Believe in your product. But more than that, make sure you know how to express that belief.”

While the features (what the product or service can do) are very important, the benefits (how the product or service will make the customers’ lives easier/better) are even more significant. The customer wants to know how the product will relate in the real world. How it will impress their friends, what problems it will solve and how others feel about it.

You want your customers to leave your place of business with the view that your product or service will make their life, simpler, better, more fun, or whatever it is that you have discovered is important to them.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

S.M.A.R.T. Marketing
17 October, 2016

As we come into October, it’s time to start thinking about next year’s goals and budgets.

Create your goals with the help of all members of the team. The more involved the team is, the more buy in to reaching the goals. Also let others in the company, who, while not specifically responsible, may impact outcomes. For example, if how you treat your customers impacts your sales, everyone is responsible for ensuring that customers are treated well even if they come into contact with them only in passing.

Many of us have heard of S.M.A.R.T. marketing. Following this simple acronym will help create goals that are achievable. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound.

Specific – Use real numbers. Instead of planning to see more visitors, specify how many visitors you want to see annually, monthly, etc. Taking a general viewpoint won’t get you very far. Also be specific when establishing ways that you are going to reach these numbers.

Measurable – Create programs you can track and know how to track them. How many people are opening your emails? How many visitors come into the retail room? How many sign up for your mailing list? Etc. If you can’t measure you can’t assess whether you are reaching your goals.

Attainable – Most of us work harder towards success when we know that we can reach it, or at least come close. If employees don’t believe they can reach goals that have been set, they are less likely to work towards those goals. You have lost before you even start.

Realistic – Base your goals on what is realistic. Increase targets incrementally and build in a little leeway for anything unforeseen.

Time-Bound – Be sure to deadlines as part of the process. If you are creating yearly goals, put in checkpoints monthly or quarterly. You want to be able to adjust your own and your team’s expectations or make an extra effort if it’s needed.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Happy Customer Service Week!
30 September, 2016

Next week or most of next week, October 3 – 7, is Customer Service Week. According to the Customer Service Group, in 1992 the U.S. Congress proclaimed Customer Service Week a nationally recognized event, celebrated the first full week in October.

While there is a lot of talk about customer service, companies usually don’t do as many things as they could or should on a regular basis to let customers know that they are appreciated.

Customer Service Week gives companies the opportunity to reaffirm how important their customers are to them. Start with a short email letting customers know how much you appreciate them and thanking them for their business.

You might want to create a special offer for your customers. Consider segmenting your customer list so your best customers are given more than those who spend less with you. Or expand Customer Service Week through the weekend and invite your best customers to visit you on that weekend for a small celebration.

It is also a great week to empower your employees, giving them opportunities to make a difference. Encourage them to engage with customers more and thank them for their patronage. Offer small rewards for employees who go out of their way to take care of customers during this week. You don’t only tell customers that they are important to you, prove it.

An article in Forbes magazine suggests writing thank-you notes to customers. You can assign a few customers to each employee, even those that don’t regularly come into contact with customers and ask the employees to write the thank-you notes to these customers.

Customer Service Week is also a great time for a customer service training session. Even an in house session where your employees talk about what they do to engage with customers. A prize can be given for the best idea.

There are lots of things that can be done to make Customer Service Week a way to let your customers and your employees know that they are appreciated.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Is Your Body Language Telling Your Customers?
23 September, 2016

Body language sends silent (non-verbal) signals, many of which we are not aware of.  Though all the time we are talking to someone, our body is communicating messages that are picked up consciously or subconsciously by the person or people you are speaking with. According to Psychology Today, “Micro-expressions, hand gestures and posture register almost immediately, a silent orchestra that can have long-lasting repercussions.”

When you meet someone and don’t like them, it would be interesting to know how much it has to do with their body language.

There’s a good article by Patrick Schober in Customer Experience Insights entitled “Examples of Body Language That Destroy Sales.” It talks about the things you should be doing and how it often leads others to believe that you are no interested, impatient or defensive. As we all know these are not the things that we want our customers to believe if we want them to visit us again and/or buy from us.

Here is a recap:

Make eye contact 70% to 80% of the time. As the article says, “any more and you might appear threatening, any less and you may appear uncomfortable or disinterested.”

Be aware of your posture, keep your head up and don’t slouch as it, “can make you look wear and unconfident.”

Let people see your hands (easy when you are pouring wine) and when you are not holding something, have the palms up to show receptivity and friendliness.

Give them personal space. Don’t stand too close, one to four feet is good, otherwise you may make people uncomfortable

Crossing your arms can and often will feel defensive. If you cross your arms, make sure you are smiling and appear welcoming.

Don’t overdo movements like twirling a pen or tapping your feet as your customers may feel that you are impatient.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Selling to the Customers’ Emotions
16 September, 2016

I was watching The Wine Show on the television the other day. It’s an English show that talks about wines from around the world, visiting different wine regions and adding humor into the discourse on wine, winemaking, etc.

One of the hosts was asked why he had bought a particular bottle of wine and he remarked that he bought it because of emotional memory, rather than anything else. He smelled the wine, tasted the wine and was reminded of something in the past. Obviously it must have been a pleasant memory as he bought the bottle of wine and brought it to the tasting.

It reminded me of something I have been saying in my seminars for many years, “People buy because they feel, not because they think.” The mammalian brain is responsible for memory, emotions and feelings and it is the emotions and feelings that make us want to buy most of the time. Especially when it comes to wine.

In the wine business you have an added benefit, the customers that come into your tasting rooms or see you at outside events have the opportunity to see, smell, feel and taste your wine and those things will bring back memories.  Take a sniff or taste of a wine and see how many memories it brings up.

When you are encouraging someone to buy, try using emotions instead of just logic. In most tasting rooms the hosts use facts, and while these are important, mixing the facts with some emotional reasons to buy is going to bring you more success.

There are different emotions that make customers want to buy:

  • Being Ahead of the Curve

Nobody’s buying this wine, I can impress my friends with this

  • Time Saving

By joining the wine club I will always have good wine on hand that I can trust, no last minute decisions.

  • Inclusion

My friends really like this wine, I am part of the group

  • Reward

I deserve to buy this. It’s been a tough week; I owe it to myself.

I am sure you can come up with a lot more reasons for customers to buy if you give them a chance. Give it some thought.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Getting Heard Through an Overcrowded Medium
09 September, 2016

Don’t you love the Internet?? Well sometimes you might (when an order comes in from an email you sent out) and sometimes you don’t. However, if you are looking to make a splash on Facebook, for example remember that there are 50 million small business Facebook pages. So you have some competition.

When I typed in the search engine “popular social media sites” one of the top search results was a post from 60 second, “Top 52 Social Media Platforms Every Marketer Should Know.” So before you go to that site, how many can you name?

The Internet, email, social media, etc. have changed our world both personally and in business in ways that we would have never thought possible. And every day there are new things coming out that are changing it all again. There is no time to stand still.

As a business, you have to be aware of the next new thing and choose to adopt the ones that will enhance our businesses, products and abilities. For example, a company creates a Facebook page to introduce information about the products, service and business. Now just putting the information out is not enough, you also need to be involved with social monitoring (also called social listening). It is equally as important that you know what is being said about you as well as what you are saying.

Also important is social response, where you respond to people who make comments (good and bad) about your business or products.

Content, of course is still king. Is what you are writing about interesting, amusing, targeted towards you readers? People enjoy stories and stories make a stronger impression. Good stories sell; by buying your products, especially in the case of wine (or especially a case of wine) buying the product will make them happy. Sometimes your customers need to be reminded of that.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

The Four Categories of Emotional Intelligence
03 September, 2016

Continuing from last week on the subject of emotional intelligence. Taken from an article by Lindsay Kolowich on the Hubspot blog, we are now going to look at the four categories of emotional intelligence in the model created by doctors Goleman and Boyatzis.  The four categories are:  Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management.

Self Awareness 

What are your feelings and emotions, strengths and weaknesses and do you understand what drives them? Additionally, make a list of and then assess your values and goals and where you want to go in life. The third part is confidence, understanding what makes you tick, your strengths and limitation, think about what you are good at and where you can use some work to improve.

Self Management

Manage your bad moods and impulses (we all have them). You may find a customer irritating but that doesn’t mean you have to let him/her know. Instead make them feel important. Define goals for each interaction, before you start talking to a customer, what is it you want to achieve? Keep a positive outlook and if something does go wrong, don’t let it eat at you.

Social Awareness

Take notice of what others may be feeling, look for clues as to their concerns and acknowledge them. Be service oriented, listening is much harder than talking, so remember to pay attention and try not to interrupt too much. Listen to your customers so you understand what they are looking for.

Relationship Management

Create an experience for your customers by being articulate and clear. Give them persuasive reasons to purchase and let them know you care in simple ways. For example, you may have heard the same joke hundreds of times but laugh anyway, it doesn’t cost anything and it might very well sell something. Help build your customers’ knowledge of your products, especially through stories.

It’s always important to know the facts and to have the knowledge your customers needs, but when you have emotional intelligence as well you are more likely to retain them as customers for longer.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Are you Emotionally Intelligent?
26 August, 2016

Recently I came across an article by Lindsay Kolowich on Hubspot’s blog about Emotional Intelligence that was very interesting. For those of us who make our living in sales (or in my case helping people sell) the ins and outs of how emotions affect customers’ willingness to buy has long been on my radar. Whether you are selling a product or service to consumers, selling an idea to your employees, selling yourself or your ideas to you boss, or selling your kids on why they should do something your way, if you use emotional as well as cognitive intelligence you will be more successful.

It’s been posited that there are seven different types of intelligence. Today’s blog is about cognitive and emotional intelligence.

According to Darren Horrigon from CIO the differences between cognitive and emotional intelligence are:

Cognitive Intelligence is the ability to understand information, imagine possibilities, use intuition, solve problems and make decisions.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand the needs and feelings of oneself and other people, manage one’s feelings, and respond to others in appropriate ways.

In short, it’s all about feelings and emotions. Your ability to recognize your own emotions and those of others allows you to help others (in this case your customers) sort through the emotions that go along with allowing themselves to buy a product or service when they want to but think they shouldn’t.

Dr. Daniel Goleman, a scientific journalist and Dr. Richard E, Boyatzis came up with a model that splits emotional intelligence into four different categories. The four categories are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.  Knowing these competencies is only the first step; according to Ms. Kolowich, you also need to understand them, manage them and use them to perform.

In next week’s blog we will separate these four categories and talk about the skills you need to become more emotionally intelligent.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Tick, Tick, Tick
19 August, 2016

It’s already the middle of August and in my neck of the woods school has started, which brings to mind autumn and starts me thinking about the coming holiday season. It’s not too early to start planning for the holidays, especially as far as your business is concerned.

While you are still busy with your summer customers, it’s time to start thinking about how will you be promoting your business this before and during the holiday season year? Even if you just start jotting down some ideas on your holiday specials and how you will promote to corporate clients in your area. Get a jumpstart on creating your holiday marketing calendar and newsletters. Outline all the key dates for your marketing and advertising and start planning for Small Business Saturday, an initiative to drive more shoppers to small businesses. This year Small Business Saturday is November 26th (the Saturday after Thanksgiving).

Thanksgiving weekend is usually a good weekend for wineries and other types of small business and a good time to partner with local businesses to make a visit to your retail room even more interesting and fun. Make it even better this year by promoting in advance special items you will be featuring and the preferential pricing on certain items.

In addition to promoting for the holidays this is election year, which adds an extra bit of spice to the end of the year. With all the rhetoric, claims and counter claims the country will be hearing over the next two or three months, having a few bottles of wine on hand is going to seem like an even better idea to your customers. No matter who they plan on voting for, a glass of wine is going to seem like a good idea.

Start now, because the holidays and the election will be upon us in no time.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Keeping Up With Your Customers
05 August, 2016

Times change, people change, and tastes change. What people want at one stage of their lives is not necessarily what they want at others. Are you keeping up with your regular customers? The people who have been doing business with you for years, sometimes decades, don’t necessarily what the same things now that they did when they first started buying your products or services.

Know Your Customers

Updating customer information is key to keeping up with your customers wants, needs and desires. Some of the questions that need to be answered are:

  • Are they still purchasing in the same quantities, more or less than they did?
  • Are they still coming to events and have the types of events they attend changed?
  • Do they visit you as often as they used to?
  • Have the ways they purchased changed, e.g. they used to visit now they order via email?

Monitor your customer records regularly to see what changes have taken place in their buying and attendance patterns.

Stay Connected

People buy because they feel not because they think. The keys to the want and/or need to purchase are primarily emotional rather than logical. While logic does come into it, the emotional desire comes first. Part of the emotional desire to buy is driven by customer service. Customer service is important not just at the time of purchase but also in every facet of the ongoing relationship between the company and its customers. In small businesses interaction with the principals is a large draw to whether people buy or not. Customers who feel that they have a personal relationship with an owner or key employees makes a difference in the amount of money spent and the frequency of purchases.

The other key to connection is keeping your promises. What does your brand promise to the customer in advertising and promotion? When the customer buys the product, is that brand promise fulfilled?

The closer you are to your customers, the better your sales will be.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

The More Things Change…
29 July, 2016

We are familiar with the saying by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, a 19th century French critic and journalist, which is loosely translated “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

In marketing, while the delivery of the messages may have changed (email and text instead of letters and newspapers) the questions we need to ask ourselves remain the same. Before we can create an ad or correspondence (whether electronic or print) to market products and/or services we must first ask:

Who is the audience we are trying to reach?

Most businesses deal with customers of different ages and generations, with a variety of different wants needs and expectations. First start by segmenting your audience into categories that will bring you the best return, such as purchasing history

What makes your customers buy?

Keep track of what individual customers have previously purchased and ensure those types of products make up part of the mix of offerings you send them as well as similar things they have not tried.

How is the best way to reach them?          

Ask your customers how they prefer to be reached. It may be email, it may be text, it may be a phone call or a post card.  While it’s easy to create email campaign after email campaign, if your audience is not looking at your emails it’s not very effective. Check to see how many people are opening the emails, how many are clicking through and how many are actually taking advantage of the offer by buying. Think about a mix of ways to promote your products or services.

When and how often do customers want to get emails from you?

According to Wordstream the best time to send email newsletters for example is 8 – 9 a.m. on Thursdays, with the company seeing upwards of 25% open rather in this time frame. While Hubspot says that small companies (1-10 employees) find that the open and click rates are highest when they send 16-30 email targeted campaigns per month. Companies in this category may see a median open rate of 35.5% and an open rate of 6.9%.

Start honing your correspondence to fit your audience and focus your message on the wants, needs and desires or your audience. Take time to segment your customer list and send messages that suit their interests and focus.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Identify Personality Types to Increase Sales
22 July, 2016

I came across an interesting article by Mikita Mikado the co-founder and CEO of PandaDoc on the ways people think and how you can get them to buy by paying attention to their actions to discern the way they think. Mr. Mikado suggests that one method to understand what motivates buyers is to apply a personality model and sites the DISC model (Dominant, Inspiring, Supportive or Cautious). He goes on to summarize each personality type and useful approaches when selling to different types of customers.


Confident and assertive people who know what they want. These people make statements instead of asking questions. The dominant people focus on the bottom line and are motivated by control and achievement. Ask them questions about what they think or how they would solve something. With products and facts show them why your product works for them. Demonstrate how it will help their life and give them more control.


These are people who will listen to what you have to say. They are interested and want to get to know you by asking questions that relate to your personally. These people are early adopters so if you have a new wrinkle on an old idea, point it out as they value what’s different. Sell them on what makes you unique or different. They want to try new things. Let them help you sell to others by providing incentives for sharing information.


People who want to discuss things they have learned with others. They are interested in relationships and work hard to maintain them. Once they have a relationship with you they will want to keep it and are primary candidates for rewards and clubs. While they like to take their time making the decision, once they make it you have them for a long time.  Sell to them by building relationships and keep in touch. Let them know what others think about your products.


You need to get straight to the point with these people. They want information and them will ask you several questions, so make sure you know your stuff. They are the people who want the details, so focus more on facts. To sell them, validate their thoughts and emotions and when they are right, let them know. Pictures as well as words help.

While many of us share some traits from more than one personality type, look out for the traits you can identify.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Don't Forget The Wine!
22 July, 2016

One of the things I say most often in my seminars for wineries and wine associations is,“It’s not all about the wine.”  So today’s blog is a little different, in that I have noticed, when I go to winery events, that the wine seems to get lost in the mix of the food, entertainment and everything else that goes along with the event.

There are a few things we should do to keep the product as the main focus in guests’ minds:

  1. Have printed information and an order form available for attendees
  2. Provide your staff members with talking points they can use
  3. As an owner and/or winemaker be available and visible to guests.

Printed Information

During any event, but especially when you are participating in a multi-winery event, have an information sheet or brochure available for the event attendees. An information piece they take home with them will make your winery and your products more memorable.

Talking Points

At an event, we don’t want to overwhelm the guests with in-depth talk about the wine or the vineyards. However, at each tasting station or in the pouring areas, we should say a couple of things about the wine, even if the staff members just tell the guests how good the wine is. You could use a snippet of non-technical information about quality or food pairings. For example: “Have you ever tried this wine with a burger? It’s delicious.” Or,“A glass of this wine on a lazy afternoon is perfect.”


Everyone should be wearing a name badge – and especially the owner(s) and winemakers.

Those are the people that your guests want to meet if they don’t know them, or to say hello to, if they do. Their job is to shake hands with and talk to as many people as they can. I know that’s not easy for some, but it goes along with the job of owner or winemaker.

The guests rate the experience higher if they have the opportunity to speak to the owner or winemaker and they are more likely to buy wine when they have met them. Remember that meeting and speaking to the owner and/or winemaker gives them bragging rights with their friends.

So make your events more successful and more profitable.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Are Your Events Working For You?
08 July, 2016

As many of you know, my marketing sales and customer service offerings include mystery shopping for individual companies and associations. Recently I finished a large mystery shop (using multiple shopper sets) to assess a multi-winery event.

What forcibly struck me about the answers the shoppers provided in the questionnaires they completed was the lack of training that has been given to the “first responders” that is, the people who are on check-in at events.

The employees or part timers at the check-in desk are the first people that the attendees see and the first people they have any interaction with. The interactions with the check-in folks may very well set the attendees’ attitudes for the entire time they spend at the event. Their first impression will have a great impact on whether or not these people decide to visit the business again.

In this particular case, not only were many of the check-in people inattentive and in some cases unhelpful, it was obvious by the answers they gave to simple questions that they had received little or no training for their role or information about the event itself.

Put one of your most cheerful and most accommodating staff members in charge of check-in. Make sure that the staff members you have on check-in have been well trained and can deal politely and calmly with people who have been waiting in line, been stuck in traffic, couldn’t find a parking space, or anything else that may have frustrated them before they got to check-in.

When visitors begin with a good experience, their attitude towards the whole event is better. They will be more patient if things go wrong or if they have to wait in line for food, wine or to purchase.

I hear a lot of horror stories from consumers about things that have gone wrong while they were trying to check in at a busy special event. So, please, train your staff and make sure to put your best and brightest on check-in.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

Tell Stories to Connect With Customers
30 June, 2016

I was wine tasting recently and went to several different wineries in the course of one day. The wines were good, actually very good, no complaints about the wines at all.  The hard part for me was that the experience was the same at most of the wineries I visited. I was told about the wines, how it was going to taste, where the grapes were grown and that was about it.

Stories of the business, the owners, the passion, the history or the reason for the existence of any particular winery were basically non-existent.

We connect to people through stories. We are known to the world by the stories that we tell. So please, tell me your story and I will remember you, your products and your people. I will give you a place in my mind and tell others about you and your wines.

Tell your stories well. Bring the people, places, products and events in your stories to life. When you tell them well your audience will see and experience the story in their minds. They will then retell your story to others. It’s great marketing and it doesn’t cost much at all. Just some time learning to tell your stories in interesting ways.

Keep the stories simple when you first start, you can add more details and complexity as you get more used to telling stories. Not too many details though, as it’s easy for people to get lost in the details.

Make sure the story has a point and a message for your customers to take with them. Add a little humor; when people start laughing they start listening more because they are listening for the next laugh.

Always be checking that your audience is still interested. If your audience is getting glassy eyed, it’s time to come quickly to the end of your story or ask some questions of the people you are talking to.

Lastly, give your audience the chance to tell you a story or two. Talk about wine a little bit less and let your customers talk a little more and you will sell more wine.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Is Your Story Being Told Accurately?
24 June, 2016

I always find it interesting to hear the story of a business. Who started the business, how it was started and why, as well as what happened along the way. Often times, when I am visiting the same business I will make a point of asking a different employee about the story of the business and am surprised at how much each version I hear differs from ones I have heard before.

While you tell your employees, managers, etc. the story of your business when they first join the company, you don’t always have the time to keep track of what the story has morphed into through the telling process and the passage of time. It’s important to remember, too, that what you said is not necessarily what the person heard. The brain is very clever about shifting things around. Just because someone has been told something doesn’t mean that they remember it in the way it was told to them. As George Bernard Shaw said,

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place”

There are a few things we can do to help staff members remember the story correctly. The easiest one is to start by putting the story in writing and making it part of the employee manual. If you don’t have an employee manual then start one using that as the first page.

Another method that works well is having different staff members tell the story of the company and its owners, as well as what the vision and goals of the company are, at staff meetings, so you know everyone is on the right track. If there are any discrepancies in the telling of the story you have the chance to correct them with everyone present.

It’s important to make sure the stories of your business are being told consistently.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Next Week:  Telling Your Story To Connect

Know Your Customers
17 June, 2016

There are lots of things that you have to remember as a business owner, manager or employee, though the most important thing you should always keep in mind is information about your customers. Not only information about what they purchase from you and how much they spend, though that is part of it; you should also remember your customers as individuals, their likes and dislikes, their loyalty. Starting with one of the most effective things you should know about your customer (take a guess… yes you are right): her/his name.

When a customer walks into a business that they frequent regularly and the employee who is helping them remembers her/his name, it makes a big impression on the customer. It makes your customer feel that s/he is important to you and valued as a customer. Using someone’s name activates their brain, so you know you have their attention from the beginning of the interaction.

Unfortunately, unlike Queen Elizabeth or the US President, you don’t have someone whispering into your ear the name of the person approaching you and/or a small tidbit about the person. So here are a few tips on how to remember names:

When you first meet people and realize that they are going to become regular customers you should (if you haven’t already) find out their names and find associations so that you will remember the names the next time you see them.

Ask the person their name and if you don’t get it when they say it ask them to repeat it.That way you have heard it twice and are more likely to remember it. If you can think of an image that goes with the name, connect the person with someone you already know by that name or someone famous with the same name.

There is a reason why teachers put their name up on the board in school, seeing the name written out allows you to picture the letters in your mind, which makes it easier to remember the name next time you see it.

Keep working on associating people with the additional information you get from them, Remember that most people like to talk about themselves so you should be able to find an association that will help your memory.

If you can’t remember someone’s name, apologize and ask them to tell you again. The fact that you want to know will make them feel good and increase your sales at the same time.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

It's All About Connection
10 June, 2016

Last week I attended the groundbreaking for Sonoma State University’s new Wine Spectator Learning Center for the Wine Business Institute. At the groundbreaking, Bill Silver, the Dean of the School of Business & Economics for SSU gave a great speech.

He talked about raising money for the new building and how, after some phone conversations, he went to New York to meet with Marvin Shanken, owner of the Wine Spectator, to talk about a donation for this new project.

Before his trip he called his parents in Connecticut and told them he was coming to New York. His mother asked what he was doing in New York and he told her about the new building and that he was meeting with a man named Marvin Shanken. To which his mother replied that she went to school with Marvin Shanken. It turns out that Mr. Shanken and Dr. Silver come from the same hometown and both sets of parents owned retail businesses in the town.

In their subsequent meeting Bill told Marvin about their joint heritage, Marvin asked for Bill’s phone and called Bill’s mother to chat with her. Once off the phone, Marvin looked up and said, “Well, I guess we are doing this.” And so, Sonoma State kicked off their fundraising with a three million dollar donation from Mr. Shanken and the Wine Spectator.

The building of the Learning Center for the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State is a great boon for the whole wine industry, as students come from near and far to learn more about the business of wine. It is possible, perhaps even probable, that Mr. & Mrs. Shanken would have donated to the fund anyway. Though the connection between the two families made the whole transaction simpler and quicker.

The point here is to create connection with your customers, employees and co-workers. Having a personal connection oils the wheels of philanthropy and commerce. People are more likely to do business with and buy from people with whom they feel a connection. So, create as many small connections with your customers as you can.

I am proud to say that my connection with SSU is that I teach classes for the Wine Business Institute. It’s a great place.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

The Wine and Beer Market is Thriving Everywhere
03 June, 2016

I just came back from a month in the UK, traveling, visiting family and socializing in the pubs. It was pleasing to see the amount of wine being consumed by women and men alike. While beer is still very popular (I admit being a big fan of English beer and took advantage of the option to drink beer during my stay) wine is being consumed much more frequently. Not only in the pubs but in most restaurants you will usually see a bottle or two of wine on the table.

U.S. wines were in short supply, in fact in most places there were at most one or two on a good sized wine list. There was however a large variety of wines from all over Europe, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. Even in the small village of Uppermill (approximate population 3,000) where I was staying there was a lovely wine shop, The Wine Vault, tucked away in the basement of an old building. The shop carried a large selection of wines. The ones we chose, with help from the attentive staff were very good.

I was also able to sample some of the British sparkling wine, which I have been wanting to do. I was very impressed with the ones we chose. The wine is winning awards in Europe and the wine industry in Britain is growing.

The craft beer movement is big all over Britain as it is in the U.S. and we were able to sample some delicious, local craft beers wherever we went.

Upon returning to the U.S. we found that a new supermarket had opened in the small town in which I live. It has incorporated a tavern with about eight craft beers on tape as well as wine and cider by the bottle or by the glass. So after you have finished your shopping you can pop along to the tavern for a glass. They also serve food or you can buy food in the store and bring it into the tavern. What a great concept. It was a delight to go in there on Sunday afternoon with some friends. It certainly makes grocery shopping more fun.

I am happy to see wine and beer being incorporated into more areas of our lives and more places for the small purveyors to sell their products.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Does D.T.C. Mean?
27 May, 2016

The acronym D.T.C. (direct to consumer) is ubiquitous these days. It’s hard to read anything about marketing or business without the words D.T.C. being a big part of it. In order to sell your product directly to consumers successfully, D.T.C. needs to mean a lot of other things to your business, to your staff and to the way you do business.


When you are creating marketing or sales messages, Devise Transparent Content. Make the messages easy and quick to understand. If you are creating a billboard to bring people into your business, you have 2 seconds to let them know where to go and why.

According to, a marketing software company, 55% of people spend less than 15 seconds on your website. Not only that but consumers (including you) are subjected to hundreds of ads and company messages every day. Time is of the essence so make your messages stand out.


When we are talking about the products you sell and how you are going to sell them, through D.T.C. channels, think Determine Targeted Channels. In other words, know how you are going to sell your product and to whom you are going to sell them. Know which channels will work best for you, the ones important to the audience you wish to attract.


How should you be treating your customers and visitors? In this instance D.T.C. may be translated to mean Develop Treasured Customers. If you want to be truly successful selling through D.T.C. channels, focus on your customers, what they need, desire and expect from you. Make them feel as if they are your most important asset because they are.


Finally what is the return on your D.T.C. investment? If you are doing most things right, it could mean Dedication (or Diligence) Turns to Cash. When consumers understand that you are trying to make their life better by bringing them great products sold in a cheerful and pleasant atmosphere, you are well on your way to Doubling The Coffers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Are Your Employees Saying to Customers?
20 May, 2016

I was in Target the other day looking for something or other and decided that I also needed some sparkling water. So I slogged all the way over to the other side of the store. (Are they making Target stores bigger these days? This one was absolutely enormous.)

When I got to the sparkling water the sections of shelf that held the flavors that I wanted, either lemon or lime, were completely empty. My only option was Watermelon Lime, which didn’t appeal to me. A Target employee (easily visible in his red shirt) was further up the aisle stacking the shelf so I strolled over to ask him if they had any more of the lemon or lime sparkling water. He walked back with me to look at the shelf. The area where the lemon sparkling water should have been had a grey dot over the tag. He said that meant they didn’t have any more in stock. The lime just had the tag so he didn’t know whether they had any or not.

I asked when they would be getting more in and was told (politely) that he didn’t know. He then said, “But you can come back and check another time.” To which I replied with a smile, “Or I could get it from somewhere else.” He agreed with me and I left.

The employee was polite and trying to be helpful and I do not blame him, he may not have been taught to say anything different. The store’s training perhaps does not cover the topics of empty shelves, when and how deliveries come in and what a customer should do (besides making another trip) to get the product s/he wants.

Imagine if employees in your retail business were telling customers that you didn’t have the product you wanted so they should come back another time (without any idea whether or not the product would be available then).

Before the busiest times of the year are upon us, institute some training programs for your employees, ensuring that they know what to say to the customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Top Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs
13 May, 2016

I came across an interesting article in Business Dictionary, about three weeks ago, that talked about the top four traits of successful entrepreneurs. As most small retailers are entrepreneurs I thought the article (with my own comments added, of course) would make an interesting reading. So whether you are or want to be an entrepreneur, this article offers some good ideas.

Becoming an entrepreneur takes a specific type of personality, though, according to the article, it includes traits that can be developed.

ONE:  As an entrepreneur you need to be a problem solver who can look at problems as an opportunity. If you can solve your customers as well as your employees problems, or learn how to understand their wants, needs and desires, you can provide solutions that will make people happy and make you successful and profitable.

TWO:  An entrepreneur takes calculated risks. The article reminds us that risk-averse people do not, as a rule, make very good entrepreneurs, though on the other hand neither do reckless people who leap first and look later. To be a successful entrepreneur you need to evaluate and minimize risk.

Also, entrepreneurs need to learn from their mistakes and then move on. It doesn’t help to waste time on what ifs. Analyze what went wrong and go forward.

THREE: An entrepreneur is self-motivated. It’s about getting done what has to be done, even though you may not like some of those tasks. In fact get the tasks you don’t like done first. You also have to be constantly looking forward, creating plausible plans to create more opportunities and ways to succeed.

FOUR:  An entrepreneur is confident. Fear can make you back away from projects that could be ultimately successful. If you aren’t confident you will have a harder time getting others to see the value in your business, service or products.

I have added a fifth rule to this group of four and that is: surround yourself with people who have entrepreneurial tendencies. People who, while they don’t have their business, are creative and understand the need to innovate to move forward.

Keep growing your entrepreneurial spirit.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Putting Into Practice Influencing Tactics
06 May, 2016

The past two blogs have been all about the tactics of Professor Robert Cialdini, described in his book “The Psychology of Persuasion.” The first two weeks were mostly about theWhat, describing the tactics with a little of how to use them. This week, the last week on this topic, I am going to write further on the How of these tactics and how they can help you in your job.

We are all in sales in some way or another and it starts at an early age. I have been in the supermarket many times and overheard small children presenting very cogent arguments as to why their mothers or fathers should buy them whatever it is that they wanted at that minute.

During our day there are many times when we want or need to persuade people to comply with something we want from them. Though it’s not about being manipulative, it’s about being open and using these tools for everyone’s advantage.

In order to use these tactics you have to know your objectives. What you want to accomplish and what does being successful in this area mean to you, your customers and your bosses? What can you use that will accomplish your goals?

Think again about what you can do to create involvement with your customer. What can you give them to make them feel special. If you are dealing with customers you have worked with before, remind them of a past interaction when you were able to help them. If it’s a new customer, give them something they are not expecting that will please them.

Are you in sales? If so, your best trait is a genuine interest in the customers you are talking to, rather than your product. Plan to spend more of the conversation talking about them and less talking about the product. Although it seems counter-intuitive, it will result in more sales. The caveat is that if you are getting a lot of one word or short answers, change your tactic. In this case they may want to know about the product. Though most people like to be asked questions.

Work on your listening and communication skills. Be yourself and act naturally. As George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Following Cialdini’s Science of Persuasion
29 April, 2016

Last week we talked about Robert Cialdini and the first two principles of influence, especially as they relate to sales. Last week we talked about Reciprocation and Consistency. This week we continue with the final four.

Social Proof

Social proof is the third of the six influencers. Basically it means that we are influenced by people we deem to be similar to ourselves. If a group of people is buying wine in a tasting room there is a greater chance that others in the room will do the same. The subconscious of the visitors persuades them that if other people are doing something that they should do it, too. That’s why, when someone is buying wine, if you can, put the bottles on the bar where they can be seen during the transaction. Then they are bagged or boxed and handed to the purchaser.


Most people will follow the lead of those who are seen to be authoritative in their positions. If you watch advertising for medical or pharmaceutical products you will often see a doctor as a spokesperson for these products. In today’s society people have been trained to listen to doctors and to assume they know what they are talking about.

Giving visitors information that they can take home and impress their friends with will make it easier to sell your products to them. As the salesperson you are the expert. Your job is to pass along some of that expertise to make your customers feel that they have some expertise. Use language that is easy to understand and make the information interesting or your will lose your audience to glazed eye syndrome.


As well as being influenced by authority, customers are also more likely to be influenced by people they like. If they like you, the salesperson, they are more likely to buy. So the key is while you are the expert be a nice expert and make them feel good about what they know or what they are learning.


There is much more chance of your customers wanting what they cannot have if they wait. Scarcity will make people buy, which is why it is used regularly in advertising.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

How Persuasive Are You?
22 April, 2016

I have been reading Robert Cialdini’s six influence tactics again. The 6 principles something remind me of how important the science of persuasion is.

Cialdini is best known for his book “The Psychology of Persuasion,” published in 1984. He is a Professor Emeritus in Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University and was a visiting professor of marketing, business and psychology at Stanford. He knows his stuff.

The six principles that Cialdini outlined can be of great help in all parts of our life. In this blog we are focused on helping our customers make decision to purchase. We do this by using tactics that tap into common behaviors that work on us, not only consciously but subconsciously as well.

We think we know what’s going on in our brain, but mostly we are clueless. Our brain has a life of its own. Plus we don’t have the bandwidth to take in everything that is going on around us consciously, so a lot of it goes directly to our subconscious and many of our actions are performed without much conscious thought.  Have you ever been walking along and suddenly realized you have no idea how you got there?  Well, your subconscious has been busy keeping you on the right path.

The six principles that Cialdini coalesced are:

Reciprocity • Consistency • Social Proof • Authority • Liking • Scarcity.

In today’s blog I am going to discuss the first two, finishing up next week with the last three.


If someone does something nice for you, you are going to want to do something for them in return. When we offer something extra to someone, something they weren’t expecting but something they will appreciate for any number of reasons, they usually feel obliged to do something for you. For example in a winery tasting room you give your visitors a taste of something they don’t expect or treat them to a walk around the cellar or a small piece of chocolate with a wine.

You have done something extra for them and they will do something for you, i.e. buy something.

Consistency or commitment:

Most of us in the sales world know that if you can get people to say yes, you can keep them in a consistent frame of mind. In winery tasting rooms you can try the wines before you buy them and therefore up the odds of making a sale.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

More on Making Your Emails Count
16 April, 2016

Last week we talked about emails and how to make them more effective. We covered in more detail when to send emails. Today we have a few more tips.

Getting Attention: When you send an email, the first thing your customers see on the left hand side is the name of the company or person who sent the email. So why is it that I am still getting emails from companies whose company name is shown on the left hand side and who then repeat the name of the company in the subject line? You are wasting valuable real estate and your best chance of getting readers engaged.

Segmentation: Most businesses have lots of people on their email lists, but they send the same email to everyone. Segment your emails to fit the different categories of customers. Look at how much the customers buy, how often, when and what. Take the top ten or twenty percent of your customers, those who support your business regularly, and send them a different email than the customers who purchase from you occasionally. The email to occasional customers should encourage them to visit you more often and give them reasons to do so.

Personality: Each business has a personality, as do the people in the business. Bring out your personality in your emails. If people are used to having fun when they visit you, add some fun into your emails too. Let your customers see the real you (unless you really are a grump, then let someone else write the email).

Stories: Are you telling stories in your emails? Short stories can captivate visitors. Stories are entertaining and will increase sales. Mention something that happened in the business, for example how you were able to solve a customer’s problem or meet a need. There are lots of different ways to make your emails more enjoyable and interesting for your customers. So don’t stay with the same old thing. Take a step forward.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Encouraging Recipients To Read Your Emails
08 April, 2016

When we send an email from our business, we often times assume that many more people read the email than the number that actually does. For example, if we have an email list of 1,000 people and the open rate is around 20% that means that approximately 200 people out of the 1,000 see your offer. Even less then click through to your site and even less actually buy from you because of that email.

When you send an email to your customers, you are among the scores of emails that these people may get that day. In my seminars I ask my audience, “How many of you don’t get enough emails every day?” No hands ever go up. Your customers are in the same position, too many emails and not enough time.

How do you increase the number of people who actually read your emails?

Most people don’t spend a lot of time deciding whether to open an email, in fact the decision to open or not open an email takes about 2 seconds. So what they can see in the inbox display is very important.

Your customers are busy with their own lives and work. So send your emails at off times. Emails that come during the middle of the work day are not as likely to be opened and read if they come earlier or later in the day. The decision is usually based on a few things they can see immediately.

  • The date and time the email was sent, if it’s sent in the middle of the night it’s probably a large group email.
  • Who sent it? Is it a business or person that the reader knows?
  • What is the subject line? Does it sound interesting, important or valuable?
  • Is the salutation personalized?
  • If you can see the teaser or first line of the email, does it engage you?

All these things play a part of whether or not your customers are going to open your emails. So you need to make these first impressions count.

There will be more on emails next week.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

This & That
01 April, 2016

This week I am tidying up some loose ends. After last week’s blog about Spring, I have decided that I will not being going into the weather forecasting business for a while. For those of you in The Rockies and in the Midwest, my notes in last week’s blog about the coming of Spring were, as it turns out, a little premature what with the snowstorms that rolled through last week. Hope the weather has cheered up some and it is starting to look more like Spring.

In other news, the Wine Marketing Council restated their results on the amount of wine Millennials are buying and drinking. While the Millennials are still great supporters of wine (and thank you for that) Boomers are drinking and purchasing more wine. It is obvious that times are changing but for the moment Boomers are still your biggest audience. It will be interesting to see what happens next year as Millennials are closing the gap.

Speaking of Millennials, Nielsen has some interesting information about Millennials and their media habits, which Nielsen calls “different and distinct.” They divide the Millennials (18 -34 year old) into three groups:

  • Dependent Adults (living in someone else’s home)
  • On Their Own (living in their own home without children)
  • Starting a Family (living in their own home with children)

When it comes to technology, 78% of “On Their Own” Millennials have subscriptions based video on-demand services such as Netflix or Hulu, which Nielsen says is 14 percentage points higher than “Dependent Adults” and 20 percentage points higher than “Starting a Family” Millennials.

Radio seems to work for Millennials in all stages; according to Nielsen, radio reaches 90% of Millennials who are Dependent Adults and 89% of the On Their Own group. The numbers rise to 92% for the Starting a Family group. Nielsen also noted that the Starting a Family group contains a higher percentage of Hispanics, who tend to be heavy users of radio.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Welcome to Spring!
27 March, 2016

After a hard winter in many parts of the country, I am sure that we are all ready for some spring weather. Spring is also the time of renewed energy as we see the grass and plants growing and possibly the sun shining for the first time in a while.

While we are full of the joys of spring and ready to say goodbye to a hard winter, it’s a good time to take a serious look around your retail space and see what is in need of some sprucing up after the winter. Come into your business the way your customers would and try to look at the space as if for the first time.

Is it time for a little paint, a really good spring clean or a re-organization of displays or furniture? Changing something physically can give you new ideas and bring the focus to different types of products. Take some time to move and/or change the displays and add new displays that reflect the season.

Spring is also a good time to look at your systems and see how they are working. Are there are new ways of customer service or sales that you want to present to your staff? This is the time to do it, as most of us feel the pull of spring and are more receptive to change. Make sure that your goals for the year are written down, discuss them with staff and get their buy-in. In short, lay the groundwork to ensure a really good year.

Take advantage of the energy of spring to update, upgrade or spruce up your retail space, encourage your staff to come up with new ideas to improve the business. Access the renewed energy that spring brings to enhance your business over the coming year.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Pricing Your Products
18 March, 2016

For a long time I have been fascinated by wine pricing. I have noticed when I speak to wineries that many times I am told that their wine is reasonably priced. Reasonable is one of those words that mean different things to different people. Though, if you want to be successful, you have to make sure that you and your target audience share a common view as to what is reasonable, whether it’s $9.95, $89.50 or S299.

While I was researching this topic, I came across an article called “Different Types of Pricing Strategy” by Leigh Richards of Demand Marketing. The article goes considers the different types of pricing.

Let’s start with Premium Pricing, which according to Ms. Richards is establishing a price that is higher than the pricing of competitors. Premium Pricing can be an effective strategy if your product can be differentiated from others, and you have the ability to get your message out of consumers who would make up your target audience.

Another way is through a strategy of Penetration Pricing, where the company acquires market share by coming into the market with a lower price in order to raise awareness and encourage people to try the product. This will get consumers to try the product and help with generation awareness.

There is also Psychological Pricing, which creates in the mind of the customers an idea that a price is lower. For instance, as Ms. Richards says, $99 is psychologically “less” in the minds of consumers than $100. Even though we are only talking about a dollar difference, it is a minor distinction that can make a big difference.

Next time you are thinking about pricing products, start by asking yourself a few questions, including:

  1. Who is my target audience? Then describe the perfect customers.
  2. What are the customers willing to pay for the product?

Pricing needs to be considered very seriously, as it affects whether you are or are not successful. Once you have decided on your pricing, it’s time to start writing a list of reasons why your product is worth what you are asking for it. Give this list of reasons to everyone who sells your products and ask them why they think your product is worth what you are charging. That way, they will be able to tell the customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Design Your Customer Experience – Part 2
11 March, 2016

So how do you ensure that your customer interface is superior? By focusing on superior customer service. Not only do the people who interact with customers have to be aware of the need for friendly and helpful interactions with each and every customer, but owners and managers need to develop the infrastructure and provide the resources needed for these superior interactions to take place.

Through promotion you present the messaging that reminds customers of the superior service they receive every time they interact with your business, whether that interaction is in person, over the phone, or by electronic media, internet, email and social media.

What you should be doing with each interaction is creating that emotional bond with the customer or potential customer. The emotional bond is a powerful differentiator that, while it is difficult to do well, has long-term positive effects when it is done well.

To differentiate your business from others through this strategy you must know your customers. Who are your current customers and what has engaged them and created loyalty to your business in them. You must know what is important to them, their individual values, aspirations and social interests. You have to put the time in to know them as individuals. What are your brand values and can or will your customers respond to them. What do your customers hold dear? Do their interested an passions coincide with yours. It could be the environment, family, lifestyle, social- responsiveness or other things.

One of the ways to do this is to find out more about your customers by asking them questions and paying attention to the answers. After your have the answers, segment your customer records by these things that are important to them, what they want. You cannot build anything but a generic experience with the one-size or brand-fits-all approach to your customers.  They are not all alike and neither do they want to be dumped into a collective box.

You can measure the success by the customers’ ability to brag about the experience. You know you are doing well when customers talk about how they were treated and being the first one of their friends to know about the business and recommend it to others. Remember that when people brag about your products or business, it’s not about you, it is about them, how cool they are, how smart and how sophisticated for choosing your products and your business.

So give some thought about what you can do to encourage everyone in your business to aspire to create the best customer experience they can. Help your employees do this by giving the resources, encouragement and backing to do so. 

Design Your Customer Experience
04 March, 2016

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!

Getting the Most Out of Your Email
26 February, 2016

I came across some great information on using email to its best advantage, a report that was sponsored by Act-On. The overview of the report, which featured 16 marketing experts providing advice on the best use of email, caught my attention. It reminded me, that direct marketing is a consistent winner but somewhat costly, while social and mobile media are full of tricks though you can get tripped up sometimes. However, the report called email the “marketing’s work horse” – always dependable, it supports and connects other channels, it is cost effective and continually evolving.

There are however some pitfalls, which can be overcome if you know what you are doing. In this week’s blog I have picked out what I consider to be some of the most important tips from these experts.

  1. Shooting out email blasts to customers without taking into consideration specific needs and preference only contributes to disengagement. Create emails that are tailored and personalized as much as possible.
  1. Test email designs, frequency and subject lines on multiple devices to make sure that your emails appear on most people’s computers as you would like them to.
  1. Make sure that your audience is receptive to receiving and reading your emails. Know who is and isn’t opening your emails and/or clicking through to your website or ordering site. Sometimes other channels, social media or direct mail are more effective.
  1. Take steps to make sure that the email addresses on your list of customers is up to date to reduce the list of bounce backs. Track bounce backs and update addresses.
  1. Research has found that, when combined with other channels, e.g. social media or direct mail, email can generate response rates up 1.5 to 3.8 times higher than one channel alone.
  1. To stick out on email you must deliver value with a painless customer experience.

It’s not just a matter of sending out emails, it’s knowing your audience. Who are you sending to and what do they want? Would your customers prefer to be contacted by email alone or should you employ a multi-track approach? How effective are are your emails relative to open, click through or buying rates? How long is the impact of your emails (i.e. for how long after an email is sent do you get response or orders?)

Lots to think about, but if you do it right, email can work well and increase your business.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Guerrilla Marketing
19 February, 2016

Using guerrilla marketing, which is low cost, innovative and somewhat unconventional marketing techniques that are a great way to obtain maximum exposure for a product or company, can work well for companies that do not have a lot of money for traditional advertising and marketing.

Okay, there is a trade off and that trade off is time. It’s not just placing an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine or running an ad on the radio and waiting for the people to come rushing through your doors. It is a different approach that will garner attention. The upside is that the tools at your fingertips these days (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) make it easier for small business to create a presence in the minds of consumers.

Guerrilla Marketing has been going for a long time. For example in the early 1900s PT Barnum was hired to walk a herd of elephants across the Brooklyn Bridge when it opened to prove to people that the bridge was sturdy enough. It worked. People and cars are still crossing the Brooklyn Bridge today. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream used guerrilla marketing very successfully to fight off a threat to their ability to distribute their product from a major competitor. There are also more expensive examples of guerrilla marketing, such as the Goodyear Blimp and the Oscar Meyer wiener-mobile. When you see either of those icons, you immediately know who the company is and what they products are.

Today videos can be particularly effective in promoting your product and company without breaking the bank. The wine industry uses videos well. Check out the short Paso Man videos from the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance or the video take off of popular songs from Jordan Winery in Sonoma County. There are many more examples. Social media and postcards are other ways to take advantage of guerrilla marketing to make a name for yourself.

Take time for some creative thinking with your staff, friends and family. Don’t rule anything out to start with, take all ideas and see what can come from them.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Running a Family Business
12 February, 2016

If you are in a family business – Come to DC February 17 & 18 for US Bev Expo where I will be moderating two sessions on Surviving a Family Business with speakers who have the professional background and personal experience in the ups and downs of family business.

Being a part of a family business presents unique challenges as well as positive opportunities. Maintaining the balance between the wants and needs of the family (or friends) and the needs of the business can leave everyone walking a tightrope.

Whether you are in the midst of running a business with family and friends or just thinking about it, there are some things you need to be aware of.

Understand each family member as they are today

Sometimes it hard to see our parents, children or siblings as the individuals they are today rather than the people they were in the past. Parents and older siblings should remember that their younger siblings or children are now adults with new ideas and opinions. Children and younger siblings should see their elders as having a great deal of experience and knowledge. Even if you don’t agree it’s important to listen. There are always going to be differences between generations. Listening with an open mind to new ideas and traditional ways of doing business is helpful.

Keep business decision-making within the members of the family involved in the business

It helps if family members or in-laws not involved in the business do not try to exert influence over those that are. While everyone has the right to an opinion, that doesn’t mean that those opinions should always be expressed. Leave the decision making to those who are primarily involved.

Divide up family time and professional time

If you are having a family dinner, that is not the time to talk about business, it’s time for the family. Keep business discussions to the workday.

Suit the job to fit the person

Define the roles and fit the family members to the positions to which they are best suited and have the experience for. Many family businesses have policies that mandate that anyone coming into the family business has experience working at other businesses first.

Non-related employees vs family employees

Members of the family filling positions within the company should be subject to the same rules as non-family employees.

For more information on family businesses, join me in Washington DC, February 17 & 18 for US Bev X where I will be presenting two seminars on surviving a family business. 

For information check out

See you there!

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Mission Possible
05 February, 2016

According to Business Dictionary, a mission statement is

“A written declaration of an organization’s core purpose and focus that normally remains unchanged over time. Properly crafted mission statements (1) serve as filters to separate what is important from what is not, (2) clearly state which markets will be served and how, and (3) communicate a sense of intended direction to the entire organization.”

How long has it been since you have looked at your mission statement and compared it to where you are in the business and if you are still on track? Sometimes it’s easy to get sidetracked from your original purpose as your business grows and you add new things.

Or you may have found new opportunities and your business has changed its focus. If that is the case it’s time to update your mission statement. Or you may also find that you are, perhaps, focusing on things that aren’t the most important to your business.

Additionally, by paying attention to point two, you can assess your market strategies and tactics. Lots of opportunities come along throughout the year by being aware of which markets you serve and how they need to be served will allow you to take advantages of those that are a good fit and ignore those that aren’t.

Most importantly, is everyone who works in the business aware of the mission statement and what their focus needs to be to work to fulfilling the mission you have set forth? When all employees are clear on what needs to be done, the chances are much greater that the objectives will be reached.

We have talked about the business mission statement, and what about your personal mission statement? Do you have one?

A personal mission statement may help balance your life if you have responsibilities in different areas. So think about a personal mission that may help you bring order to an overly busy life.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Motivating Staff
29 January, 2016

Whether you are a manager or would like to move up into management someday, one of the most important things you need to know is what motivates your staff. It also helps if you know what motivates you.

It is most commonly believed that employees are motivated by money and while money can be and is used successfully to motivate employees it’s certainly not the only way to motivate and for many employees not even the most important one.

Some years ago there was an interesting article in Inc. magazine entitled “Managing One-to-One” by Leigh Buchanan.  In this article, she begins by saying,

“Operating under the premise that no two workers are alike, companies that are practicing one-to-one management are figuring out what makes each of their employees tick. And that, the employees say, makes all the difference.”

 It has been proven that in just about any business employees, especially those who regularly interact with the customers, are critical to the success of the company. If employees are treated as valuable assets and managers take the time to get to know their employees’ goals and aspirations, it helps the manager motivate and appreciate the employees individually. In turn employees who feel appreciated will treat customers well.

Understanding each person as an individual allows managers to create personal goals and rewards for each employee depending on their (the employees) wants and needs. Additionally, employees who are treated as individually are much more likely to treat customers in the same way.

Creating this kind of an environment in your company can take time and some thought, but the time you put in can reap great reward. Your business will flow more smoothly and with less friction, which can mean employee longevity resulting in less time spent hiring and training new people to join the team.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Using Emotion to Promote Products
15 January, 2016

Many times the ads that we see on television, in magazines or on websites or social media focus too much on the features of the product rather than on the emotional components of the benefits of the products.

When you are advertising your products, are you reminding your customers and potential customers of the positive emotional benefits? For example, will buying the product bring your audience pleasure? Will it help them in any way or make their lives easier?

Advertising or marketing to consumers’ emotions can be powerful and effective. The audience becomes more motivated to purchase when their emotions are involved in the process. As human beings we buy because we feel, rather than because we think. Though the intellectual part of the brain has to be engaged, it only comes into play after you have involved the part of the brain that controls the emotions.

Understand what it is that your customers and potential customers want, need and desire and how using your product can meet these needs and desires. Make a list of how your products can make customers look better, feel better, be more sophisticated, give them more confidence or fulfill any other wish they may have.

Consumers buying wine, for example, may want to know how to pair wine and food in order to put together a successful dinner party for their friends. They may wish to know some less well-known facts in order to impress their friends with their knowledge. It has been proved through research that restaurants that play classical music are likely to sell more wine as the combination of the music and the wine make consumers feel more sophisticated or worldly. While you may be giving them facts, the reason behind the need for the facts is emotional.

So before you plan your next social media post, print advertisement or email for your customers and potential customers think about how you can attract emotionally - as people may not remember what you said but will remember how you made them feel.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

It’s Conference Season!
08 January, 2016

The holidays are behind us and another year, with all it promises, is ahead of us to shape and do with what we will. Or perhaps this year will lead us into things we never thought were possible.

The first quarter of 2016 brings us conference and trade show season, which is starting very quickly this year. It’s the time to pick up new ideas and new ways to operate and manage a business.

This year my travels start in Knoxville Tennessee, February 11 – 13. Then it’s onto Washington, DC for the US Bev X, February 16-18. This is a new show and I am looking forward to it as I have put together two sessions as part of, what will eventually become a one day conference on Surviving a Family Business, The two sessions focus on the skills needed to operate a successful, single or multi-generational family business.

On Wednesday, February 17, Max & Teresa McFarland, a psychologist and educator respectively, who also own a family winery with their two sons, will speak on the challenges and opportunities for owners, family members and non-family employees. This workshop provides insight on managing those workplace dynamics including shared collaboration and shared responsibilities. In addition, you get practical, real-world advice on managing family members, building intra-personal skills, and creating functional teams.

Thursday, February 18, it’s Terry Taylor’s tour – he is a psychologist and president ofGlobal Genesis, a family owned consulting business that specializes in high-performance teamwork, and corporate training around the world. Terry will tackle some of the integral challenges of combining family and employees, with an emphasis on negotiation and conflict resolution, understand long-term goals, succession, and awareness of possible obstacles as you go forward with future generations of family members and employees.

I look forward to seeing you at the conferences!

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Let’s Start a Wine Club!
21 December, 2015

Over the years, it seems that everyone is getting into the wine club business. A friend of mine just received a flyer from Southwest Airlines. The company has partnered (it would seem) with an online wine club and is encouraging him to join. He can get “12 top estate wines for only $69.99…a gift of three very highly rated bottles ($47.97) value and 2,000 Rapids Rewards points,” The Reward Points will be added to his Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards account. If my friend stays as a member of the club he will receive a case of wine every three months and have an additional 1000 miles added to his Southwest Rapid Rewards card for each shipment he takes.

This is one more way for airlines and others to make having their loyalty cards even more rewarding. In addition of Southwest offer through Laithwaites, there is a Virgin Wine Club, were purchasers are also rewarded with air miles, the Wall Street Journal Wine Club and many, many more. There are many magazines that also run wine clubs, including Sunset, Rolling Stone, Touring & Tasting, The Nation and many more.

Consumers have lots of choices when it comes to wine clubs and the big companies have a lot more money to advertise and promote their clubs than you do. Take an hour and get on the internet to check out what they are offering to promote their wine clubs. You may come up with some new ideas to promote your clubs, offers, and benefits.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Are You Actually Selling?
11 December, 2015

It’s easy to think that in any type of retail business, salespeople are there to sell the product… but that is the last part of the sell. Before you can sell the product you have to sell yourself and you should be selling the concept of how your product will make the customer’s life a little bit better, easier or more enjoyable.

Before you meet any customers, put yourself in their shoes. Know generally who they are and what they are looking for. Your customers have a wide choice of products and no shortage of businesses to buy them from, so unless your product is truly unique (you are the only company in the world that is making this product) you are not the only place in the area where they can buy it. It’s up to you to make sure that you are the one they buy from.

At the beginning of your interaction with the customer, you should focus on the customer and what s/he wants, needs and desires. Keep in mind that each customer is an individual, with their own way of looking at the world and your products. Start by asking questions to ascertain what this customer is looking for. Did they come into your retail room because they already know and like your product, because someone told them about the business or just by happenstance? Having this information will give you insight into their level of interest in the company and the products and the approaches you should take to increase their interest.

Continue to ask questions that will give you the information as to their familiarity with the product in general and your company and products in particular. Showing interest in and enthusiasm for the customers makes it easier for them to like you and enjoy the interaction.

As you chat, bring information about the products into the conversation, in a relaxed way, without overwhelming the customer with too many facts. Give them something amusing or intriguing to remember about the product, so they will tell their friends about it next time they all get together.

Making the sale is easy if your focus is the customer rather than the product.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Up Your Customer Service
04 December, 2015

Not only are the holidays full of warmth, family, celebration and good feelings, they are also stressful, frustrating and, of course, there is not enough time to do everything that needs to be done.

For those of us in service industries and retail sales, it’s time to up our customer service to mega levels as the customers we are dealing with may have less patience than usual. With the holidays comes more to do and less time to do it in, longer lines and harder times getting parking spaces. Plus trying to find that perfect gift for Uncle Fred, when the shopper has no clue what Uncle Fred would like.

Every morning before you throw open the doors to greet the customers, take two or three deep breaths and practice smiling. Warm, sincere smiles that will let your customers know that you are happy to see them and ready to help them no matter what they need. The hard part is not the first couple of hours but keeping that smile in place through the entire day, regardless of what comes your way.

The last few weeks before the holidays are a great time to offer something extra for your customers. Offer a small cookie, piece of candy, a packet of nuts or a piece of fruit, as many of your customers may not have had time to eat. Low blood sugar and hunger can make people a bit crabby. Make sure, too, that you take time to eat.

Be aware of what is going on around you, so you may offer your assistance before someone asks for it. And be ready to commiserate when a customer tells you how hard getting everything done at the holidays are.  Think about how you are feeling when you are running around trying to get everything done.

In short, be your most cheerful self and let your customers know that you are there to make their lives just a little bit easier. It’s not the easiest thing to do, especially when you are also trying to figure out how to get everything you have to do done.

Remember to take those deep breaths and make sure you get your breaks. Having ten minutes away from the crowds makes a big difference.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Email Fatigue – The Curse of the Modern Age
28 November, 2015

I just downloaded from Direct Marketing News their 2015 Essential Guide to Email Marketing, which popped into my email box today. It has some great articles in it, including an article by Perry Simpson, 7 Ways to Use Email to Combat Email Disengagement.

The subhead to this article: “Email is as popular as ever but so are feelings of email fatigue…”  Think about this – how many of us are getting so many emails that we are overwhelmed by email fatigue? Perhaps our customers feel that way too. There is at least one company that I have done business with in the past that emails me every day. I no longer read their emails at all, because it’s too much for me, so they go, unread, into the trash.

In his article Mr. Simpson list seven ways to combat the phenomenon of email fatigue including getting to the root cause of why your email recipients are no longer interested. He quotes Kara Trivunovic at Epsilon who says, “It’s important to determine the disconnect and adjust your reengagement strategy accordingly.” Ms. Trivunovic suggests, “surveying customers to learn firsthand why they aren’t engaging with you.” She continues by saying that you may want to ask your customers questions, such as “Are we getting it right? Or “What would you like to see from us?”  Not only are these good questions, they are subject lines that would be likely to get people to open those emails.

The information you will get back from putting the time in to find out what your customers want will give you a more in-depth understanding of the needs, wants and desires, as well as better content for future emails to meet those needs.

For those of you who read this blog regularly, you know that I am a big fan of surveying customers to find out what they want. Remember – your business is important to them, that’s why they gave you their email address to begin with. So make them just as important to you by kick-starting the relationship part of Customer Relationship Management. Find out what they want from you and how you as a company can be more relevant to them. Create a real relationship. With your customers.

This is a great article and I will be bringing you more of it in future blogs.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Are Your Social Media Posts Hurting Your Business?
20 November, 2015

There are lots of examples of people using social media to say or do things that it would be better if they didn’t. It is common now to hear of some celebrity tweeting their opinion on some topic that they have to explain later. Very recently I saw on the news a clip of a young woman, using the social media app Periscope, to broadcast herself driving while very drunk. I was reminded that we should think long and hard before we put anything out on social media for our business.

It is even more important on a business account that puts up posts that are born from frustration. I recently came across one of these and am sharing some excerpts from the post. I have taken out any reference to the type of business, name or location, even though this was posted on the business Facebook page.

“…We are extremely proud on what we do. And yes, we get it… (our products) are not for everyone. Understand our (business) for what it is – not what you think it should be… stop making us regret our decision to stay true to what (our business) means to us.”

Berating your possible customers on an open site for everyone to read it not a great way to encourage people to visit your place of business. I know owning a retail business can be frustrating sometimes and yes there are times that we would like to tell people exactly what we are thinking, but it is very rarely a good idea.

What you do on your own private social media accounts is up to you. Though, if you are using a business account, it’s good to keep your personal opinions – especially your opinions on politics, religion or other possibly incendiary topics – to yourself.

What goes up on your business’ social media accounts is a reflection of you and your business. It’s hard enough to gain customers without losing them because of differing viewpoints that may have nothing to do with the quality or price of your products.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Adventures In Moving
13 November, 2015

I have been in the process of moving for the last few weeks. Well, it’s finally over; everything is moved and I am now in the process of unpacking. Of course, I have no idea where anything is.

I went through what I am now calling the three stages of moving. The first stage is when you are first thinking about packing, you walk around the house looking at the things you are so fond of and wonder how an earth you can get rid of them. Stage two is when you have started packing and you realize that there are things that you don’t really have to keep and you start to let things go. The final stage, stage three is as you are packing up the last third of the house, at which time, you look at everything that is left to pack and say, “I don’t care, just get rid of all of it.”

Now that I am working on the unpacking I have a feeling that as I start to run out of room it will be easier to let things go. I don’t actually need things to remember the good times though perhaps I should write a few things down in case I forget, as I get older.

However, that is not the biggest lesson from my move. I called the Salvation Army to come along with a truck as I had a number of things to donate. I won’t have as much room as I did before so needed to downsize a bit.

The two young men on the Salvation Army truck were really great. They were pleasant and engaging, cheerful and happy to help. They chatted as they loaded up the furniture and managed to get everything on the truck even though they were only supposed to pick up the number of boxes that I said I would have. They came out twice to pick things up and each time it was a pleasure to see them. I cannot say enough good things about them. It’s amazing where you can find great customer service.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Creating a Congenial Workplace
06 November, 2015

I went into a retail business, not too long ago, and it became quickly apparent that the employees were having a dispute of some kind. While they cut off their discussion once they saw me, it is clear that they were not happy with each other.

It may be that they are usually the best of friends and that a disagreement had occurred, which caused the disruption, but the atmosphere, even though they had shelved their conflict was palpable. I was uncomfortable and had I been able to creep out without being seen, I would have done so.

Disagreements between employees, managers or owners do happen, we are, after all, human and some days are better than others. The important thing is to make sure that the conflict is not seen by customers, no matter what the conflict concerns. It’s also important that managers do not correct employees in front of customers unless it is absolutely necessary.

The question is: do you respect the people that you work with, work for, or those who work for you? Working in an environment that is not comfortable leads to stress and frustration, which usually leads to a less than ideal work environment for everyone.

Whether you are an owner, manager or an employee, it’s important that action is taken to resolve any problems, as if a dispute continues it may well affect others on the team. The first step is to try and working things out quickly and without escalation. Talk to the other person and see if both of you can understand the problem. Use the employee handbook as a guide if the problem is procedural. Sometimes it is as easy as a mistaken impression and making a real effort to see the situation from the point of view of the other person can solve the problem.

Ask for someone else’s opinion. It is possible to get stuck in our way of thinking and harder to see the other side.

The important thing to remember is that there are always going to be people that we are not going to be friends with, but that doesn’t mean that they, like you, are not doing a good job, even if you don’t agree with the way the are doing the job.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Acquiring Visitor Email Addresses
30 October, 2015

Most businesses work hard on collecting email addresses, in order to stay in touch with their customers and potential customers. These days it seems to be getting more difficult to get visitors to give you their email address. Like most of us, these people already get too many emails and are hesitant to pass their email address along. So here are some tips from Vertical Response that might make it easier for you and your staff to get email addresses from visitors.

Vertical Response’s number one tip is to include a link to your email sign-up form in the main navigation bar of your website. The more people see something, the more “normal” it becomes to them and if they like your website they are more likely to leave their information. Especially when you make it easier for them.

You may also create a “sign up” call to action on your Facebook business page. If visitors like the page and your products, they may want to get more information from you and because it is their decision to give you the address, they are more likely too.

Another idea is to offer email only discounts and mention them on the sign-up page and on social media. Though you use these discounts only on email.

Vertical Response has a blog on 29 ways to collect email addresses for your business that you might want to check out.

An interesting thing I have noticed when I go onto business websites that the business email is not always listed on the contact page. A visitor to the website may be able to contact the business by phone, but not by email unless they fill out a form.

If you want people to give you their email addresses, you might want to reciprocate by giving them your email address too.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Helping Employees Expand Their Horizons
23 October, 2015

Managing and motivating employees can be hard work though there are some ways to make it easier. Hiring the right people is, of course, the first step and inspiring them to do the best job they can is the next.

During the interview process, discover what your candidates’ dreams are. You may be hiring them for a particular job, though this is an excellent time to ask what types of jobs they think they would be good at (any why) even if they have never done that type of job before.

Whether they answer the question or not, as time goes on and they have proven that they are competent and willing to try new things, give those employees an opportunity to try their hands at different jobs in the company.

Allowing employees to stretch themselves and increase their skill sets is an excellent way to motivate them and foster loyalty. This is especially true if you want these employees to have a long-term future with the company.

Showing employees that you trust them, believe in their abilities and will give them the training and opportunity to grow and try different things if they wish, is the greatest gift you can give your employees.

Many years ago, when I was much younger, I had a boss, Maggie, who said to me, “I will teach you everything I know and if you can do my job better than I can, it’s yours.” She and I worked together for quite a while and remained friends until she died. I have never forgotten her and hope that I have passed that same kindness she offered me along to others. Maggie was a great manager and made me a much better employee.

Think about what you can do for your employees, not only will you be doing them a favor you will also be doing yourself one.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

An Easy Way To Get More Wine Club Members
16 October, 2015

I am teaching a short (eight week) class at the local Junior College entitled Consumer Direct Wine Sales & Marketing. As a homework assignment, I asked my students to visit wineries and report back to me on their experiences. My students are of different ages and both genders, a mixed group of people. They were asked to report back on:

  • How they were treated
  • What questions they were asked
  • What they thought of the experience

Many of my students are in the wine industry, so I told them to visit wineries where they were not known, nor were they to tell the people working in the tasting room that they were in the wine industry.

They went to all different types of wineries, small, medium and large, corporate and family owned. Some wineries were quiet and some were busy.

Most of my students reported that were not asked many questions except for the ubiquitous question of, “Where are you from?” which is wine speak for, “Can we ship to you?” At many wineries they were not even treated very nicely. Nor did the tasting room person try to engage or connect with them. They server would pour the wine and walk away. Not a great way to encourage sales or a return visit.

However, that was not the biggest omission during most of the visits. Out of about 30 wineries they visited only one time did any student say that the wine club was even mentioned. Only once!!!!!!!

I was so stunned that I asked the class if they were sure that the wine club was not even mentioned and except for the one winery (out of 30) they said that was the case.

We are only talking about mentioning the wine club, so needless to say there was no chance that anyone actually asked my students to join the wine club.

The takeaway is:

If you are wondering why more visitors aren’t joining your wine club, the biggest reason is because the wine club is not being mentioned most of the time.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Maximize Holiday Sales
12 October, 2015

It’s October already, hard to believe, but the year is almost over. How are your plans coming for Thanksgiving and the December holidays? Before someone sends me a “To heck with you” email, I know this is a very busy time of year, with harvest and all the other things you have on your plates. It is also the time to make sure that your plans to maximize the upcoming buying season are clearly defined and ready to roll.

For the smaller wineries especially, the needs of marketing and promotion tend to take a back seat as this time of the year, but if you can manage to squeeze some time out the time is ripe to organize the holiday selling season.

  • What do you have planned for Black Friday and Cyber Monday?
  • Do you offer corporate gift packages? If so, now is the time to send your customers a quick preview of what you will have coming up.
  • Work on the first draft of your holiday newsletter done by the end of September. That will give you plenty of time to review it, edit it and make it more effective.
  • Outline your email campaigns for the coming months to maximize holiday sales.
  • Start promoting wine clubs as great gifts in the tasting room
  • Add a sticker to your wine club brochure, “The gift everyone can enjoy” to remind visitors to make wine club memberships holiday gifts.
  • Outline a phone sales program
  • Your customers really do want to hear from you. Give them a call and let them l know about your holiday offerings.
  • Before the visitor count slows down with the cooler weather and the upcoming holidays, focus your attention on getting the names, addresses, email and phone numbers of visitors who come into the winery.

There are many people who start planning early for the holidays. They like to get their shopping done and everything squared away. Help them reach their goals by being read for them to buy from you.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Improve Your Short Pitch to Make Your Customers Listen
11 September, 2015

I found a great article by Jacqueline Whitmore in Business about refining the short pitch, called 7 Essentials for an Elevator Pitch That Gets People to Listen. I changed it slightly, as it was directed more to pitching to businesses rather than consumers. However, the key points are intact.
There is never any predicting what interaction, whether it’s in a grocery store or at a networking function, will present a new business opportunity. So be prepared to seize the day. The key that unlocks these opportunities is a short pitch that grabs people’s attention and makes them remember you and want to talk with you further.
To craft a pitch that is succinct and compelling keep these seven fundamental factors in mind:
1. Be brief.
In terms of actual time, plan on one or two minutes to make a connection and a strong impression on someone.
2. Be clear.
From the first line to closing sentence, your pitch must convey a coherent message about you or your business in easy-to-understand language. How you deliver it is as important as the content. Speak in an even but energetic tone, stand up straight, smile and maintain eye contact.
3. Make it specific to your audience.
Delivering a good pitch is like playing an instrument. …memorize the melody so you can improvise variations and still sound authentic instead of rehearsed. You’ll play your instrument slightly differently for various audiences.
4. Highlight your benefits.
In most settings, people are interested in who you are, what you do and what you can do for them. If you open with something like “I’m a (fill in the blank),” be sure to expand on your job title by explaining why this matters to your listeners.
5. Identify the problem and your solution.
What matters most to your listeners is that you are credible and competent at what you do. Communicate that you understand how your product or service trumps the competition.
6. Make a compelling call-to-action.
Tell your listeners what you would like them to do and how they’ll benefit from doing it. Remember, people can only do what you want them to do when you are clear and concise.
7. Extend an invitation to continue the conversation.
If you have made a convincing pitch to your listener, should she/he want to learn more about you, say something like, “May I give you my card?” Then invite them to your company.
A short pitch is often the first thing that people learn about you. Improve your pitch’s persuasiveness by practicing it frequently with different people in various settings, and watch your success rate rise higher and higher.
A tip of the glass from me to you!

The Personality of Your Business
04 September, 2015

What is the personality of your business? When you think about your business, what personality traits would you ascribe (or have you ascribed) to the business? Even more important, how would your customers describe the personality of your business?

What is it that you want them to think and feel as they leave?

Understanding your business’ personality or what you want your company’s personality to be makes it easier to get there.

Define the characteristics

Create a detailed definition of the personality, listing the aspects that would define the character, as it would come across to your visitors and customers. List the traits that would make up your company’s identity, those that would make it easy for visitors and customers to remember you and your products.

Get Buy-In

All management and employees should be involved in the process of suggesting traits and qualities that the business should or does embody, whether the employees work directly with the public or not. The more people are involved with a project, the more they will work to ensure that their words and actions meet the personality everyone has agreed on.

Once everyone has internalized the vision of the business personality, it will affect them and their work in positive ways. For example, if deem that your business is helpful, friendly, professional and knowledgeable, everyone will, in time, start to incorporate these traits into their daily dealings with vendors, customers, and each other, especially if you remind everyone regularly.

Once you have written your personality statement, it should be a part of your employee handbook, and employees especially those who work with visitors and customers should talk about it regularly in monthly or weekly meetings.

The business personality statement may also be used when assessing job applicants. Using it as a benchmark to match the personality of the applicant to the personality of the business.

This may be a project for a slower time of the year, so start thinking about it and encourage your employees thinking about it, too.

A tip of the glass from me to you!


Accomplish Your Goals Through Planning
28 August, 2015

Creating a plan to reach your goals is the first step along the road to success in business and in your personal life. Well, actually the first step it to have goals, though, even if you haven’t actually written down specific goals you probably have some idea of what you want to achieve. However writing down the goals and creating a plan to achieve them, reviewing them regularly to see the progress you are making towards meeting those goals, will make the chances of success much greater. If you are creating goals for your employees as well as yourself, include everyone in the group in the planning. Give those who will bear some of the responsibility the opportunity to voice their concerns about the project as well as their ideas on how to achieve the goals. Listen to everyone’s views and incorporate the viable ideas into the planning.

Take a piece of paper and write down the goals you have. Then add the things you are going to have to do to reach those goals. For example, do you want to increase business by a certain amount over the next twelve months? Write down the specifics of how much the business is making now, what you would like it to me making 12 months from now and in detail what you are going to have to do to get there. Or you might want to improve your performance at work. Be specific about exactly how you will improve and what you need to do to reach the goals of selling more or being more efficient.

Assign the tasks you need to perform to make your goal a reality. In addition to assigning the tasks create a timeline with smaller goals that can be achieved as you go along to make it easier to reach your goals.

Also, set up rewards as you and everyone involved reaches the milestones along the way. Keeping yourself and others engaged and rewarded as you all make progress will maintain the enthusiasm for the project.

I doubt that there is anything in this blog that you don’t already know… but have you done it? Will you make the time to do this? Many times it doesn’t happen, but if you do, your chances of success are much more likely.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Are You Researching Your Market?
21 August, 2015

Market research is very important to success. After all if you don’t really know what your target audience is looking for it’s hard to give it to them. According to, market research is:

“The process of gathering, analyzing and interpreting information about a market, about a product or service to be offered for sale in that market, and about the past, present and potential customers for the product or service.”

If you have done the research, you should have the information you need to assist you in getting the jump on the challenges of marketing your products or business. It will help you segment your customers by identifying the people you are trying to reach through your marketing campaigns. It also helps you differentiate your product in ways that will separate you from your competition. It’s tough to really differentiate this without doing the research first.

The great thing nowadays is it’s much easier to get the research you need. The internet is full of information about marketing, how to market, etc. There are lots of report by everyone from individuals, the government and trade association.

You might also want to look at getting information directly from your customers as to their likes and dislikes, their demographics (name, age, etc.) and psychographics (hobbies, feelings about your products, how they spend leisure time).  It is easy to create a three or four question questionnaire that asks your customers for their input on what they like and don’t like about your products, service, quality, events, etc.

Keep the questionnaires short so that your customers will complete them and always leave room for comments – you never know what pearls of wisdom you will get from the respondents.

If you wish you can offer those who respond a perk for completing the questionnaire.

Knowing to whom you are trying to sell, will make hitting your goals a lot easier, as you will be sending out the type of information that will appeal to these people.

A tip of the glass from me to you!


Fonts and Shapes - Their Perception on Buyers
09 August, 2015

In last week’s blog I wrote about how color affects the consumer’s perception of products. This week I am focusing the influence of fonts and shapes on perceptions.

Choosing the right font is important, as consumers will react to fonts either consciously or subconsciously. Sometimes they know that they like or don’t like a font, while other times all they know is that they feel uncomfortable and they don’t want to read anymore, though they don’t know why.

It’s not only the font selected but also the size of the font that affects readers. In an article entitled, The Psychology of Fonts, Emily Matthews writes, “Larger fonts convey insecurity, suggesting that the author feels a need to fill the page. Smaller, more minimalist fonts are more successful choices for powerful messages.” It rather reminded me of the idea that if you want people to really listen to you don’t raise you voice, lower your voice.

Ms. Matthews goes on to say, “The use of more than two fonts on a page is generally excessive and should be avoided…” Though when using two fonts, use two that are distinctly different but complimentary, bringing energy to the page.

When designing a logo, the shape is very important. The Canadian company Colourfast presents information what different shapes mean to buyers:

Circles, Ovals, Ellipses represent

  • Positive, Emotional Message.
  • A circle can suggest community, friendship, love, relationship and unity.
  • Curves of any sort tend to be viewed as feminine in natures.

Squares & Triangles

  • Straight edges logo shapes suggest stability and may also be used to imply balance.
  • Straight lines and precise shapes also impart strength, professionalism and efficiency.
  • Triangles have been seen to have a good association with power, science, religion and law.

Vertical & Horizontal Lines

  • Our subconscious associates vertical lines with masculinity, strength and aggression.
  • Horizontal lines tend to suggest community, tranquility and calm.

If you are creating a new logo, label or other promotional materials, there is a lot of think about before you come to a final decision. Even if you draw the label or logo yourself, get some help from a graphic artist who has experience in your field to help you finish it off. It will definitely pay off in the long run.

A tip of the glass from me to you!


Fonts and Shapes - Their Perception on Buyers
09 August, 2015

In last week’s blog I wrote about how color affects the consumer’s perception of products. This week I am focusing the influence of fonts and shapes on perceptions.

Choosing the right font is important, as consumers will react to fonts either consciously or subconsciously. Sometimes they know that they like or don’t like a font, while other times all they know is that they feel uncomfortable and they don’t want to read anymore, though they don’t know why.

It’s not only the font selected but also the size of the font that affects readers. In an article entitled, The Psychology of Fonts, Emily Matthews writes, “Larger fonts convey insecurity, suggesting that the author feels a need to fill the page. Smaller, more minimalist fonts are more successful choices for powerful messages.” It rather reminded me of the idea that if you want people to really listen to you don’t raise you voice, lower your voice.

Ms. Matthews goes on to say, “The use of more than two fonts on a page is generally excessive and should be avoided…” Though when using two fonts, use two that are distinctly different but complimentary, bringing energy to the page.

When designing a logo, the shape is very important. The Canadian company Colourfast presents information what different shapes mean to buyers:

Circles, Ovals, Ellipses represent

  • Positive, Emotional Message.
  • A circle can suggest community, friendship, love, relationship and unity.
  • Curves of any sort tend to be viewed as feminine in natures.

Squares & Triangles

  • Straight edges logo shapes suggest stability and may also be used to imply balance.
  • Straight lines and precise shapes also impart strength, professionalism and efficiency.
  • Triangles have been seen to have a good association with power, science, religion and law.

Vertical & Horizontal Lines

  • Our subconscious associates vertical lines with masculinity, strength and aggression.
  • Horizontal lines tend to suggest community, tranquility and calm.

If you are creating a new logo, label or other promotional materials, there is a lot of think about before you come to a final decision. Even if you draw the label or logo yourself, get some help from a graphic artist who has experience in your field to help you finish it off. It will definitely pay off in the long run.

A tip of the glass from me to you!


How Consumers React To Color
31 July, 2015

I found an interesting article regarding what the color of your logo says about your company. Of course it’s not only your logo, it’s also the colors you use in every promotional or advertising piece you present to customers or prospective customers.

Catherine Clifford writing for reminds us that people associate different feelings with different colors. She gives a couple of great examples. For instance, “green conveys organic growth, the earth, nature or feelings of caring” and uses Starbucks and Greenpeace as examples. Black is the color used to convey feeling of sophistication, authority or seduction. Consider the black labels used by Chanel or Sony.

Ms. Clifford includes some information compiled by Colourfast, a Canadian plastic-card maker, on the influence of color on consumers:

  • 93% of purchasing judgments are made on visual perceptions.
  • 84% of consumers cite color as their main reason for buying a particular product
  • 80% think color increases brand recognition.

In addition color can improve:

  • Comprehension by 73%
  • Learning by 55-68%
  • Reading by 40%

Colourfast also gives some examples of the attributes that consumers associate with different colors.

  • Blue: Secure, calm, honest, strong, caring, trustworthy
  • Red: Energy, love, exciting, action, bold, passionate
  • Orange: Happy, sociable, friendly, affordable
  • Yellow: Logical, playful, optimistic, forward-thinking, confident
  • Green: growth, organic, natural, caring, fresh, earth
  • Purple: imaginative, creative, nostalgic
  • Black:  sophistication, luxury, seductive, formal, authority
  • Multi-colored: multi-channel, positive, playful, bold, boundless

So think about the colors you are using in all the promotional pieces that you present, what they might mean to consumers and how you want consumers to perceive your company through the colors you use.

Of course, you also need to consider the font and spacing between letters as well as the shape of the letters, though people first see color (even though they may not realize it).

To that end, next week we will talk about fonts and what different logo shapes imply.

A tip of the glass from me to you!


Improving the Odds of Making Sales
27 July, 2015

I know that I have in the past harped on the concept of saying less about the wine and finding out more about the people. Here are some handy hints about how to do that.

The Comfort Factor

Make visitors feel that they are important to you. Let them know that you care about them as individuals and not just as buyers.

Give guests individual attention; I know that it becomes more difficult the busier the retail room is. Track the hours that you are the busiest and bring in some additional staff.

Solicit guests’ opinions of the wines and your other offerings.

Make visitors comfortable enough so that they want to make you happy.

Activate the Need to Reciprocate

Allow visitors to taste a wine that is not usually available. Show them the cellar. Make a dinner reservation for them. Give visitors an extra taste or waive the tasting fee.

One of people’s most basic urges is to reciprocate whenever someone has done something nice for us. The simplest way for visitors to reciprocate is for them to buy.

Have Information Available

Visitors will internalize your messages more easily if they both hear and see them. Hand visitors information on the wines being served, being careful hot to tell them what the wine will taste like. Tell them what they may find in the wine. Include the price of the wine and the wine club price. Tell visitors what you are offering.

Make It Easy to Purchase

Handing visitors an order form and a pen with a spoken request for the sale improves your chances of visitors purchasing.

Use Your Individuality, but Tone It Down

The visitor should always be the focus and you should the visitors enough time to talk if they wish. Allow them time to ask questions. Allow them time to impress you with their knowledge.

Make Positive Comments about Visitors

Compliment visitors in an authentic way on their wine knowledge, palate, jewelry, wine preferences, how pleased you are that they came to the winery or how happy you are to see them again.

A tip of the glass from me to you!


Leadership vs Management
17 July, 2015

I found a great article by Jeffrey Glen on Business and while it is longer than my usual blogs I wanted to print it all, as it really makes you think about what your position is as a leader and/or manager.

Many people quickly assume that being a good leader means you’re a good manager and vice versa. The two concepts are actually quite distinct and understanding that distinction can help you understand what it means to be good at either or good at both.

What are the Key Characteristics of Management?

From a broad perspective, management is smaller scale and more focused on details than leadership. The leader sets the vision and the broad plan, the manager executes it and does what is needed to achieve that plan. Key characteristics of management are:

  • A tactical focus on aspects of the organization’s strategy
  • Executing on specific areas within their responsibilities
  • Formulating and enforcing the policies of a business to achieve its goals
  • Directing and monitoring their team to achieve their specific goals
  • Management and containment of risks in an organization
  • Short term focus with attention to the details

What are the Key Characteristics of Leadership?

Leadership is setting the tone of an organization, the broad objectives and long term goals will come from the leader, and then managers need to execute on a plan to attain them. Leadership is not necessarily getting caught up in all the details but rather setting the plan and inspiring people to follow them. Key characteristics of leadership are:

  • Strategic focus on the organization’s needs
  • Establishing goals and the strategic direction
  • Establishing principles
  • Empowering and mentoring the team to lead them to their goals
  • Risk engagement and overall identification
  • Long term, high-level focus

Which is more important?

Any organization or business needs people who are good at both leadership and management if they are going to succeed. With good management and poor leadership they will be able to execute everything very well, but will be doing so without a consistent direction and overall strategy. With good leadership and poor management, a company will have the goals and inspiration to succeed, but no one to execute the plan on how to get there.

Emphasis needs to be placed equally on both areas if an organization wants to thrive.

Can someone do both?

Good leaders and good managers are not often the same person, the few people that excel at both tend to be overwhelmingly successful in achieving their goals. Management and leadership skills are in some ways very opposite from one another, short vs. long term, big picture vs. detail oriented, etc. It can be very difficult for one to split their time between the two and excel at both. Often organizations that succeed have a mix of individuals, some who excel at leadership and some who excel at management.

A tip of the glass from me to you!


It’s Time For A Change
10 July, 2015

“If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.” W. L. Bateman

And nowhere is this quote truer than in the wine industry, although there are many different types of retailers jostling for second place. The majority of the wineries that I visit around North America are still firmly rooted in the belief that the way to sell wine is by talking about it non-stop. Overwhelming visitors with facts, which they may or may not be interested in, and not finding out anything about the visitors themselves is not going to help you to sell wine, in most cases.

Yes, you do get the occasional wine aficionado in your winery, the one who really does know a lot about wine and wants to know more. These are the people that you can give as much information as you want to. But there are many others who visit wineries. They want to know a couple of facts they can use to impress their friends when they get home, though by and large they really want a two way conversation, they ask you questions, you ask them questions. They listen to your answers and you listen to theirs.

What leads winery folk to talk almost exclusively about wine is passion. Their passion about wine leads them to keep talking about the wine, even when the visitors have become glassy-eyed and they are looking for an opportunity to escape.

If wineries ever want to be really successful at sales, they have to make sure the staff is asking questions and talking about things that interest the visitors – mainly talking about the visitors themselves. Find out about their hobbies, likes and dislikes. Once you know something about them you can talk about wine in ways that relate to them, rather than talking about wine in ways that it’s important to you.

I understand that when you are really busy, all bets are off. So practice asking questions and being more customer-centric, than wine-centric when things are quieter and then you can use a few of those engagement techniques when things are busier.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Always Making the Right Impression
06 July, 2015

This week I was reading over some things I had written some time ago and came across this story I had written down, though have not used it in my blog. It is as pertinent now as it was then.

Sometimes what we say gives the wrong impression instead of the right one. While we all say the wrong thing occasionally, it is important to think about how what we say presents the company. For example, I had been in line at my bank for quite a long time; most of that time there were only two tellers on duty. After about seven minutes, one more teller opened her window. When I came up to the counter, the teller, without any prompting from me, said:

Teller: Well you can tell it’s four o’clock.
Me: Why is that?
Teller: It’s very busy, it’s always busy at four o’clock.
Me: Everyday?
Teller: Yes, regular as clockwork.
Me: Why don’t you have more tellers available if you know it’s going to be busy?
Teller: We don’t have any more teller windows.
Me: The window next to me is not in use. 
Teller: Oh, that teller is at lunch.
Me: Perhaps you shouldn’t schedule lunch breaks at this time.
Teller: Well it just happened, there was nothing we could do.

This exchange did not make me feel particularly comfortable about having my life savings in their bank. I do not want to come in one day to find all my money gone and the teller saying, “Well it just happened there was nothing we could do.”

Experiences like these erode customer loyalty, satisfaction and confidence in the company. Think about how your sales employees might be explaining a problem. No employee should ever say, “Well, it just happened, there is nothing we could do.” Even if your employee says, “Well, it just happened” it should be followed up with, “but we’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Customer service is the one thing that will set you apart from the competition.Start thinking of ways you can provide more service to your customers before and after the sale. Think of your staff not only as employees but also as customers. Let them know how important they are to you. Keep them loyal because all your customers, including your staff are your most important assets.

How Customers Respond to Music
29 June, 2015

Music has a definite impact on customers, sometimes good and sometimes bad – depending on the music and the type of customers who frequent your business. So, considering the type of music and the noise level that will suit your customers is important.

There have been a number of studies conducted that examine how customers react to the music being played while they are in a retail establishment. In one study by Immedia Plc, originally published in Retail Wire in 2011, 40% of customers will stay longer in a business if they feel that the music is well chosen for the environment, and an equal percentage will spend less time if the feel the music isn’t suitable.

The first question though is not What kind of music should you play? but… Who are your customers? Once you know the demographics of your average/best customers, you can start planning the type of music to play that will keep them happy and shopping longer.

Background music is important to a shopping or dining experience if you want people to stay longer to dine or shop, play slower music, according to a study conducted through the University of Strathclyde in Scotland.

In an article by Humayun Khan in Shopify, music can be used to help slow customers down, speed them up or get them to spend more. One study looked at the effect of music on wine purchases in a UK store found that when stereotypical French music was played the sales of French wine far outsold German wine. When German music was played the German wines sold much better.

In another study, it was found that classical music played in a wine store increased sales and led customers to buy more.

And how loud should the music be? According to an article in Psychology Today by Emily Anthes, “Shoppers make more impulsive decisions when they are over-stimulated. Loud music leads to sensory overload, which weakens self-control. These tactics work better on a younger clientele, so if that is the demographic you are looking to attract that might be the way to go. Remember though that you may lose many older customers.

If you find that you have a varied customer base, younger and older customers, study their visiting and buying habits, based on the music you are playing at the time.

Experiment with different types of music to see if your customers are enjoying it and spending money, then change it and see if the length of time that customers spend in your business is shorter or longer and whether sales are up or down. Once you have decided what works, stick with it.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

The History of Your Business
20 June, 2015

I am in the process of writing a history for a winery association that has been in business for more than three decades. I am spending time finding information about the roots of the association; which wineries were the first members, who the past presidents were and basically what happened when.

This got me thinking about whether or not individual businesses archive the things that will be important when they have been in business in fifty, seventy-five or one hundred years from when the business was started.

The history of your business is going to be important to future generations when they are ready to celebrate the fifty or one-hundred-year anniversary. Here are some of the things you need to be thinking about now so that your descendants are not moaning about the fact that their grandparents or great-grandparents never kept anything useful about the start of the business:

Photographs are a big part of connecting people with your past. Do you have photographs of the owners, casual photographs of the owners dressed in their regular 1970s, 80s, or 90s clothes? Older fashions are always good for a laugh.

Keep the photographs in digital and printed form and don’t forget to name everyone involved and what their connection to the business is/was. Make sure each picture is dated (day, month and year.)

Take pictures of your employees while they are working (once again, name and date the photographs.)

Keep a file of major happenings in the business and the photos that relate to these occasions:

– The day you opened

– How you got the idea for the business

– Your first medal or award

– Anecdotes that will amuse or interest your future customers

Make notes on company tradition and what was important when the business was started.

In years to come, your company history will be a great boon to marketing and allow the future owners to promote the traditions that have come down through the ages.

Take all the things you collect and keep them safe, dry and away from rodents and add to them over the years. Lastly keep them somewhere that will make them easy to find in the future.

This is just a beginning. But it’s a great start.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Marketing – It’s So Simple
12 June, 2015

I was reading a book the other day, the autobiography of a man, Jack Petchey, with whom my Dad was in the Fleet Air Arm (a name for the British Navy air force) in World War II. Mr. Petchey and my Dad were good friends during the war and for a while after the war. Jack went on to be very, very successful and because of his success wrote an autobiography.

Jack Petchey started working at 11 years old for a greengrocer (shop selling vegetables and salad ingredients) in the East End of London, where, he says that he was taught his first lesson in marketing.

When he first started at the greengrocery, he was given, by the owner, a large box of tomatoes and asked to polish half of the tomatoes and not the other half. After he had finished polishing the half of the box that was supposed to be polished he was told to put them into two piles. One pile of tomatoes (the ones that were not polished) were given a lower price, while the tomatoes that had been polished were given a higher price.

Jack asked the owner why the tomatoes were two different prices, at which time the owner told him that some people like to buy cheap and some people like to buy expensive.

While we all know that some people don’t buy if things that are (in their estimation) too expensive, we also know that some people don’t buy if the things that they are considering purchasing are not expensive enough.

Make sure your pricing varies so that you can appeal to both those people that like to get a bargain price and those people who are more comfortable buying something that they fits their ideas of quality and what (in their opinion) is an appropriate price.

Remember: never underestimate people’s willingness to spend money to impress their friends. Whether they impress their friends with how little they spent or impress them with how much they were able to spend on a product.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

The Best Customer Service Ever
05 June, 2015

I went down to Monterey, CA for a couple of days, recently, as a quick getaway to celebrate my birthday. While there I spent a day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The exhibits were amazing, but the thing I was most impressed with was the customer service. While there I spoke to at least seven different employees and volunteers and every one of them was helpful, informative, pleasant and interacted with us on a personal as well as a professional level.

During each interaction, we were given interesting information about the fish and birds that made up that particular exhibit. The person speaking with us, whether they were volunteers or paid employees were cheerful, friendly and obviously loved what they were doing.

In contrast, I was at a winery a few days before with a friend who had gone to pick up a quarterly wine club shipment. As we walked in the front door to the tasting room there was a woman behind the desk who was looking through some papers. She did not raise her head from the papers when we came in or acknowledge us in any way.

We continued over to the tasting bar and the young woman behind the bar who was pleasant but not at all engaged with us began to tell us how the tasting worked. My friend mentioned being a part of the wine club and she pointed to the other room and said that we could pick up the shipment over there. We stayed at the tasting bar to taste some wine. The tasting was free for anyone who came to the winery and there was nothing special for wine club members to taste. We were asked no questions, nor was any attempt made to form a connection with us by either of the two employees who served us. They just came over, asked what we wanted, poured and left. There was also no attempt to sell us on anything, asked how we liked the wine club. The tasting room was not busy yet there was no personal interaction at all.

When we went over to pick up the shipment, the employees put it into a bag, asked to sign the sheet and said goodbye. No suggestion that we might want to purchase something else was made. My friend will be cancelling the wine club membership at this winery before the next shipment.

The two experiences were polar opposites. If I had to choose where to spend my money based on how I was treated, I would be back at the Monterey Bay Aquarium tomorrow.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

A Great Way to Learn
29 May, 2015

This week I am in Portland, Oregon for the VESTA curriculum conference. For any of you that don’t know about VESTA (I can’t imagine there are many), it is the Viticulture, Enology Science & Technology Alliance. This is a national grape and wine education program that combines the flexibility of online instruction; instructor guided education from industry professionals; and crucial hands-on experience under the guidance of an experienced mentor at a vineyard or winery close to where you live.

VESTA has classes on everything you would need or want to learn about viticulture, enology and the business of wine including marketing, finance, etc. The students are from all around the United States and the online format makes it simple to attend.

So what am I doing in Portland? In September, I am lucky enough to start teaching a class for VESTA, VIN 271, Advanced Marketing. The class covers all in the different facets of marketing in the wine industry including:

  • Understanding the importance of marketing
  • Create a viable marketing plan
  • The meaning of branding
  • Keys for developing packaging
  • How marketing and sales technology facilitates success

And much, much more!

The live class meeting takes place once a week via a web-based conference system. Participation in the live class meetings is required. It is an opportunity for the instructor (that would be me) to go over weekly topic highlights and for students to interact with the instructor and fellow students through questions and discussions. Students are expected to be ready to ask questions and actively participate in the discussions. There are also course assignments include weekly readings (online lectures/presentations and print-based materials) that are posted on the online course site. And, of course, there are quizzes, two exams and participation during the live class.

It is going to be a great class and I have and will continue to compile lots of information keep the class interesting and relevant. It should be fun.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Objective or Subjective? How Are You Selling?
22 May, 2015

I have recently talked about the difference between customers’ preferences for objective or subjective information when considering a purchase.

The preference for objective information relates to the facts about the product, how it is produced, where it is produced, any third party endorsements and the education or expertise of the person who made it. Those are just a few of the things that might sway an objectively directed customer into purchasing your product.

On the other hand, the customer who relates to subjective information is more likely to want to know about personal perspectives, opinions and feelings. Their method of buying is more emotional than intellectual.

Of course many customers like a little bit of both objective and subjective information in order to make the purchase. However, one or the other, either objective or subjective tips the scales for them. For instance, how many times do you buy something from someone you really don’t care for? How we feel about the person serving us has a great deal to do with how we feel about the product if we are looking from the subjective point of view.

So what can you do to discover how people want to be sold when you are presenting your products, services or other offering to first-time customers? The first thing to do is to listen. Do your customers ask you for subjective or objective information? There are many different questions that customers may ask you that will help you to figure out whether they are looking for subjective or objective information.

For example: How many awards have you won? (objective) or What do you like? (subjective) Tell me about your quality? (objective) or Do a lot of people buy this product? (subjective)

Focusing on the type of information your customer is asking for will help you tailor your conversation to what is most important to them. So listen hard to determine how you want to be sold and respond to the questions they have asked you.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Give Customers The Opportunity To Buy
15 May, 2015


I talk a lot about making customers feel special and valued and will never stop encouraging this behavior. However, the best way to encourage your staff to treat customers well is to treat your staff well. I was lucky enough to see the concept put into practice a couple of weeks ago.

Recently I was invited to a surprise party at Mill Creek Winery, one of the wineries in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. The surprise party was in honor of Bruce Thomas, who has been the tasting room manager at Mill Creek for twenty years. The owners, Bill and Yvonne Kreck decided to throw a surprise party for Bruce to celebrate a great twenty years.

The party took place after the tasting room closed on a Saturday evening. It was a lovely night with food, music and, of course, great wine. The evening was made even better by the look of complete shock on Bruce’s face when he realized the party was for him. There were personal friends of Bruce’s, winery people and the Kreck family who turned out in force. I have known Bruce for longer than the twenty years that he has worked at Mill Creek and can’t think of a person more deserving of this celebration.

There are lots of things, big and small, that you can do for loyal and hardworking employees of your business. And everything that you do to let your employees know that they are doing a great job for you will reflect back onto your customers, making them want to return to such a warm and friendly place. Your reward will be increased customers and increased sales. All in all more than a fair trade.

A tip of the glass from me to Bruce, Yvonne, Bill, and you!

Making Your Employees Feel Special
10 May, 2015

I talk a lot about making customers feel special and valued and will never stop encouraging this behavior. However, the best way to encourage your staff to treat customers well is to treat your staff well. I was lucky enough to see the concept put into practice a couple of weeks ago.

Recently I was invited to a surprise party at Mill Creek Winery, one of the wineries in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. The surprise party was in honor of Bruce Thomas, who has been the tasting room manager at Mill Creek for twenty years. The owners, Bill and Yvonne Kreck decided to throw a surprise party for Bruce to celebrate a great twenty years.

The party took place after the tasting room closed on a Saturday evening. It was a lovely night with food, music and, of course, great wine. The evening was made even better by the look of complete shock on Bruce’s face when he realized the party was for him. There were personal friends of Bruce’s, winery people and the Kreck family who turned out in force. I have known Bruce for longer than the twenty years that he has worked at Mill Creek and can’t think of a person more deserving of this celebration.

There are lots of things, big and small, that you can do for loyal and hardworking employees of your business. And everything that you do to let your employees know that they are doing a great job for you will reflect back onto your customers, making them want to return to such a warm and friendly place. Your reward will be increased customers and increased sales. All in all more than a fair trade.

A tip of the glass from me to Bruce, Yvonne, Bill, and you!

I talk a lot about making customers feel special and valued and will never stop encouraging this behavior. However, the best way to encourage your staff to treat customers well is to treat your staff well. I was lucky enough to see the concept put into practice a couple of weeks ago.

Recently I was invited to a surprise party at Mill Creek Winery, one of the wineries in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. The surprise party was in honor of Bruce Thomas, who has been the tasting room manager at Mill Creek for twenty years. The owners, Bill and Yvonne Kreck decided to throw a surprise party for Bruce to celebrate a great twenty years.

The party took place after the tasting room closed on a Saturday evening. It was a lovely night with food, music and, of course, great wine. The evening was made even better by the look of complete shock on Bruce’s face when he realized the party was for him. There were personal friends of Bruce’s, winery people and the Kreck family who turned out in force. I have known Bruce for longer than the twenty years that he has worked at Mill Creek and can’t think of a person more deserving of this celebration.

There are lots of things, big and small, that you can do for loyal and hardworking employees of your business. And everything that you do to let your employees know that they are doing a great job for you will reflect back onto your customers, making them want to return to such a warm and friendly place. Your reward will be increased customers and increased sales. All in all more than a fair trade.

A tip of the glass from me to Bruce, Yvonne, Bill, and you!

Have Tea, Will Travel
01 May, 2015

I just returned from a week in the Midwest, working with the wineries of Iowa and then on to Illinois for some time with the wineries in the Northern region.

After flying into and staying in Des Moines overnight, I drove down to Two Saints Winery in St. Charles to present a full day seminar, then took off for Oskaloosa to visit Tassel Ridge Winery. From there it was a three-hour trip up to Galena, Illinois.

I was listening to the radio as I drove up to Galena and was told of a tornado watch around Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, which I was passing at the time. I am happy to say that the tornado did not materialize in that area though Illinois got hit. I have no idea of what to do in a tornado, having only lived in England and California, neither of which is known for tornados.

Galena, Illinois is a picturesque little town, obviously a tourist town, with lots of wonderful shops, restaurants and a few wine tasting rooms and my stay at Galena Cellars, where I presented another full day seminar, was fun and interesting. Thanks Chris (Lawlor-White) for your wonderful hospitality! I would definitely like to go back to Galena and take in more of the wineries in and around that area.

It’s so gratifying to see the wineries in these areas doing so well and making a variety of wines that suit their climate, some dry wines, some sweet and some in between. Their enthusiasm for their products and dedication to their profession is inspiring.

Wine clubs are catching on in these areas, with a few in Iowa and more in Illinois and even more in the planning for a number of wineries. In both states, I tasted some lovely Seyvals (one of my favorite grapes) as well as Marquette and Chambourcin. The French hybrids are doing very well in the Midwest and the wineries understand the grapes as well as the demands of their customers.

The only thing I have to remember when I travel to the Midwest is to make sure that I have plenty to teabags with me, as it’s hard to get a cup of tea in many restaurants. Which is the reason for the title of this blog. But as long as I have terrific people to work with (and the Midwest has plenty of those), can get a good glass of wine, and remember to bring plenty of teabags with me, I am set.

So thanks to the wineries for their wholehearted welcome and to the people who worked hard to put the days of training together. It’s always a pleasure to come to the Midwest and I hope to be back to see you soon!

A tip of the glass (and the cup) from me to you!

Surviving a Family Business
26 April, 2015

A one-day conference, June 16th, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 pm. at Shone Farm, Forestville (Sonoma County).

I have worked with many family businesses, both in and out of the wine industry, and have seen the struggles that can result in the loss of the business or even more devastating the breaking up of a family. It’s for this reason that I am producing this one-day conference that will help your business and your family survive and thrive.

A family business presents challenges and opportunities for owners, family members and non-family employees. Compatibility and family relationships can create workplace dynamics that are not found in companies owned by stockholders or run by corporate teams; though creating and building functional teams of employees mixed with family members can be more challenging in family owned businesses. The “Surviving a Family Business” conference will provide insight on managing those workplace dynamics, and practical, real-world advice on managing family members, building intra-personal skills, and creating functional teams.

To give family owned businesses the survival tools they need, I have put together this full-day conference, featuring speakers who not only run family businesses, but are experts in helping others do it also.


Topics and speakers include:

Living The Dream: Running A Family Business

Vision/Strategic Plan (May the Force be With You)

Shared Collaboration & Shared Responsibility (Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe)

Perception Is Everything (Experience the Thrill of Victory & The Agony of Defeat)

People Skills (Yes… Siblings, Children & Parents are People, Too)

Who’s in the Club (In-laws vs. Out-laws)

Speakers – Max & Theresa McFarland – psychologists and educators, conducting workshops in the U.S. Europe and the Pacific Rim and owners of Mac’s Creek Winery, which they run with their sons.


Negotiation & Conflict Resolution

The art of the win/win, rather than the win/lose

Creating functioning teams and real teamwork

Seeing family members for who they are today, not for who they used to be

Understanding the big picture and everyone’s place in it

Best choices for business, family and employees

Speaker – Terry Taylor, CEO of Global Genesis, a family owned and run company and psychologist working around the world with corporate clients and small businesses teaching the arts of negotiation and conflict resolution.


Integrating & Retaining Employees & Family Members in Your Family Business

Establish Boundaries, Policies & Procedures

Define Roles & Expectations

Rewards for Family and Non-Family Employees

Promotion & Advancement

Speakers – A panel of highly respected speakers who work with a myriad of family business in a variety of industries including Barney Barnett and Jennifer Tincknell speaking to the topic of integrating family and non-family employees.


For registration or more information go to

Or you may call me at 707.953.1289 or email at

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Guerrilla Marketing for Locals
20 April, 2015

At all times during the year it’s great to have local people frequent your business, buy product and bring their friends. It’s particularly important during the slow times, as the local people can boost sales at times when tourists are thin on the ground.

I have a friend who owned a bookstore and a restaurant at the same time and in the same small town. We were talking about running a small business and how hard it can be, at times, to get publicity for a small business with the local newspaper or magazines.

Jack told me what he used to do. When he needed part time help in the bookstore he would hire reporters from the local newspaper or writers for local magazines. Many reporters who work for small town publications are part time and are not getting paid a lot of money so are in need of an additional part time job to boost their income.

A part time job in a bookstore is perfect for someone who likes to write. It was also perfect for Jack and his bookstore as they also regularly mentioned the bookstore in the newspaper or magazine for which they worked. He had people working for him who were passionate about his product and effectively publicized his business to locals. It certainly doesn’t hurt to throw an ad in once in a while as well.

Another way to get local attention is to call in to local talk radio shows with comments or questions. When they give out the phone number and ask listeners to call in, pick up the phone. Make your comments interesting and, if you get a chance, mention your business name or the type of business you have. You never know, you may end up with an interview or become a resource for the radio station. The same goes for the local newspaper, become a regular contributor to the “Letters to the Editor” section.

You may also talk about your contributions to local media on your social media sites. Something you say may get picked up nationally or even internationally.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Extraordinary Brands – Part 2: Engaging Employees
03 April, 2015

In last week’s blog, we explored the importance of business leaders to engage the hearts of employees so they pass that enthusiasm and personal service along to the customers. In this week’ s blog we delve further into the article by Alessandro Donetti, where he talks about engaging the minds of employees and the need for continuous engagement.

Engage the Mind

Mr. Donetti points out in his article that elevating performance through meeting employees’ three intellectual needs of Achievement, Autonomy, and Mastery is often overlooked, even though it is a basic premise. CBE (of which Mr. Donetti is a managing partner) research has shown that only a small percent of frontline people have an acceptable level of the ability to focus attention on customer emotions. The percentage varies from 25% in financial services to 65% in luxury retail stores. He goes on to say that frontline people who have higher levels of focused attention ability are 85% more effective in sales results and that this ability almost triples the rates of those who promote products rather than focusing on customer emotions.

Your job as a leader is (if you are not already doing so) to learn to engage the minds of your frontline people to see their performance improve.

Continuous Engagement

This practice of engaging the hearts and minds of your employees cannot be a once in a while thing, it has to be done on a daily basis. Mr. Donetti brings up an interesting point: instead of asking senior leaders, “What do you want your store managers to do when a customer has a problem?” he asked them a very different question, “Which emotions do you want your customers to feel?”

This is a great question to ask your frontline employees. When your staff is solving problems, they need to answer the customer’s emotion concerns as well as offering rational solutions, which may only solve half the problem. Once you have created an emotional connection and allowed the customer to tell you how s/he feels, then an employee may go forward to the solution.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Extraordinary Brands
27 March, 2015

I came across a great article Extraordinary Brands, Extraordinary Leaders, Extraordinary Frontline Behaviors, by a man named Alessandro Donetti, the Managing Partner of CBE, a consulting company.  Mr. Donetti talks about the difference it makes to customers to deal with service people who are excited about their work and their words “jump out of their hearts rather than being regurgitated from a script.”

He continues, “In a world of product parity and increasing consumer demands, the brands that will rise to the top and stay there will be those who find a way to leverage their most powerful and differentiating asset – their people.”

Those of you who follow this blog will realize that Mr. Donetti’s ideas are familiar to you as this is a topic near and dear to my heart and for good reasons. CBE’s research has shown that approximately 85% of customers’ decisions are based on positive interaction with the people who are taking care of them. It’s what leads to brand loyalty.

Here is the part that really caught my eye:  Mr. Donetti goes on to say that in order for the people in your company to speak from their hearts the example has to come from their leaders. Mr. Donetti says that he often asks senior leaders, “Do you think it’s important to engage the heart of your people?” He goes on to say that the answers are almost always, “Yes, tremendously important.” So he asks these leaders another question, “What have you done in the last 10 days to engage the hearts of your people?”  He says that, this question often leads to an uncomfortable silence.

It’s interesting that many leaders are less comfortable with the emotional side of engaging their people and many have never really learned how. I have come across this often in my own work with businesses. There are times I’ve had to remind owners to tell their staff that they are doing a good job or, in the case of some absentee owners, to remind them to say hello to everyone on staff when they are on property. A quick hello or positive comment about a job well done goes a long, long way.

So here’s my question for you: Are you engaging with your staff from your heart, so your employees will engage with customers from their hearts?

This is step one and I’ll have more from Mr. Donetti next week on Engaging the Mind and Continuous Engagement.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Different Ways to Engage Customers
23 March, 2015

While looking through my email, a while ago, I came across an email from theIndiana Uplands Wine Trail, detailing some of the events and options for consumers to do different things at the wineries.

A couple of the events being offered at French Lick Winery, in French Lick Indiana, caught my eye. The first one was an event called Wine and Canvas, which is a guided art class. The $35 fee includes everything needed for participants to create their own masterpiece. Wine and snacks are available for purchase from the winery during the class. The event, is held at the winery, though the reservations and purchase for the class, etc. is all done through Wine and Canvas, a separate company, so there’s less work for the winery staff before the event.

I have heard of this type of event, as a friend of mine in Southern California went for an afternoon of Wine and Art, though this was not done through a winery. So it may be that there is something similar in your area.

The second event that John & Kim Doty, the owners of French Lick Winery are offering is“Abstract Art Wine Glass Painting” Participants take home with them a set of four unique abstract art 20oz wine glasses that they have painted themselves. Once again, all the supplies are provided.

What a great idea! The question in my mind is where to put the winery logo on these glasses. I assume that the bowl of the glass will be painted, though perhaps placing the winery logo in a frosted square below the stem might work.

This event took place recently at the winery. I will be sure to give Kim or John a call, as I am very interested to know how the wine glass painting worked out. Perhaps they have some pics of the glasses that were painted. I wonder what wine they will be featuring for participants to take home to christen their hand-painted glasses. It’s a great reason for people to buy wine.

If you’re hosting events at your winery that are out of the ordinary, please let me know, I’d love to hear about them.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

If You Want To Win the Lottery, First Buy A Ticket
20 March, 2015

A good article on Business talks about developing an action plan to accomplish goals. It’s important to have an action plan for every goal you have listed, whether it’s personal or business. Some of you may remember that I have talked about my goal of winning the lottery. My action plan to make this happen is to buy a ticket. No ticket, no win, it’s that simple. Of course, I may never win the lottery, but at least by having an action plan I have given myself a fighting chance.

So look at your goals for each of the different areas of your business and if each one of your goals doesn’t have specific action plans, then it’s time to add them under each one of your goals. If you haven’t stated your goals for each of the areas of your business rather than an overall goal (to be successful), now is the time to do it.

You also want to be specific with your goals. If, for example, you are planning an event, you need to have a clear picture of what your goals are, such as how much product you want to sell and how many people you want to attend and how many new people you want to add to your mailing list. Once you have got the goals sorted, then add details, such as: we want to sell products totaling $5,000 dollars to the 130 people who attend the event, 40 of whom will be added to our mailing list.

Your goals should be realistic but make them a bit of a stretch. After all, you want everyone to feel good about having reached the goals. Once you have your goals, let everyone who is involved know the goals and get them involved in making an action plans. Include deadlines as part of the action plan. Keep track of your progress along the way, to make sure you are on target.

If these are plans for longer-term goals, create rewards along the way as certain objectives are reached. We all perform better when rewards are part of the project.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

A Few Bad Email Subject Lines
16 March, 2015

I received an email today, not in itself unusual as most of the internet world can attest. It wasn’t the email itself that bothered me but the subject line that I disliked. The subject line was:

“Discover one of ——‘s best-kept secrets…”  I left out the name of the area to protect the guilty.

Whether you are saying best-kept secret in an email, on your website, in a brochure or verbally to visitors, I encourage you not to do so. After all, why would you want to keep your business a secret? And not only is it a secret, it’s the “best kept” secret so you’ve obviously been working very hard to keep it a secret. Not a good idea if you want to stay in business. It is at best lazy marketing.

Companies that do want to keep their businesses a secret don’t send all and sundry emails or ads. You have to be on their mailing list or waiting list to hear from them.

There are other email subject lines that don’t help you much including:

      We are proud to announce 

Your pride is not of major importance to the readers, let them know something to theirbenefit.

      Anything in all caps

I still receive information from businesses where the heading or subject line is in all caps as is the body of the message. All caps are hard to read.

     Using your business name as the subject line

Your business name appears on the left when your email hits the recipient’s mailbox.  Don’t waste valuable real estate repeating your name.

      Too much punctuation

Exclamation points are becoming very popular these days, too popular and for no good purpose much of the time.

Here is an idea for a subject line for wineries that should get people to at least open the email:

      “Do you love wine and have an inside closet?” or

      “You don’t have to have a cellar to collect wine.”

The body of the email may start by saying:

      “Many people think you have to have a cellar to have a wine collection, you don’t.

      As long as you have a closet that stays cool, it’s a great place for storing wine.”

And go from there (giving readers ideas of storage, aging, etc.)

If any of you try this subject line, I’d love to know how it worked. Did more people open your email and did more people click through? If you hate it, let me know that too. Drop me a line.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

The Right Type Is Just As Important As the Right Stuff
27 February, 2015

I received an email from a winery that arrived in my inbox shortly before Valentine’s Day advertising a special Valentine’s Day event on Saturday and Sunday (Feb 14 & 15).

The event itself sounded like fun, but my enthusiasm for the event was diminished by the font that was used to write the body of the email. The font was, to say the least, hard to read with its swirls and squiggles, kind of Olde Englishy. Because it was so hard to read, I stopped reading after the first paragraph and, had I not decided to write a blog about this email, I wouldn’t have bothered to read any further. As it was, I battled on to the bottom of the email.

If your customers have a hard time reading your emails, they just won’t do it. Additionally, please remember that the generation that is spending the most money on wine and drinking the most wine is the Boomer generation (ages 51 – 69). This is the generation that spends a lot of time reaching for their collective reading glasses, even when the type isn’t hard to read, so please make it easy for them.

The second problem with the email: There was very little in the email that focused on the potential attendees and how this would enjoy the event. The headline focused on the ordering of tickets for the event instead of letting people know what was in it for them.
The headline could easily have been: A Valentine’s Day to Remember, or Enjoy the Best Valentine’s Day Ever, or You, Your Sweetheart, Wine and Chocolate.

In the body of the email was a list of the wines being tasted with information as to what people would taste in the wine. We never know how a wine will taste to others. Tasting wine sometimes seems like a test and when we don’t taste what we have been told we should, it’s rather like failing a test. Let your customers decide for themselves.

When putting together an email invitation to an event or to buy wine, think first about the people you are sending it to, and what is important to them, instead of what is important to you.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Are Consumers Drinking And Where Are They Buying It From?
20 February, 2015

The Wine Market Council has provided the company’s 10th annual presentation on U.S. wine consumer trends. Here are some of the highlights from the presentation.

The research showed that high-frequency wine drinkers were purchasing wine from many different places:

Wine specialty store 58%
Supermarket/grocery 53%
Bar/restaurant 52%
Mass Merchandiser 34%
Warehouse club 31%
When visiting winery 29%
Specialty food store 25%
State liquor store 23%
Online winery or retailer 9%

Research for this report showed that by generation, wine drinkers were: 41% Boomers, 29% Millennials, 18% Gen X, and 12% older people. So Boomers are still the biggest audience for wine, by quite a large percentage. Additionally, Boomers are also the largest share of high-frequency wine drinkers, a total of 38%, with the Millennials coming in at 30% of high-frequency wine drinkers.

While you are concerned about bringing in Millennial consumers, don’t do it at the cost of your Boomer customers, who still make up the majority of your wine buyers and wine drinkers. Pull out of your customer records the breakdown of your customers by age and see how many you have in each category. The ages for three categories are: Boomers – 51-69; Gen X 39-50, Millennials 21-38.

This year the youngest of the Millennials will turn 21. As 99% of Millennials wine drinkers are now of age, how much of the sales are they responsible for at your winery? This is interesting data to have on hand and will help you get the most out of your advertising dollars by allowing you to focus your advertising and marketing on the audience that buys the most from you.

The most telling information presented in the Wine Market Council’s survey of high-frequency wine drinkers is that other alcoholic beverages (craft beer, spirits, and cider) are more frequently being chosen instead of wine.

We need to be aware that we have more competition, not only from other wineries but also from other forms of alcoholic beverages. Keep marketing and keep selling if you want to stay ahead of the game.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What’s In A Name???
17 February, 2015

Whether you are naming your business or naming your products it’s important to think long and hard before you put the name on the package. Once you have built up some brand equity in that name, you’re not going to want to change it.

Of course, the most important thing is that nobody else has the name, so investigate the name thoroughly. I have known more than one business that has started with one name and had to change it because the name or a very similar name was actually trademarked by another company.

When considering names of more than one word, you need to consider whether the words flow well together and make the name easier not harder to remember. Another tip is the use of alliteration, commonly used in many business names, such as Coldstone Creamery or PowerPoint, for example. Both of those names roll easily off the tongue and because of the alliteration is easier to remember. Alliteration has long been accepted as a memory enhancer and is used in everything from cartoon characters to products and sports teams.

You can also consider names that may bring up certain feelings. An interesting fact you many not know, according to Aaron Keller writing for, “Cellar Door has been rated as the most phonetically beautiful pairing of words.” This is a great boon for the wine business.

You also want to think about how the name of the business or product looks in the different places that it will be seen, e.g. the web, your logo, a brochure, social media or a billboard.

According to the SBA you should also be aware of the connotations the words may evoke. For example, does it reflect your business philosophy, your culture, the price point and the product you are selling? Beer, for example, may have much more whimsical, funny or slightly off-color names. Interestingly enough, there was a report on NPR in January of this year that talked about the fact that craft brewers are running out of names. Wine and spirit names, on the other hand, tend to be more sedate with an aura of quality, at least those at a higher price point.

So when you are naming your next product, think long and hard before it becomes part of your product line.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

Talk About Yourself, Your Business, Your Products
06 February, 2015

For many businesses, especially the smaller ones, public/press relations tend to spend a lot of time on the backburner. It’s always something that is going to get done, but if you don’t have someone tasked with creating press releases and stories, it’s rare that the press releases and promotional pieces are written with any regularity.

Put Yourself Out There
Take advantage of local, regional and national press by being organized and up-to-date with the information you send to the press, through email and put on your website. You never know who is going to see it and become a life-long customer.

Get Organized
Time to get organized. If you don’t already have one, start with a Press section on your website for the press. Rather like the old printed press kit but without the cost of printing. This gives reporters who may have heard about your winery an easy way to get the information they need about your vineyards, winery, wines, staff, history, owners, winemaker, dog or whatever. You should also include products photos, videos and, most importantly, contact information.

Note: If someone from the press or electronic media calls you with questions speak to them immediately or call them back as quickly as you can as they are usually on deadline. If the reporter can’t get a hold of you s/he will find someone at another company like yours to talk to.

Be a Resource
When something happens in your industry, journalists are often times looking for someone who can give them a salient quote. If you want to be that person, rather than it being one of your competitors, get to know these journalists, reporters and bloggers. If there is bad weather during harvest, take a few minutes to call your local newspaper and let them know how it’s affecting your crop.

Whenever anything newsworthy is happening at your winery (and you should make sure that the story is really newsworthy) contact everyone you think might be interested. The more you send out good information, the more the press will get to know who you are and start counting on you when they need information.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

How to Put Together a Productive Brainstorming Session
30 January, 2015

I came across an interesting article in the Business Dictionary, a few weeks ago, about the benefits of brainstorming and how to put together a productive brainstorming session. The article by Leo Sun gave some great tips on how to conduct a successful session.

Plan a brainstorming session with your staff at least once each year, while setting up individual department brainstorming sessions more regularly during the year (perhaps three times each year). To help your employees’ creativity, change the venue from your regular meeting room. A different venue may help people express their ideas more easily.

Prior to the brainstorming session, let your employees know if you have a specific agenda or what topics will be addressed so that they can be thinking about them beforehand and have some ideas ready for the meeting.

You will need a leader for the brainstorming session, or more than one leader if you are going to break people into groups. Smaller groups can be more effective if you are bringing a large number of people together. Your leaders should write down the topic or topics that are the reason for the session, taking each topic separately and putting a time limit for each topic.

In the first phase of the session, it helps to get as many ideas out as possible, so let people know that you are looking for quantity over quality. Let everyone know that there are no bad ideas and that this is not the time to say that certain ideas won’t work. Additionally, everyone should contribute. The leaders should not allow anyone to sit quietly.

When you have all the ideas, you can group them into themes. Once you have them organized go back to the groups and ask them to go deeper, rooting out ideas that have not yet been thought of, then organize these items into themes. At that time start talking about the two lists and see what unique ideas emerge.

If you have more than one group, compare the results in each group and have the group leaders write up the results then tape them up around the room so people can vote on their favorites.

The objective is to come up with new ideas and to have buy-in from the employees so that when the new processes and procedures are introduced, everyone will feel as if they had a part in setting them up.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

Are You Selling In Your Tasting Room? Really?
23 January, 2015

I had some friends from the Midwest in Northern California recently. These are wine savvy people who were looking for some wineries to visit. They wanted a variety of experiences and so they and I chose many different types of wineries in both Napa and Sonoma to visit.

Overall their experiences at the 12 – 15 wineries they visited were good, with the majority of the people in the different hospitality centers being pleasant and cheerful. The one thing they noticed at every winery they went to is that no-one (let me repeat – no-one) tried to sell them anything, not even in the mildest way.

In some wineries, they thoroughly enjoyed their tastings and loved the wine but were given no written information on the wine and by the end of the tasting were not sure which wines they had tasted and which ones they liked the best. It was especially confusing when they were tasting different examples of the same varietal. After you have had five Pinots (for example) it’s hard to remember which one was which. And no one offered to help them choose wines to take home with them.

The other thing that struck them was that it was hard to get some of the hospitality employees off their favorite topic. In more than one case the winery employee started talking about a certain topic (soils, wine & food pairing or something wine or grape related that was close to his/her heart) and it was almost impossible, without being rude, for my friends to ask questions or move onto a different topic. In addition, they were asked very few questions about themselves or their wine tastes, though they were given lots of information, most of which they didn’t remember by the time they got to the car.

As it is early in the year and tasting rooms around North America are slower than usual, now is a great time to get the staff together to talk about customer service, sales and how to treat the customers. I will be sending my Midwest Spies and others out again to do more research, and as they live in the Midwest you don’t know what wine region they might turn up in.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

Think From A Different Perspective
16 January, 2015

In my line of work I look at a lot of outlines for different tasting room programs such as blending classes, sensory tastings, differences in glassware, wine and food pairings, etc.

While there are some great ideas that have been well thought out, I would love to see an outline for an offering that comes from the perspective of those who will be enjoying the session, rather from the perspective of those who are trying to sell wine to visitors. What is it that your visitors want?

Based on recent research, most people coming to wineries want to be entertained. They are there to have a good time and while education is important to some (a small percentage of the people who visit), it’s not the main reason they come. However, if you can give them a story and incorporate some educational facts that make them look intelligent and knowledgeable when they share with their friends, then they are more than likely to talk about your winery once they get home. They are also more likely to buy wine to take home with them so they can share it with these same friends or family.

If you don’t know what your customers and visitors are looking for, perhaps you can make 2015 the year of the survey. Send out short (three – five question) surveys asking people what they are looking for, what types of events or special classes they would like to participate in. Discover what their interests are and plan your events based on the information you receive.

You can send out a three question survey monthly and it’s a great opportunity to drop in a little information about the wines you have available. Just a couple of sentences, don’t overdo the sales pitch, remember it’s about them.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

Upping the Ante on Customer Service
09 January, 2015

I encourage you to take a leaf from Amazon’s book (no pun intended) and create a way to emulate Amazon Prime. For anyone who is unfamiliar with Amazon Prime, when you join you get free Two-Day Shipping for all eligible purchases, as well as a host of other benefits including borrowing books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, streaming movies and much more.

I have done some very unscientific research among my friends who belong to Amazon Prime asking the simple question, “Since you got Amazon Prime are you spending more money with Amazon?” The answer to my question was a unanimous “Yes I am spending more money with Amazon.” Now granted this was a very small sampling, but the wineries that have already started their own version of Amazon Prime are finding it is increasing their business tremendously.

For example, Constellation Wines offers what they call Star Shipping to wine club members. Simply members of their Expressions of the Vine wine clubs purchase a one-year Star Shipping membership for $99.00. Whenever they place a wine order for $49 or more (and this includes wine club shipments) the wine is shipped without any further cost to them by ground shipping.

Take a look at your customer records for wine club members and figure out how much they pay to ship their wine club wines for the year and charge them a little less than that to become a member of your pre-paid shipping program. Not only will it make your existing wine club members happy, it will also encourage non-members to join the wine club. Most of us are willing to spend money to save a little. It’s just the way our brains work.

It also gives you another reason to contact your wine club members. When you are presenting a special offer you remind your customers of the pre-paid shipping, which is another reason for them to buy. For those who are already members of the pre-paid shipping program you let them know that they won’t be paying any shipping if the purchase the required amount.

There are a number of benefits that can be added into this program, so put on your thinking caps and start creating your program.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

Are You Analyzing Your Business?
05 January, 2015

As it is winter and things (supposedly) slow down a little, it’s a good time to analyze and assess your business. Most of you have conducted a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of your business. Of course, it may have been when you were creating a business plan to start your business. If that has been a while, it’s probably a good idea to do it again (include your employees in the process).

Another analysis that is beneficial to conduct is the PEST analysis. This is a broader view of things that affect your business, such as the Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural and Technological factors that need to be considered. As we all know these factors are changing constantly, though if you want to continue to be successful, it’s important to keep abreast of this information.

For example, on the Political front, the U.S. recently went through a mid-tem election. Now is a good time to figure out how the changes in local, state and federal government may change policy in your local area or on a national scale. In the beverage industry we need to pay careful attention to how changes in government may change regulations regarding alcoholic beverages.

Next up is the Economy. What is happening with your customers’ discretionary income, it is growing or becoming a smaller portion of their total income? And if you are considering expanding your reach to outside North America what are the economic factors of the countries into which you want to import products?

Socio-Cultural concerns are also important. What is the average age of your best customers and are changing attitudes within these generations likely to change your profitability? It’s also good to consider what social attitudes or taboos could affect the business.

Finally, there is Technology, which we all know is changing at the speed of light (or possibly faster). It may be time to consider what new technologies you should be using to increase business or your abilities to connect more effectively with your customers.

There are a number of other considerations for each of the factors that comprise a PEST. Let me encourage you to take some time to do a quick analysis over the winter – while things are quiet :). Or am I just being a pest?

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

Put Yourself Out There!
26 December, 2014

Some wineries seem to be the go to businesses when reporters (whether television, radio, newspaper or internet) need a quote from a winery about something of general interest that’s happening in the wine business.

This isn’t just happenstance, many times the winery has developed a personal relationship with reporters, a personal relationship that works for all of them.

What does it take to develop these person relationships? It’s very similar to developing relationships with your customers. You must know what the person likes and how you can help them. You must also be familiar with what they do, the column or blog or types of stories they write, or the program they present (whether it’s TV, radio or video). In short, do your research on who they are and what they are likely to want.

If it’s television or radio you should also know the name of the producers on the show. You can do this by picking up the phone and asking. If you want to pitch an idea to this person be sure to tell them what they will see and hear. Before you call you already know that it’s a subject that will interest them and be right for the show. Regional programs are always looking for experts, so if you have expertise in a certain area, let them know, this is not the time to be modest.

Once you have talked to them, be ready with a strong email pitch for a story that will be of interest to their audience (the release of a new wine, is not going to catch any attention). Make sure the information is on your social media pages (especially LinkedIn) in case they are looking for you.

If you are invited to sit down with a reporter producer it won’t hurt to take a couple of bottles of wine with you.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Welcome To Stress Central!
19 December, 2014

It’s the holidays, which just adds more work and errands to lives that are already stretched to the max. Not only the customers who are coming to buy gifts and are not sure what to buy are stressed, but also the owners and staff of the business. They might well be thinking that they still have their own gift shopping to do, cards to write, the house to decorate and a menu to write for the lunch or dinner they are hosting for all the relatives.

Time to relax, take a deep breath and consider doing something that I have started doing lately, which is standing still, closing my eyes and imagining all the stress flowing out through the soles of my feet. It only takes about thirty seconds and I have found that it actually works. It makes me feel more relaxed and ready to greet visitors and customers and help them de-stress for twenty minutes or so.

At this time of year, it’s easy to get into the mindset that everything is really important. Thinking about who to buy for and what to buy, will they like it and what if they don’t… It is rare that I don’t like a gift that someone is kind enough to give me (well I did get some quite hideous things from my ex-mother-in-law for a while there). Mostly, I appreciate the thought and am happy that they think about me.

When you are working during the holiday period, take time to focus on the customers. To give them extra special service that will make their day brighter and yours too. Put your own concerns and stresses to one side. Imagine putting them all into a backpack and then leave the backpack beside the door on the way into work. You can pick up your backpack of stresses on the way out (I promise you no one will have stolen it). The nice thing is you don’t have to pick it up if you don’t want to.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Creating Your Messages so Your Customers and Prospects Want to Read It
12 December, 2014

We have all gotten emails or seen websites where the information just goes on and on, in one long, long paragraph. Most of us read the first few lines (maybe) then can’t be bothered to read the rest. Unless you have a headline that offers an amazing deal, “FREE PRODUCTS, TODAY ONLY, ABSOLUTELY NO COST”, followed by the line “Yes, this is really true” we are not going read far enough to get to the meat of your message.

When you are writing your website, an email, a brochure or anything else that is going to consumers, the trade or the press, you need to keep it short and simple. Get to the point very early and when your readers see that there is substance to your offer they will keep on reading.

The key to this is to start writing early. Let’s say you are sending out an email. Write it a week before you want to send it out. Once it’s written, save it and put it away for two days. Then come back and delete all the words you don’t need. Then give it to someone else and let him/her take out some more words. Less words means more white space and more white space means people are more likely to read it.

Keep your sentences short and your paragraphs to just a few of those short sentences. Don’t overload your readers with information in the first couple of paragraphs. Once you have hooked them they will keep reading. Keep the flow going from one paragraph to the next, with more information in each subsequent paragraph.

Remember: you may be passionate about your product or service but they are passionate about what your product and service can do for them. Keep the focus on how you and your products or service can make their life better.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

Be Careful With Those Tweets
05 December, 2014

With everyone out there tweeting away, when you are a producer of alcoholic beverages it’s important to know the laws around, regarding what you can and what you cannot say. Just knowing the laws is difficult, as there are so many – especially surrounding alcohol, but not realizing that you are breaking the laws can have dire consequences for wineries, breweries, distilleries, etc.

I was reading in the Wine Industry Advisor Afternoon Brief recently about the wineries in the Sacramento, CA area that tweeted information about wine tasting event in Northern California called the Grape Escape. SaveMart sponsored the event. By tweeting the name of this retailer, the wineries and breweries were breaking the tied-house laws, laws that don’t allow alcohol producers to promote retailers. The eight wineries and breweries who tweeted the information could have been subject to a license suspension or a fine. While the California Alcohol Beverage Control send letters threatening 10-day suspensions, they opted to allow businesses to admit to wrongdoing and put them on probation for a year – which means that any future violations would cause the 10-day suspension to go into effect.

Rules and regulations concerning the marketing and advertising of alcoholic beverages are available through the TTB and your state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control. Anyone who handles marketing, advertising or social media should be aware of the rules regarding what you can and cannot say in ads, tweets, on Facebook, emails and on your website, etc.

The other thing to remember is that new laws are coming out all the time, and, as we all know, “ignorantia legis neminem excusat,” which is Latin for “ignorance of the law does not excuse.” While that may not apply all the time, you don’t want to spend your hard earned money to fight that.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Are You Telling Your Stories to Your Customers?
01 December, 2014

How many stories do you have to tell visitors and customers? Is everyone saying the same thing, or do different people in the business have different stories to tell about the business?

When you can tell a personal story about who you work for, where you work, or why the company you work for is special, it goes a long way to connecting visitors and customers with the company. Think about what stories are special to you, or something that happened to you while you were at work that will make someone laugh or give them a warm feeling. Do you have a great story about your boss, which shows them in a positive light? Or if you’re the boss do you have a great story about one of your employees?

Even though it has been some years ago, I still remember a story that a hospitality employee told me about how the people she worked for supported her through a time of personal crisis. It made a strong impression on me and led to me buying more wine than I would normally have. If I am in the area, I will always stop at the winery to taste the wine and engage with the staff.

Also telling a story of something that went wrong at the winery, makes your winery and the people in it more human. If it’s a story that your visitors or customers find amusing and engaging there is a more than average chance that they will tell the story themselves to their friends and to others.

In addition to telling visitors and customers your story, it’s important that you take the time to hear their stories as well. Give them time to chat with you about their stories around wine in general or your wines in particular. Create the bonds that will bring people back again and again.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

Conveying Information to Consumers
23 November, 2014

If you want to engage and connect successfully with customers, as a  tasting room employee, you need to quickly intuit what information individual visitors want or expect and tailor the information you present to the wants of the visitor. You can learn what visitors want by asking questions. Create a list of questions that can be asked of visitors, to discern their level of interest in wine, viticulture, winemaking, attending events or other wine related topics, and their level of wine knowledge.

Of course, there are certain things that you want to make sure that every visitor knows before they leave your business. These are the three things that are the most important for the world to know about your business.

Except for the three things you want the world to know about your business, you don’t have to convey the same information every time. Diversity of information makes it more interesting for the people listening, as the information does not seem stale, which it may when your server is saying the same thing time and time again. When varying the information the person talking is more animated and excited about what they are saying.

Take a time out every so often for questions or comments from the audience. If no one has any questions, it’s probably time for you to change the subject as you may well have exhausted their interest in the present topic. If they want to know more, they will tell you.

Keep in mind that the reason people buy is because they feel, not because they think. By talking about the things that they want to talk and learn about, rather than what you want or have been told to tell them, they will become more engaged and connected with you and the winery, which leads to an increase in sales and long term customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

The Key to Good Marketing: Differentiate Your Product
19 November, 2014

I was reading recently in the Wine Industry Advisor that the TTB has established 11 new viticultural areas within the Central Coast region of California. The Paso Robles AVA was established in 1983 and is very large, about 42 miles from east to west and 32 miles north to south. Definitely a big area.

While having these distinctive areas is a great help to vineyards and the wineries focusing of different climates and which grapes grow best where, along with a myriad of small differences that affect grapes and wine, all these viticultural areas can be very confusing to consumers. Many times they are not sure which valley or AVA they are in, and get confused about the differences.

It is not unlikely that, as the wine industry and these individual AVAs keep growing, in years to come each separate area will have its own association, its own events, its own literature and marketing plans. This means even more information for consumers to absorb and remember in a world that is already throwing way too much information at them.

I remember talking to a gentleman on a plane bound for San Francisco and mentioning that I was in the wine industry. He told me that last time he had come out to California on business his wife had accompanied him and they had spent the weekend in “the wine country.” When I asked him which area he had visited he said that he and his wife headed north from San Francisco to visit (and this is a direct quote), “The one on the left.” Assuming he was going up Hwy 101, Sonoma County is on the left side and Napa is off to the right, so I presumed that he went to the wineries in Sonoma County. He didn’t know.

We are in the habit of dividing up our wine areas into even smaller areas (and they are becoming much, much smaller) without doing the work needed to really cement the distinctive and differentiating quality of the AVAs in the minds of consumers. As the key to good marketing is differentiating your product (in this case a new viticultural area) all the AVAs need to continue to work on differentiation, especially as the industry continues to grow. Here is the hard part, differentiation is showing differences that are important to the majority of your customers, not just to those of us in the business.

Congratulations to the Central Coast on their new AVAs! They have worked hard to get them and now the hard work of differentiation really starts.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Are you Ready for the Biggest Shopping Weekend of the Year?
08 November, 2014

It’s November already and we are quickly coming up to the holidays. Your customers are already thinking about gift giving and what they will need for their own festivities. Consumers are primed to buy and just need you to let them know that your products will fill the bill.

As we get close to Black Friday (November 28th), the kick off to the holiday buying season, are you ready? And not only for Black Friday; for those of you who are small businesses (most of the wine industry), what are you doing for Small Business Saturday? According to an article I read on, in 2013 consumers spent $5.7 billion at independent retailers on this day. So, what are you doing to make sure you get your share of that $5.7 billion?

And we haven’t even got to Cyber Monday (Dec. 1st) yet!

What have you got planned for these three days? Many wineries choose the Thanksgiving weekend to host an open house, as people like to be out and about that weekend. Lots of your customers will have family in town, so encourage them to bring family members with them to the winery. You might even want to offer “Wine Club for a Day” opportunities for your wine club member’s guests. For one day only they can redeem a coupon that entitles them to wine club discounts or to buy special wines that are usually reserved for wine club members only.

You may also wish to style your business as the anti-mall. Instead of visiting a crowded mall they can come and relax at the winery where you will have special tastings, food pairings and possibly some preferential pricing on certain items.

Start getting the information out through your social media, emails and any other ways that your customers and visitors use to find you.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

How Involved Are Your Customers With Your Business?
31 October, 2014

One way to keep your customers engaged and connected with your business is to encourage them to become more involved. The easiest way to do that is to solicit their opinions and feedback. Of course, it can sometimes be difficult to hear that you are not doing as well as you may think you are in certain areas. Though, at the same time, if you are getting straightforward and honest input from your target audience, the information can be amazingly helpful.

Your customers may have a very different take on the effectiveness of your marketing and advertising. The emails, newsletters and even your website may benefit greatly from the information you get from your customers.

What information do you have regarding how often customers read your emails? Do they read all of them? Do they read one in three? What makes them want to read your emails?  Is it the subject line? Is it because they know there will be an offer that will benefit them? If you don’t know the reasons that they are opening the emails, you can’t craft them to be successful.

You can also invite some of your regular customers to participate in a small group meeting to talk about what makes them buy the product and what you could do to make the product more interesting to different types of people. Invite the participants to lunch to thank them for their time, or organize a tasting or other small function to that will take place after you have their input to thank them.

Don’t forget your employees, they have unique insights into the business, what works and what doesn’t. Not only managers – include everyone who is part of the work force should be asked for their opinions. Not only should you come up with some new ideas, you will end up with employees that are more loyal and more aware of what the customers are asking for and what they are most interested in.

So take some time to send out some short surveys three or four times each year and perhaps add in some phone calls to customers taking up five minutes or less of their time to get great information.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

Different Customers Want Different Relationships
27 October, 2014

A few weeks ago, I blogged about an article from Harvard Business Review about analyzing customer data. In this week’s blog we are going to look at the different types of customers.

While consumers do not engage or connect with every brand (for example I have no attachment to any brand of dishwasher detergent), many of them do connect with craft beverage companies, becoming an ambassador for the brand.

According to the HBR article, the various types of customer relationships are governed by their own rules, based on the customers’ expectations. The article lists six different types of customers.

Basic Exchange – This customer wants a good product or service at a fair price, looking for dependability without having to think about it or do too much.

Business Partners – Want to work with the company as a valued and reliable partner working over the long term.

Fling – Expects the company to provide excitement, fuel his or her passion during every interaction and not encourage reflection or rational thinking about purchases.

Best Friends – Looks for intimacy and emotional support. The customer wants a two-way flow of honest communication and expects that the company won’t take advantage of vulnerability.

Buddies – Looks for sustained interaction but doesn’t want a close or emotional relationship. Expects that the company will not make demands or limit freedom to associate with others.

Master-Slave – Wants to intensify feelings or self worth. Demands that the company listen, anticipate every need, satisfy demands and not ask questions.

Can you break your customers into one of these six categories? I believe that many businesses know the customers who are looking to be their best friends. They come in regularly, bring other people with them and present the business as theirs. For example:“This is our winery” rather than “this is a winery we usually go to.”

What about the other categories? Spend some time thinking about how many of your customers slot into the different categories, and start focusing your communication to meet the expectations of different categories of customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

Why Consumers Buy, A Personal Story
17 October, 2014

I spend a lot of time my time learning about why people buy. I know all of the emotional and rational reasons why people buy and after my actions of a few weeks ago I know on a personal level why I buy.

I had been to the car dealers a while back to have my oil changed. As part of the service I had asked them to refill the container that holds water to wash the windshield. They did but omitted to check it and when I got home I found that it still didn’t work. So I set up an appointment to find out what was wrong and to get it fixed. When you are in and out of as many vineyards as I am, being able to wash the windshield is critical.

Three days later, I took the car to get it fixed and while I was there I wandered through the used car area. Just as I spotted this beautiful dark blue car a salesperson walked over to me and began to tell me about the car. He asked me if I would like to take a test drive. As it happened the salesperson was English so we had a nice chinwag about England and because we had connected, I said yes to the test drive.

Okay, yes was the wrong answer. As soon as I started driving the car, I was hooked, but still not planning to get a new car. Then he told me that this pristine car was a 2011, a lease return that had been very well taken care of (by that dealership) and (wait for it) with only 15,000 miles on it. I was hooked. I went home and checked the same model and age, etc. to see if the price was reasonable. It was, so I called them back and told them I would take the car.

I did have good reasons to buy a new (to me) car. My current car is 15 years old, although it runs well and only has 144,000 miles on it. I have enjoyed owning the car for many years though don’t like the cup-holders. Is not liking the cup holders a good enough reason to buy a new car?

Why did I buy it? I was sold emotionally. First, I connected with the person I was buying it from. It was a good buy financially and logically (it has all the new features I missed in my old car). However, the reason I bought it was primarily emotional.

Hose to fix the windshield washer water container – $13.61 cents; a new (to me) car – a heck of a lot more, but priceless. I did, by the way, make them take the $13.61 for the hose off the price of the car.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Using Volunteers May Be Illegal
13 October, 2014

As long as I can remember during my time in the wine industry and long before that, wineries have been using volunteers throughout the year, to work during events or to help in the cellar. In fact, sometimes consumers will pay wineries in order to participate in grape picking, etc.

An article by Laura Ness that appeared in Wine Business Monthly online Daily NewsLinks mentioned something that is going to cause great concern among wineries throughout North America. The Daily NewsLinks reported in a news item that it’s illegal under California labor laws to use volunteers in a for-profit business. The article states that anyone who works as an employee must also have access to worker’s compensation insurance.

It would seem that the government entity, The Division of Labor Standard Enforcement is cracking down. A small winery in the Livermore Valley finds itself facing fines of nearly $100,000, including back wages for a group of volunteers, as well as fines and penalties. The winery’s owner has decided to close up shop and, as while he can appeal, he apparently has been told by the DLSE that he wasn’t going to win an appeal.

So, what are the laws regarding the use of volunteers in your state or province?  Do you know?  If not, I encourage you to find out. Also, is it legal for you to organize an event (for instance, grape picking, or other harvest activities) when customers, wine club members, etc. actually pay to participate in picking, after which there may be a lunch, wine tasting or the like? My guess is that most wineries don’t know the laws in their state or province, nor do they know the financial or other consequences for breaking this law. It seems a small thing to lose a business over, especially a business that you have worked so hard to grow.

To read the who article go to the September 8 edition of Daily NewLinks under the headline Volunteers and the Law: Winery Shuts Down After Labor Violation.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Analyzing Customer Data
12 September, 2014

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review we now have sophisticated tools to analyze customer data. These tools are giving marketing organizations the ability to personalize and mange customer relationships. However, according to this article, this had led to new challenges.

Companies are spending 11 billion dollars annually on Customer Relationship Management, though not using this software to improve relational intelligence, that is, the variety of relationships customer can have with a firm and are not concentrating on how to reinforce those relationships. We seem to be good at collecting data and matching that data with purchasing information, but this industrial view of customers is that of resources to be use to help sell product, rather than seeing these customers as individuals who want different kinds of interaction and relationships with the companies they do business with.

The article by Jill Avery, Susan Fournier and John Wittenbraker goes on to break customers into six different segments. The premise is, “Each type of customer relationship is governed by its own rules, which are based on the customer’s expectations.”

In order to understand the types of relationships that make up the majority of a company’s customers, businesses should use a number of different avenues, such as surveys) to discover how customers relate to their particular product or products. Many companies, while they receive a lot of data from and about their customers, are not very good at collecting and analyzing the information. In some cases it’s because they are haven’t set up their CRM systems to capture this relational intelligence. The relationship intelligence conveys information about the types of relationships customers want to have, and in some cases assuming they have, with the brand as well as how those relationships may be evolving.

Next week’s blog will look at the different types of relationships that customers want to have with your brand and company.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

More from Conrad Hilton
05 September, 2014

Conrad Hilton was very involved with his staff and how they treated the customers. He even asked his employees to adhere to his personal guidelines for success, which he outlined for them.

These guidelines were as much for the well-being and growth of his employees as they were for treatment of guests. He wanted his employees to be happy, as he believed that happy employees make for happy customers. Some of the guidelines he passed down:

Find your own particular talent

Be big

Be honest

Live with enthusiasm

Don’t let your possessions possess you

Don’t worry about your problems

Look up to people when you can – down to no one

Don’t cling to the past

Assume your full share of responsibility in the world…

Hilton encouraged his employees to grow personally, as well as increase their skills and talents on the job. He was interested in the welfare of his employees and even as the company grew he made efforts to get to know his staff personally and remember something about individual employees and their families.

I know, as businesses get bigger, it is harder to spend time with the staff but it is even more important to do so. A show of interest or positive words from an owner or high- level employee can make a big difference in the attitude of the employee. People feel good when they are noticed. I remember talking to an employee of a very large winery who received a hand written note from the president of the company after she had gone out of her way to help a customer and the customer sent a letter of thanks. It made a big difference to the staff member and it cost only a few minutes of the president’s time to write the note.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

The Importance of Good Employee Relations
29 August, 2014

I just finished a biography of Conrad Hilton, who built the Hilton hotel chain from absolutely nothing to an amazingly successful worldwide hotel empire. While Hilton was a hard driving businessman, his biggest concern was to make sure that guests of the Hilton hotels had a superlative experience every time.  He went out of his way to make sure that happened.

Conrad Hilton was very much aware that providing top-of-the-line experiences for his guests was not going to happen unless the employees of his hotels were happy in their jobs and willing to go the extra mile to accommodate their customers.

According to the book The Hiltons by J. Randy Taborrelli, “Hilton began to understand that a staff of contented employees usually resulted in a thriving business. He began to encourage regular meetings with his staff, listening to all of their concerns and taking care of each as best he could. Caring about his employees and viewing them as people with families and lives of their own rather than merely his charges would become an integral way of doing business for Conrad Hilton, and in years to come would account for much of his success as a hotelier.”

As an owner or manager of a business, it’s important to take a personal interest in your employees. We all have our good days and bad days, problems that need to be overcome and times when everything is going right. Every day is a new experience for all of us.  By being aware of what is happening in the lives of your employees you a providing a great example of how your employees are expected to treat every visitor to your business.

The way management treats employees is most often the way employees will treat the customers. So engage and connect with your employees. Let them know that they are important to you and you create a happier and more engaged workplace.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

UnBuyer’s Remorse
22 August, 2014

Most of us (probably all) have heard of buyer’s remorse. The times when you buy something (usually something expensive or a large purchase, such as a new car, new house, expensive jewelry, etc.) and then regret having bought it. Have you ever stopped to think about “unbuyer’s remorse,” which is the feeling you get when you didn’t buy something and then can’t or don’t go back to buy it later?

The term unbuyer’s remorse I learned from Craig Dunn at Black Mesa Winery, when I was describing the feeling people get when they get home from their holidays and realize they really wished that they had bought wine from the winery they were visiting. Of course, in typical human fashion, instead of rectifying their mistake they just decide that it’s too late to do anything about it now.

Many wineries are located in areas that see plenty of tourists. A part of these visitors’ holiday plan is to visit wineries, though (for whatever reason) they may not buy wine while they are in the winery, though they go home to regret it. So, you might want to remind them, in a casual and humorous way, that they really liked certain wines (you know what wines they particularly liked because you have asked them) that you don’t want them to suffer from “unbuyer’s remorse” when they get home, so you are going to encourage them to buy a few bottles of the ones they liked to be shipped home or take with them. This tactic may be especially useful if you have only small amounts of those wines left, or the wines are not sold in the area in which they live.

Many times visitors want to buy wine from you, they just need you to encourage them to do so. Using the unbuyer’s remorse gambit is a fun and gentle way of promoting the sale. Give it a try and let me know what happens.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

Putting the Service Back into Customer Service
15 August, 2014

Customer service is not all it could be these days, especially when you are on the phone with customer service rather than being there in person. One of the things that you can do to make your business stand out from the crowd is to offer stellar customer service. Especially when customers are having problems with a product, shipping, your website or whatever.

Some of the most frustrating things from a customer standpoint, all of which I have either experienced or heard about lately, are the subjects of this week’s blog.

1. Regularly getting a recording that tell me that the company I am calling is experiencing a heavier than normal number of calls and to please call back.

If this is happening on a regular basis, perhaps it’s time the company invested in better quality control, or added more people to their call center to field calls from customers.

2. Assuming that if I am having a problem with their website, it’s because I am doing something wrong and then getting frustrated with me.

I am finding that the customer service people seem to have less patience these days. It may well be because they have a limited amount of time to complete and resolve a customer complaint.

3. Interrupting the customer when s/he is half way through a sentence.

This has happened a couple of times lately. I am asked a question and when I start giving the customer service person the information they have asked for, I am interrupted by the person saying, “I understand” and if I continue saying it again. However, when I try the same technique they just keep talking.

We all have plenty to do, most times too much. Though if you are speaking to a customer, especially one that is having a problem of some sort, the most important thing you can do is to be patient. Let the customer tell you what the problem is without interruption (even if s/he does go on a bit too long).

You should also assume that the customer is explaining the problem correctly and understand the explanation or information you give them.

Practice the three “Ps” of customer service, be Patient, Polite and Pro-active.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Heritage and Legacy
08 August, 2014

I recently spent a few days in New Jersey working with the Heritage family who owns and operates Heritage Vineyards in beautiful Mullica Hill, NJ. The family, Penni & Bill and their sons, Rich, Brian, and Eric are all involved in the family business, to greater or lesser degrees. I have to say that Heritage is a great last name to have, and a name that is well suited for a vineyard and winery.

The family owned a peach, pear and apple farm and started out growing grapes in an effort to save the family farm when fruit prices dropped precipitously in the 1990s. It didn’t take long for Penni and Bill to decide that a winery was in their future. They began making dry wines and now produce a full complement of them, including a wine made from Bordeaux varietals (BDX) that took third place in “The Judgment of Princeton” (a competition that compared and rated French wines and New Jersey wines.)  Heritage Vineyards brand has at least ten other dry wines, both white and red, all of which are tasty and would be a plus for any dinner table. The dry wines are sold primarily through the tasting room.

When the oldest son, Rich graduated from college (a major in Business from Rutgers) he came home with some new ideas. The family, under Rich’s direction, started their Jersey wines, a brand of sweet wines, with Jersey Blush, Jersey White and Jersey Red grape wines, as well as blueberry and other fruit wines, under the same Jersey brand.  These wines are sold through distributors and are flourishing in retail stores throughout New Jersey. The Heritage family members were smart enough to know that in Jersey sweet wine outsells dry wine, and with the addition of the Jersey brand they are able to satisfy the wine wants, needs and desires of most of the wine drinking population of New Jersey. Their very talented winemaker Sean Comninos keeps very busy making both the Heritage and Jersey brands.

Heritage Vineyards was voted New Jersey winery of the year, this year. (The Heritage family has won the title in the past.)

While I was there, we worked on the future direction and plans for the winery, strategy and tactics, as well as staff training. I had some fun working behind the bar with the staff and sold wine to some lovely people.

A tip of the glass from me to you – and this week especially to the Heritage Family and staff!

How A Wine Smells May Depend On Your Age
04 August, 2014

I caught this tidbit of information in my local paper, and realized that it had a great deal of relevance for the wine industry:

Smell, taste found to fade with age

“…As people get older, the way food tastes changes – and not in a good way. While our taste buds are one of the few things that hold up fairly well as we age, our sense of smell is what contributes most of what we think of as flavor – herbs and spices, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, coffee, wine. And that sense falls apart.

According to research by Richard Doty, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Smell and Taste Center, ability to smell peaks by age 40. It’s downhill from there, with the slope growing sharply steeper after 60. Sixty percent of people between 65 and 80 have major olfactory impairment. More than 80 percent do after 80.”

Most wineries have information on their tasting notes about what aromas people might (or will) smell in their wines, and how the wines taste. However, your visitors over the age of 40 may not be able to discern some of the smells of which you have made note. Or, because of the fact that our sense of smell contributes greatly to “what we think of as flavor,”visitors are not necessarily going to get all the flavors that younger people would.

Remember that when you tell people that they will smell or taste certain flavors and they don’t, it’s very much like taking a test and failing. Additionally, for people who are inexperienced wine tasters, they may recognize certain flavors as one that they know, but because it is out of context, can’t tell you what it is.

Do everything you can to set people up to succeed and make them feel good about themselves by asking them what they smell and taste, rather than telling them what they “should” smell and taste.  If they are in the ballpark, tell them that they have a good palate.

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

Wineries Are Blooming
28 July, 2014

I have spent a few days in northern New Mexico with Jerry & Linda Burd, owners ofBlack Mesa Winery. The Burds have been in the wine business for fifteen years and are doing very well. With their winemaker Karl Johnsen, they are making an array of very good wines from sweet to dry, white, red, rosé, sparkling and dessert wines, including their best selling Black Beauty, a deep red, chocolate flavored dessert wine, a long time favorite.

As are many wineries in North America, they are a small family owned winery that started with Jerry and Lynda doing almost everything. Jerry started out as the winemaker, though has since brought on a winemaker (the aforementioned Karl). Lynda is an artist who is responsible for their sometimes whimsical and very much admired labels.

As their popularity has grown, so has the number of staff, the wines and consumer direct locations. The couple has recently opened a tasting room in Taos, New Mexico, about thirty miles up the road from their Velarde tasting room.

Interestingly the two tasting rooms couldn’t be more different, with the Velarde tasting room being very homey, with lots of fun and interesting gift items as well as the wine tasting bar. The Taos tasting room is much different, striking and minimalist and very much in step with many of Taos’ visitors. On Friday and Saturday nights it stays open late and turns into a wine bar with music and lots of people relaxing with glasses of wine, after a day of touring. A perfect spot to match a more sophisticated clientele with different wants and needs.

Jerry and Lynda are continually moving forward. Their willingness to push forward, make changes and re-create their vision for the future of the winery is one that is seen in these small family wineries, throughout North America.

It was wonderful to be in New Mexico working with Lynda and Jerry, helping them focus their vision for the future and create the goals that will move them forward.

Congratulations, Lynda, Jerry and all your staff for your hard work and your success!

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Attracting the Millennials
18 July, 2014

While a number of people are saying that Millennials won’t really start making a large impact on the wine market until 2019 or thereabouts then, as the oldest of them are moving into their late 30s, it’s not too early to start courting them now.

Of course, the most important thing is to know how to reach them effectively. I found some interesting ideas on this topic in an article by Dave Hawley, VP Marketing for SocialChorus, on Mr. Hawley states that by 2020 Millennials will be involved in 30% of all retail purchases and comprise 50% of the workforce.

Some of Mr. Hawley’s points remind us that just 6% of Millennials who participated in a 2013 SocialChorus survey said they find online advertisements credible. However, they do share experiences online. “…Millennials are typically on social media constantly and feel driven to share experiences with their friends in real time.” If they feel positively about your company’s brand they will share it with their friends.

Another of the salient points in this article is that Millennials trust their friends. In fact, 91% of Millennials surveyed by SocialChorus said they would consider buying a product if a friend recommended it. While this is also true of older generations, these generations also take into consideration, advertising, reviews, to a larger extent.

Mr. Hawley encourages companies to get Millennials to serve as advocates to drive reach, awareness, engagement and sales. He encourages companies to market with Millennials rather than to them. In other words, to develop relationships with brand advocates, for instance bloggers and social media followers, then give them incentives to share the brand story and measure the impact.

Measuring the results will let you know what works and what doesn’t, and how you should proceed with your campaigns.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Twenty Years and Counting!
11 July, 2014

As of this month (July 5), I have been in business as In Short Direct Marketing for twenty years. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long. It’s also hard to believe how much the wine industry has changed in the last twenty years.

In 1994 there were only 1,772 wineries in the United States and Canada; in 1997 (the closest I could come to 1994) had upwards of 110 wineries. In some states and provinces there were no wineries at all. Direct-To-Consumer marketing ran a very distant second to the three-tier system. Many of the wineries that sold wine directly to customers were merely using the tasting room way to sell wines that hadn’t been sold by their distributors. Winter in the tasting rooms was so quiet that tasting room employees were thrilled to see the UPS delivery person, as s/he may have been the only person they saw that day.

There were very few events around in those days and no winery expected that they were going to get a lot of attendees at those first events. In fact I can remember being on event planning committees for various organizations and doing absolutely everything possible to make sure that consumers showed up. We spent the night before worrying about whether any one would show up or not.

And what about wine clubs? I haven’t been able to find the winery that had the fist wine club and when it started, but I don’t remember any of these now ubiquitous engagement and sales tools. Though to say that wine clubs have grown exponentially in the last years is at the very least an understatement.

So this Saturday I am going to crack open a bottle of bubbles and drink to the wine industry. I am pleased to have been a part of it over the past twenty plus years, and hope that I have contributed, in some small way, to its over all success.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

New Wine Genome Survey
07 July, 2014

I was reading in one of the trade magazines today that Constellation brands has completed and released a new Wine Genome study. The project, which has been going on for 10 years, is in its third phase and notes that some consumers feel more confident and better educated about wine. While the consumers think that wine is more complicated and can be overwhelming, there are many more ways to collect information.

Originally the consumers were broken up into six segments: Enthusiast 12%, Image Seeker 20%, Savvy Shopper 15%, Traditionalist 16%, Satisfied Sipper 14%, and Overwhelmed 23%.  Some of these segments are still in the new Genome, though others have been replaced. Additionally, more attention was paid to the consumers of luxury wine, that is consumers drinking wines priced higher then $20.00. The Image Seekers, Engaged Newcomers, and Enthusiasts are the segments that have the most impact on this price category.

We still have the Image Seekers, Enthusiasts and the Overwhelmed, as well as the three new categories Everyday Loyals, Engaged Newcomers and Price Driven. There is also more information regarding how the segments impact the market.


2014 Constellation Brands Wine Genome Study

Six classifications of wine consumer and 4,000 people surveyed.

Image Seekers make up 18% of consumers and are responsible for 26% of profits.

Wine represents 24% of their alcohol consumption at an average price of

$12. per bottle.

Everyday Loyals make up 20% of consumers and are responsible for 22% of profits.

Wine represents 44% of their alcohol consumption at an average price of

$10. per bottle.

Enthusiasts make up 10% of consumers and are responsible for 15% of profits.

Wine represents 40% of their alcohol consumption at an average price of

$13. per bottle.

Engaged Newcomers make up 12% of consumers and are responsible for 14% of profits.

Wine represents  24% of their alcohol consumption at an average price of

$13. per bottle

Price Driven make up 21% of consumers and are responsible for 14% of profits.

Wine represents 38% of their alcohol consumption at an average price of

$9. per bottle

Overwhelmed make up 19% of consumers and are responsible for 9% of profits.

Wine represents 34% of their alcohol consumption at an average price of

$9. per bottle.


In future blogs we will take a look at how this affects the wineries.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Keys To Creating Long Term & Loyal Customers
27 June, 2014

I have been doing some work lately with a company that provides the people and set up for sampling in supermarkets.  Their job is to present the product, encourage people to taste the product, and sell the product. Very similar to consumer engagement in tasting rooms, though the people who are set up in supermarket aisles have a lot less time to interact with the people who may be interested in the product.

Regardless of the retail business you are in, the keys to creating a long term and loyal customer are the same. The four fundamental challenges for retail staff are to:




Create Value.

Today’s blog deals with the first two points, Engagement and Communication.

Engagement is a means of forming connection with visitors and customers. The first steps in engaging should be getting to know the people you are presenting your products to and understanding their challenges in order to convince them of how your products will make their lives easier and better.

Remember that their time is valuable so the experience needs to focus on their wants and needs. It is much easier to sell a product to a consumer who is convinced that

It will improve their lives. Another consideration is that these days consumers are overwhelmed with choices, making it much more difficult for them to make buying decisions, so start by asking a few questions. You can help them whittle down their choices until you are the best option.

Communication leads me back to one of my favorite quotes from George Bernard Shaw, who said, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  It’s easy to spout facts, but real communication is a dialogue between people. For each piece of information you tell people about your product ask them a question about their life and listen carefully to the answers. This will give you what you need to present the products you will best suit their needs, wants and expectations.

Next week we will talk about Differentiation and Value.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Are You Using Calls to Action to Increase Sales?
20 June, 2014

I get lots of emails from wineries letting me know about what’s going on with that winery, or about things available for me to purchase. Though, not all these emails include a call to action. Sometimes the emails give customers the facts, but don’t give them any reason to purchase, or if you don’t know your customers well the reasons to buy may not resonate with them. Make sure that the offers you make are appropriate to your customers, which will lead to greater buy in. Also, make sure that your offers match your goals. Know what you’re trying to achieve before you start writing the email.

If you want people to buy, the email needs to include not only why the readers should buy, but also how they should buy. You can use words such as, “Email us “now or “Call us now at…” When you encourage people to call immediately, you have a much greater chance that they will call and they will buy. Once they have closed the email, the chances that they will call and order are slimmer.

You may also get people to take action by reminding them that the offer is in some way limited, either by time, amount available, or in other ways. If your customers know the offer expires quickly, or that there are a limited number of cases available, or that they are receiving this email before it goes out the rest of your list (which is one more perk for wine club members), it can boost sales.

Another way to encourage buying is by not giving the email recipients too many options. Research has shown that people are more likely to buy when they have less to choose from. It makes it easier for the customers to make decisions.

Limited options, easy ways to order and purchase, time limits and strong action words, such as “Buy”, “Call today”, “Place your order online”, “Save”, are all directions you can use to increase your sales.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Give Your Customers A Sign
13 June, 2014

So many businesses don’t give enough consideration to signage, Signage is important, whether it’s outside the door, or on the highway to the directional. That and other signage inside the winery/company can be critical to the overall success of your business.

According to Sapna Budev, of International Sign Association, in an article in, “Best Buy discovered that about 17% of its customers were people who did not intend to stop there but did so specifically because they saw the sign, which is well linked to their brand and overall marketing.

Signs are especially important for new businesses, as research from shows that signs attract half of a start up business’s new customers.

Not only is using signage important, according to Budev it’s also about the look, readability and size of the sign. So here is some information regarding signage.

Color: Use colors that will stand the test of time. Using colors that are too trendy may make your sign look outdated quickly. It has also been shown that 80 percent of trademark recognition is due to its color.

Use contrasting colors to make the signs easy to read. High contrast also helps consumers retain the message or information in the sign.

Size:  Of course the larger the letters the easier the sign is to read. Billboards for example need to be minimal information and large type so people can see them as they are zooming down the highway.

Directional signs should also be easy to read, so use a plain type font.

Think about your customers and the information they need when they visit your business, as well as the information you want them to know about your products, upcoming events, etc.

Your signage is one more way to get important messages across to your visitors.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Sales Is Easier Than You Might Think
06 June, 2014

I find that there can be anxiety around the sales process. I have heard people say that they don’t like to sell because they don’t want to be pushy, or that if someone wants to buy something, they will ask for it. Though really sales is, many times, giving people the reasons to do something that they already want to do.

Many people who come into your business, want to buy, but they are waiting for you to give them the reasons why they should buy. If you don’t give them those reasons, they will leave without the sale, or worse – buy from the next business because the person behind the competitor counter asked them to.

If you enjoy the interaction with customers but have a few qualms about selling, here are a few things to think about.

Do you have customers who you relate to on an emotional level? It could be something as simple as you are enjoying talking to them and they seem to be enjoying talking to you. Once people are connected to you, they are more likely to buy something from you. And because you have been listening to what they have to say, you will know which products will appeal to them the most.

Use the way you speak to let your customers know that you’re interested in them. Instead of giving them your opinions such as, “Let me tell you about…” use the word you more often, for example, “You’ll find this wine is similar to the wines you said you liked.”

It’s about being more aware of your customers and what they are thinking and feeling. Once you get into the habit of putting your attention onto the customers instead of the products, you will sell more.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Hiring for Emotional Intelligence
30 May, 2014

When you are hiring hospitality staff, it’s important to hire those who show that they have emotional intelligence (EI). They should not only be able to express and control their own emotions, but also to have the ability to understand and respond to customers’ and coworkers’ emotions.

According to an article by John Rossheim (2013), interest in emotional intelligence has been important for some time. However, what’s new is the incorporation of an evaluation of emotional intelligence into the employee selection process.

Here are some of the things (according to Rossheim) you need to look for:

  • Select candidates who are honest about themselves, for example, ask the candidate to explain one of their weaknesses and what they do to overcome that weakness.
  • Introduce the candidate to other staff and see how they get along. Let them work with the company for a few days (with pay, of course) before you give them a definite answer to whether they will be joining the company.
  • You want new staff members to collaborate with co-workers to provide customers with the best experience, not just to get jobs done. An individual who thinks of himself or herself as a star who is indispensable may not get along well with other staff.

Some of the other signs that may signal that a person is not sensitive or considerate of others could be:

  • Talking negatively about others with whom they have worked;
  • Not seeming interested or prepared;
  • Not treating others with respect.

You may also want to assess the candidates level of enthusiasm:

  • Does the person have a passion for this type of work?
  • Ask for a story about how the solved a customer’s problem at another position they held;
  • Is the person able to control stressful or difficult situation?

There are so many questions you can ask, not only about EI but also about how they will fit with the culture of your company, and much more.

A one-pager of questions is available. If any of you are interested, please drop me a note with your email and I will shoot it off to you.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

A Few Tips On How To Increase Your Sales
23 May, 2014

I have been reading some research on buying habits lately.  There was a study done by the Yale School of Management that is very interesting. There is so much we don’t consider going on in the minds of our visitors.  For example it’s estimated that 40% of consumers change their minds at the point of purchase because of something they see, learn or do during the interaction.

That is a big chunk of business to lose because of the experience in the tasting room.

It could be something as simple as the fact that the tasting room is too crowded with merchandise, or they weren’t greeted as they came in the door, or the bathrooms are not as tidy as they would like. It could be that the tasting room staff didn’t give them the information they wanted or needed, or that they didn’t learn something that would make them want to purchase the product.

Conversely, 40% of people deciding to buy at the point of purchase, who had not considered purchasing when they walked into the winery, can mean a tremendous increase in sales.

The key to success comes back to learning more about your customers, what they want and need to learn to make a decision to purchase rather than not to purchase. As well as being aware of what they will see when they visit your winery and what they will do when they interact with your staff.

Think about the things you can do and say that will make your wines and your winery stand out from all the other wineries that they might visit that day. Create an experience that they will encourage them to return and with which they will want to regale their friends. Also think about the number of people that visit your winery throughout the year and what a difference it would make to your bottom line if only ten percent more of them purchased your wine.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Getting the Most Out Of Your Loyalty Program
16 May, 2014

While doing some research for a session I am presenting for the Craft Beverage Expo in San Jose I came across some very interesting research on loyalty programs conducted by Forrester Research, a global research and advisory firm.

According to their research the top three business objectives for customer loyalty programs are:

  1. Customer Retention (70%)
  2. Customer Engagement (64%)
  3. Revenue (34%)

For 60% of the firms surveyed, loyalty is considered a top three strategic priority. The study revealed that, on average 45% of customers enroll in loyalty programs and 35% redeem rewards. It also reported that some of the most popular channels for reaching consumers are email 92% (no surprise there), website 82% and social media 54%.

The study of loyalty program marketers in different industries was an effort to understand the size, structure and performance of loyalty programs. In a later webinar presented by Forrester, analyst Emily Collins told attendees “the age of the customer is here to stay.” She went on to say, “Consumers are increasing interacting with brands. Marketers turn to loyalty to deepen customer relationships because they can better identify and more easily reward customer behavior… “

Additionally, Collins said, “Loyalty isn’t just for marketing. It touches every part of the organization. Programs that ignore customer lifetime value and aren’t tailoring their offers are wasting time with rewards because they fail to drive behavioral changes in wallet spend and redemption frequency.”

Loyalty programs help you in lots of ways. These customers are willing to give you information about themselves and become more connected with your business.

For me, the most important things are to understand the lifetime value of customers and to tailor your offers to specific groups. Customer service and customer loyalty programs are not a one size fits all proposition. Customers need to be segments by lifetime value, sales, event attendance, number of annual visits, etc.

Your customers want to be a part of your business, so give them that opportunity and make it worth their while.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Music and Its Effect on Wine Tasters
12 May, 2014

In last week’s blog we talked about the effects of lighting and color on how consumers perceive the wines they taste. This week we are talking about the atmosphere and perceptions that music creates.

There have been quite a few studies linking the way consumers perceive the wine they are drinking to the music that is being played at the time. A study published in the British Journal of Psychology showed that wine could take on the attributes of the style of music that tasters are listening to. For example the voice of singer Tom Jones was associated with adjectives like earthy and full-bodied when listened to while drinking a glass of Merlot. Another study presented in the same publication detailed the findings when 200 participants were given one of two glasses of red or white wine.

Each of the four groups listened to one of four songs with different musical classifications, while a fifth group heard no music while they drank. Tasters were then asked to rate the taste of the wine using descriptions researchers had used to classify the songs. The majority of the tasters unknowingly chose the description assigned to the song they heard.

Professor Adrian North, a music psychologist who conducted the study, said that he thinks the results could “lead retailers to put music recommendations on wine bottles.”

What you play in the tasting room could also make a substantial difference to the way consumers perceive your wine and how much they are willing to purchase. The right kind of music could change a one-bottle sale into a three or four bottle sale.

Another study of wine purchasing found that consumers bought more wine in restaurants when classical music was being played.

What music are you using in your tasting room and are you checking to see how it affects your customers? The first step is to know who your customers are and what type of music they would, mostly likely, appreciate. Try different styles music at different times and make note of customers’ comments about the wine. Also keep track of sales while different music is being played.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What We See Is What We Taste
02 May, 2014

My reading lately has consisted of research and studies on what influences wine tasters and what I have been reading is absolutely fascinating. I am just at the tip of the iceberg and already I have lots of ideas about how a winery can create a tasting atmosphere that will improve tasters’ appreciation of the wine and make the wine more valuable to the tasters. More about these ideas in future blogs; in today’s blog I want to reference to a couple of the studies.

Much of the interest in these types of studies started at the University of Bordeaux. In 2001, enology students (54 of them) at the university were asked to describe a wine. They used words such as prune, chocolate and tobacco to describe a white wine that had been dyed red with a dye that added no taste of it’s own to the wine. The students had tasted the same wine earlier before it was dyed and the descriptors they used were honey, lemon, lychee and straw.

These were not average consumers, these were enology students, yet what they saw (a red wine) so affected their ideas of what they were going to taste, and they used descriptors that are used to describe a red wine.

My second example is a study conducted at the Johannes Guttenberg University of Mainz in 2009. In that study tasters perceived that wine tasted better in a red or blue-lit room. The researchers also found that drinkers were willing to pay more for the same wine. The same held true for white wine, with the sweetness and fruitiness of the wine being most highly rated in red light rather than green or white light.

So not only do consumers believe that the wine tastes better, they also believe it’s worth more depending on the lighting color. Additional studies have been conducted since 2009 with the same findings. The largest study of this kind will be conducted in London, UK next month, during the Streets of Spain celebration on London’s Southbank.

Next week’s blog will talk about the affect of music on wine tasters.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Hiring the Right People
25 April, 2014

It’s the time of the year when wineries start hiring part time or seasonal employees for the tasting room and as event staff. So I thought it might be a good time to throw out a few tips to help with the process.

Before you start looking for people, placing ads or getting the word out to your current employees, friends and anyone else you know, be prepared.  If you don’t have a job description for the position, write one before you start interviewing, and make a list of the must have qualifications.

A list of pertinent questions is also a must. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to hire the right person the first time, so have the questions prepared before hand. You can add specific questions for some candidates, though in the first interview, when you are covering the basics, many of the questions should be the same.

Take note of how the person is dressed. Are they dressed appropriately for the position for which they are applying? When you are hiring for hospitality positions, the person is representing the business and are the face and voice of your company.

While you want to give your applicants information about the company and the job, try not to talk too much. Ask questions and listen closely to the answers. Let the applicants finish. It’s important for you to know if they can’t stop talking. Of course you can take into account nervousness, but if someone can talk the hind leg off a donkey, they may not be right for the tasting room.

You are looking for people who want to be partners in your success. The kind of people who get satisfaction from doing a good job and want to help the customers.

Always, always check references. Just because we like someone, does not mean that the person is the best candidate for the job. It’s always best to double check.

Lastly, be courteous, before, during and after the interview. When you receive a résumé send an email saying you received it, let the person know whether or not you will be scheduling an interview. After the interview send an email thanking them and letting them know when you will be making the decision. It may seem like a lot of work but it’s worth it. You never know the person may end up as customer rather than employee.

If you would like a list of questions to ask, Drop me an email, .

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Older & Wiser
18 April, 2014

In her book, “Make Your Brain Smarter,” Sandra Bond Chapman, at the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas, shows how to improve brain performance for all ages, something that is getting more and more important. While in the US today life expectancy is about 80 years old, as time goes on we can expect to live longer and longer. It’s now shown that girls have a one in three chance and boys a one in four chance of living to 100.

At present, according to Dr. Chapman, our cognitive brain performance peaks in our early forties, which means that memory, thinking speed, decision making, problem solving and reasoning start declining for the last half of our life. It’s important that we keep our brains in good repair, doing all we can to keep our brains fresh. Here are a few tips from the Dr. Chapman:

1. Employ a “Five by Five” principle, taking a break from whatever you’re doing at least five times each day for five minutes. This gives your brain time to reset.

2. Practice “synthesized thinking”. Stepping out of the routine way you describe things as our brains become bored with routine, since the brain is was built to shift between details and the big picture use differing types of descriptions.

3. Stop multitasking. Too much multitasking causes a slip in accuracy and performance. Instead of multitasking, allow uninterrupted focus on one thing for at least 15 minutes at a time and gradually increase those intervals.

4. Move your feet. New research has shown that aerobic exercise stimulates positive brain change and memory gains faster than it was ever thought. Heart rate elevating aerobic exercise three times each week increases brain blood flow to key memory centers.

Take breaks, concentrate on individual tasks, keep moving and think in different ways are some of the keys to keeping your brain healthy and working smarter. Give it a shot, as Dr. Chapman says, “Boost your brainpower! You have nothing to lose.”

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Change the Way You Sell
11 April, 2014

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about how retail businesses sell, and how product-centric, rather than customer-centric, most businesses are. You should still be presenting your wines, beer or spirits but should do it in ways that focus on the needs, wants and expectations of the customer and how the products we are selling can make their lives just a little better.

When your customers first walks into your tasting room, hold off on starting the informational stream of facts about the product or even beginning the tasting right away. Instead, give them time to acclimate to new surrounding and begin a conversation with them. Asking questions is an important part of the sales process that is often overlooked.

It’s easier to lose the sale if you start with a sales pitch or a factual discussion about the product. You first need to engage the visitors’ emotions and learn what is important to them. By doing this you are also better able to evaluate whether or not the person standing in from of you is a good fit for your products. Remember, until you ask them, you don’t really know why they have come into the winery. You can assume that they are there to taste wine, but you don’t actually know that. So ask a few questions to find our why your visitors have opted to visit.

The key to sales is the connection you establish with the visitor. Visitors are very aware of when someone is trying to sell them, and most of the time they don’t like it. So, instead of working harder to try and make the sale, relax and try and to make a friend. After all, we trust our friends and ask them for their opinions when we are considering a purchase.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Can Your Visitors’ Tasting Notes Help You?
11 April, 2014

In a Facebook tip I mentioned that scientists used to believe that the human nose could only differentiate 10,000 smells though now they have upped that number to over a trillion. In fact, it has been discovered that noses are more sensitive than any other organ in the body.

That got me thinking about how narrow tasting notes in wineries might seem, and how our visitors may smell entirely different aromas in the wines. While I am not suggesting that you no longer use tasting notes, I am suggesting that you let people know that the aromas and bouquets you have listed on your tasting notes are just the tip of the iceberg, and that the visitor may smell something entirely different in the wine. Or you could ask the visitors what different aromas the smell, before you give them any hints.

As the road to sales is more easily traveled by making visitors feel good about themselves, asking visitors to give you their ideas and then complimenting them on their abilities will help them connect with you and your winery. If the visitor has no idea of the aromas in the wine, then you can give them some suggestions. Sometimes when smells are out of context visitors may have a more difficult time recognizing them.

It’s also possible that you might recognize aromas that you haven’t before noticed in your wines, as visitors pick out what they smell.

With the human potential to smell a trillion different things, it’s harder to be so sure of what any wine smells like to anyone else, as we all are so very different in how we smell and taste things.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

A New Marketing Service for Wineries!
28 March, 2014

By the end of the conference season I come back glad that I don’t have to get on another airplane for a while and very impressed by the winery people I met through my travels. I am awed by the amount of work many of the winery owners put into their wineries and vineyards, tasting rooms and events. Especially as many of these people also have day jobs and families to take care of. Owning a winery really is a passion for so many people and the work they put in is amazing. 

I know that one of the hardest parts of owning a winery is selling and marketing the wine, wine clubs, events, etc. There are very few winery owners who have a penchant or a passion for the sales end, yet you can’t keep making it if you can’t sell it. 

For this reason I am starting a new service for the wineries: phone or Skype consultations. If you are looking for that kind of help and are not ready yet for a full time marketing person, this is the way for you to get the information you need. The consultation could be once a week, once a fortnight or once each month for an hour.

We can concentrate on any direct-to-consumer sales or marketing topic that you are finding challenging or one on which you are in need of more information. In addition to the hour, I will email you a PDF containing information on the topic we have discussed that day.

The cost for these sessions is $150 per hour. The first hour, for which there is no charge, will focus on discovering the information you need and making a plan on how we can use the time we spend together most efficiently. 

If you wish to find out more about this service you can reach me via email or by phone at 707.953.1289.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Staffing Up
21 March, 2014

As we come into spring, most wineries are preparing to hire seasonal hospitality employees to fill tasting and retail rooms and staff events. These people become the face and voice of your winery and, in many cases, are the only people who work for the winery that visitors will ever meet. For that reason it’s important that your hospitality employees receive the training that will allow them to better serve your customers.

Naturally it’s important that seasonal employees are familiar with your wines and other products and know how to operate the cash register. Often times this information constitutes the bulk of their education, though much more training is needed for them to represent your winery.

Tell new hires about your winery’s vision and goals, the level of service you want to customers to receive, the story of the winery and the messages you want conveyed to every customer. It’s also important to provide sales training, presenting specifics on how you want your wine to be sold, whether it is wine, wine club memberships or gift items.

Another important task for all staff members is to ask for contact information, especially from those people who purchase wine.

Hold regular staff meetings with a training component and if it’s feasible assign a mentor for each new staff member. Though be sure your mentors are telling the right stories. In fact, before your full time employees can be assigned as mentors, give them a written or oral quiz on the information you expect them to know. It’s easy for things to get confused in our minds, and you don’t want the mentors presenting incorrect information.

For anyone who wants it, I have a one-sheet on the baselines of customer service and will be happy to email the piece to anyone who would like it. Just drop me a line, and I will send it on its way.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

March Already
14 March, 2014

We are almost finished with the first quarter of this year. Hard to imagine that Spring is just around the corner – though with all the snow and cold in so many parts of the country, it’s certainly not feeling like Spring yet).

The coming of Spring means that consumers are peaking their heads out of their burrows and starting to think about summer holidays, wine tasting and wine events. Are you ready for them?

Are all your events flushed out and posted on your website with the dates and full descriptions of each event? Are tickets for the events available for sale for those customers who like to get a jump on their summer and fall plans, and have you planned the promotion you need around these events?

I am sure that some of you are cheerfully reading this blog knowing that you have all this under control, with complete information about your events available on your website and “Save The Date” emails already in the email inboxes or letter boxes of your customers. Good job to those who are ahead of the game, give yourselves a pat on the back and sit down and enjoy a glass of wine as a reward!

For those of you who are still working on creating, organizing and promoting your events, get cracking now and get everything done and dusted (as my grandmother used to say) before the end of the month. A pat on the back and a glass of wine are waiting for you when the jobs are finished. Send me an email that tells me about your events and I will be sending a “You’re Amazing” email right back to you.

By the way, you are amazing! I know how much work is involved in keeping everything going and congratulate you on your abilities and perseverance.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Cold Climate, Warm Hearts and Winning Wine
07 March, 2014

As I wrote this, I was traveling back from the Cold Climate Conference presented by the Minnesota Grape Growers Association conference held in St. Paul. It was a good conference with lots of information, friendly wineries and fun social events. Not least among the social events was the winter Wine Fest on a Friday night.  At the Winter Wine Fest the wineries were all pouring their wines. What made this event more than just a wine tasting for the attendees was the introduction of food vendors and consumers. There was also a silent auction, with plenty of great wines out for bid and other auction items including food, wine books, art and a myriad of other items. I was lucky enough to be successful in bidding on some wine from Chankaska Creek Ranch and Winery, I lost out on some others, but as I was bringing the wine home in my suitcase, it was probably just as well that I wasn’t the high bidder on much more than I got.

I was impressed with the idea of bringing consumers into this tasting. They had a good turnout of consumers, especially considering the low, low temperatures, high wind and the amount of snow that had fallen just a day before. But Minnesotans are a hardy lot and the less than perfect weather didn’t seem to keep many at home.

The attendees hailed from Minnesota (of course) as well as Iowa and Michigan bringing with them some delicious wines. The big talk among the wineries was a grape developed by the University of Minnesota and now in production in many states from the east through the Midwest and into the Northwest. The cold hardy grape is Marquette, name after a Jesuit priest who explored the area. This medium bodied, red grape a descendent of Pinot Noir is a big favorite with the wineries, and they are doing an exceptional job in making good, dry red wines from this local grape.

I am looking forward to seeing the continued development of Marquette wine and looking forward to the time when I am able to buy it in California.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Thoughts Between Conferences: Wine Business Will Keep Growing in the Coming Years
28 February, 2014

As the middle and end of winter is travel season for me, I haven’t been home much of late. I just got back from the Texas Grape and Wine Conference to leave for the Cold Climate Conference in Minnesota - and so on.

One thing that is evident is the increase in wineries throughout North America. I was talking to a friend while at the Midwest conference about the continued increase in the number of wineries and he was of the opinion that it has to slow down soon. I don’t think so. I believe that we will continue to see an increase in the number of wineries throughout the U.S. and Canada in the coming years.

Wine is a passion for people and owning a commercial winery is a dream for many. So while fulfilling the dream it’s also important to put everything in place to ensure that the winery is grounded with a solid business plan and the knowledge to make it successful.

As the competition in the beverage industries grows, it’s not only the number of wineries that are increasing, there’s also an exponential rise in the number of craft breweries and distilleries that are competing in the consumer beverage market. There is a rise in imported wines from all parts of the world, with more land being turned over to grape growing, and more wineries being built.

Consumers are becoming increasingly interested in wine, as there are more local wines for them to try. That’s the good news. Your job, in addition to making great wine, is to make sure that the business is running efficiently, that you are hiring and training the right staff, marketing well, having a clear sales strategy and keeping your name out there.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

It’s Wine Conference Time!
21 February, 2014

Two weeks ago I was speaking at the Midwest Grape and Wine Conference in St. Charles, Missouri, that also included craft beer and cider. It was interesting to meet brewers and would-be brewers, as well as to discover how many wineries are thinking about adding beer to the mix.

On the first evening of the conference, Vineyard & Winery Management, who produces the show, put on a fun wine tasting reception called the Tour de Vin.  It was nice to catch up with old friends and make new ones, as well as taste some delicious Midwest wines.

This year, Vineyard & Winery Management had added other craft beverages, such as beer, to the mix of classes available. There were production, marketing and finance sessions, for both wine and beer makers, as well as viticulture, presented by a host of speakers from all over the United States.

Following a full day of sessions on Wednesday, Vineyard & Winery Management hosted the Tour de Brew and beer and cider tasting. There were all types of delicious beers. I must admit I am a beer fan (being British I come by it naturally) and tasted some lovely pale ales among other things.  There were also ciders to taste and lots of munchies, as well as the opportunity to talk about beer and meet more new people.

Friday, Gary Finnan from GFC and I presented an eight hour session that covered a full range of topics connected with branding, product development, sales, marketing, experience mapping, customer relationship management and more. We had a great group of people in the session and were able to relate the topics directly to individual businesses from large wineries to very small ones.

I always enjoy my time in the Midwest, although I have to say it was a mite cold in Missouri this last week. The warmth of the people more than made for the cold weather. Then we were off to Texas for the TWGGA show and looking forward to tasting some Texas wines and visiting with the passionate Texas winegrowers. I do love this time of year!

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Sometimes Things Are Too Close To Be Seen
17 February, 2014

We are so involved with our business and products that we don’t always take advantage of the opportunities that are right in front of us. For example, using aspects of our business or name to connect customers more closely with our business.

Recently I was in Wisconsin for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Conference, which also included grapes and wine, to speak on Direct-To-Consumer Management and Tasting Room Management. While presenting one of the workshops, a winery owner in the audience asked me a question. He gave me his name and the name of his winery, which isParallel 44. After I had answered his question, we were talking about rewards/case/wine clubs and I was relating the benefits of sending a small gift to club members (if it’s not against the laws in your state to do so). I asked the owner of Parallel 44 if he offers a gift to people who visit his winery 44 times, explaining that would be a good reason for people to give him their contact information (name, email, address, phone, etc.). He said no he didn’t do that, but he thought the idea had some merit.

It got me to thinking about other opportunities that businesses might be missing that would help them bring customers back to the business more often. So take a look at your name, any proprietary product names or other things that you might be missing that could be used to give customers reasons to visit and purchase more frequently.

By instituting this program, Parallel 44 will have the opportunity to track people, how much they are visiting and how much they are spending. Customers will make sure that the winery personnel know when they visit, so they can be credited for the visit. Parallel 44 can remind them every so often of how any visits they have made. The winery may also add in something special when they reach a certain number of visits to encourage people to get to 44 visits.  When you start thinking about it, the ideas are endless.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Making Your Business Customer-Centric
07 February, 2014

It’s easy to get so focused on your business that you become company-centric rather than customer-centric. There are many types of businesses that start off that way (medical businesses – doctors’ offices and hospitals, airlines and cable television providers come to mind). However it happens quite a bit in the beverage industry too, especially in wineries.

It’s not so much that winery procedures go out of their way to penalize customers or are punitive to them; with wineries it’s more that they tend to be product-centric rather than customer-centric. That is, we talk about the products and learn nothing about our visitors or customers. There is a lot of talk about customer relationship management, but in the tasting rooms, with retailers and restaurants, and at events the winery people many times do the most talking, and it’s all about the product rather than getting to know the needs, wants, desires and behavior of the customers.

Customer Relationship Management has evolved over the years from the thought that CRM is software that tracks customers to a philosophical approach to how you relate to your visitors and customers through your tasting room, website, emails, social media, advertising, events, etc.

Customer Relationship Management should be a strategy that is followed company-wide to increase profitability and reduce costs by solidifying customer loyalty.

As you have a few months before the busiest part of the season, it’s a great time to start switching from a product-centric to a customer-centric model at your winery. Create a balance between finding out what your customers want from you and how your products fit into their lives to presenting your products to them.

Create a new baseline for customer service at your business that includes asking at least three questions of each set of visitors that come into the business (you can bring that down to one question during events or on very busy weekends – as long as the only question is not “So, where are you from?”).

Changing to a customer-centric model will have its challenges. Change never comes easily, but it is well worth the effort.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

5 Steps In Making Decisions to Purchase: Step 5 – Assessing The Decision After The Sale
01 February, 2014

Most businesses are looking for long-term customers. Consumers who will buy from them repeatedly over the course of their lifetimes are the ultimate goal. That’s the reason companies have to be aware that, after the sale has been made, there is always the chance that the customer may regret the decision s/he has made. After buying the product (sometimes before it is even used) the customer may compare it with their expectations and is either satisfied or dissatisfied with their decision. These feelings of pleasure or discontent with the purchase will affect the purchaser’s perception of the overall value, as well as their repeat business and the reviews they pass along to their friends and family.

These reasons make it important that you stay in contact with the buyer after the purchase is made. The added contact helps build the relationship between your buyers and your company. It’s especially important when larger purchases are made. We want to remind the consumer of how the decision to buy will benefit them in different ways.

A hand written note is well received and confirms for the buyer that they made the right decision. Even a follow up email that is personalized to that buyer can do the trick. I suggest that follow up after wine club shipments will help club members retain their membership longer. You don’t have to follow up with each member after every shipment but if you follow up every few months with a quick email or phone call, to ask them if they are receiving their shipments in good order, they will become even more loyal to the club.

When consumers buy, the icing on the cake for them is knowing that the company they purchased from appreciates their business. Making sure that happens will bring you a longer list of long-term and loyal customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

5 Steps In Making Decisions to Purchase – Step 4: Making The Decision
24 January, 2014

Once consumers have finished evaluating their alternatives they move on to actually confirming that they are going to buy. At this stage the process may be broken down into three parts.

First, consumers decide they want/need the product from the particular seller. They have taken into experience how the product will benefit them, the price, the return policy and the satisfaction with their previous experiences with the merchant, if they have bought from the company before.

They also decide when and where they will buy the product, possibly deciding to buy online or to into the retail store, or order by phone. They may be influenced by the store’s atmosphere, time pressure, a special price or prior positive experience. Getting people into your retail shop or tasting room gives you a better chance to increase the sale, and providing each customer with a positive experience will encourage them to do their shopping in person. This gives you the opportunity to connect them more closely with your brand and your company.

During this stage of their decision-making, they may also be making the decision not to buy. This choice may be influenced by negative feelings, possibly to the attitude of the employee helping them, the price of the item, or the atmosphere in the retail store. Consumers’ decisions to buy or not to buy can be in limbo until the final moment of purchase.

There are times when most of us have been ready to buy a product and decided at the last minute not to purchase from a particular store or company because of the way we are treated.

Even once the sale is done, we are still not totally out of the woods. Next week’s blog will focus on the final step, which is the evaluation of the decision once the purchase is made.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Making Buying Decisions – Step Three
18 January, 2014

In today’s blog we are discussing the third step in how we make decisions to buy. We have discussed the first two steps:

1.  Recognizing the Problem

2.  Searching for Information

Step three is the time when consumers start evaluating the alternatives that are available to them. Whether they are standing in front of you at the tasting bar, in a store, looking at your website or seeing an advertisement for your product in a magazine, if the information has interested them they will start to compare and contrast the benefits and values of your product with similar products they have bought in the past.

The questions they are asking themselves (sometimes consciously, sometimes not) may revolve around how your product will satisfy their wants or needs based on any number of criteria including price, quality, easy of purchase, or even how impressed their friends will be when they serve this wine to them.

As you can see, a consumer’s evaluation of the criteria may represent both the objective attributes of your brand, such as the foods your wine may be paired with, and the subjective factors, such as the prestige that serving the wine will bring them. Once they have these criteria, the consumers have a set of products that are shown to be appropriate in meeting their wants, needs and desires.

Remember that purchasing is an emotional decision as much as an intellectual one and subject to our biases. Most of us are more willing to gather facts or information that support conclusions that we already agree with, rather than those we don’t. So it’s up to us, as a company, to present information that will trigger positive emotional reactions, as well as intellectual ones. In short, don’t only present the facts let consumers know how using your product will make them feel.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Searching for Reasons to Buy
10 January, 2014

In the second part of my five-blog series on making buying decisions, I am writing about how most visitors to your winery identify their options for purchasing.

There are many ways that people research their options for purchasing products. Imagine a number of these ways being organized in the consumers’ brains as they are standing in front of your tasting counter. As consumers, the visitor may use all or some of the following:

Your visitors may start by thinking about any previous experiences they have had when buying your particular product or a product or brand that is similar. If they have had a positive similar experience, just this step may be enough for your visitor to make a buying decision.

If they have made, what they consider to be, a bad decision regarding this type of product in the past, it will take more that checking their memory banks to commit to the purchase.

So they will go further. Perhaps they will solicit the opinions of friends or family, who are with them at the winery or think back to something they have read or seen about your products.

They may even look at any information such as testimonials, ads or reviews of your wine that you have in your tasting room. And, most importantly, listen to what the tasting room employees have to say about the wine and how these employees help them relate to the product and make it important in their lives.

This is the same process used with most buying decisions, unless they are familiar with your product and know that it is a good thing for them. Take a look at your website, emails, marketing and collateral materials for information that will make it easier for readers to start making a positive buying decision before they get to your winery.

Ten words that help consumers internalize how buying your product will have a positive impact on their lives, is more important than 100 words on the scientific methods of making wine for most consumers (that can come later).

A tip of the glass from me to you!

How We Make Purchasing Decisions
20 December, 2013

The decision to purchase products is not a one-step decision. These steps include accessing the emotional, intellectual and social triggers that are a part of the process.

In the course of my research, I have discovered that the buyer goes through five different stages before they come to a buying decision. Over the course of the next few weeks I am going to explore these stages in my weekly blogs.

These five stages, according to and other websites, are:

  • Problem Recognition
  • Search Process
  • Evaluating Alternatives
  • Selection
  • Evaluation of Decision

In this week’s blog we are going to look at Problem Recognition, or discovering the needs, wants and desires to purchase wine.

Problem Recognition

What might that problem be? That is, why do your customers need, want or desire to purchase wine? What is their motivation? Part of problem recognition is finding out whether there is a need behind the need. Your customer may tell you that they are just looking but there may be another reason for buying wine. They are looking for wine for a wedding or are throwing a dinner party that is important to them and want to make sure that they have a perfect wine to match their dinner.

It may be that they just feel like they are missing out because they don’t know much about wine and want to gain more knowledge.

Give some thought to when your customers or target audience develops these needs, wants and desires so you can advertise to them. For example if your business is in an area where the local university has a strong MBA program, this is an audience to reach, as knowing about wine and how to order wine at a restaurant may be valuable in their career.

Ask your staff why the customers buy wine and if they don’t know, include into the presentation for customers some questions that will help you find out what is motivating them.

Think, too, about how you make purchasing decisions – after all you too are a consumer.

Next week we will talk about how buyers seek out information.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Design Should Reflect Your Brand and Connect With Your Audience
13 December, 2013

John McWade founder of Before & After, a magazine for graphic artists and designers, said: “Design looks easier than it is, and it’s more important than it looks.

Two great points and we should pay careful attention to those words whenever we are considering designing a new label and type of advertising or collateral materials. Choose your designer or graphic artist well and make sure they have a clear idea of what you want before they start. If you are designing the materials yourself, have a professional take a look at it and perhaps spruce it up a little – unless, of course, you are a designer.

Many of us have relatives who are artistic, love to draw and are very talented (my sister is an artist). However, even though your nephew may be in college studying graphic design, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your nephew knows a lot about business. Knowledge of business is just as important to good design, as the piece has to be functional as well as attractive.

If you are designing a label, take into consideration where the wine will be sold. A label that works well in the tasting room or online may not work as well if you sell it in wine shops where there are hundreds of other wines, all vying for attention.

There are a few other things you need to figure out before you actually put pen (or pencil) to paper, or start a design on your computer:

  • Define your audience before you start on any design project. Who are you trying to appeal to and designing for?
  • Keep in mind the price point of the wine and if the label or collateral material adequately presents that price point.
  • Take a look at the competition. Which wines are you competing against and how are those wines portrayed? Go to the wine store and check out the wines in your price point and look at the labels.

Every label and every piece of collateral material should reflect your brand and connect with your target audience.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Y’all come back now, ya’ hear!
06 December, 2013

You have been diligent in getting the word out about your winery and wines, with good results. You are seeing more visitors and selling more wine, and some of these people are even joining the wine club. Congratulations, the first half of the plan is in place and working well!

Now it’s time for the second half of the plan. What different activities or programs do you have in place that will bring these visitors back again and again? When things slow down a little in the winter, it’s a good time to start thinking about types of experiences you can add to encourage visitors to come back again and bring their friends with them.

It’s fairly simple these days to create a sensory tasting, giving visitors the opportunity to pick out different aromas and bouquets in the wines. For example if you have a white wine that is noted for it’s citrus character, add a little lemon or grapefruit juice (just a little) to the wine and allow visitors to smell it. Once they have gotten that aroma into their brain, it becomes easier for them to detect it in a wine that has less of the aroma.

Or do a blind tasting (really blind). Allow small groups to taste wines and to guess what it is they are tasting when they are blindfolded. It’s amazing how much we rely on the color to tell us about the wine. This is a fun event with much laughter and surprises.

There are lots of different things you can put into place, including blending classes. A new twist on wine and food pairings is to put out the wine and the food and let the participants decide which wine goes best with which food. After they have given their opinions you can tell them which wines the chef thought best matched which foods.

Experiencing options that are fun and educational will bring people back and give them more reasons to buy wine so they can have fun with their friends at home.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

College Wine Programs Enrich the Community
02 December, 2013

There is an interesting article in the Wine Industry Advisor Afternoon Brief on Monday (Nov. 11) about how a strong college wine program produces jobs in wine regions.

Sabrina Lueck, Assistant Enologist for College Cellars, the winery attached to the Walla Walla, WA Community College’s Institute of Enology and Viticulture, speaking at the Southeastern United Grape and Wine Symposium in North Carolina, had positive data about the difference a strong college wine program has on the community. As Ms. Lueck said, “It’s not just about the wine industry, but it’s about the associated jobs that come with it.” (You can read the entire article clicking on THIS LINK.)

As we all know, once the wine industry becomes a part of the community, many jobs are created in ancillary industries that cater to wine tourists, including lodgings, restaurants and other retail businesses.

Not only is the Institute of Enology and Viticulture thriving at Walla Walla Community College, their Wine Country Culinary Institute is also going great guns, teaching students about food and wine and filling wineries needs for event catering.

Many colleges and universities are starting or exploring the feasibility of wine and ancillary programs to support the industry. Wineries can be a great influence in helping their local colleges and universities become stronger with the initiation of wine industry classes. Certainly in Sonoma County (in fact in all of Northern California) the local junior colleges and universities are deep into enology and viticulture studies, wine marketing, sales and just about every other facet of the industry. I personally teach classes at both Sonoma State University and Santa Rosa Junior College and love the classes I teach.

Wine and culinary classes are good for the schools as they bring in people with a wide range of interests in these subjects; some students plan to work in the industry, while others just have a passion for wine or food. The focus on wine in these different regions also helps local wineries to promote their wines to a broader audience.

If your local community colleges are universities are not offering classes, it might be a good time to start planting the seed to do so. And, if you don’t have enough to do (a little light humor), you might want to teach a class or two yourself.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Writing Enticing Sales and Promotional Material
22 November, 2013

The other day I was proofing a winery holiday offerings printed piece for a graphic artist friend of mine.  It really was a lovely piece, attractive graphics, nice layout and the copy was good… except for a couple of little things in the copy, that could make a big difference.

After I read the copy I had some questions: for example one section offered me two bottles of wine in a gift box (so far so good). There were three options to choose from and it said, “Choose either,” which led me to believe that I should only buy one of them.

Perhaps I am nitpicking, but I want to make sure that everyone knows they can buy as many as they want, within reason, of course. Although if a customer does place a large, large order, that’s the time to give them that special pallet discount (3% discount if you buy two pallets of wine).

Here are a few things to look out for when you are writing sales copy:

- Keep your sentences short. The structure and length should vary for easy reading, but most of the sentences should be relatively short.
- Develop a writing vocabulary so that you are not using the same words all the time. I often come across promotional and sales pieces in which the same descriptive words are used multiple times or the sentences are repetitive, for example:  We had a great event at the winery, we had so much fun and the wine was great.
- Use terms that paint pictures for the reader. The words imagine or remember set the stage for them to start visualizing.
- Write to express your thoughts, not to try and impress your audience. Present ideas simply and directly.
- Avoid finishing off with a few of the things that are much overused and don’t create the impression that you want to create:

  • Very unique: Unique means one of a kind, and I have yet to come across anything that is very one of a kind.
  • Stay away from Come join, Come enjoy, Come… anything. It weakens the sentence, which is much stronger if you just say, Enjoy, or Join us.
  • Try not to start any sales copy with:  “We are proud to announce…” or “We are excited to announce…” This is all about you and not about the customer and how it will make them feel.

- Finally I am always coming across “We would like to invite you…” which always makes me say to myself… “If you would like to invite me, why don’t you just invite me?

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Follow Up With Customers
15 November, 2013

It takes time, money and effort to bring people into your tasting room and show them a top-notch experience. So why is it, that many times when I am in a tasting room and purchase wine no one asks me for my contact information? Obviously this means that you can’t contact me and encourage me to buy again. The chances of me purchasing again without any direct encouragement from the winery are slim, though if I am reminded of my visit and what a good time I had, there is a much stronger chance that I will buy again.

When someone buys wine, whether it’s two bottles or a case, make it standard operating procedure that you get contact information, an email address, a phone number, a street address or even their Facebook page.

If you are going to follow up, follow up quickly. An email, a thank you note, telling them that you’re glad they stopped by for a visit and you look forward to seeing them again, should go out within three days. You can, if you wish, include an email coupon to be redeemed with their next order, or some other incentive to encourage them to make another purchase or bring them back to the winery.

If they purchased six or more bottles of wine, send the visitor a hand written thank you note signed by the person who poured for them. It doesn’t have to be long and you can have three or four different short notes from which your employees can choose. The process is quicker if the employee doesn’t have to come up with the content each time. However, if the employee knows of something that happened during the visit or remembers something about the visitors they can include, even better.

A customer record needs to be created and added to every time a visit or transaction occurs. These days your CRM system may do this automatically. Any additional personal information can also be added to the record, a birthday, anniversary, children’s or pets’ names, etc. Of course you should have a record of what they buy, when they buy and if they attend events. As they say, “Knowledge is Power.”

Put more time into tracking and corresponding with everyone who buys from you – it will build sales and your customer list.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Gift Items Should Your Winery Carry?
08 November, 2013

The great majority of wineries carry gift items and I can understand why. Gift and non- wine items are beneficial to wineries:

  •             A positive influence on bottom line profitability;
  •             An additional reason for consumers to visit your winery;
  •             Mementos that remind consumers of wineries they have visited and liked.

These are just a few of the reasons why wineries want to carry items in addition to wine.  Gift items may bring in local people to buy holiday gifts or displays for their holiday dinner tables, as well as wine for their meals, and they can add interest and color to your winery.

Think about the types of gift items you want to have in your winery. Do you have a theme (such as cooking or gardening), do you want items that are fun and whimsical, wine related tools, or glassware, or logo items? All these can be good choices that suit that image of the winery, the perception you are trying to present to the public, and will reinforce your brand.

It is always important to create the right balance between the wine and the gift items.

It’s also important to assess how you want consumers to visualize who you are. This is important not only for gift items but also if you serve food or have other attractions that may entice consumers to visit. Do you want to be seen as a restaurant that serves wine or as a winery that serves food? Focus on your vision and stay true to that vision of how you want your winery and your brand to be perceived. Serve food that works well with your wine and select gift items that connect people with your wine, the brand and the image of your winery.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

More about Millennials’ Impact on the Wine Industry
01 November, 2013

Recently, Lynda Burd from Black Mesa Winery in New Mexico sent me information from about Millennials and how they are changing the wine industry.

I have to say that I am grateful for a lot of what the article has to say about the way Millennials are changing the wine industry. We are getting a little less stuffy. The article quotes Melissa Saunders, who owns Communal Brands, a wine importer: “Historically wine has been marketed to older generations and came with a huge pretense. But this generation is blowing all of that out of the water. They don’t care about the pretentiousness of a wine, they want something authentic that speaks to them.

Ronan Stafford of Canadean Wine Report says that the Millennials who are of legal drinking age were responsible for drinking 25.7% of wine by volume in the U.S. in 2012. While this is impressive, Stafford goes on to say that this is much less that the 41.4% of the volume consumed by those 55 or older in the U.S.

I have to say that I am thrilled to see the Millennials enjoying and showing an interest in wine. In many ways they are pushing the cork on newer and not as popular varietals, on the way wine is thought of, and on many other facets of the wine business.

I also want to encourage wineries to think about all the different generations and what they have to offer the wine industry in terms of their enjoyment of wine and purchasing.

Most visitors to your winery want to be treated well; whether they are Millennials, Gen X or Boomers, they want to be treated with respect. If you show you are interested in them as individuals, get to know a little bit about them, and have some fun with them, most of them will respond in positive ways, that not only affect their attitude towards wine and  your winery, they will also positively affect your bottom line profitability.

Thanks Lynda for the information! If anyone else would like to see the article, I am happy to send along the link.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Being Part of a Family Business
18 October, 2013

There’s an interesting article in INC magazine, entitled “How to Run a Family Business”, that goes into the ins and outs, ups and downs, and challenges and joys of working with family.

The article, written by Christine Lagorio-Chafkin, talks about how family businesses differ from businesses that are not run by a family and quotes some interesting statistics that should bring hope to those in the wine business who have a family business (almost everyone). The first is that while “fewer than 30% of family businesses survive to the second generation, and just 10 percent hold on through the third… Those are far better survival odds than for small businesses not run by a team of family members.”

Ms. Lagorio-Chafkin also writes that the most important focus for family businesses should be on “drafting agreements, clear expectations and assigning clear-cut roles to family members.

I have found in speaking to family members running wineries throughout North America that assigning clear-cut roles can be something of a problem sometimes, if one or another family member is having a hard time letting go. The article also points out that it is helpful to give everyone a job title, a job description and performance standards. Oh, and don’t forget the rewards, whether it is salary or a particular job (that they are capable of performing).

Another important point that was mentioned is defining who, in the present and future, is part of the family business, and deciding what qualifications are necessary. I know of wineries that expect any family member to have a college degree and work for a certain number of years in other businesses in the industry.

As in any business, family or not, communication is key. So remember the words of George Bernard Shaw who said, “The single biggest problem with communication is that illusion that it has taken place.”

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Not a Good Event…
11 October, 2013

There was a story online recently about a winery in Mendocino County that was holding a blending part at the winery, which ended in multiple arrests. It seems that sheriff’s deputies responded to a call from the Highway Patrol and ended up in the middle of a bit of a fracas that involved the owner of the winery and some of the guests. 

This incident showed how easy it is to over-imbibe at a winery event. In fact, it happens quite regularly, though usually it’s one or two of the guests that have had too much to drink, rather than the owner.

It’s important to remember that we are serving an alcoholic beverage and that once someone has started drinking his/her judgment is definitely impaired. We, as the hosts, as well as any employees, should not be drinking during the event. If we are standing up to make a speech or giving a toast, we will certainly have a glass in our hand and may even take a few sips, though we should severely limit our wine intake until we are snuggly settled in our own homes.

No one was hurt in this incident, but that was purely happenstance, and the publicity would not have been good if there had been injuries to anyone attending the event.

Wineries should have a clear, written policy about drinking while at work. The policy should apply to everyone at the winery, regardless of his/her position. Policies pertaining to drinking should be in the employee handbook and each employee should read the information prior to starting work. As time goes on, everyone should be reminded of these policies. If you don’t have these things in your employee handbook, it may be time to start writing.

I am sure that everyone is now out of jail, but there will still be fines to be paid and reparation of one sort or another to be made. And more importantly, I am sure there were guests that will probably not be going to next year’s blending part…

A tip of the glass from me to you!

What Matters Most To Your Employees?
04 October, 2013

Many employers tend to think that employees respond most intensely to the idea of more money but, according to a blog I was just reading, there are lots of other things that motivate employees to work harder, do a better job and go the extra mile. While the blog that I read, from Danielle Lackey, the CEO of the Arbia Group (a group of lawyers), does talk about money, she sites many other things that motivate employees. Autonomy is one of the things that people are looking for. Though employees cannot expect total autonomy when working for someone else, it will help if employers can find ways to empower their people, so they have some feelings of autonomy.

Different generations are looking for different rewards. A recent article in INC magazine, by Brian Halligan, tells us that we, of the older generation,“build our companies’ culture around the things that motivated our generation, money, career progressions and retirement plans. The Millennial generation has an entirely different consideration set for motivation, and given that they already comprise more of the workforce than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, we need to invest, time, money and energy into creating workplaces that Millennial employees will love.”

According to the Arbia blog, “A number of recent studies reveal that the members of this generation are far more motivated by an employer’s mission than by the money they make.”Additionally, Millennials will work harder if they are learning as much as possible and affecting change. So keep your younger employees learning, and give them new tasks and new challenges, to keep them happy.

Regardless of the age of employees, it helps to ask them what motivates them, before making assumptions as to what it is. Make them part of the process and you will find you have much more buy-in for your incentive packages.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

TTB New Rules for Social Media
27 September, 2013

The TTB has been busy lately. They have always spent time reviewing advertisements that appear in print, on the radio and television, on billboards and websites, etc. They have now included all types of social media in those advertising guidelines. As the TTB states in their information on using social media in the advertising of alcohol beverages, These outlets include, but are not limited to, social network services such as Facebook or MySpace, video sharing sites such as YouTube or Flickr, weblogs or “blogs,” forums or comment sections directly on websites, and applications (apps) for mobile devices.”

The TTB is expanding the reach of its advertising reviews to include all types of social media. So, what does this mean to you? It means that any “fan” pages are subject to the provisions of the FAA Act and TTB regulations. Which means that mandatory statements that appear in any other ads also must appear here.

In short, you now have to adhere to the same regulations in your social media, links, QR codes, mobile applications, websites, etc. that you have to in any other form of advertising. In addition, the TTB considers any description of links included on industry websites to be a part of the advertisement.

Information on the laws and regulations governing advertising of alcoholic beverages can be found in the Federal Alcohol Administration Act, Chapter 8, Subchapter 1. According to section 207, the penalties section, any company not following the rules may be found guilty of a misdemeanor, and possibly fined up to $1,000 for each offense.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

The Value of Trademark
20 September, 2013

This is an excerpt from an article that came from Vineyard & Winery Management magazine, by Robert C. Holtzapple & Rachel Turner, July/August 2013. The importance of trademarks cannot be over emphasized. I myself worked with a winery that had been using its name for over a year and had to change it because it came too close to someone else’s name. In their case, they had used an attorney to research their name, but there was a mistake and after a year had to start branding all over again with a new name.

“A wine trademark is anything that identifies who makes the wine – the winery name, the label design, and any name given to the particular wine are all potentially trademarks.

When choosing a name, slogan or logo for your winery, vineyard or label, try to select a strong trademark that you can prevent competitors from using. A mark’s strength depends on where it falls on the distinctiveness continuum – the more distinctive the trademark, the stronger and more protectable it is.

Once you have a few desired names, determine if they are already being used. If someone is using your desired name, they likely have trademark rights – even if their mark is not federally registered – and they could sue you for trademark infringement for using their mark, or a confusingly similar mark, on the same or similar products. (Many are surprised to learn that federal registration is not required to obtain trademark rights, but you can obtain common-law trademark rights simply by selling products displaying the mark.)

Sometimes a winery uses a brand name for several years without registering or policing it. While the temptation is to maintain the status quo, we strongly recommend that you discuss with your attorney whether you should seek to register such a mark. You don’t want to learn of a competing use of your name by another winery years after it starts.

You would likely want to stop someone from using your name or wine or wine-related products or services, such as wine openers or bottling services. If you do nothing in response to another’s use of your mark on the same or similar goods, you risk diluting your mark’s distinctiveness, losing your right to exclusive use of that mark. If you learn of someone using your mark, immediately contact your attorney to discuss how to approach resolving that problem.

Many businesses may be tempted to “do it yourself” to avoid attorney’s fees; using a trademark lawyer can often save money in the long run. Creating and defending trademarks is not easy or inexpensive, but given how important your brand name is to your business, we firmly believe that the investment in establishing and enforcing your trademark rights is well worth it. “

A tip of the glass from me to you!


Two Smart Ways to Control Business Costs
13 September, 2013

At the beginning of each month I receive a great newsletter from Resnick, Amsterdam, Leschner, an accounting firm in Bluebell, PA. There is always something interesting in their newsletter and this short article from the September newsletter, piqued my interest.

“Attempting to reduce expenses can be either wise or foolish, depending upon where you make the cuts. Eliminating costs that are crucial to attracting and retaining consumers is a direct route to failure, but spending less on wasteful areas without losing sales is a thrifty way of increasing profit.

You can save plenty of cash by paying less for marketing, but spending too little prevents people from finding your business. Trust the statistics about how shoppers in this century typically conduct online investigation of purchase options. In some markets, little risk is involved in reducing or even canceling your advertising in the newspaper, phone book and broadcasting.

Meanwhile, use some of those savings to revitalize your website. Obtain some consulting on search engine optimization (SEO). Hire a freelancer to create content for your website, write a blog, issue press releases and deliver social media messages. Set your advertising budget for next year with a focus on online marketing. Even if you only use word-of-mouth marketing to obtain sales, spending on your Web presence helps turn prospects into committed buyers.

Secondly, remember that employees are the most important assets of most businesses. Staff members enjoy perks, but prefer job security far more. The cost of small perks such as free food, gym membership and attending conferences can add up quickly. Concentrate your spending on workers by annually granting cost-of-living increases in wages and providing a top-quality health insurance plan. Smart spending decisions will reduce your costs and simultaneously improve the quality of your business.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Make A Choice: Let Negativity Go in 90 Seconds
06 September, 2013

I was on my way home, the other night, and was listening to the car radio. The host of this radio program was interviewing Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist who, at 37 years old and working at Harvard researching the brain, suffered a very serious and debilitating stroke. She made a full recovered and wrote a book My Stroke of Insight; A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, which was published in 2008.

I had heard of Dr. Taylor before, but was intrigued by some of the things she had to say, both in the radio interview and in the subsequent article I read online when I got home.

There were two things that made the most impact on me, one of which reconfirmed what I talk about in many of my seminars regarding emotion. On the radio she was talking about the role of emotions and the fact that we like to think that we, as human beings, are thinking people who have emotions. However, we are actually emotional people who think.

So please, when you or your hospitality employees are in the tasting room, access emotions first and then go for the thinking part of the brain. You will sell more wine.

The second thing, that really made an impression, I found in an online article talking about her book. The excerpt from the article read:

“…Taylor explains that she learned when her judgmental left brain was silenced that physiologically, negative emotions run their course in 90 seconds. Any bitterness, anger, pessimism or other such negativity after that time was a choice or habit, not an incontrovertible fact.”

Imagine what a difference it would make to the work environment, interactions with co-workers, employees and customers if we each made the choice not to hold on to any negativity for more than the 90 seconds. It would seem, from what Dr. Taylor experienced that holding onto negative emotions is a choice, or (and to me this is more likely) a habit. It’s a habit we need to break and a choice we need not to make.

I have not yet read Dr. Bolte Taylor’s book, though I will be getting it on my Kindle tomorrow.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

A Few Minutes a Day Makes All the Difference
30 August, 2013

It’s hard to believe, but summer is almost over. Another year is zipping by as we head into autumn of 2013. Yes, there are always lots of things to do, with grape harvesting and winemaking either gearing up or going at full tilt at this time of year, and with lots of guests in the tasting room and participating in events at the winery.

In addition to all the work, for me autumn is a time for reflection. It’s the time to start thinking about what lessons and new information I have learned this year and what things I want to change going forward.

As this is a busy time of year, I do not start creating the new marketing plan or writing a new strategy, but I do start making notes, or digging out the notes I have made during the year about what I want to do going forward. In my case, thinking about new seminars I want to create and different training and marketing and sales concepts. If there’s a business book I’ve wanted to read, I make sure it’s on my Kindle, so that when I have a few minutes I can read a chapter or two.

I also look at the new things I put into place this year to see how they worked and think about how procedures and processes can work better.

Change starts with ideas and with a conscious and early effort to get those ideas written down somewhere. Whether it’s on the computer or in a notepad or on your office wall, you have a much better chance of creating the environment you want for your staff, for guests, for your very best customers, your owners and your bottom line, if you have a system.

Get your key staff involved too, by asking them to jot down the things that they would like to see changed or implemented in the coming year.

This is the time of year when you are most aware of what is and is not working and how things could be improved. Yes, it’s also the busiest time but taking a few minutes at the end of each day to make some notes to be pulled out during the rainy (or snowy) days of late autumn and winter will give you a big jump on next year – which is coming up fast.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

23 August, 2013

I mentioned in my Facebook tips that I was out wine tasting and checking out wineries over the weekend. My tastings all took place outside California. While the majority of the people who served me were very nice, I came away with concerns about the servers’ basic wine knowledge, as well as their ability to sell.

At one winery I had the server – who was very nice and personable – tell me that one of the wines had gone through partial malolactic fermentation, but that they weren’t sure what that was. – I explained it.

Every winery server started pouring wine before they asked me what I liked, or what I wanted, or said much of anything at all. At one winery the server poured me the first wine without saying a word to me. The server left a bottle of wine in front of me. I assumed it was the wine that was poured; it wasn’t – it was the next wine to pour! As the first couple of wines were not varietals I was very familiar with, I had no idea what I was drinking – other than that it was white.

On the good side, at two wineries, people other than the server stopped by the bar to talk to me. As I was alone, it was nice that they did, as I was the only single taster in any of the wineries that I visited. At one winery it was the owner who greeted me at the door. That was a nice touch he was pleasant and welcoming.

At every winery the server gave me information about the wines I was tasting, though all the information they gave me was repeated verbatim from the tasting notes I had in front of me. More than once the server volunteered their personal opinions about the wine. One server told me that they thought that one of the wines was “blah at the end.” I rather liked the wine and thought it had a decent finish, but it could have definitely put me off if I didn’t know much about wine.

I don’t think offering a personal opinion is a bad thing but please, please, only offer positive opinions. If you don’t like a wine, or think it could have been made in a different style, don’t mention it. Ask the visitor what they think instead. They might like it.

At only one winery was I asked any questions at all, and this winery person asked me one question. Would you like to guess the question? You’re right, got it! It was “Where are you from?”

No one was rude to me, though it was obvious that no one was particularly interested in me either. I went away knowing much more about my servers than they knew about me. So, while I did not have any terrible or even bad experiences, none of the experiences were particular memorable, and we don’t buy from people or businesses we don’t remember.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

How Are Your Sales… And, More Importantly, How Are Your Profits?
16 August, 2013

In the midst of the season, let’s take a minute or two to think about sales and to think about the profitability of the wine that your sell. Are you making a decent profit on your wine overall?

I see a lot of discounting going on and sometimes the discounts wineries are giving seem to detract from the value, rather than increase it. Certainly a discount of 10 or 15 percent on a case of wine is an incentive to visitors to buy those extra few bottles, and giving an additional discount to consumers who buy from you regularly is a good way to say thank you and let you know that they are important to you. However, I see wineries offering excessive discounts ­– which to me is any more than 25 of 30%. Make sure you have a good story to go along with that discount.

If there is no real reason for a large discount, visitors may believe that either the wine is not very good, or that they were grossly overcharged when they purchased bottles at full price. Many people like to get a bargain (I have to admit that I am one of them), but at the same time it’s important that they understand that getting your wine at a lower than usual price is something they shouldn’t expect very often. Here are a few ways to make discounting work for you:

  1. If you offer a discount for good customers, make sure the people you send the offer to are good customers only. You want people to feel that you are offering them the discount because you appreciate them, rather than because you are trying to get their business.
  2. Have a reason for offering discounts, such as the end of a vintage, making room in the warehouse for a new vintage, an annual or semi-annual sale, or to allow customers to stock up for the holidays.

Discounts over and above the regular six bottle, case or wine club discounts should not be a regular occurrence, they should be special and be positioned to customers as a time to take advantage of a rare opportunity. By not over using discounts you can use them to your advantage.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Using All The Senses
09 August, 2013

As most of us know there is a lot to be aware of these days. We are constantly being bombarded with things to look at. In fact, there is more visual stimulation than ever. Naturally there has been a lot of research done on this topic, and it has been discovered (not surprisingly) that more there is for people to pay attention to, the harder it is to get people’s attention.

Think about how much you remember of what you see in one day, today. Or how many things on television, on your phone and internet, in newspapers and magazines, on billboards and the sides of buses that you are not even conscious of. How much of it do you remember at the end of the day – and more importantly, why do you remember the things you do? Take a few minutes to think about what made an impression on you and why.

As we are so visually stimulated, it’s important to bring the other senses into play. The sense of smell is very evocative (which is good for the wine business) and brings back memories of the whole experience. Research has shown (according to the book, “Buyology”) that when people get both smells and images that seem to go together the olfactory parts of the brain those encoding emotional relevance are activated. So people perceive the product as more appealing, and are more likely to remember it. If the two don’t match, it will disappear from people’s memories.

Sound is another sense that plays a big part in how and why we remember things. Sound is recorded in another part of the brain, so by combining sight, smell and sound you are recording information about your product in many different areas of the brain. In the past, I have encouraged you to clink glasses with visitors to your winery.  Especially as the clinking of glasses is a sign of friendship, fellowship and celebration, so once again it gives the whole experience emotional relevance.

With all we have to remember these days, you need to do everything you can to firmly embed memories of your wines, brand and winery in the minds of visitors. So be more conscious of how you are combining experiences for all the senses.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Are You Ready For The Crowds?
02 August, 2013

Now we are into the wine tasting season, life in the tasting room has gotten busier, especially on the weekends. The number of visitors increases exponentially in many wineries and particularly in the afternoons on Saturday and Sunday.

While there is not much you can do to get people to come earlier or during the week, when things are quieter, there are things that can be done to ensure that visitors don’t feel ignored or unimportant.

1.         Staffing

Overstaff rather than understaff. Yes it may seem that it’s costing more, but if the tasting room employees have a little more time to work with individual visitors they are likely to sell more than it costs to have them there.

Use a greeter during the busiest hours to welcome visitors and tell them if there is a wait. You may also want to have someone on the floor with glasses and wine to give visitors their first pour while they are waiting. If you have separate areas to sell gifts, wine and non-wine items, encourage visitors to browse until you have the opportunity to serve them.

2.         Procedures

If you are a winery that regularly gets more visitors than it can handle, put procedures in place, such as taking names and calling people when a spot is available. This will cut down on resentment that may build up when people who arrive later may find a place at the bar first.

Offer reservations via phone or through your website and have a specific area for those who make reservations. For wineries that charge for tasting, you may wish to charge visitors when they make a reservation, as that gives them more of a commitment.  If the visitors who made reservations don’t show up then bring others into that area. Those who call before their reservation time to cancel can arrange a refund or another tasting.

3.         Somewhere to go, something to do

Create an area with tables and chairs where visitors can relax until they can be served. If it is legal for you to do so and the weather cooperates, set up a bar outside or find other areas to serve guests. Have information about the wines, winery and wine club available in waiting areas for visitors to peruse.

People don’t mind waiting if you make it comfortable to do so and you acknowledge their presence. Being ready to handle larger numbers helps make a positive first impression and will make a return visit more likely.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Motivating and Encouraging Staff to Sell
26 July, 2013

Working in a tasting or retail room is hard work. From the outside it seems like a lot of fun (so many visitors will tell you how they wish they worked in a winery) but despite the perks it can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when the season is upon us.

As things get busier, it is harder to engage and connect with visitors and introduce the wines in ways that will interest them. Many times what’s forgotten is taking time to encourage visitors to buy and creating that need to buy. Just as visitors need to be motivated to buy, your staff needs to be motivated to sell.

There are lots of ways to motivate staff to sell and to focus them on the sale. It helps, of course, to have a plan, so here’s one idea:

Begin by choosing a different wine each week, fortnight or month on which to focus. Talk about the wine at the weekly meeting you have with staff and open a bottle of that particular wine, so everyone tastes it. Give the staff written information on the wine (more than the tech sheet), including reasons why buying this wine will enhance visitors’ lives. Remind your staff every day of the focus wine for the time period.

Include a game as a motivation. For example: Take the cork from the bottle of the focus wine you opened for the staff to taste and mark it with a red X or some other distinguishing mark. When the first person sells that wine, they take the cork. When the next person sells that wine they take the cork from the first person. The game goes on until a pre-selected time. The person left holding the cork wins.

At that time you can reward the person who has the cork with a prize, or you may put their name into a drawing for a bigger prize that will be given when that particular wine is no longer the focus. You may do both, with a smaller prize on a daily basis and a bigger prize later on.

Use prizes that are meaningful to the employees (and don’t discount the fact that even though these people have access to wine, they still enjoy getting bonus wine). When you try this, please let me know how it works for you.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

More About Using Volunteers
19 July, 2013

At the beginning of May I wrote a blog about volunteers being used for winery outside events (festivals and the like) and got an email response from Pete Johns, the Managing Partner at New Kent Winery in Virginia. Mr. Johns encourages, as do I, that all volunteers are trained, and in his winery only uses trained employees who are ServSafe certified.

In Virginia,” Johns says, “our ABC laws are very clear. All patrons within 15 feet of the serving station are the responsibility of both the pourer and the winery they represent. If a volunteer is not properly trained and serves someone who they should not (underage or already intoxicated), and the person leaves and drives his/her car into a pole, the server and they winery they represent are both liable.

He also went on to say that the Virginia ABC and other states are taking a very good look at this exposure and, in time, will re-write the ABC rules regarding the use of volunteers.

It’s important that, when you use volunteers, you are aware of the laws in your state, county and any other government entities that pertain to serving or selling alcohol. From a business stand point it’s also important that you provide your guests with the best service you can, and this means using people who are well trained.

The people pouring your wines during winery special events, or at outside tastings or festivals, should be knowledgeable about your wines and used to working with people. The servers need to be aware of the people they are serving. They should be checking identification regularly for anyone who may conceivably be underage (if they look under 35 card them), or notice if the guests may have over imbibed already. You must have information available for servers on the signs of intoxication, and make it part of the training material. I have information on signs of intoxication. If you want it, drop me an email and I am happy to send it to you.

If you need extra people and rely on volunteers to help you out, there are lots of jobs that they can do for you that do not entail pouring wine. And, of course, drinking anything alcoholic while working is never acceptable.

Thanks Pete for you taking the time to write!

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Progressive Engagement
14 July, 2013

Engaging visitors in the winery or any other retail business is a sequence that goes through various stages, with the result that visitors feel comfortable and welcome.

Engagement takes you and your visitors through a series of steps that allow you to

Connect • Inform • Entertain • Share the whole experience with your visitors.


Make that immediate and visceral connection with visitors as they walk through the door. Find a way to acknowledge them immediately, always with eye contact and a smile. If possible, interact verbally. If you are unable to speak to them as you are engaged with other visitors, eye contact and a nod or wave.


This part is very important: not only do you inform them about your products, but you allow them to inform you about their wants, needs and desires. Once they have done that, you will have the tools you need to present your products in ways that they will appreciate. Be sure your information contains ways that differentiate your products from those of other businesses.


If you can, entertain your visitors, making them laugh, which helps people open up and therefore more easily internalize the information. Or give them factoids they were not aware of, that they can then tell others. You will create reasons for them to remember your brand and to talk about it to their friends and family.


Share information with them in ways that make them feel as if they are getting something special. Tell a story about the winemaker or how the grapes were grown.

Sharing is a great way to sell, as it draws visitors into the stories about your products.

If you engage your visitors with sincerity and a desire to be interesting and entertaining, the visitors will leave felling passionate about your product. They will wonder how they ever lived without your product and take memories with them when they leave. They will feel pride in the product they have purchased and feel confident that your product is a name they can trust. They will also buy it again.

Go through these steps every time the visitor (now a customer) comes to the winery, to continue to enhance the connection and solidify the engagement.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Communication Is Not That Easy!
05 July, 2013

Are you communicating well with visitors and customers in your business? So much of the time we think we are, but the customers and visitors may not be of the same mind.

As George Bernard Shaw said,

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has already taken place.”

In most wineries the goals and objectives are to create long-term customers who connect with the brand, the winery and the people; customers who purchase wine, join the wine club, attend events and introduce friends and family to the winery.

How we communicate with them in all areas; through social media, the website and emails, printed pieces, over the phone and in person at the winery and outside events needs thought and planning. Your communication plan needs to be clearly thought out, put in writing and followed.

Do you have a written communication plan? For example:

•  Core messages you want customers and prospects to know about your company, your brand, your people. Make a list on two or three core messages, one of which will always be included in whatever you are sending out.

•  Create a timeline for focused messages, such as wine that is being released, an event that is coming up, or reminding customers about the benefits of your wine club. You want to promote these things early, as consumers have lots to do besides thinking about your winery, and they need time to plan.

•  A release schedule for information, no matter how that information is released (on the website, through emails, social media, print, etc.) – it should be scheduled for the most opportune times.

•  A list of important points that are to be presented to visitors and customers who come to the winery. Not too many points, you want to leave time for questions and for the visitors to talk, too.

• Create a flow of integrated information, all of which builds on the information you have already disseminated.

It may be to late for this year, as it’s already the end of June and I am still noticing that summer and fall events are not posted on many winery websites. Thinking about this and making notes now will get you ready for next year.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Making Rituals Part of Selling Your Wine
28 June, 2013

As humans, we like our rituals – they can be comforting, make us feel more positive or get us ready to complete a daunting task. Many sports figures have rituals that they use before any game. Recently, research has shown that performing these rituals strengthened people’s confidence in their abilities, and that their performance improves as a result. Rituals make us feel more in control of our surrounding or situations in which we may find ourselves. They can make us more comfortable and put us at ease.

There are simple rituals that most of us practice such as saying Bless You or Gesundheit when someone sneezes, and hundreds more that we do everyday without even thinking about. Sometimes we think of these rituals as superstitions (not walking under a ladder, for example). Rituals play a large role in our everyday life, and they affect many things that we do. They also affect what we buy.

If customers assign rituals to products, they tend to be more loyal to the brand and appreciate their familiarity. If you ask someone how they eat an Oreo cookie, for example, they will not look at you and ask you what you mean, they will explain whether they eat the middle first, take the two sides apart or dunk the cookie into a glass of milk.

And what about the ritual of clinking glasses as a promotion of fellowship, friendship and celebration. Just the rituals of opening a bottle of wine make the experience special.

So, what rituals can you promote in your tasting or retail room, or with your wine club, that will connect customers more closely with you and your wine? You might create your own toast and repeat it to every one of your customers, every time. You could use a toast that relates back to your heritage.

There are lots of things that you can do, to create rituals. Greet your visitors in a special way, that’s unlike any other winery greeting, or have visitors take a deep breath before they taste the wine to help them get the full flavor of the wine. It won’t change the flavor of the wine, but it will concentrate their mind on the action of tasting.

Let me know about the rituals you already use at your winery, or the ideas you have for rituals.

(Thanks to Scientific American magazine and the book Buyology for information on rituals).

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Take A POSitive Approach To Finding A POS System
21 June, 2013

When I am out and about at conferences or working with wineries, I am often asked to recommend POS (Point-of-Sale) systems. That is such a hard question to answer, as the right POS varies for each business.

There are many POS systems available and all of them can do the job, the question is what exactly do you want your POS system to do and how do you want it to function? Though I can’t pick out your system, here are a few tips for you:


Assess your needs. Consider your present and future needs. What will you need five years from now, and can you add on to the system you choose to meet those needs? Find a company whose products can grow as you grow.

Make a list of the services and features that are important to you. Ask employees who will work with the system what they think is important in a system. You might want to ask your customers to. For example, I find it very handy that I am now able to have my receipts emailed directly to me instead of getting a printed receipt. It’s a lot easier at tax time, as they are all in a file on my computer and I have not got lots of little pieces of paper floating around.


Put together a budget that factors in everything, the retail software, accounting software, point of sale, terminals, etc. Also factor in the cost (if it’s additional) of training and problem solving, as well as repairs. Once you have your budget, look for the systems that match it.


Get the companies you are interested in to give you a demonstration of the product. It’s a big investment, you need to know the ins and outs, and the company needs to know as much as they can about your business.


As well as getting referrals for customers to speak with, from the company, find other businesses like yours that use a system you are considering, and ask what they think.  You want to know that the system is functional, practical and easy to use.

Happy shopping!

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Improve Your Listening & Hearing Skills
14 June, 2013

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” - Stephen Covey

It’s important that we listen to our visitors and customers and not only so we can respond to their question, but so that we can understand how we can better serve them and how we can meet their needs.

When you are listening to someone, look at his/her eyes; eye contact shows interest. Also use nods and gestures to let the speaker know you are listening. You can also show that you are paying attention by using appropriate facial expressions. No one wants to see a big smile when they are telling you a story about their iguana dying.

Unless you have to excuse yourself to take care of another customer or you do have someone who really has been talking non-stop for ten minutes, don’t interrupt. A pause should not be a signal to start talking, take a little more time to make sure they have finished. Count to four slowly before you jump in.

Hearing is even more important than listening. Our hearing can be impaired by our judgments of people. Sometimes we assume what people are going to say or what they know by the way they look. We all judge, it’s human nature – just remember you may not be right. If we open our minds and our ears we will hear our customers much more clearly.

When it’s your turn to speak, be aware of your body language, as well as your tone of voice. These things are just as, if not more important than our words, as a lot of how people construe meaning is through facial expressions, body language and tone.

Take some time to practice listening to understand and make an effort to really hear what your visitors are saying to you. It will make a huge difference.

As GK Chesterton (one of my favorite authors) said, “There is a big difference between hearing and listening.”

A tip of the glass from me to you! 

How We Say It Can Change Our Perceptions
07 June, 2013

I just published a tip on my In Short Facebook page about my new mantra, which is, “Don’t complain about what you choose.” I have done some more thinking about this and realized (although I always knew it in the back of my brain) what a huge role the language we use plays in how we see the world.

As with most other things in our lives, we get into ruts in the way that we speak. I have a friend (no, it’s not me this time) who uses the words I have to, when describing pretty much anything that is on the schedule. Whether it is a chore or something to be enjoyed, invariable the words preceding whatever the event are “I have to”… Some things definitely fall into the have to column, such as, “I have to go to the IRS, I am being audited” Absolutely a have to for most of us. Though, “I have to go to a concert” should be spoken about as something that is an opportunity and a choice. I know this is just a figure of speech and a habit that is easily gotten into.

I have started paying more attention to how I phrase things, especially work things, when there tends to be more of the “I have tos”, than in my personal life. Really most of the things I do, even in my work, are my choices. I have chosen the work I do, and I love it. Okay most of the time I love it – there are those times when it’s a bit of a chore (going through TSA lines at airports, not my favorite thing) -, but even the things I don’t like are usually part of something I do.

I am taking a leaf from my Dad’s book, who has a positive outlook on life. Dad just turned 88 years old and still interested in new things. He enjoys being on the computer and Skype, and since Mum died has taken up cooking. While he can’t do everything he used to, instead of moaning about the things he can’t do, he is busy expanding the things he can. He is an inspiration to me. Happy Birthday Dad! 

Wine, wine, everywhere!
02 June, 2013

We are still seeing more and more wineries opening up all over North America. In addition, there is a great deal of growth in the craft breweries and small distilleries industries, and I don’t see that it’s going to stop any time soon, which means that you may be getting less attention and fewer visitors at your winery.

Lately, I have been speaking with winery owners and managers who are concerned that they are not seeing as many people in their tasting rooms as they had in the past. It’s not that there are less people out and about tasting wine, but that there are a lot more wineries to visit in any given area. As more wineries open up, there are more choices for consumers, so it’s even more important to differentiate your winery from others around you.

Many consumers plan holidays and day trips through the Internet to help them decide on the location as well as the activities. Take a look at the websites of wineries and similar businesses around you. Do you see anything special that makes them stand out or offers a different experience from other businesses in your area? Then take a look at your website.  What are you offering? Are your offerings very much in line with other wineries in the area, or do they invite and encourage consumers to visit you?

Remember, it’s not all about the wine. Add to your website other reasons for people to visit. Are there other activities that would interest visitors who come to your winery? Add those to your website and link with those businesses, so you are also added to their website. Lots of people travel with their children, so listing family activities can be helpful.

It’s going to be a great summer and a big year for wine sales.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

One Hundred Blog Posts
24 May, 2013

Simona, my very able associate, who got me started on blogging, Facebook and Twitter a couple of years ago, informed me the other day that I had completed 100 blogs since I started.

Hard to believe that I’ve been blogging and posting for just shy of two years and have covered a multitude of topics, all related to retail sales, winery retail practices, social media, tasting rooms, merchandising and more.

Thank you for all of you who read my blog, Facebook posts and tweets, and a special thanks to those of you who agree, disagree or comment on the posts. The more information we can put out into the world, the more successful more of us will be. There are so many smart people out there and so much information to be passed along.

Also, if there are any topics that I have not covered that you would like to see on this blog, just let me know. I love research, so if I haven’t already done research on a topic you would like to see explored, I am very happy to do it.

So, thanks again and keep smiling. There is always something very interesting just around the corner, waiting for you.

A tip of the glass from me to you!


Interesting and Unexpected Wine Facts
17 May, 2013

I recently put together a list of information and fun facts relating in one way or another to wine. Giving your visitors and customers a few interesting stories or facts that they are not expecting to hear will set you apart from other wineries. Visitors can then tell these stories to their friends, ensuring that they will be talking about your wine and winery long after their visit. I thought I would pass along a few of my favorites in today’s blog.

One of my favorite bits of the Irish folklore concerns wine. The Irish believe that fairies are extremely fond of good wine. The proof of the assertion is that in the olden days royalty would leave a keg of wine out for them at night. Sure enough, it was always gone in the morning. Those fairies knew what they were doing.

And from this side of the pond…

The bill for a celebration party for the 55 drafters of the US Constitution was for 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, 8 bottles of whiskey, 22 bottles of port, 8 bottles of hard cider, 12 beers and seven bowls of alcohol punch large enough that “ducks could swim in them.”

Those founding fathers really knew how to party. There might not be so many laws pertaining to alcohol if they were still with us.

Finally, are there any among you who suffer from Cenosillicaphobia? I’ll bet there are at least a couple.

Cenosillicaphobia is the fear of an empty glass!

In addition to wine, I also put some of these facts and stories together about beer and spirits. If any of you would like to get my list of wine, beer and spirit facts and stories, let me know and I’ll be happy to send them along to you.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Using Volunteers for Special Events
10 May, 2013

It’s special event season in some parts of the country, and close to it in others. Wineries are asking friends and family, as well as occasional workers, to man the battle stations during these events. They need extra bodies to check people in, dispense wristbands and glasses, food and in some cases pour wine.

One way or another, you should pay your “volunteers” for their work. When people are paid they are more likely to pay attention to the job and willing to take seriously the training you give them. You are training all your volunteers, aren’t you?

Recently, I had friends who came from out of town to stay with me and attend an event.  They are big wine fans, belong to numerous wine clubs, always join more when they come and buy cases of wine to take home with them. Just the type of people you want at your winery.

They went to a number of wineries and one in particular, from which they were planning on buying at least three cases of wine. They got to this winery about an hour and a quarter before the event ended. As they approached the bar, they noticed that the person behind the bar, who was closest to them, had just poured the last wine out of a bottle of a varietal they were particularly interested in. My friend remarked to her husband that the server had just poured the last of the wine. A gentleman with the winery overheard her and said, “Oh we will open another one.” He then walked on. The server, a volunteer, then said that he wouldn’t open another bottle. When they asked for a different wine, he said that he didn’t have a bottle of that wine open either, and wasn’t going to open another.

My friends left without buying end wine. The winery was down three cases of wine, and who knows how much more for the weekend – as I heard from someone else that he hadn’t been very polite to their party either.

My houseguests came back and told me the story. I have passed the information along to the people who own the winery, and I am sure that they will make it right. But my friends chose not to find the manager or to talk to anyone in the winery, so had it not been for me, the winery would not have found out. They would have just lost a customer.

Pet-Friendly Wineries – Part Two
03 May, 2013

Last week’s blog talked about having pets (your own) around the winery. This week I am expanding the theme to talk about your guests bringing their own animals to the winery.

The blog elicited great comments from wineries telling me stories regarding their own pets and visiting animals. One winery mentioned that, during a large event, their winery cat, an animal that loved being a part of action, wandered into the event area. While the cat sidled through the crowd, a guest tripped over him. Fortunately, the person was not hurt, though, as he fell onto concrete, it could have been a disaster. 

Another winery that allowed dogs, cats and once, even a duck into their tasting room had to stop the practice due to, as the winery, succinctly put it, “Two dogs, two unobservant masters, one nip and the threat of insurance cancellation.”

No winery wants its insurance cancelled because a visiting animal (or your own) injured another animal, or a guest.

If you are considering allowing visiting pets into your winery, check with your insurance company first, to find out if you need additions to your policy. You might also want to make sure that your insurance covers any damage your own pets may inflict on visitors (animal or human).

It’s not only insurance you have to consider. What are the government restrictions (city, county, state) that may prohibit allowing pets on the property? As they say, ignorance of the law is no defense, so better to find out first.

Also consider health department regulations if you allow animals into the tasting room. Whether you serve food or not, there may well be a list of laws regulating pets in the area.

By and large, the U.S. and Canada are pet-loving countries, which means there are lots of positives to allowing pets on your property. However, there are also negatives, some of which we have talked about in this blog. Do your due diligence before you adopt a pet-friendly policy, as it’s easier not to start than to cut of a benefit once people are used to it.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Wine & Pets – A Perfect Pairing
26 April, 2013

I have been to many wineries where the greeting committee consists of a winery dog or cat. Well, sometimes the cats do not so much greet you as give you a disdainful glance and wander off. Cats don’t like to appear too effusive.

We do have to remember though that not everyone likes dogs or cats, so if you have winery pets, they should to be non-threatening and lovable. In my travels I visited a winery where the winery dog was a Rottweiler. A Rottweiler that would bounce up to the car and bark at you! Now, I don’t know a lot about dogs, so I can’t tell the difference between a dog whose bark means, “Get out of the car and pet me” and a dog whose bark means, “Get out of the car and I’ll rip your leg off!” Especially as Rottweilers don’t have tails to wag.

The idea is that if you have a winery pet, make sure it is friendly. Visitors who bend down to pet a seemly docile cat do not want to get up with scratches up and down their arms, nor do they want to be growled at by territorial dogs. I used to work for a winery whose dog hated bicyclists, which was not good, as he would run barking and growling at them when they approached to tasting room.

Pets are a good way to promote your winery. Feature your pets as part of your website, Facebook pages and any other social media, as well as email and newsletters.

A pet-friendly weekend is a great idea. St. Francis Winery in Santa Rosa has an event every year where a local priest comes out and blesses animals brought to the winery (St. Francis of Assisi is the patron-saint of animals). Not only do they get a lot of people, the event gets a lot of publicity, too.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

The Spending Power of Women
19 April, 2013

The Nielsen people recently released some interesting information on the spending power of American women, which is huge and growing. According to Nielson the purchasing power of women ranges anywhere from $5 trillion to $15 trillion annually. Now, that kind of money will buy a heck of a lot of wine! Nielsen said that Fleishman-Hillard Inc., a PR and marketing company estimates that women will control two-thirds of the consumer wealth in the U.S. over the next decade and be beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in America, in the country’s history.

This bodes well for the wine industry, as women like to drink wine and like to buy wine. So it’s incumbent upon wineries to take a look at what it is that makes women want to buy in general, and specifically what makes that want to buy wine.

Studies have shown that women are more interested in the social experience that goes along with wine, as well as the stories about the wine and the winery. If that is the case, does your back label tell a story (preferably a story about people)? Women also buy wine to share it with friends and to create connection and memories with others.

Many women are more curious and more likely to ask questions, so giving them enough information to spark questions rather than overwhelming them with facts helps women remember what you have told them, because they are a part of the discussion. When talking to customers, especially women customers, it should always be a dialogue rather than a monologue.

Additionally, if you want to give women information that will make their lives easier, recipes and pairings go a long way to encourage buying. Having a collection of recipes ranging from simple appetizers and main courses to recipes that are more complex will give the “foodies” and the “let’s get dinner on the table in fifteen minutes” buyers information that is of interest to them.

Think about what your customers want to know, especially the women (the wine industry tends to cater to men anyway – with scores, reviews, etc.) and give them what they want.

If you don’t know what they want, ask!

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Advanced Seminar for Winery Owners and CEOs
05 April, 2013

Advanced Seminar

EnVision ReVision ReVive
A Must for Winery Owners, CEOs and Those Planning to Open Wineries.

Monday, April 22, 2013

7:30 a.m. – 4:15 p.m.

SSU – Cooperage 1

Registration and information


Dana Swilley <>

Whether you are just envisioning a winery or looking to revision the dream to better fit your reality, this one-day workshop examines the methodology and the aspects that make your vision viable by following the three-step process of Discover-Nurture-Act (DNA) and by utilizing the essential elements of:

  • Message
  • Product
  • People
  • Place
  • ROI

Understand how the cornerstones of individualizing your messages, defining your products, finding the right people and creating the place will bring you the return on investment, success, profitability and sustainability you desire. 

Taught by Gary Finnan and Elizabeth Slater, who have created powerful tried and tested concepts, processes, and tools for winery owners and CEOs to EnVision or ReVision and ReVive their businesses.

Location: Cooperage 1
Cost: $295

Registration: Dana Swilley at  707.664.3347 or email


Gary Finnan  I CxO

Gary Finnan is the founder and Chief Experience Officer, CXO, of The GFC Group, a creative development and strategic management firm formed to serve the destination, wine and hospitality industries.  He has more than 30 years experience, focusing on project development, strategic planning, creative facilitation, destination design, team training, teaching and project management.

Gary specializes in the business of creativity and as a catalyst in the development of strategic solutions and teams for a variety of national and international clients.  A sought after speaker, coach and industry leader in creative destination environment development, he utilizes work and cultural experience gained in Africa, Europe, Asia and the U.S. to bring a fresh cross-industry perspective to the development of individual businesses and destination environments.

Gary champions and blends the expectations with branded guest experience environments for high end destination clients in a cross-section of commercial industries, such as wine, luxury retail, franchise and destination banking and leads creative collaborative multicultural teams with proven ability to articulate project vision and move planning to action through implementation.


Elizabeth SlaterI CxO

Elizabeth Slater is a passionate and committed marketer. In addition to owning In Short Direct Marketing –a marketing company working in a variety of industries, she is the co-founder of the Wine Industry Network  –a business-to-business internet marketplace connecting wineries and growers with industry knowledge, services, product and suppliers.

Elizabeth (or E as she is known) specializes in all facets of creative strategic development, direct marketing, sales and customer relationships.  E’s work in business has spanned a number of diverse industries and provided her with an extensive breadth of knowledge and experience.

Internationally recognized within the wine industry as a seminar and workshop    leader speaker and trainer, E presents her innovative jammed seminars with humor and enthusiasm, useful and easy to implement concepts and information for wineries of all sizes as well as state associations and private groups.  Her innate intuitive and researched understanding of the customer and prospective customer’s wants, needs and desires makes her an invaluable resource for any business.

In addition to training, she teaches classes in marketing for Sonoma State University and Santa Rosa Junior College and is the direct marketing columnist for Vineyard & Winery Management. Her focus is primarily sales and marketing for products sold directly to consumers, working with wineries and other businesses in established and emerging markets.

A Wedding Reception on Facebook? Really!
29 March, 2013

A first for me today: I opened a Facebook email while sitting in Atlanta Airport waiting for the plane I was supposed to be taking to Richmond, VA for Wineries Unlimited to be fixed (it never was), and found that I had been invited to a Facebook wedding reception. The subject line (names changed to protect everyone) said, Susan invites you to Susan and Sam’s wedding reception on Facebook.

Was it a prank? Possibly not, I knew some of the people on the list of attendees.

What exactly is a Facebook wedding reception? Do I sit at home with a glass of sparkling wine and a cupcake and toast the happy bride and groom? Should I get dressed up? Am I on the hook for a gift, or can I just put a picture of a gift on Facebook?

A day later, finally at Wineries Unlimited and had the chance to investigate further the Facebook wedding reception. I found out that it was a Facebook invitation to a wedding reception, rather than the event being held on Facebook. I was mistaken, though I rather like the idea of a Facebook reception.

It just goes to show how easy it is to get hold of the wrong end of the stick. We don’t always read things the way the person who sent the email or other missive intended us to.

Before you send the document, walk away from it for a while (even a few minutes) and then take one more look before clicking “send”.

Be Thankful for your Customers
22 March, 2013

An acquaintance of mine (not in the wine business) is taking a wine class at the local college and one of her classmates told a story to the class. The classmate works in a tasting room and was telling the class about some customers who came from Utah on vacation to California. The classmate started making fun of the customers, saying they did not know anything about wine and that they got excited about some sparkling wine poured for them, that the classmate did not think was very good.

It turns out that the winery did not usually make sparkling wine, but they had some extra Chardonnay grapes. The classmate said that the people really liked the sparkling wine and bought a case of the wine, when really they should have bought the other wines that were much better. The person seemed somewhat disgusted with those customers for their lack of knowledge about wine. Interestingly enough, others in the class seemed to agree with her and applauded.

I am disheartened by this story and wonder how many people actually go to work in tasting rooms so they can feel superior to people who don’t know anything about wine. There might be more than I am willing to believe there are, based on the number of times I see or hear about servers treating people disrespectfully because they don’t know (what the server thinks is enough) about wine. If someone were to laugh at all the things that I don’t know, I could be laughed right out of California and halfway across the country – and this is a big country.

Perhaps the classmate didn’t mean any harm and was just enjoying having an audience. But another classmate (my acquaintance) will not be going in that winery any time soon – nor will she encourage her friends to go -, because she might feel she doesn’t know a lot about wine either, and doesn’t want to be made fun of.

We never know the ripples we might be causing that lead to lost customers and lost sales…

A Few Thoughts on Wine Labels
15 March, 2013

Your label is a front line marketing tool. It presents who you are as a business and as a product to people who, because of the label, will buy or not buy your wine.

Before you start creating or re-creating your label and before you bring a lot of other people into the process, give some thought to the type of label you want. Think too about where the wine is going to be sold. Is it primarily through the tasting or retail room, or is it going to be on store shelves, with dozens of other wines? A label that stands out when it has no competition from other labels may well be lost on a store shelf.

Research labels, the color, the shape, the typography. Find labels that you like and take the time to think about what attracts you to these labels. Do they have common elements that you find appealing and can incorporate into your label? Are they similar colors and is there a specific shape that draws your eye? When you understand the elements that you find attractive, take that information to your label designer.

Also talk to the label designer about your wants and needs. You should consider if you are looking for a label that will evolve over time, or if this wine will just be around for a couple of years.

Most importantly, find a label designer or graphic artist who is not only a competent artist/designer but one who also knows about business. While someone you know or are related to may be a great artist, they may not know a lot about the business of designing to sell or to be noticed. Find the person who is right for your business.

There’s More to Social Media Than Post and Click
08 March, 2013

Social Media for many retailers means posting something about their product and hoping that it interests your fans. Yet, as social media becomes more sophisticated, we need to be more aware of what our fans want from us.

The fans don’t only want to read what we have to say, they want us to read what they have to say, whether they are saying it directly to us, or putting it out on the internet in different places.

It’s important that we monitor what our fans (and those who may not be fans) are saying about us. Good or bad – we need to know. It’s also important that we respond to the comments, whether they are positive or negative.

Responding to negative comments is as much about letting others know that we care as it is about reaching out to the person who has made the negative comments. As more and more people use social media, we need to be there to say “thank you” to those who have positive things to say and “how can we make it better?” to those who are not so positive about their experiences with our hospitality or our brand.

We should also respond quickly (with 24 hours if possible) to those who ask questions or want more information from us.

There are sites you can go to (some at no charge and some paid) in order to find out what people are saying. So type in Social Monitoring into your browser, find out the tools to follow on what people are saying about your business, either directly or indirectly, and respond nicely (of course) to the comments.

Create two-way conversations with the people who regularly follow you. They will appreciate you, your business and your brand more – and appreciation sells product.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Now That’s Customer Service!
01 March, 2013

A friend of mine Michael McGuire is a policeman with the city of Lexington, KY.  Recently Michael gave a citation to a motorist for an infraction of the traffic laws. The motorist was responsible for paying the citation and court costs, which he did.

In addition, he wrote a letter to the Commander of the Lexington police telling him about his dealing with Michael. The fascinating part was that the letter was a letter of appreciation about the way Michael spoke to him and his wife, how courteous he was and how he explained that why doing what he, the motorist, did had put his passenger (the motorist’s wife) in danger and what a bad idea that was.

The motorist was so impressed by the way Michael dealt with him that he sat down and wrote a letter to the police department to let them know what a good job Michael had done and how he appreciated Michael’s demeanor, the time he had taken to explain the ramifications of his (the motorist’s) actions.

As I am sure you can imagine, it’s not often that a letter like this turns up at any police department anywhere. It’s not often that anyone sits down to write a letter of appreciation about an interaction with anyone, but to write a letter of appreciation about a policeman who gave you a citation is certainly amazing.

Congratulations, Michael, we’re impressed!

A tip of the glass from me to you!

When No Problem Really is a Problem
21 February, 2013

There are some words and phrases that are creeping or have crept into everyday usage that I am hoping will creep back out. I must admit I’m as guilty as anyone of getting into sloppy habits, using words and phrases that have taken the place of what I should be saying. Calling everyone “guys,” regardless of the gender of the people in my audience, is a shortcut that I am guilty of. I am working hard to stop doing that.

More and more, these days I am hearing the words, “No problem” as a response to a thank you a server, retailer clerk or other person in a service oriented business has received from a customer. What happened to “You’re welcome” or “It’s my pleasure” as an answer when someone is thanked?

The words, “No problem” have become an all too familiar response and I find it’s easy to fall into the habit of saying it, though I don’t like it. Many times, when I am being thanked, it is for doing the job I am being paid to do, so I should not be intimating in any way that I was even thinking that helping someone or doing my job was a problem for me.

This however is not the main reason I don’t like “no problem” as a response. We have taken a perfectly good positive response “You’re welcome” and instead use two negative words, the word NO and the word PROBLEM. We have also taken the spotlight from our customer (telling them that they are welcome to our best service) and put it firmly on ourselves (it is no problem for me). Even saying, “It’s my pleasure,” intimates that it is my pleasure to serve you (the customer) and when said with a sincere smile, can go a long way to making people feel special.

I encourage you to look at the language you use with visitors and customers and see if it is projecting the image you want to project. Is the language primarily positive, or are you saying things in negative rather than positive ways?

A tip of the glass from me to you!

The Final Word on Helping Unhappy Customers: Neutrality
15 February, 2013

It would be great if you could stay neutral when visitors/customers are upset and may be unfair in their assessment of the slight they perceive they have received from someone in your company. Maintain an impartial attitude and demeanor. Find a way that works for you to create neutrality. Here’s my way:

Some years ago, I had health issues that required me to take large doses of steroids. The drugs, altered by otherwise sunny disposition (gentle humor there), made me aggressive, assertive and angry a lot of the time. Looking back on that experience I realize there were many times when I was hard to deal with, for reasons that had nothing to do with the person upon whom I was venting anger. Since then, when I am the recipient of someone else’s anger and I can think of no reason that they should be speaking to me or treating me in the way that they are, I think to myself… “Well, perhaps they’re on steroids.”

Just thinking this reminds me that it’s not all about me and sometimes even makes me want to laugh. I try (usually successfully) not to laugh in front of the person who is obviously frustrated, as nothing seems to make people who are angry more angry than when they perceive that you are laughing at them.

I was talking to a winery owner the other day who told me that his mother used to say to him that perhaps the frustrated person “was wearing uncomfortable shoes.”

Think about what you can say to yourself that will bring you the neutrality you need to work with the visitor, so each of you goes away feeling happier.  Feel free to use my steroid line if you wish. I find it does the trick every time.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

AMAZING SPEAKERS • GREAT TOPICS • WINERY DIY presented by Vineyard & Winery Management
26 April, 2012

Winery DIY, May 9th at the Napa Marriott - a great refresher before the season really kicks into gear.  Experienced speakers from some of  Northern California's most successful small and large wineries. Learn to fire up your team, drive sales and return visits, and sell more at special events. Discover how to create the messaging that will draw people to your winery.

Explore the advantages. For more info and to register,

See you there!

Color Me Interested
21 November, 2011

I have been researching color lately and how color affects buying. On the website "infoplease" I came across an article by a bloke named David Johnson about Color Psychology. The article talks about different colors and how they make us feel. Mr. Johnson also reminds us…”in Western societies, the meanings of colors change over the years.” So it’s good to keep up on the latest trends in colors. 

Mr. Johnson explains how different colors are perceived. Purple for example connotes luxury, wealth and sophistication, though because purple is rare in nature it can appear artificial.  In tasting rooms purple may well make a great spot color.

Brown is another interesting color and in the article it said that light brown implies genuineness.  As the buzzword this year is authentic, light brown would be a good color to use.  Think about a tan paper for your tasting notes.

One thing I found quite fascinating is how the color yellow affects people. Mr. Johnson states, “While it is considered an optimistic color, people lose their tempers more often in yellow rooms, and babies cry more. It is the most difficult color for the eye to take in.”

Who would have thought!  Well perhaps lots of people, but not me.

There is a lot to consider about colors when designing a label, repainting your tasting room or choosing paper for your collateral materials.  I intend to continue with my research and will be posting more blogs about the use of color.

In the meantime, a tip of the glass from me to you.

Elizabeth Slater

In Short Direct Marketing,

Specializing in wine industry Workshops & Seminars to increase sales and enhance customer service.

Hospitality employees say the funniest things!
10 October, 2011

Are you sure you know what your employees are saying in your tasting room or on tours?

Really?  Here are a couple of things I heard from consumers who were visiting tasting rooms or taking tours at wineries.

In a tasting room to a visitor who was tasting wines:

“Give this a try. I think you might like it if it hasn’t turned.”  (It had turned.)

To a tour group:

“Please don’t embarrass yourselves by holding the glass by the bowl.”

Hard to believe, but true nevertheless, that a pourer would serve wine that had been opened for a while without checking it. Especially when s/he had an inkling that it might be past it’s taste by date. Or that a tour guide would be so condescending.

And we wonder why more people don't drink wine.

Don’t assume that your servers are always saying or doing the right thing or are telling your story the way you want it told.  Take the time to review your messaging with everyone on your staff who comes into contact with visitors and customers. Listen to your employees telling your story. Have they got it right?

In Short Direct Marketing:  Training in Sales & Customer Service for large and small wineries, TeamBuilding, Crafting Emails that Sell

Contact us at or check out the blog at join us on Facebook at

5 Successful Sales Methods
06 September, 2011

Whether you’re selling to a consumer, retailer or restauranteur, you want them to know the reasons that your wine’s a good buy and what it will do for them or their customers.

1.            Sell Emotions

Visitors buy because they feel not because they think, so connecting with visitors emotionally makes it easier dor them to make the decision to buy.

2.            Sell Inclusion

Visitors do not always believe they know enough about wine to make good buying decisions. Let them know there are others who feel the same way about the wines as they do.

3.            Sell Rewards

Wine is considered a luxury item (regardless of price) and may be sold as a reward.  In this economy especially it is important to remind visitors that while they may not be able to afford some of the things they want, they can reward themselves with a bottle or two of wine.

4.            Sell Value

The perception of value in visitors’ minds is not necessarily related to the price of the wine. Value incorporates the things that allow visitors to believe in your product and how enjoying it will enrich their lives.

5.            Sell Opportunity

What do visitors have the opportunity to purchase at the winery that they can’t purchase elsewhere?  It could be older vintages, signed bottles, or a wine club membership.

Remind your visitors and regular customers how much they love the wine, how much others love it, that it makes their life better (they deserve it), it has value and visiting the winery gives them the option to buy things not available anywhere in the world.

Sell well

For more ideas on this topic email or check out my blog at join me on Facebookat

More Visitors Don’t Necessarily Mean More Sales
15 August, 2011

I can’t tell you how many times I hear wineries, when talking about an event weekend say, “We saw fewer people on Sunday but sold more wine.”

Large numbers of people are not always a guarantee of an increase in sales. So as harvest is just around the corner or in some parts of the country already here, now is the time wineries will see an uptick in the amount of visitors, which should mean an uptick in sales – though that is not always the case.

Be ready for success by doing the things that will make it easy for visitors to buy.

  1. Have enough staff.  You will lose more money by not employing enough tasting room staff,
  2. Designate a staff member as a greeter during busier times. This person greets people when they walk in the door, asks visitors if they are new to wine tasting or your winery and explains the drill.
  3. If visitors may have to wait to get to the tasting counter have someone on the floor to pour visitors a first taste or if you charge for tasting a complimentary taste while they wait.
  4. Order forms or tasting notes that double as order forms make it easier for people to remember what they liked, to mark what they want and the quantity. Pourers should encourage visitors to put a mark on the order form next to their favorites.
  5. Completed order forms may also be used at the register. It is easier for the cashier and can be used by the packer and in busy times you should have a designated packer.

Your visitors will wait to taste but don’t want to wait to buy. The more prepared you are the larger your sales will be. Evaluate your procedures and upgrade as needed. And, though some would think otherwise:

‘Tis the season to be jolly – falalalala – lalalala

For more ideas on boosting your sales or for other direct marketing info, email me at or join me on Facebook at


Jump Start Your Sales
01 June, 2010

Jump start your direct to consumer sales by giving your staff the tools, concepts and training they need to increase sales and conversion rates 

Sales and customer service training for staff is the single most important thing you can do to increase sales of wine and wine club memberships. Your wine has to be good but if the Experience is unremarkable or indifferent it doesn't matter how good your wine is, visitors are not going to buy or even remember your winery. Visitors purchase because they become emotionally connected to the winery, staff and products! Yet most winery staff do not engage visitors using the emotional triggers that promote purchasing.

Increase your employees ability to engage visitors in ways that create emotional attachments so visitors who come in as strangers leave as evangelists for your winery and wines. Provide a safe training environment for staff to hone their skills and challenge the assumptions that inhibit sales.  In short, call Elizabeth Slater for more information on setting up your training program

Please call for quotes on serminars and workshops

Title Name Email Phone
Founder Elizabeth Slater 707-836-8730
Adobe Acrobat File

Let wine club prospects know the emotional reasons to become a member and increase club sign ups

Adobe Acrobat File

Become more creative with your marketing and sales programs

Adobe Acrobat File

Are you ready for a successful sales season? Get your priorities in order and jump into a profitable 2010

Adobe Acrobat File

Strategies and tactics for connecting with tasting room visitors.