I haven’t written a blog post in a couple weeks.
The reason is… well, my dog died, and I haven’t much felt like writing.
Most of us have pets, and they come and go and touch us and befriend us and love us. Sometimes we are lucky enough to get a special furry soul that teaches us.
Uther was special. And he taught me a lot.
Born “Roy” on July 13, 2002 to a healthy litter with two sisters and a brother, I took him home in early September at about 9 weeks and named him Uther Pendragon, the High King of All England. I got to watch him go from puppy-hood, to adolescence, to an adult dog, to old age. His body and strength changed, but never his spirit.
Here are just a few things I learned from the bulldog.
In this digital age it is even more important to keep up on how traditional marketing approaches are evolving, and the new ones coming onto the scene. I was lucky enough to teach a class on Social Media last week and was delighted that there were some questions I didn’t know. Always keep a “look this up” list in your side margin. Google is a fantastic tool. Use it often and without judgement. And if anyone tells you they’re an expert in something, rest assured they’ll be obsolete next week.
Give it all you’ve got and keep working at it. Direct to Consumer sales are infinitely harder, and more rewarding, than Wholesale sales. To do DTC well, it needs to be separate, but equal, for 5-20% of the sales. What I mean by that is you need to do the basics, like pricing, distribution, legal, packaging, just like your wine going to Wholesale, but then you lay on top of that customized DTC-only consumer engagement channels like websites, wine clubs, tasting rooms, events, emails, databases/CRM and social media. And the returns for these channels are not the pallates that you see going out the door to Costco. They are much smaller, and healthier for your brand, and your bottle-line. Stick to it and be committed.
There are many ideas and opinions about what to do to increase sales, engagement and customer opinion. Listen to them with a healthy mix of skepticism and trust. Some ideas sound far-fetched, but who ever thought you could watch TV shows on a phone 15 years ago? And, maybe the application isn’t perfect for the wine industry or your specific situation, but you can find something useful in it to apply to your business.
There is no doubt that running a winery is hard work. And putting a lot of money into a product that you can’t even sell or see returns for several years is a stressful business model. By the time the wine is finally ready for sales we’re so impatient to pay off our creditors we sometimes forget that customers come to us for escape. We’re supposed to be providing them with “the Wine Country” lifestyle. So, in all this talk about metrics, and best practices, and increasing sales, and productivity, don’t forget to not take this too seriously. Our customers need us to entertain them, too.
To help our customers engage with us, engage in the atmosphere around you. Enjoy the country. Know the best restaurants and hotels. Go to the festivals. And, don’t forget to take time to do what you need to do to relax and be at your best in front of customers. This is especially important for tasting room or social media or phone staff that are on the front-line projecting your brand to customers.
Don’t devalue your brand. Don’t panic and lower prices. If you believe in your product, keep going out there to find others that do, too. There are so many ways now – from hand pouring to blogging to videos – to get your story out and be heard.
Your club is your pack. Don’t gouge them with repeated offers. Don’t take them for granted by discounting out from under them. Find out what they want and need and give it to them and they’ll repay you with sales again and again. And, referrals. It is remarkable what true relationships will yield. Take time to create and nurture them.
Uther lived to see 5 months shy of his 11th birthday – no small feat for a breed whose average life expectancy is 8-9 years. He was an awesome friend and companion and I will miss him dearly. But his lessons will live on and I do believe he made me a better person.