I Heard It Through the Grapevine

Recently, I had the pleasure of taking the afternoon off (which I highly recommend), to go visit a couple of small wineries throughout southern Wisconsin.  It was a very pleasant day, spent with a very dear friend.  We were able to take in all of the aromas of fig, cherries, blueberries, oak, and many more of the indulgent ingredients used to make the delicious flavors of reds and whites we had sampled and savored.  In visiting these small wineries, my eyes were opened to just how different similar businesses can operate and present themselves to the public.

The first winery that we visited appeared more rustic and farm-like.  From the outside, you could see a small sitting area where friends and family could socialize and sample wine, cheese, crackers, and fruit samples.  As you entered the winery, the setup was a showroom with a bar for sampling different wines, as well as displays for showcase and retail.

wineriesIn sampling several wines, one of the wines was called an “Ice Wine.”  This type of wine is seasonal due to the fact that the grape fermentation process has to be completed during the winter months, when those particular grapes are ready for picking.  My point in all of this is that I am not a wine expert, but rather, that I was very interested in purchasing this wine, yet was not able to at that time due to seasonal availability.

My first question to the business owner was if their winery sold this product online.  I was happy to find out that they indeed did, and in the future I could simply hop online and order whatever wines I wanted, depending on the season, and didn’t need to make a special trip to the winery.

Win/win!  I got my wine, she got her sale.

What did I like best about this winery?

  • The fact that you had access to online purchasing.  This is entirely overlooked these days and almost all too convenient.  Yes, it’s wonderful to get out of the office on a weekday afternoon, but as we all know, this is not always an option.  Having peace of mind that this scrumptious wine is only a click away had me instantly sold.  Not to mention, this winery now has a future repeat customer.
  • Simple and heartfelt customer service.  The business owner was polite, courteous, able to answer all of my questions, and made our experience very enjoyable and at ease.
  • For an extra dollar or two, we were able to taste the finest port wines that they sold, and also an option to sample ice wine.  These are clearly the most expensive wines sold at the vineyard, so a smart move on their part to offer a charge for sampling.  Keeps you curious and then you have to say “Yes!”
  • The opportunity was given to stay at the bar for a free sampling (within the public eye), or to purchase a wine flute at a small cost, and take your sampling elsewhere, for privacy.
  • Purchases were very reasonable and comparable to market value elsewhere.

What was this winery lacking?

  • Advertising!  Besides from a simple Google search, I had never heard of this quaint, little piece of heaven.  Social media would greatly boost sales for this hidden treasure.  Newsletters could spotlight seasonal wine purchases!  Even a simple billboard on the side of the road would have been extremely helpful for navigational purposes.
  • Tours.  This particular winery was too small for an actual distillery tour, but they had a nice vineyard and I imagine a bottling area somewhere behind the scenes.  Tours can be an interactive way to detail more about the industry, draw in your customer base, and add to higher retail sales at the end of the tour.

Up Next Our next stop of the day included another small, home-grown vineyard.  This winery appeared to be a newly constructed building, which both my friend and I found to be very appealing and trendy.  The view was absolutely gorgeous, all countryside for as far as one could see.  We found nothing new to the wine tasting experience at this business, except that they were way more frugal with the samples and we weren’t offered as much of a selection.

When I asked the same question about selling their wine online I was disappointed to hear they didn’t.  If I wanted a seasonal wine, or even to stock up on their year-round best sellers, I had to make a special trip to the winery which was over an hour away.

Repeat customer?  Probably not.

What did I like best about this winery?

  • The showcase room was modern and had trendy merchandise for purchase.  It also had a creative looking jukebox, playing a great range of old school and new school music that triggered some “blast from the past” memories.
  • A beautiful outside patio area to take your samples for privacy.
  • Purchases were very reasonable and comparable to market value elsewhere.

What was this winery lacking?

  • No access to online purchasing.   This winery offered those special port and ice wines that I had mentioned earlier.  Unfortunately, the only way that I’d be able to purchase a bottle of either option, would be to return to this vineyard.  When there are 33 others throughout the state that I wish to see, I’m not sure that I’d be drawn to return to this particular one.
  • Advertising!  Besides from a simple Google search, I had never heard of this vineyard either.  The website was actually outdated and had the old directions from their last location.  After a few wrong turns and a big drooling dog that wrecked my sundress (long story), we finally made it to this destination.
  • Not the greatest customer service.  The business owner of many years seemed more interested in closing shop for the day, than catering to a couple of young professionals (and one on her birthday).  She eventually came around after we killed her with kindness, but even then, she still seemed done for the day.
  • Tours.  Another case where this particular winery was too small for an actual distillery tour, but still had potential to show off their vineyards with the gorgeous view, and their bottling area.

All in all, what did I learn from my experiences at the wineries?  I found that it really doesn’t matter if the business is old or new, it comes down to character and customer service.  The business owners that go the extra mile to welcome customers will experience the most return business in the long-run.

I was also reminded how important it is to have a modern-day website and keep current with your website, not only for advertising, but to market to your current and future clientele.  Newsletters, billboards, and social media are never a bad thing when attempting to promote your talents and industry expertise.

Most of all, I can’t express enough how important it is to take time out for you and loved ones.  Cherish and treasure those precious moments where you can just get away and enjoy life!

As they say in Italy and in the Housewives of New Jersey, “SALUD.”

Branding for Small Businesses

As a business owner one of your top priorities is how your company is perceived to your prospective clients.  Careful crafting of your brand matters, no matter how big or small your business is.   You could have the most innovative service or product, but you need to make potential clients aware of it before you can turn it into a success.  Unfortunately marketing your business isn’t as easy as just placing your logo and a sales message on a postcard or flyer and mailing it to prospective clients.  Marketing is about branding your business so potential clients have an idea of what your business is about, what it may be like to work with you, and how you are different from your competitors.

Simple Works How is your business different from your competitors?  What makes your services or products unique and original?  What aspect of your business is the most attractive to the client?  These are just a few of the questions that should be addressed by your brand.  It should be conveyed in a smooth, easily understood, uncluttered way that is tailored to you audience.  Simple and direct.

Give Your Words a Voice Often times communicating with your prospective clients is done through a series of direct mail pieces, emails, newsletters, or your very own website.  Creating a unified “voice” that can deliver your message in addition to producing an overall image for your company will set you apart from competitors and take your communications from passive to active.  Aligning your message and brand across all channels such as print, website, blog, and social networking will further strengthen your voice.

Consistency is Key Sometimes a small tweak in your overall image is necessary to get a buzz going.  Changing a font here, a color there, or a new image to represent your brand could all help in highlighting your business in new, exciting, and different ways to the same audience, or help in attracting a completely new one.  Once you have identified which tweak or series of tweaks generates the biggest response stick with it and modify all your communications and client accessed websites to reflect that voice, message, and image.  Committing to the change once it is made is the most crucial step.  You may not get the desired results immediately, but scrapping all the work you’ve put in will only be a waste of your time and money, as well as confuse potential clients.

Building your brand can be a labor of love.  If you put in the work and let your individuality pour into your business and let it shine through your communication pieces this will truly set you apart from your competitors.  Your current and potential clients will see your products and services as genuine and attainable.  Branding is all about perceptions, so build the perception you want them to have!