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New Year, New Focus

January is traditionally the slowest sales month of the year, so it is a good time to shift focus from sales to planning.  It is an opportunity to reorganize, adjust and revisit your current direct-to-consumer program.  Is your wine club working for you and your customers?  Is your release schedule going to stay the same?  Are you introducing new wines or discontinuing old favorites?  Now is the time to assess your program and let your customers know your plan for the coming year.

Image result for 2018Set your schedule.  January is a great time to set your schedule for the coming year – that includes releases, events, club shipments and your communications calendar.  We all know that things change but if you begin with a basic annual framework, adjusting to challenges that arise becomes much easier when you know what you have to work around.

Do a cash flow projection.  I encourage all my clients to do both a cash flow projection and case projection every year.  This allows them to really think about what wine is needed for the program so they don’t come up short or have too much of a surplus.  Take into account onsite sales, wine club sales, and eCommerce sales.  Build upon the past numbers and factor in an increase based on past performance and any new programs.

Communicate with your customers.  Now is the time to share your vision for the new year without worrying about selling anything.  Thank your customers for their loyalty, give them event dates so they can plan ahead to attend and let them know of any price increases or potential allocation issues with your new wines.  Keep them in the loop – it will keep them interested and engaged.

Revisit your compliance.  The beginning of a new year is a great time review your direct shipping permits and fill in any gaps.  Schedule a review with your compliance agent to make sure all permits are up-to-date and reporting is going smoothly.  It will head off any problems as you set your annual plan in motion.

Need help planning your 2018 program?  Give us a call at 707-738-1301 or email us

Crafting an Effective Club Newsletter

Newsletter imageOne of the benefits of a loyalty club should be special communications that only members receive.  Anything you can do to make the customer feel like they belong to an elite group that has special insight and connection to your brand will keep them loyal.  At the top of the list of communications should be the Club Newsletter.  A printed copy, in alignment with the rest of your branding, should be included with every shipment or package for your Club member.  Want to save on paper and printing?  An electronic copy can be prepared but please note that having something physical in one’s hand has a better chance of being read, used and saved.

The Club Newsletter should include:

Tasting notes.  Club members are interested enough in your products that they have joined your Club, so make sure that the customer can understand what they are tasting.  They can then share that knowledge as they enjoy your product with friends and family, giving them an opportunity to shine.

A pairing recipe that includes the product in the recipe.  In my opinion, this one is critical. You want the customer to open that bottle, enjoy it any way they can and then reorder more.  It is easy for someone to just stick the bottle in the cellar without another thought but if you give them a reason to open it, chances that they will want more increases.  And a printed copy of a recipe can be saved and enjoyed later, reinforcing your brand every time they use it.

A personalized note or letter. Whether it is from the owner, the production manager or hospitality team, a short paragraph or two about your facility, events or upcoming releases allows you to address your customers directly, reinforcing your message about your brand.  Be sure to use the “voice” that you have established in your branding and marketing plan for consistency.

Special offers.  Give your Club Members incentive to read your newsletter by including a special shipping offer for reorders, an invitation to a special event or a coupon to use on their next visit to your Tasting Room.  You can easily measure the effectiveness of these offers through the use of coupon codes, so play around with it and see what works best for your brand.

Club shipments give you an ideal opportunity to communicate with your best customers, so make sure you make the most of it! Need help creating the perfect newsletter?  Contact us at or 707-738-1301.


Preparing for Christmas – in July

Yes, it is that time of year – it really is time to start thinking about the upcoming fall and holiday season.  The fourth quarter of the year is critical to the bottom line for many producers, so do some planning now and hit the ground running when fall arrives.

Here are some easy planning steps to help:

christmasMake a release schedule.  What do your fall releases and buying opportunities look like?  Have you scheduled shipping dates with your fulfillment company?  Whether you have a regular club shipment going out or if you have a new release shipping to your allocation list, make sure your shipper knows your dates and can accommodate you.

Schedule your communications.  Starting in August, lead up to any new releases you have coming out.  Determine your holiday packages, large format bottles, etc. and work those into your communications calendar.  You can always adjust as you implement but outlining the process now will build your foundation for the rest of the year.

Check your inventory.  If you want to put together some special packages for the holidays, make sure you have the products available and you set that inventory aside. Remember:  exclusivity is attractive, so make sure you pull out your limited wines during the holiday rush and promote until they are gone!

Outline Your Promotions.  Put together packages that appeal to all types of customers – both in price point and selection.  Now is the time to feature large format bottles and more expensive wines, so put together packages that will sell!

Start a Corporate Gift Program.  Many of your customers are influential at small and large businesses alike and a gift of your products can be a perfect way for them to thank their employees and vendors.  Put together a program that will appeal to those buyers – and set up the systems on the backend to make it easy for them to implement!

Need help with your fall releases and holiday sales?  Give us a call at 707-738-1301 or email us at  Happy Holidays!

Tap Your Local Market

Not all brands have the luxury of being located in a premiere wine region with national appeal, and shipping concerns can be prohibitive in certain parts of the country.  No matter where you are, one of the best ways to promote your brand and your products is to start small and market locally.  There are many opportunities available for small wineries to gain a solid following from their neighbors.

localLocal Media. Write a press release and send it out electronically to local media outlets.  Find out who the lifestyle editors are in your area and invite them personally to experience your tasting room and/or facility and let them know exactly what you do.  Writing an article on you is completely discretionary but most newspapers and bloggers are always looking for content.

Tasting Room.  Your tasting room is a great way to connect with customers – you can offer discounts on tastings and products for local residents.  Start a “locals” program and it will spread quickly throughout the community, bringing in people to try your product and experience your tasting room.  They will then refer you to friends and family who come to visit, broadening your base.

Local Advertising.  In conjunction with your media outreach, you can advertise through local channels, targeting your region.  You can also create parameters in social media advertising that include your local area and demographics.  Talk to your sales representatives for each channel you are considering and find out how to make the most of your advertising dollar.

Regional Events.  There are opportunities to participate in local events that attract the people in your community and beyond.  From state fairs to local food events, start a search of events that you would like to attend and showcase your products.  Be sure to include a business card, mailing list signup or coupons in your collateral material to hand out to attendees.

There is no better way to get your brand recognized locally than to go out and take advantage of everything your community or region offers.  Start locally and grow globally!

Reorganizing Your Wine Club

Do you have a wine club that is just not working anymore?  Maybe it is difficult to manage?  Following a few basic premises, you can breathe life back into a stale program and begin to take it to the next level.

frequencyReset your goals.  What may have worked a few years ago isn’t working anymore due to inventory or facility changes.  Revisit your initial wine club goals and make sure they are still relevant.

Re-evalutate your management systems.  Is your software program still fulfilling your needs?  Do you have a reliable person in charge of your wine club?  Change is never easy but it can be the path to increased membership and more direct sales with reduced angst along the way.

Ask your customers what they want.  Too often, we decide what is right and wrong for our customers without their input.  Do an online survey and find out what is important to them – the answers might surprise you.

Grandfather existing customers into the old program, if necessary.  While recreating a Loyalty Club, it is important not to alienate old customers in search of new customers and realize some (most) people hate change, especially if there is no added benefit.  While attrition will eventually help you deal with an outdated program, be mindful that you still need to fulfill the needs of your most loyal fans.

Be consistent.  The most successful programs are those that are reliable and consistent, so be sure to just “improve” upon what you are already doing.

Need help evaluating or managing your wine club?  Contact us at or 707-738–1301.


Managing Your Data Entry

dataentryOne of the services I provide for clients is data entry – managing customer records and processing orders well is a key part of a successful direct sales program.  Recently, a client attended an out-of-state event that resulted in many orders – these orders came in hard copy form (the use of an iPad for orders in such a setting can be inefficient, especially if everyone want to place an order or leave at the same time – you need to capture the order while you can and paper order forms worked well in this particular environment) and the data entry began.  Data is one of those things that is tedious but crucial – whether it is the correct spelling of the customer’s name or the proper punctuation in a company address, it is easy to destroy a good database without proper entry or management.

If you are converting a database or starting one from scratch, it is important to identify your goals before you start.

  • What fields are you going to need?
  • What platforms are you currently using to reach your audience?
  • Which other platforms are you considering using in the future?
  • What customer types will you use?

Although you can’t anticipate all factors at the outset, it is important to choose a program that is flexible and modifiable without affecting previous data.

Make sure you have the proper procedures outlined and database access in place for your staff.  The more people you have “managing” the data, the larger the margin of error will occur and potential damage of what you have put in place.  If you have more than one person responsible for data entry (not recommended), make sure the guidelines are clear and concise in order to maintain consistency.

You may have an online mailing list signup that goes directly into your system.  Yes, I monitor those digital signups closely as well.  Many people will not use proper capitalization or will have spelling errors, so in order to keep the database clean, I make appropriate changes.

Database management needs to be an integral part of your direct sales program – with the proper tools in place, you can provide excellent communication and outstanding customer service.

The Importance of Content Marketing

content marketingcon·tent mar·ket·inga type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.

Do you have something to say about your brand, products or organization?  The content you create is critical to conveying to others what you want them to see.  Content must be created from the outset of your business and built upon every day throughout all communications. It must be authentic and compelling – and it should target your customer’s interest.

Important pieces of content you should develop include:

 Your story.  What makes you unique?  What is your passion?  Why did you start your business?  Compelling stories make people relate and empathize, so make sure your content is powerful and personal.

 Your products.  If you spend a great deal of time and money producing your wine, share that information.  Create a profile for every product you produce and share that content through all your mediums:  website, social media, printed pieces and blogs.

Images.  We have all heard the saying: “a picture paints a thousand words” and it is true.  You can make a powerful impression with visual content – be thoughtful when you decide what you want your customers to feel when they look at your images and be consistent through all your mediums.

Videos.  Videos can also draw people into your brand – but make sure it contains interesting or entertaining content.  People’s attention spans are about 2 minutes with videos, so make them short, sweet and powerful.

Blogs.  Blog can be very powerful pieces of content – you can share information on a specific aspect of production or talk about the pet at the winery (if that is something your audience relates to on an ongoing basis).  Whatever you choose to share, be consistent with posting and try to get multiple people involved in the writing to add different perspectives.

Good content marketing is critical to the success of your brand, so spend some time and develop a good program that you can implement over a period of time.


Making the Most of Good Press

So you sent in your product to a popular trade publication to be reviewed and they gave an outstanding rating. Or maybe you submitted your wine to a competition and it came back as Best in Show.  How do you get that information out to your customers, both consumers and trade?

95pointsPost it on your website.  Put if front and center for all to see.  If you have more than one good review, create a dedicated section on your website.  Preserving these accolades for the future can be helpful to those researching the wine and it will show a history of excellence for your brand.

Send an email campaign.  Let both your consumers and trade partners know of the outstanding product you have for sale, with links for ordering.  Nothing spurs action like good reviews and the thought that they may miss out on this special product.

Create a shelftalker.  If the product is in the marketplace, make a shelftalker featuring the score and review on it and send to your retailers. Make it easy for them to promote – and sell!

Write a blog post.  Feature the product in the blog and explain how it was created and expand on its best attributes.  It will help define your story and will intrigue readers to find out more information about you and your brand.

Disseminate on social media.  Post through your social media channels, with a link for ordering, if appropriate.  Tag others to encourage reposting and try to spread the word far and wide.

Print up sheets for your Tasting Room.  If you have a Tasting Room, include a flyer on the counter with the recent review and/or score.  It will give people something to read as they are tasting and bring attention to that particular product and your brand excellence.

Excellent Customer Service

We all know that what differentiates us from our competition can be customer service – with all things being equal, the one with the best customer support will win every time.  But how do you create a culture of customer service that you can be proud of and that reaches to every element of your organization?

customer-serviceBe responsive.  Customer expectations have risen – if they send an email, they want an immediate response (or at least within 24 hours).  If they leave a message, they want a call back.  If they send a text, they want a return text.  It requires you to be savvy in all aspects of communication – it is crucial to providing good customer service.

Be personal.  Get to know your customers and encourage friendly interaction, even when they are not ordering.  They want that connection to be strong and positive – tell them what is happening at the winery, ask them how they liked the latest release and if they have any plans to visit.  Treat them like a friend and they will respond like a friend.

Find out what they want and give it to them (or explain why you can’t).  Customer satisfaction surveys can be immensely helpful in understanding your customers and what they like about you.  Making decisions in a vacuum may be easiest for you but if you really want to please your customers, bring them into the conversation.

Choose your partners wisely.  This is one of the most important things to consider. There is a process to the customer experience – if your website makes product information or ordering difficult to find, the customer will get frustrated.  If your contact information is not readily available online for questions, the customer won’t search it out.  If your online store doesn’t work properly, you won’t get the order and the customer will go somewhere else.  And it doesn’t help if the whole ordering process goes smoothly and then your fulfillment company fails – the whole system breaks down at the end and that is what the customer remembers. So make sure your vendors have the same high standards that you do in order to make the customer service experience seamless and pleasant.

Accept responsibility.  Yes, everyone knows things happen. But how you handle difficult situations should make all the difference between a good experience and an unsatisfying one. Do whatever it takes to fix the situation – and let the customer know that you are on it!  Customers can be very forgiving if you show that you care and are taking steps to address their concerns.

Commit to excellent customer service and you will enjoy continued success and growth!


Creating a Communications Calendar

Calendar Planning ConceptThe number one question for many wineries is how to establish a solid communications calendar for their customers.  “We don’t want to bug our customers, so we need to make sure we don’t send too many emails.” is the number one thing new clients say to me.  My response is:  the customer has given you their contact information, thereby stating they WANT to hear from you.  But a good communications calendar can be invaluable in managing information so there is no redundancy, the message is relevant and you are always on the customer’s mind.

Elements of a solid internal communications calendar include:

Release schedule.  This is the number one thing that your calendar should include.  Sit down with the owners, winemakers, decision-makers and establish at least a rough outline of what the releases will be this year.  Wine Club member always want to know what they are getting and this insures that you can promote and inform your most valuable customers.

Blog posts.  What topics are you going to share with your followers this year?  Outline 12 key topics and assign them to the calendar so you are blogging at least once a month.  Is your barrel program integral to your wines?  Are you vineyards special in some way?  Talk about it!  This doesn’t mean you can’t change or add topics as you go along but it will give you a base upon which to build a solid blogging program.

Email campaigns.  Put some dates on the calendar for email creation and launch, built around your wine releases, newsletter schedule, blogs, special events, etc.  This will help you stick to execution – even if you need to adjust a bit throughout the year, you know it has to be done sometime and it gets on  your to-do list.

Social media.  You now have some content for your social media outlets.  While you are getting information about your barrel program to write about, take some pictures that will help promote your blog posts on Facebook or send a link to the blog page from Twitter.

The most important thing about a Communications Calendar is creating one that works for you.  There are many templates out there you can make your own or simply create one that works for you.  Taking time to create content is important – but disseminating that content to your audience is just as important.

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