Monday, August 25, 2014

Bitch, Bitch, Bitch

Piss, moan, and complain. I hear a lot of this these days about tasting room traffic or mainly the lack thereof. Some tasting rooms have only a couple of guests per day. Maybe I can give them a little insight, since they don't seem to be in creative problem solving mode.

Along about 2008 a lot of people opened wineries - well at least tasting rooms. Traffic was heavy to tasting rooms back then and they saw they could sell a $3.00 bottle of wine for $40.00. Wow, that's $37.00 profit per bottle. If I sell a mere 2500 cases, I will make a million dollars. I'll have people waiting to be on my waiting list to buy my wine. I'll only be open for special events, the rest of the time I will be in Hawaii. 850+ wineries later, the world has changed. Wine tasting is no longer a pastime. People buy wine at Total Wine or Grocery Outlet. Frankly, the fun is gone. (True confession: I don't go wine tasting any more.) There are just too many people in business (not the hospitality business, no, the business of making money.) - a business  they didn't understand to begin with.

To counter this the Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail devised a passport to its wineries. Each winery was to offer some special enticement to get customers to choose their winery from all the rest. Logic says the better the deal, the more customers you will get. Right? Most wineries didn't get it. What they offered amounted to a free drink of water with a wine purchase. Three of the wineries that charge a tasting fee, offered to waive the tasting fee for a passport holder. Trust me on this. Waiving the tasting fee for any reason is good business. These wineries get it. People may be used to tasting fees, but that doesn't mean they like them. One winery would not waive the tasting fee because they made more money on tasting fees than wine sales. (I would look seriously at the price/quality of my wine.) The other benefit was that by selling a passport, other wineries in the area would share the wealth by keeping people in the area. Only about three wineries sell passports. The rest say it is too much trouble to support the marketing group. (They reason: if I sold a customer a passport, I would have to give them a 3% discount on a $30 purchase except reserve wines which are not discounted.) Why do you even belong to a marketing group if you are not going to participate? Oh, to be on 'the map.' Well, dummy, the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau gives away a free map with every winery on it - members or not! What part of stupid don't you get?

If you buy a passport, you are invited to the Passport Party where you are supposedly able to schmooze with the winemakers and owners. These things are huge in the Napa Valley and cost a bundle. The Snake in the Glass party was only $35. One hundred people signed up. (Some of these people had never been to our winery. It was a good chance to invite them personally.)

Wow, a chance to massage 100 of your top customers is one I wouldn't pass up. I keep repeating myself; some wineries don't get it. One winery didn't even deliver their wine to be poured. They appeared as 'information not available' on the program. Another dropped off their wine and quickly headed to something more important than 100 customers. Others got their wine there, but didn't show. The best they could do is send the tasting room staff. (Duh, I see them in the tasting room. I don't go to a paid special event to see them. I go to rub shoulders with the owners and winemakers.)

Repeat customers are the best customers. I can't believe how many stories I get about people being put off by wineries. One winery refused to stamp the passport if the person didn't taste wine. Stamp the goddam passport. It doesn't cost a thing. The customer said they would never go back.

Speaking of repeat customers, one winery has a wonderful tasting room employee and the other one does not want to be there. Every day she works repeat customers are lost. If you can't be good, do yourself a favor and just be closed.

Does anyone want to form a marketing group where all the wineries agree on the ground rules? 1. Whatever we do, we all do it? Participation is a mandatory. 2. We guarantee the customer will have a positive quality experience at all of our tasting rooms. 3. If you don't follow through, you are gone. 4. You can be on 'the map.'

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