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A Marketing Lesson from Sonoma County

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California Staffing Professionals Wine Tour 2012

Yum! And yuck!

Yesterday, I had my first ever visit to wineries in Sonoma County. I was part of the California Staffing Professionals wine tour, which was a fantastic event (thank you Diane!).

But this story is not about the wines. It’s about marketing. And the lessons I learned from the four wineries we visited.

Lesson 1: Tell a great story.

If you’ve ever been to a wine tasting, you know that every bottle comes with a story. A story about its origin. A story about the mix of flavors and aromas. We even heard a story about nearby wildfires and how they infused a smoky taste into one of the vintages.

While I was a bit of a cynic about the tales being told, I still loved the stories. They sold the product. In fact, I noticed more bottles being purchased at the wineries where the best stories were told.

And that’s the lesson. If you want to sell value, and higher margin staffing services, you need to tell great stories. Stories about your sourcing and evaluation process. Stories about your process for quality management. Stories about the people in your database, the clients you serve, and the reasons you can provide talent no one else can match. Your stories should translate the rational, left brained value of your services into an emotional, right brained experience that makes people want to do business with you.

Lesson 2: Tell the right story.

At the first winery we visited, our host told stories about the best food pairing for each wine we sampled. Unfortunately, all this did was make us hungry for the food we were missing, and it made us question the taste we were experiencing since the wine was not complementing the suggested foods.

Stories are essential in selling, but it’s the sales manager’s job to help the sales team craft the right tales to tell–stories that feature your services as the “hero” of the tale.

Lesson 3: Set the stage appropriately.

On the tour, we visited four tasting rooms. The first was in a gorgeous estate, the second in an attractive room on a beautiful vineyard, and the third and fourth were retail shops. While all four locations were very different, each tried to use their environment to create a unique experience.

The lesson? Focus on the experience you deliver in sales and service. How do you set the stage to look and sound different than other staffing firms? How do you create an environment (in your office, on the web, or even when you visit a client) that’s engaging and conveys the right message to your clients?

Lesson 4: Hire the right actors.

Okay, you’re in staffing, you get this one. But guess who sold the most wine? The dynamic representative of the La Crema winery. She told the right stories, and demonstrated the most genuine interest in our group. She made people want to buy.

At two of the stops, the people pouring the samples didn’t tell stories, didn’t engage with our group, and didn’t sell much wine. Their products were good (well, one winery I did not like at all), but having the wrong people in sales really killed their revenue from our group.

The lesson here is pretty obvious. Hire sales people who want to tell stories. Who are naturals at engaging with people, Who have the intelligence to solve business problems. And who can consistently make your firm look great.

From Wine Country to Staffing

One of the things I love about being in marketing is that it makes me look at every experience through the eyes of a marketer. I love to see how people promote their products and services. And how people sell and interact with clients and deliver service.

My last lesson from Sonoma county is that there are lessons to make your business better everywhere you look. All you have to do is look!

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