Sales Funnels are Not Funnel Cakes – but they can be just as yummy!
Gourmet brands looking for new customers often entice them with samples and tastings. This is great for small purchases, like a cupcake or honey at a farmer’s market.
But what about a larger commitment like a wine club? Wine buyers expect to taste the product too, perhaps more than once, and maybe even be wine’d & dine’d first with a few parties.
This requires a larger investment on the part of a winery, from not only the inventory costs but the capital costs of a tasting room or showing at events. Given this commitment it’s important to quantify the sales process to maximize ROI. One way to do this is to map out the sales funnel.
What is a sales funnel? It’s the concept of a path that a prospective customer takes, from initial awareness of the brand at the top, down through the various stages of research and decision making, to action/purchase at the bottom. See Fig. 1.
If you ask the marketing manager in charge of the tasting room, they’ll say their tasting room is it’s own funnel. “Marketing” is tasked with getting prospects walking in the front door and letting the tasting room staff work their magic.
If you ask a the marketing manager (who may be in charge of the eCommerce site), they’ll tell you the sales funnel is all the traffic to the home page, filtering down to some wine purchasers in the cart.
But the Funnel is larger than the tasting room or the online components alone. It’s a composite of the two. And when we look at wine club sales efforts through the framework of a combined funnel we can discover new opportunities for improvement and sales gains. See Fig. 2.
In this combined funnel we see the online component on the left side, and the offline or physical component on the right. The idea to understand is that prospects may move from the online to offline medium (and back again) as they make their way down the funnel to a potential purchase.
Prospects may discover, interact with or research the brand online first, and show up at the tasting room with potentially a lot of brand knowledge and affinity. (Think about car purchases these days, where so little is left for the showroom sales staff to do.)
These prospects in particular are further down the funnel, and the tasting room staff should adjust their pitch to account for this. Of course plenty show up for a tasting with little knowledge of the brand and so the staff needs to be flexible enough to deal with all kinds.
Prospects may straddle both online & offline mediums at the same time. Has someone in a tasting group ever pulled out their mobile phone during a tasting? Are they checking work emails? Or pulling up the average retail prices on Wine-searcher.com. Or checking CellarTracker for tasting notes. Or seeing if there is any particular buzz on the brand?
Hopefully they’re checking in on Facebook, or posting to Instagram, but figure that any activity is integral to the process in the sales funnel, and staff should account for it. How? Ask and start a friendly conversation around it. Managers can set up a “check-in” photo spot with a gorgeous view or branded backdrop, and staff can point it out.
If prospects are going online in the sampling phase, (which they are,) a mobile-ready and mobile friendly website is a must-have. Sales managers will get extra traction for having specific content aimed at the prospect who is currently in the sampling phase, which may speed the prospect’s journey down the funnel.
Conversion Rates - More Wine Club Signups
Conversion rate is the total number of sales divided by the total number of prospects. Factors that affect conversion in the offline section of the funnel are things like the salesperson, what sales training they’ve had, and even environmental factors like appearance of the parking area as guests arrive, their first greeting, how busy or how crowded the room is and the ease or difficulty getting to the counter.
Without remodeling the tasting room, are there any changes we can make for some quick hits? We mentioned a couple, which is to have mobile-ready content and some check-in/photo spots.
Another adjustment would be with prospects who are leaving without buying. This is potentially the largest segment and it warrants looking at.
“Stop Dropping Good Fruit on the Floor!” – a marketer’s mission
Consider the example of a prospect represented by the smiling (but thinking) face in figure 2.
At this point, this prospect is educated about the brand (again, via online, offline, or both) and has tasted, and is considering buying.
We can assume s/he falls into one of two camps – s/he either likes the wine or doesn’t.
If they don’t like the wine, for the sake of simplicity, let’s say that they exit the funnel, noted by the grey arrow to the right ending in a zero.
If they do like the wine, they further divide themselves into “buy today” or “not buy today.” Those that buy today are represented by the green arrow ending in $ at the bottom of the funnel.
The only group that remains is the “like wine & brand / not buying today” group, which can take either the red or yellow path, depending.
Typically, the tasting room staff will let any “like wine & brand / not buying today” prospect walk out (same as grey path). Some staff will try to get them to like the Facebook page, which is passive. Some will take a more active role and try to collect an email and get the prospect on the winery email newsletter.
Whether a newsletter sells any wine or not is a topic for another post, but we can say this: if the staff is simply sticking the prospect on the newsletter list, they are sending them back to the beginning of the funnel (yellow path). They are keeping them in the funnel, which is a good thing, but they’re placing them at the beginning, at the top.
That creates a disconnect, as the prospect is at a later stage, having been nearly sold, nearly done with their journey. After they leave the winery, this prospect is expecting a different type of conversation or interaction with the brand.
If a prospect doesn’t hear from the brand for weeks, for example when the next newsletter comes out, the prospect can feel ignored and misunderstood. Also, the communication style of a newsletter is typically the most generic and non-personal.
For this type of prospect, the interaction should instead be on a very high and specific level, applicable to someone further along in the funnel. And here is an opportunity for big gains in conversion rates.
What to do? collect an email address and send them to a very specific web page that speaks to them based on their stage in the funnel. If that process is designed well, the path continues to a purchase stage (red arrow).
This keeps prospects in the funnel, at the right level. They just move laterally into the online medium.
Will everyone convert via the online eCommerce channel once they leave the tasting room? Hardly – that’s why it’s still a funnel. But the investment in this process change is low, so it only take a few extra club signups a month to really boost ROI.
For most wineries, the tasting room is the cornerstone of their direct-to-consumer (DTC) efforts. And if there isn’t one, then other opportunities to taste the wine (such as events) become an important part of the sales process. Understand that prospects interact with the brand, both before and after this tasting phase, and both online and offline. Then look for ways to improve the process and increase conversion rates.
- Tasting Room sales staff should discover what stage the prospect is at when they first appear in the tasting room, and use that info to tailor a tasting presentation.
- Mobile-ready eCommerce sites should offer content for the sampling/tasting prospect.
- Collect email / contact info as often as possible. Use RSVP systems to get it up front.
- Set up non-buyers for more funnel maturation, with a non-newsletter process
For help in mapping our your winery’s sales funnel or for help improving conversion rates, contact us at VinMarketer