It’s been a tough summer. First, the COVID pandemic slowed down commerce, and most recently the massive wildfires are burning throughout Northern California. This year’s fires came earlier than they historically have and this early arrival means grape harvesting is caught in the crossfire.
Many winery owners are rightfully nervous about what the future holds and are thinking about what they can do to protect their business. Fortunately, the government has stepped in to help businesses impacted by the wildfires and there are numerous action steps you can take today to help prepare you and your business for future natural disasters.
Extended Tax Deadlines
The IRS recently granted some relief to taxpayers impacted by the California wildfires. It extended the filing deadline for all tax returns and payments that were due starting on August 14 through December 15. The new deadline for these returns and payments is December 15. The California Franchise Tax Board followed suit and issued a similar extension.
So, C-corporations that timely filed for an extension to file their annual tax return would have had to file by October 15. The new deadline is now December 15.
Likewise, S-corps, partnerships, and sole proprietors would have had to file by September 15 but now have until December 15 to do so.
Any estimated income tax payments that would have been due on September 15 are now bumped back until December 15.
Those 3rd quarter payroll tax returns and any payment that would have been due on October 31 are now due by December 15.
If your county has been declared a federal disaster area by FEMA, you will receive this automatic extension. This new extended deadline is automatically applied by the IRS and there is no need to file any paperwork. As of September 2020, FEMA has declared the following counties federal disaster areas: Sonoma, Napa, Lake, Yolo, Butte, Solano, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey.
All penalties and interest will be waived so long as you file all your returns and pay all your tax by December 15.
Disasters and Insurance
Most wineries have multiple layers of insurance protection. Property, business interruption, and viticulture policies just to name a few.
Now might be that time you need to make use of your insurance. If you’ve suffered damage from the wildfires, contact your insurance agent right away. Many property insurance policies cover natural disasters like wildfires. And some policies will cover a portion of lost revenue and increased expenses due to business interruptions.
Reviewing your insurance needs should be a regular occurrence. And if you haven’t had that conversation with your agent in a while, now is a good time. Talk through all your business needs to craft the coverage that’s right for your winery.
It’s never a fun topic to discuss but disaster preparation and plans should be an important part of your winery’s business strategy. With a proper plan and early preparation, you can lessen the chance of being negatively impacted by a natural disaster.
Regular Maintenance Is a Must
Winery owners should make sure their property is in the best possible shape to withstand any natural disaster. Repairs and maintenance should be made regularly, including clearing fallen debris and removing dead or dying landscaping.
Create a Continuity Plan
Have a plan in place to communicate with winery staff in the event of an emergency. Create a contact list with all employee’s names and phone numbers and establish procedures about how communication will happen in the event of a disaster. Don’t forget to consider how you’ll communicate with customers and suppliers.
Have a point person at your winery who is responsible for monitoring natural disasters. This person should have clear authority to make decisions about the safety of your crop, inventory, and staff.
Ensure your plan includes how you’ll protect your equipment, buildings, and inventory.
Protect Your Electronic Data
With so much of your business data stored electronically, be sure that it’s backed up regularly. The backup should happen off-site so that in the event your computers and servers are damaged, you’ll still have access to all your records.
If you’ve been hesitant to use the cloud to store your data, consider making the switch. Most cloud storage providers make multiple backups each day and access is easy from anywhere you have an internet connection. Cloud storage could help your employees to continue working even if your winery has been evacuated or damaged from a natural disaster.
Document, Document, Document.
Keep thorough and complete records of all your business assets and keeping pictures of all your assets will help if you have to make a claim to your insurance carrier.
You’ll want to document:
- The type of asset, including model number and serial number, if applicable
- The year it was placed in service
- The price you paid for it
- Any customizations made to the asset
A good place to start would be using a fixed asset schedule or report. If you don’t keep this schedule, your tax accountant should have a copy.
Keep in mind all your assets might not be on the fixed asset schedule. Inexpensive equipment like computers or office furniture may not be on the fixed asset schedule, but you’ll want to keep track of those, too.
Managing and Protecting Inventory Before a Disaster
Inventory is one of the largest assets a winery owns. With a robust inventory management system, you’ll know exactly what you have, and protecting your inventory from a natural disaster should be included in your contingency plan.
Your wine racks should be sturdy enough to withstand the shaking of an earthquake or strong winds from storms and your wine inventory should be well organized and labeled correctly.
Keeping your inventory system up to date and organized will be helpful in the event you need to file an insurance claim.
Your inventory management system should know the exact dollar value of all your inventory at any given moment. And if you hold a large amount of inventory, ensure your insurance policy covers all of it. A report with your costs and quantities can be created quickly.
If your business has been affected by the wildfires in California or you could use a helping hand with your business strategy or accounting, get in touch with Protea now. Our professionals are experts at bookkeeping for wineries and work tirelessly to ensure your financial goals are met. Learn how outsourced accounting and bookkeeping can save your winery time and money.
The primary goal of many wineries is to develop, cultivate and produce products that promote repeat business and retain customers. Wineries exist to satisfy customers’ needs through products or services and it’s important for a winery to retain these customers. Since we operate in a competitive business environment, it is important to identify how we can increase customer retention levels.
Let us first define customer retention:
Customer retention is a combination of intentional repurchase behaviour and psychological attachment of a customer to a particular product or service (Al-Hawari 2005:231; Peelen 2005:239; Godson 2009:72; Cant & van Heerden 2010:444). McManus and Guilding (2008:779) also define customer retention as an attitude where a customer’s attachment to a product, service, brand or company is developed. According to Zhang, Dixit and Friedmann (2010:128), customer retention is the likelihood of a customer choosing a particular brand with reference to his/her past purchases.
Why is customer retention important?
Retaining existing customers is cheaper than acquiring new customers.
By retaining customers it allows a winery to generate more profits with each additional year of the customer-relationship. Research has shown that 12 – 15% of customers are loyal to a single retailer, but these customers represent 55 – 70% of total sales, and the only way to increase customer retention is to increase customer satisfaction. Satisfied customers have the tendency to return to the same store and they end up buying the same product.
What happens when customers are dissatisfied? The negative aspect of customer dissatisfaction is that customers lower their expectations when buying from the same winery or stop buying from the winery completely. Conversely, customers that are satisfied have the tendency to return and possibly refer new customers to your winery. As a result, the winery increases its customer retention and lowers customer acquisition costs, which in turn increases the profit of the business. One of the focal points of a winery should be on customer satisfaction as it can possibly yield greater profitability than customer acquisition strategies.
The question then remains, how to satisfy customers and develop a winning customer retention strategy?
Provide quality products
Quality is more than just producing a quality product. The quality of a product should be customer-driven. What is the customer looking for exactly and how do they define quality? It all comes down to how the customer experiences the product. It is important to note that the higher the quality of the product, the more likely a customer will be satisfied. Quality is also not something that you can improve overnight. Take for example the comparison of wine produced in the early 19th century to today’s wine. The use of modern-day technology, a variety of cultivars, viticulture, and overall winemaking experience allows us to produce outstanding quality wine. It takes time to design and build a quality product from the ground up.
Customer service is intricately associated with good quality products. It is important to respond timely to the disgruntled customer and resolve their issue promptly. Customer service is one variable that you can easily control and oversee. Implement standardized service response systems that can deal with inquiries and complaints promptly. These response systems and remedial actions are vital to realize increased levels of customer satisfaction. Your ultimate goal should be to decrease your customer service queries, this in turn evidences that you are producing a quality product. An investment in quality and perfecting your product will reduce your need to deal with customer complaints.
Training and preparation are key
“He who fails to plan is planning to fail!” – Sir Winston Churchill.
It is important to train employees and convey to them that customers are the ultimate judge of quality. Provide employees with a detailed guideline and proper training on how to deal with disgruntled customers. This is especially important as these employees will be representing the brand and they have a big influence on how a customer can perceive the brand. It is important to listen to what the customer is complaining about and utilize this information constructively to improve the overall quality of your product.
Build a relationship of trust with the customer
When a customer trusts the product, the quality, and the brand, they tend to share their experience with family and friends. A case study by Nielsen found that 92 percent of people trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising when making a purchase decision. Therefore, nothing comes close to the influence of word of mouth, and satisfied customers share their positive experience with more than five to ten people. Customers need to be able to trust what they buy. By building trust you are providing your customers with something of value which leads to a positive trend towards brand awareness. The winery sales team needs to be thinking about how to deepen the relationship with their customers, especially when they are not in buying mode.
Use automation to your advantage
There is no doubt that technology is there to help us. Try to make use of automated marketing software to engage, re-engage, and keep your customers up to date on what’s happening with your winery and products. Specifically, success stories at wineries have been reported using Customer Relationships Management (CRM) software such as Salesforce, Hubspot, Commerce7, WineDirect, and eCellar. All these CRM systems complement a full marketing methodology for wineries. Make sure to use standardized email newsletters, event notifications, gated content, promotional emails, abandoned shopping cart reminders, and survey emails. Marketing automation will keep you one step ahead of your competitors by communicating more effectively and efficiently with your customers.
Use social media to your advantage
Social media can power your brand forward but can also be detrimental to your brand. Use social media to research your target audience, analyze your competitors, create engaging content, generate website traffic and grow your audience. Make use of customer reviews online and utilize this space to promptly deal with issues customers may have. By promoting brand awareness online, you create credibility and build trust with customers based on your online activity.
By implementing the above strategies, a winery can increase customer satisfaction, leading to an increase in customer retention. In today’s fast paced competitive market, the wine industry needs to focus their efforts on retaining customers and realise the importance thereof.
Al-Hawari, M. 2005. The effect of automated service quality on bank financial performance and the mediating role of customer retention. Journal of Financial Services Marketing, 10(3):228-243.
Cant, M. & van Heerden, C. 2010. Marketing management. Cape Town: Juta.
Godson, M. 2009. Relationship marketing. New York: Oxford.
Magatef, S. & Tomalieh, E. 2015. The Impact of Customer Loyalty Programs on Customer Retention. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 8(1):81.
McManus, L. & Guilding, C. 2008. Exploring the potential of customer accounting: A synthesis of the accounting and marketing literatures. Journal of Marketing Management, 24(7/8):771-795.
Peelen, E. 2005. Customer relationship management. Essex: Pearson.
Zhang, J.Q., Dixit, A. & Friedmann, R. 2010. Customer loyalty and lifetime value: An empirical investigation of consumer packaged goods. Journal of Marketing Theory & Practice, 18(2):127-139.