Tell Me a Story

When we were young, one of the first things we asked our parents was ‘Tell me a story.’  After all these years, that hasn’t changed and we all are still entertained by great stories.  Harnessing the power of a story to make guests fall in love with your brand is a WISE trait of successful tasting room employees.

There is a legendary story about a wine called Black Chicken. It’s a great story about the owner of Biale winery, Aldo Biale. During the 1950s and early 1960s, Aldo’s family grew fruits and vegetables and sold and delivered to customers what was in season.

Aldo also had a small vineyard of zinfandel grapes and, unknown to anyone but his closest friends, he was making wine out of the vineyard. Even his family knew nothing of it, and he especially wanted to keep it secret from his Mom. Aldo’s friends loved his zinfandel and frequently asked if he would sell and deliver the wine to them.

Aldo didn’t want to get into trouble with his Mom for making wine.  At that time the phone systems were party lines, which meant that anyone from the operator to any of your neighbors could listen in on your phone conversations. Aldo came up with a plan. He instructed his friends to ask for a black chicken when they placed their grocery order and he would include a bottle of zinfandel in their order and deliver it. The code word caught on and for quite some time Aldo sold a lot of Black Chickens.

When Biale Winery was established, Aldo proudly kept the name Black Chicken for his special vineyard select zinfandel.  It is one of the best-selling Biale wines to this day.

People may not remember what the alcohol content is, they may not remember the blend, but what they will remember is the emotional connection they made to your brand through the power of your storytelling. Telling memorable, relevant stories is a core WISE trait of successful Tasting Room Professionals and all great sales people.

So what are your winery’s great stories?  You may not have a Black Chicken, but what tales do you have to work with that your customers will remember and re-tell to their friends when they get home?  Great stories usually contain some specific elements that make them memorable.  Here is a list of key story elements to consider as you think about what your great stories are:

Visual imagery – can you paint a picture that customers can conjure up later and relive the story?

Humor – we all usually remember when someone made us laugh.

Dramatic appeal, suspense, surprise – will your listeners want to hang on your every word to find out how it all ends up?  After all, we are entertainers!

Gestures – don’t be shy here, add some life and be as dramatic as is appropriate for the story.

Emotional connection – remember that customers will buy when you can engage their emotions and they usually won’t buy without that connection.  Does your story have an emotional element?  Can we appeal to the customer’s sense of enjoyment of life, exclusivity, bragging rights?

Solid ending – is there a happy/meaningful conclusion to your tale?  Does it illustrate a lesson on your brand or a specific wine?

Substance – does your story have depth and grip and guts to it?

Not all great winery stories have high drama like Gone with the Wind.  Here are some topics to consider as you search for your own great stories:

The owner’s family and history – are there any skeletons in the closet?  Any geniuses?  Any dentists who became vintners?  Why did they start the winery?
The winery property and the building’s history – was the building previously used for something else?  Are there ghosts?

The winery dog/cat/canary

The winemaker’s story and how they came to this career

Famous visitors to the property

Funny things other guests have said

This whole topic of stories is a great one for team meetings.  Get your staff involved and see what stories are resonating with your customers.  When guests laugh, what did they laugh at?  What story closed the sale of wine or a club membership?

Once you know what your most compelling stories are, be sure to start a written library of them so that new employees can read them and learn all your great stories before they have some of their own.

Now, tell me a story!