"If you don't ask, you don't receive"

This year I've completed a number of market research surveys for Stoller Vineyards. When the project began I surveyed the wine club and brand managers to get feedback on topics ranging from wine quality, pricing and value to brand communication and sales materials. We also studied visitor experience and perceptions. I then used this feedback to develop a SWOT analysis and the 2010 marketing strategy, which means it is considered for brand messaging in ads, media relations and social media, as well as how we develop consumer and trade programs. In other words, it is used on a daily basis.

Today I finished analyzing another survey of Stoller club members regarding events and soon I will begin a series of surveys for a new client, Chehalem. Market research is a pursuit I enjoy, but more importantly, it is very valuable to wine businesses. Don Morgan of GMA Research, a fellow speaker at the June Southern Oregon wine marketing conference, puts it best: "Positioning is what brands aspire to... market perception is reality." He also noted that the most critical market research question is whether or not your customers or clients would recommend you.

As a marketing strategist, my role is to survey market perception, build or re-build positioning (and reality) based on this feedback. Too many consultants have a tendency to come in and change everything without a true basis for their recommendations. While not every decision should be made with a survey set -- best practices do exis, this approach can be financially wasteful and ignores what the current organizational strengths. A good marketer should seek to understand before she seeks to improve.

PS - I do also practice what I preach. In a recent survey of all of my past and current clients, here's what I learned:

* 100% would recommend Trellis Wine Consulting either "very highly" (57%) or "highly"

* 86% rated my service's quality, integrity and professionalism "excellent" -- for value I received "excellent" on 57% of responses

* the two most important factors in selecting my company were its wine focus and the ability to work directly with me (versus an account executive) -- no one rated location in Portland or my references as important

I also learned more about my strengths and challenges on the open-ended questions. This feedback is very helpful to me as I continue to grow my business and plan for the future. One of the challenges of being an independent service provider is that unless I ask for feedback, I don't get it!