Marketing Tips for Grays Harbor Businesses
Kim Roberts, Co-Owner at the Westport Winery

The Westport Winery has grown to become one of the most successful businesses and tourist destinations in Grays Harbor County. It has been recognized around the region for its wine and food and most recently was named to USA Today’s top ten wineries in the nation. Co-Owner and “marketing yoda” sat down with Grays Harbor Gateway Center to share some marketing tips for other businesses in the community.

What in your mind is the most important thing a business needs to consider to be successful in Grays Harbor?

The simple decision to keep regular business hours is a huge first step. The concept of a 10-week tourism-driven economy holds some businesses hostage. Of course, once you make that decision, keep your promises. If you say you are going to be open, be open. When we had that huge storm a few years back, many of our employees were unable to come into work. But since our family lives on the same property as our business, we all got up and opened the doors. I was the cook, my daughter was the waitress, my husband ran the tastings. We probably had about 20 customers that day – but they were 20 of the most grateful customers we’ve ever had because we were one of the only businesses open. Those are 20 customers we’ll have for life that will probably tell their friends.

What advice do you have for businesses looking to improve their social media presence?

Having an online presence is critical. Once you launch your Facebook, Pinterest, or other online/social media channels make sure it stays current with your operating hours, your latest menu if you are a restaurant and other important information about events and other planned activities.

Second, it’s all about making it a priority. It’s like cleaning the toilet. It can’t be a “if we have time we’ll do it” thing – it has to be an everyday thing and it has to be one of the first things you do each day. Remember to post valuable content that is interesting to your customers and to reporters looking to cover your kind of business.

We know that social media is important, but what about negative posts? How do you deal with those?

I decided long ago to never read the reviews on Yelp. It’s too personal and the even if there are hundreds of great comments, that one negative post can be extremely hurtful. This isn’t just my business, after all. It’s my family. The reality is, we live in a world where people have limited disposable income and the choices they make for where they spend those dollars come with an expectation for great experiences. In many ways, we’ve lost a sense of control over a lot of areas of our lives and the anonymity and power to say anything online is one vehicle where people feel like they can exercise some of that lost control. I don’t get angry at the negativity, I just choose to ignore it because everyone has a story. I choose to respect the way they feel even if I don’t respect the way they’ve chosen to express it.

How have you secured such fantastic media coverage from around the country?

When I started, I decided we were going to have an event every week. I was invested in creating news so that media would have a reason to talk about us. I then submitted our winery for awards all over the region and nation and visited other wineries and restaurants that I thought were doing it right to learn from them. In other words, it was hard work that required commitment and discipline. Nothing we’ve done has ever been an accident.

What about customer service? How critical is that to a successful business?

Knowing what your customers want and providing them great service is paramount. When we started out, we had 12 wines. Our customers asked for more, so we made more. Then we started culinary classes to encourage them to drink the additional wine we were making. That in turn led to us opening a restaurant. Then our customers told us how much they loved our desserts, so we opened the bakery. Then they began commenting on our gardens so we started the nursery. And a big part of all that is attention to detail. Michael Eisner of Disney fame once said, if you pull down the tray table on an airplane and see stains from food and drink, you may ask yourself what else is wrong with the plane and lose confidence. I judge a restaurant more by how clean its bathrooms are than anything on its menu because I know that attention to detail runs throughout its business.

Any other parting thoughts?
We need to support other businesses on the Harbor. It’s fine to go outside our community, find a good idea and bring it back. In fact, we do that all the time. But we shouldn’t look at what our neighbor is doing and copy it. There’s enough opportunity to go around if we look for ways we can help other businesses here grow. When we all grow together, we are stronger.