Posts Tagged ‘online marketing’


Yesterday the annual Free the Grapes Direct to Consumer Symposium was hosted at the Meritage Resort in Napa.  For our 50 state union, there are few, if any substances as regulated in this country as alcohol.  In their words, “Free the Grapes! is a national, grassroots coalition of consumers, wineries and retailers who seek to remove restrictions on wine direct shipping. Our goal is to augment, not replace, the three-tier system with limited, regulated wine shipments from wineries and retailers to consumers.”  Indeed their work is essential for our industry.

The conference offered some interesting insights on hospitality and customer relationship management from beyond our own industry as  well as insights from a few successful wine industry executives describing their own best practices making the difference in their business.  There were some specific details in the Iron Marketer Challenge segment and a detailed presentation of  “aspirational customer service programs” from the VP of Best Buy that I thought warranted taking notes.  On the heels of a timely release from Lesley Berglund’s WISE Academy, what was left untouched by the conference pointed me to this educational program.

No doubt there was great value in the day including the exhibit hall and the sponsors appearing there.  The only things I thought were missing are as follows:

  • 1.  A much deeper and more detailed set of solutions for direct to consumer questions and needs including hospitality training, e-marketing, online presence, social  media, and wine club management.
  • 2. A better execution of the sessions and use of the internet/social media/networking back channel.  There was no twitter search tag (perhaps because only a handful of tweeters were on during the conference?).  So we created our own tag #DTC.  This is as much for the attendees as for the folks on twitter who didn’t attand but were curious to listen to the day’s events.  Similarly, presentations, links, power point decks, etc. could have been and should have been made available in real time…or immediately after the presentation.  We’re told they will be available next week.  I think there were missed opportunities here.


With 7 sessions and only 2 time slots (sessions 1,2 & 3 were at 1:30, sessions 4,5,6, & 7 were at 3:15) I could not attend more than 2 sessions.  There were 3 or 4 sessions I thought could have been valuable to me, so it is possible that the deficits I listed above were detailed in a session I couldn’t attend.  On the technology possibilities listed above I watched and experienced them during the Web 2.0 Expo in New York City.  What a great standard they have set.   And the technology is not out of reach for a Napa conference.  There is an opportunity being lost that is well within our reach. Check out this fantastic post about using the back channel to add value to a conference.

I certainly understand that conferences are a bear to produce and my evaluation comes with the hope that we all work with constructive criticism to make our work in the wine industry better by leaps and bounds.  There are a few conferences in our industry (Wine 2.0, WITS, WBC) that I applaud for surveying their attendees for feedback.  I know as a presenter I value that response and use the feedback to prepare the next time I am in front of an audience.  So it is in that spirit that I offer my thoughts here.  The need for DTC training, conversations and networking  is too great to go without.  Thanks for working to fill that need.

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You can’t explain social media, twitter, networking or online connecting to someone who has never done it and expect them to get it.  It is an experience,  kinda like a Grateful Dead concert.  (Ok, that was a strange comparison, but still apt).

Fundamentally, these are the basic principals I’ve experienced while connecting online:


  • Be there
  • Care about your community (an idea from Gary Vaynerchuk)
  • Selling CAN NOT be your priority.
  • Participate as a real, 3-D human.  That must be your priority.
  • Don’t BS or lie: You can be clear about who you represent, but please don’t make that the only reason you are there.

You can’t just show up and tweet or blog about something you have to sell.  Just like commericals on TiVo, we’ll fast forward through those and continue on with our conversations about wine, bacon, NPR, technology, Sonoma County chocolates, …you get the idea.  Join the conversation.

Care. So many options here.  Participate in the conversation, add something interesting, valuable, conversational.  Research your community: what do they care about? What do they talk about? Caveman Wines recently posted an elegantly simple reminder to people pitching to bloggers: know your audience!  That’s caring.  Humanitas Wines cares by giving back to communities where their wine is purchased.  That’s caring.  Forget about selling and invest your time, energy and $ into caring.  That may seem counter-intuitive, but I’m telling you, it is the social business model for the 21st century.

Selling is so out.  But buying is still in…we just don’t trust advertisers any more!  Really, at all!  Reuters posted this article this week about tech companies turning to social media to reach consumers.  It said “These social networking sites harness the age-old power of the word-of-mouth recommendation and can be potent marketing tools. If nothing else, they demand a higher level of consumer engagement than conventional ads.”  Recommendations from people we know and trust is how 78% of us connect with a product we’re looking for. (from What the F**K is Social Media)  No more billboard, shouting, passive audience selling.  That’s so 20th Century.  That’s so over.

Instead, participate, have conversations, engage with groups, connect.  It will take longer, metrics may be more difficult to accumulate and measure, but you will have impact.  You will garner trust.  You will cultivate a groundswell of support for a brand that will then sell itself.  That is of course assuming you have something of high quality for a low price and more to contribute to making the world a better place.

Don’t lie.  You can’t fake this.  The scrutiny of the clan will uncover any disingenuous participants.  And they will talk about you, honestly, ruthlessly to everyone.  Ask Motrin about the internet wildfire it started with a bad idea.  Really, the internet community is savvy, meticulous, and VERY interested in the truth.  The best part is, you’ll get honesty in return.  So I hope you want to know the truth.  Either way, you’ll get it.  You’re better off if you give it.  People appreciate honesty.


Let’s put it this way, you really aren’t in charge of your message that much any more. Reuters had this to say: “”Historically, companies have been really focused on controlling the information they disseminate … and the fact is that’s dying…“.  What that means to me is that you’d better have a great product at a great price (period)  We LOVE great stuff at great prices…and we’ll tell everyone we’re connected to about it!  And with the help of blogging, twitter, facebook, etc, that is literally hundreds of thousands of people, instantly.  The rewards will be well beyond what you imagined.

Being a fan of simple elegance, I had to offer this video in the post as well.  It is the best tool out there that comes even close to explaining twitter to someone who has no idea what the online social thing is about.  Still, I’d say just do it.

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