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Direct Sales on Grape Thinking - Part 2

Posts Tagged ‘Direct Sales’

Building a Direct Sales Vehicle pt. 1

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

pendulum-2.jpgWith the pendulum starting to swing toward online sales within the wine industry, it’s important that we recognize one of the major differences between the virtual retailer/distributor and the traditional retailer/distributor.

As an online wine outlet, winery or retailer, your website and online engine is your Sales Vehicle. It should be responsible for everything, from how your customers perceive you, how they order your wine, how they are charged, where the order goes, inventory tracking, to even the actual printing of the label in the case of Windsor Vineyards. If your site doesn’t do this, wouldn’t it make your life a lot easier if it did?

If you use traditional methods, you have to communicate these same things to your distributor, who then has to communicate this to a retailer, who then has to communicate that with their stores, who finally puts it on a shelf for the consumer to purchase… and then the information has to funnel back to you. In the words of Tom Friedman, “the world is flat.” With the power of the Internet, there is no longer a need for such an inefficient hierarchal bureaucracy.

Wine 2.0 is already happening, showing the importance of online blogging, , and social interaction, while Tom Wark has comically notified us of the WITS (Wine Industry Symposium), which is the industry’s “this-is-a-very-serious-business” event (www.wineindustrytechnologysymposium.com)… lol. They will cover interesting topics such as sales automation, supply chain technologies, vineyard management systems, etc.

The point is that it’s time to get on board with technology and , which both allow you to manage your business easier, faster, cheaper, and with more control. With your sales engine having so much responsibility, it stands to reason that you would want to have something that is well-oiled, fast, smooth, and reliable. Unfortunately there isn’t a Sales Vehicle you can take for a test drive, as most require some custom work before they are ready to roll. This leaves you with quite a bit of research/legwork to be done when all you want to do is drive.

We are starting a series that will help you make the right decisions along your journey to “Building a Direct Sales Vehicle”. It will include choosing the right sales engine and designing your website, handling delivery and logistics, and gaining exposure in the online marketplace. We welcome discussion from all the service providers in these categories, (though we already have done the research and have our preferences), as we hope this series will make it a lot easier for those trying to get set-up in direct sales, and facilitate a faster change within the industry.

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Posted in Technology, Wine | 3 Comments »

Cutting Costs on Delivery

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Cutting CostsThe two most common shipping methods used by fullfillment companies are, obviously, UPS and FedEx. An important thing to note, and we’re not sure if UPS offers anything like this, but FedEx offers great discounts (up to 65% off) on shipping if the winery is a member of the Wine Institute. This can amount to incredible savings to the consumer, or make the winery look great if they complement their price point with “shipping included”. If you are a winery, you have to enroll in the program.

Some of these shippers work to make it easy to deliver wines. For example, UPS offers a free service where they call the intended recipient before they deliver to make sure that someone over 21 is available to pick up the wine. Unfortunately, I don’t think all the wineries are aware of this, as we recently received some wine, and it was somewhat of a hassle… apparently the only way that UPS will do this is if the winery gives them the phone number and requests the service when they place the order into shipping.

So… if you are purchasing wines, don’t forget to mention it. This will help eliminate the need for the driver to make multiple trips, and make it easier to get the wine into your hands.

If you are a winery, and are interested in the Wine Institute, you better be from California, because they apparently only represent California wineries. Maybe they have plans for expansion, or maybe Wine America’s helping hands are working on, something similar.

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Posted in Wine, Wine/11 | 4 Comments »

Florida Wine Running into Brick Walls?

Monday, April 16th, 2007

Florida Brick WallIn recent news, there is a legal battle (as usual) with big distributors and others, fighting to eliminate in Florida. The newest proposal is saying that will be limited only to those wineries who produce less than 250,000 gallons of wine per year. Now how exactly does that figure work for a State that records about 25,000 gallons of wines shipped direct (all direct statistics) for all of last year, though this doesn’t include those shipped by in-state wineries. The reports also show that wholesalers/distributors handled about 25,000 gallons of domestic and about 5,000 gallons of imported wine per month. So direct sales have taken less than 10% of the business…so far. Distributors are losing all of that profit, and where is it going…back into the pockets of the wineries who worked so hard to produce the fabulous wines being purchased? (more…)

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Posted in Marketing, News, Thoughts, Wine | 7 Comments »

Rubber-Stamped Web-Page or Community Profile?

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

If you’re a winery, there’s about a 50% chance that you have a website. If you have one, the odds are probably much greater that the majority of your site visitors come because they have either 1) had the wine or 2) it was recommended. Point being… if someone has never heard of you, they probably aren’t going to be stumbling onto your site. And if they do, is the webpage enough to make them feel like they are missing out on something if they don’t try the wines?

Your wine is your brand, and the worst thing for a brand is to not have a point of difference. So next time your strolling through the online world, and looking at all of the wineries’ webpages, pay attention, and one thing will become very apparent. Most winery websites follow the same template. It really does look like the winery sent in a few pictures and a paragraph description to the web-design company, and they just stamped the site right out. Granted this doesn’t apply to all wineries… many take the time to find a designer and pay them $1000’s to develop a site that is unique to their image. Unfortunately, the majority of wineries don’t have this budget, and resort to the ever looming “default” home page. This could be because godaddy.com gives you the template for free, or you put out a website simply because you felt you had to.

Every winery is different, every wine and its vintage is different, every wine maker unique and lovable in their own ways… How do you share that with an audience? How do you attract the audience? The solution isn’t for a winery to work intensely at themselves, but to do what they do best… be unique. One of the most recent internet phenomenons is myspace.com. As the name portrays, its MY space… unique to that individual, created however they would like. Granted there are almost always similarities in basic design, but every page has a personality to interact with… not to mention the page is plugged into a community of millions of people. How easy is it to stumble on a myspace profile… too easy almost… browsing through the site, clicking on friends’ friends, and their most popular friend, looking at the comments that have been made, going to a bands page, reading what the artists are experiencing, and even talking with them on their wall. Some wineries are even taking advantage of this already…Bellview Winery, (a small winery in New Jersey, they are only sold locally in the state, and they have over 500 Myspace friends) The one drawback is that Myspace pages give samples of the musicians work, whereas wineries will obviously not be able to give tastes of their wines.

The two “profiles” on this page, one for Estancia, and one for Dromos (picked simply because they’re a couple of the favorites here – click to enlarge) were quickly designed to give an idea of how a winery could have a community profile page that not only complements their website, but also allows interaction with the fans. It gives some basic information, and gives the ability to have an open discussion right on the page. They would need to be somewhat similar for ease of navigation, but the main point of difference being a combination of the functionality and the ability to interact with the viewers. Furthermore, it could serve a really cool function of providing a virtual tour of the winery. This is the type of feature that could actually had value to the consumer’s buying experience and even entice them to travel to that location, which could even be arranged through the profile page. Estancia’s website is rather advanced for winery websites and should not be discarded. Instead, there should just be an RSS feed on the profile page that brings in content from the website. Dromos, on the other hand, has practically no website presence and could greatly benefit from a profile.

The problem of rubber-stamped websites can be solved, but two very important things have to take place for the benefit of these personality profiles to realize itself. First, wineries have to be willing to update their profile with new content on somewhat of a regular basis… this applies to their websites as well. Second, and more importantly, in order for these profile pages to really serve their purpose, they have to exist within an established online community of wine consumers or within an online community of wineries, in which consumers go to check out their options. WineWeb and RadCru are doing some very interesting things, creating online marketplaces for wineries. However, they have a minimalist presence for the winery, especially their personality. This is probably because, as previously mentioned, it will be very difficult to get wineries to consistently add content and update their profiles. Ultimately, it’s going to take the attention of the consumer before the wineries start putting in the effort.

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Posted in Business, Design, Marketing, Technology, Wine | No Comments »

Viral Vines: Setting the Online Market Ablaze

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

Viral WinesOne of the most common misconceptions I hear as a web marketer is that an industry, product, or web site is just not viral material. That is to say, the content is so boring, so drab, that it would be impossible to muster up any kind of promotion that would harness the attention of the web. I laugh. I laugh because I want business owners to remember what it was like when they first started – that buzz, that , that creativity and excitement. It is still there, it has just been drowned by years of repetition, monotony and struggle.

The truth is, any site with the right spin can go viral. You will have to be creative. You will have to work. But there is always something interesting enough to drum up that can be turned into a fantastic windfall. We have never run a successful viral campaign that did not bring in so much traffic that the client’s site went down. Below, I go through a comparison of the pieces that make a viral campaign work in terms of starting a bonfire. The analogy bares out well, and provides some sage advice (if I must say so myself) in making a campaign truly work.

1. The Matches:
the initial spark
Without any doubt, this is the most important part of the campaign. Sink or swim, blaze or fizzle, your viral campaign needs substance. Luckily, you don’t have to put two sticks together and rub like crazy, there are plenty of ready-to-run themes that greatly increase the likelihood of a successful online viral campaign.

  1. Bad Customer Service
  2. Incredible Customer Service
  3. PopTechnology: Apple, Linux, Ipods, Ruby on Rails, Nintendo Wii, Gadgets
  4. Amazing Stories, Pictures, or Videos

The question for wineries is always how to include “primed-for-viral” topics into something drastically different from wineries and wine in general. Well, here are just a few grains to get you going

  1. Incredible Customer Service: Customer gets a bottle of your wine at a restaurant complains. Complaint makes it back to your winery. You contact the restaurant to find the customer information and send multiple free bottles to their house.
  2. PopTechnology: Include a Free Ipod Shuffle with a case of wine. The shuffle comes pre-recorded with tasting notes by the winemaker, recipes, and romantic music.
  3. Amazing Stories, Pictures, or Videos: The next time you get a cold storm that freezes some of your grapes and ruins them, run out there with camera and take some gorgeous shots of ice-covered grapes melting in the sun. Put those up on Flickr and watch the traffic come in.

The key here is value. Make your site something people want to see and read. Now that the ideas are rolling, lets start talking about turning that match into a bon-fire.

2. The Kindling: superficial burning that light the real flame.
Just like any fire, you can’t go straight to the logs. Well, you could, but your chances of success are greatly impeded. This is where the savvy of internet marketing companies really comes in handy. Here are some tips to help the fire get going…

  1. Profiles with Reputation. Most Web 2.0 communities value User reputation. Users who have been at the site and participated at the site for long periods of time are much more likely to be successful when posting stories than new accounts. Use an old, reputable account to post stories to sites like Digg, Reddit, Netscape, etc.
  2. Link to the Story. Make sure that visitors to your site who are reading the story know that they can vote on it at various web 2.0 sites. Remind them by putting buttons below or beside the story. This is always good for a few extra votes early in the running from your most loyal site readers.
  3. Friends. I am not going to say go get all your friends out there to sign up and start voting for your stories. I won’t even go so far as to say that you should tell friends already on the site to vote for the story. I am going to say that you should make friends on these sites (such as the “Friend” function on Digg) so that they will know when your stories are posted. Moreover, feel free to tell your friends about the story. Some of them may already have accounts at web 2.0 sites, and you have now earned an extra vote or two.

3. Firelogs: keep that fire burning long
The key to long-lasting virals is that they must be RESPONSIVE. While most viral campaigns at least leave up the comments section so that users can state their opinions, a truly responsive campaign will keep folks coming back for weeks. Let’s say that you are running a viral based on gorgeous photography you have of your vineyard. Make sure in your post that visitors know that “more pictures are coming soon”. Ask them if they know any tips for “taking nature shots without getting overwhelmed by the sun.” People need a reason to keep coming back, and setting up a responsive viral will accomplish just that.

4. Suffocation: Preventing your story from burning out fast.
The most common problem with a viral campaign is early suffocation. In the same way that not enough oxygen is getting to your bonfire for it to burn, a viral campaign needs steady or above-steady growth to sustain itself. Once it loses its edge, it becomes very difficult to push through. This leads to several very important, key factors in a successful viral.

  1. Keep your site up: Contact your webmaster / hosting company well in advance and let them know your intent on running a campaign. Figure how much it will costs to keep that web site up when the onslaught of traffic comes. Pay it. If your site is down for 2 hours in the middle of a viral, you can count all your precious efforts good bye.
  2. Don’t over do it: Don’t spam the web 2.0 site with multiple stories on the same thing – I haven’t found a business that could stand more than a viral a week, much less one or more daily. Your site can’t handle it, and users will catch on really fast.

5. Gasoline: Artificial ways to boost your viral campaign
Covering a bonfire in gasoline works. You will get huge flames. And third degree burns. And a felony conviction for starting a forest fire. In the same manner, you can purchase votes from sites, get your friends to all sign up and vote, you can do almost anything you want. You will get caught, it will get out of hand, and you will have huge PR clean up job to handle. Imagine those million potential customers turning into an angry mob. It’s kinda like that. No. It is exactly like that.

Hopefully this will put some ideas into your head about how to use viral marketing effectively for your winery. There is no easier, cost-effective method of developing brand recognition. It is time to join the revolution. Great wines, viral vines.

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Posted in Energy, Technology, Wine/11 | 11 Comments »