Joel Vincent

Technology. Wine. Family. (maybe not in that order)

Archive for Wine Thoughts

eCommerce Holiday Season – "Hooray! We suck less!"

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Is there ever an occasion to celebrate sucking?  I’m hyper competitive and I can personally tell you that typically “sucking” is not an option.  Let me strike that, I’m hyper competitive with a smidge of lazy.  So if I actually choose to do something – a project, blog, social network, whatever – then I insist on it being the best possible.  (The lazy helps by making sure I don’t commit to everything under the sun and thereby giving myself to excel and be the best I can).

Researching some of the eCommerce data thats being reported to draw a picture of the environment for our clients at VinTank I noticed something – eCommerce can celebrate sucking this holiday season!

Sounds wierd, I know.  But look what these numbers bear out (I’m clipping from various notes and sources that I’ve been looking at):

Amazon’s sales peaked on Dec. 15, when online shoppers worldwide bought 72.9 items per second, amounting to more than 6.3 million items that day, the company said, although it did not report a dollar total for how much it sold. Wal-Mart and Apple also reportedly had strong online sales.

U.S. e-commerce sales between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 were down 2.3 percent compared to 2007, according to SpendingPulse, an information service of MasterCard Advisors. SpendingPulse called online sales “an area of relative strength” amid overall holiday retail sales that rank among the worst in recent memory.

And the the stories keep coming, mostly generated by SpendingPulse report (a subsidiary MasterCard).  I don’t think all the evidence is in just yet but its obvious that the value of ecommerce (easy, search capabilities, avoidance of difficult crowds and/or customer service situations) played a pretty big role this holiday season.  The question that has to be worked on is how to best get over the hurdles to wine ecommerce (logistical, legal, as well as product proliferation) to make sure wine companies can share in this rising tide.

Anyway, back to my homework.  Cheers!

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You see, gotta do this Social Media thing…

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Image by hannesseibt via Flickr

This week was the Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS) and last week was Inertia Beverage Group’s DTC Symposium.  At both venues I gave a talk about social media (the term that has been hijacked by Web2.0) and why the wine industry needs to pay attention.

My bottom line points are simple.  I’ve written about and preached on the “Wine Life Value Chain” where I talk about how the strength of a relationship basically has direct correlation to influencing a wine buyer.  The closer you are, sociallogically, to the source of a wine recommendation the faster and more likely you are to buy it.  So with that theorum guiding my thoughts we look at social media.

Social Media is basically conversations online, but the nice thing for wine (or bad) is that “word-of-mouth” becomes lightning quick and globally scalable.  So get on board and incorporate it into your business.

The reason for this post is we basically had a case study in the power of social media yesterday with Twitter and the wine crew (or it seemed like the wine “hit men/women” on Twitter yesterday!).  Here’s what happened.

The scene starts with Jill finding a wine writer in Florida at Tallahassee.com using the pseudonym of one of our fellow wine bloggers (DrDebs).  Jill tweets “Hey, someone is hijacking DrDeb’s good name” and to boot she was reviewing TERRIBLE wines and giving them good ratings – Yellow Tail, et al. A bunch of people immediately flocked overthere to check it out and left some choice comments for Fake DrDebs.

Next, one of Jill’s “followers”, Brittany aka WineQT, is from Florida and notices that the reviews from Fake DrDebs is eerily similar to a newsletter written by Nat Maclean.  Sure enough, it was plagarized!  We quickly see WineQT tweet out that “Fack DrDebs ripped it off!”.  Subsequently, Jeff Stai of Twisted Oak Winery sees this, logs a complaint with the website “Tallahassee.com”.  Within an hour the post is removed from the site for copyright violation!

Within an hour, a small post about wine that was plagarized was noticed by someone in LA, recognized as a fake post by someone in Oakland, and taken down by someone in Florida!  THAT, my friends, is Social Media.  That is word-of-mouth to the 100th degree.  And that is what wine companies can tap into if they just take the time to learn how!

Cheers!

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Evangelizing Social Media and trying to get back to the grind

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This weekend was the Inertia Beverage “Direct to Consumer” Symposium. I had the pleasure of presenting one of the larger sessions called “Marketing on Social Networks” and basically took it a little more horizontal and spoke more on “Marketing in Social Media”.


I think the presentation went well but a few things we are very certain in my mind as I start to evangelize and encourage people to participate via the OpenWine Consortium social network – since marketing in social media is a sociology problem and not a technology problem, wine companies have more of a head start then they think. Sure there are a blizzard of tools out there, but what is happening is that these technologies are moving in a direction that allows the skills that every wine brand already has offline – building a community around their product and getting to know their customers – to leverage the Internet to build that community on a much larger scale. Thats the basic synergy with Inertia’s business model. Once that broader community is established beyond just the tasting room, the final step is translating the connections made into a wine sale. Without the technology to do that, a winery is pretty screwed.

I really wanted to wineries to feel a little more comfort then they seem to be. Two main reasons – 1) online social stuff is happening and fast, but its not replacing everything tomorrow and 2) There are ways for wineries to benefit even though they are wearing many different hats already (and many don’t involve sitting in front of a computer 25 hours a day). This is where my talk and my co-presenter – Gary Vaynerchuk – differ. Always one for a bit of hyperbole (go figure) Gary says – email is dead (for some and many millenials, yes, but not completely), you have to be on every network all the time, and you can’t control your brand (which I agree with but influence is different from control). Ah yes, and he believes that there is no role for PR anymore with the new technologies – a point we differ on, its changing but PR doesn’t stand for Press Release so having built billion-dollar brands I can tell you PR is vital to a strong brand. Without PR there would be no Gary Vaynerchuk. PR is the art of image shaping and influence and there is alway a role for that. Most people have to outsource it, but others control it themselves (GV obviously controls his own PR). Anyway, long discussion.

Overall it was a good talk and hopefully we can get calmer heads to prevail and really help wineries to move forward with online strategies rather then just use “the sky is falling” discussions.

Well, now the in-laws are gone, daycare is back on (they had a week off for vacation after the 4th), so I have to try to get back into the groove!

Cheers!

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Site skinned and ready for life v2.0

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Here it is.  Wine Life Today in all its glory.  Just spent a little time updating the look and adding “My Story” (which I happen to think summarizes whats going on here pretty well).

I like the Digg-clone for wine that was formally WLT, but I have bigger fish to fry.  I’ll soon make an announcement of what my next move is in the wine industry but I can assure you things are gonna change – there is a Vincent in the wine industry now and I intend to make that mean something.

Cubicles suck and as of July 3rd, the paperwork I handed in is my official “Hasta La Vista” to cubicle nation(hence my “fugitive of a cubicle nation” tag) but there’s no denying that we all may have to work in them some day.  My intention is to make sure that if/when I do, its on my terms.

I don’t feel like I’m going it alone though.  As word trickled out that I’ve made a move to the “free” world, friends from all over (virtual and real world) have offered me great advice, support, and love.  This is going to be fun!

Changing CEOs is a Saavy Business Move

When I read Inertia Beverage’s announcement of a change of CEO it was not only interesting but actually a very wise move by the current CEO and a friend of mine Paul Mabray.  I don’t want to get into a long post on my business philosophy but I thought I should post a short commentary as I saw some conversation breaking out that made it seem as if this was a negative thing.

I know many times press releases put alot of spin on a bad situation to make it seem like a good one.  I know because part of my role in various marketing jobs had been to do just that and I always put out the story before someone makes a “scoop” and spins it negatively first.  Thats just good PR.

But I view Paul’s announcement differently.  I’ve been in High-Tech since the 1980’s even before I was in college (when I was working for a software retail company).  But more importantly, my view is shaped by something my mentor, Don McKinney, imparted on me when I first moved to Silicon Valley.  Basically, if you want your company to really succeed you first have to recognize that the company will require different CEOs and RARELY does the same person have the personality to be all of these.

  1. the “$0 to $10M” CEO – this CEO thrives on the startup situation.  Risk taker, entrepreneurial, big-game hunter, and business developer (as well as visionary and marketeer), this CEO is usually one for the founders.  The key here is to have a sales person in this role and drive the initial products to be customer-oriented with a saavy product team.  This CEO recognizes that getting A+ players on the team is more important then having the right structure or hierarchy.
  2. the “$10M to $100M” CEO – This CEO can take those first few BIG customers and nourish them such that they can be cash cows for the company.  At the same time he/she starts to pull in trusted sales and business development folks as well as marketing folks to compliment development and empowers them to do their job.  What can happen to a company that may cause it to fail is if CEO #1 thinks he/she is CEO #2 but isn’t really and has trouble either getting help to create new business, create a polished brand, or both because he/she still thinks he/she has all the best ideas and no one else can do it for them.  Its the beginning of scaling the company.
  3. the “$100M to $1B” CEO – This CEO recognizes that the company is going to go BIG TIME and needs processes that allow the organization to scale.  Oh the dreaded “P” word, but its true.  At this point, customer care is still job #1, but setting up the structure to scale operations is becoming more and more important and this CEO needs to allow that to go to a professional A+ COO type.  Again, failure can happen here when a CEO doesn’t appreciate what an operationally oriented person’s value is (i.e. can make the organization scale in ways the CEO never dreamed up).  This CEO also has to be able to attract the investment levels that typically the founding CEO doesn’t have access to.  This is usually when you see a CEO finally step aside but it can be too late.
  4. the “$1B to $10B” CEO – Now your talking about the professional CEO that you see at the top of Cisco, GE, and companies like that.  Charismatic and oozing leadership that can rival Bill Clinton in his prime.  This CEO still focuses on his top customers but there usually are so many that the top 10 are likely the only he/she gets to visit.  This CEO could be very very smart but is really removed from day-to-day so is fed development information and status from a staff of A+ lieutenants but likely has a big company filled almost 50% with B players (inevitable at this size).  The hope is that CEO #3 created solid enough processes that the company will thrive and compensate for some incompetence that has inevitably creeped into the the ranks of the company.

Thats the idea in a nutshell.  You can move the revenue bands up and down a little but this is generally true.  I had this wisdom passed on to me in the early 1990s and I’ve seen it proven out time and time again.  What I see in the Inertia announcement is a smart man that wants to see his company do great things.  But I say “smart man” because from my conversations with him, he intuitively sensed he wasn’t CEO #2 or #3, checked his ego at the door, and did the right thing.  He’s still working in there directing strategy and given his history in the wine business thats probably a good move.

The employees of Inertia should be excited.  As a Silicon Valley veteran, I can tell you more often then not that a move like this initiated by the CEO prevented this from happening later in your lives when the Board of Directors forces this decision (and they always do) because the CEO isn’t scaling the company for the big time.

Cheers!

Creating Value for the Wine Industry

I’m in the process of closing down Wine Life Today the social bookmarking service and making it into my personal blog so that I can dedicate my time to creating real change and real value for the entire wine industry.

WLT is a two year old project that had a decent amount of success and even generated some advertising revenue which is cool.  But I never intended it to be a revenue source as much as it was a learning experience.  I LOVE the wine community and I spend tremendous amounts of time creating and learning from my creations/experiences.  So I always thought that creating things for the wine world would be the best of all worlds – I could meet more and more people in the wine world all while having my creative outlet.

Recently, OpenWine Consortium, a brainchild of mine that was inspired by the need of some industry friends I met through my other creations (this blog and WLT), has emerged as an unmitigated success.  With really no marketing whatsoever, it has garnered attention across all corners of the world, been written up in Wines & Vines magazine, signed up nearly 1000 members in less than three months, and really become something I can spend GOBS of time working on.  Its special, it fills a need that the industry has, and most of all, its something I’m very proud of but believe it can be so much more.

I believe OpenWine Consortium is 10 times more useful at 1000 then it was at 100 in terms of affecting change in the industry.  Real business connections are being made, value is being created through the exchange of expertise and advice, and new ideas are being spawned just through the interaction.

Guess what…I also believe that is OWC were 10,000 people is would be 100 times more useful and would create 100 time the value it does today.  So I’m setting a goal for myself and the OWC community.  The industry needs this site to be at 10,000 members from every corner of the globe to make it an invaluable place to be on the Internet if you are in the wine trade.  This goal is SOOOO doable its rediculous.  There are tens of thousand of wine brands and just an un-Godly number of service businesses that work with those brands and ALL the employees/owners/proprietors of all these businesses can benefit from the OWC community – the interaction, the community, the technology exchange.

So that is my goal today.  I’m very proud that we’ve gained 1000 members.  But I’m going to dedicate the time and effort needed to really move the needle in the industry and I hope others in the community who see the value will do the same.

I’ll start with something simple – a Logo that others can get behind.  Some good friends have put time into creating a logo and I”ll get it out there soon.  Look for the preview here.

What are some other things I can do?  Partnerships with others in the trade, training to properly use OWC as a tool for trade associations, implementing the changes that the membership wants to see on the network.

Me and about 1000 of my industry friends should be able to make a difference so lets see where this takes us!

Cheers!

(almost makes me want to say “To infinity and beyond!”…but I’ll refrain)

Its the World Cup, Stupid!

I just had to post a quick note because the radio announcer on the local sports talk radio called the World Cup a “big soccer tournament this summer in Germany”.

The Olympics hosts a “big soccer tournament”.  The local YMCA hosts a “big soccer tournament”.  This is the World Cup, you can at least recognize it by name!  Jeez.  The Superbowl is considered “huge” but lets make a quick comparison. 

Viewers:  Superbowl – about 146 million

Viewers:  World Cup – about 28.8 billion

You may not like soccer, but you better recognize (especially if you’re a marketer) what exposure that gives you.  Reebok sponsors football, Adidas is the main sponsor of soccer worldwide.  Did Reebok purchase Adidas?  Of course not.  Adidas swallowed up Reebok in late 2005.

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching football and am a die-HARD Redskins fan.  But I grew up playing, watching, and loving soccer and I know its not popular in the US but to call it “the big soccer tournament in Germany” – from a SPORTS Radio station “KMBR – the sports leader” according to them – just gets my goat.

How can I tie this to wine…hmmm…

Well, not many soccer fans drink wine so I’ll take suggestions on your favorite wine with you favorite sport.  I tend to drink big (huge even) Australian Shiraz during sporting events because the food is random and really secondary to the drink that I’m having.

Lame, I know, but I want to at least tie my rants into wine somehow given this is “Vivi’s Wine Journal”…

Enjoy the Wine Life!