Posts Tagged ‘wine business’

 

Bag-in-Box dispenser; chillers; aerator
 
Publications and other media are bombarded with unsolicited product samples from suppliers seeking publicity. As the North American wine business has surged, so has the flood of innovative “accessories” intended to enhance the drinking experience and enrich their inventors/promoters.

While some of these gizmos look like foolish or overpriced trinkets, others at least appear to have practical application. Wines & Vines editors evaluated a few recent entrants last week.

Most striking is the Boxxle: A sleek countertop container that dispenses bag-in-box wines while dispensing with the actual box. Designed and produced by Tripp Middleton, a former banker in North Carolina, the Boxxle would be especially useful for on-premise, by-the-glass sales.

First described in our October 2011 print edition, the Boxxle “came out in spurts,” according to Middleton. Seeking perfection for his vision, the fledgling inventor took time to refine and retool the Boxxle, which is manufactured in China.

“We really just started pushing in the last month,” he said. Already more than 200 of the devices have been sold through Boxxle website, Amazon.com and deals with Wine Enthusiast and Preferred Living.

Middleton is negotiating with distributors in Tennessee and on the West Coast, and, he said, has heard “a lot of interest from wineries themselves, plus wine and spirits distributors to the restaurant and bar industry.” His sales goal for this year is 10,000 units, a figure he considers doable.

Boxxle has a non-skid base and stainless steel/black exterior. Unlike conventional 3L bag-in-box packages where the spout at the bottom demands placement at the edge of a shelf, Boxxle dispenses the wine from the top: Even a tall glass fits under the spigot for a clean and easy pour.

Middleton believes the growing demand for on-premise by-the-glass service will fuel his sales. Any 3-liter BiB package can easily fit inside, where a spring-loaded dispensing devise pushes the remaining wine up and out. This helps ensure an oxygen-free environment that preserves wine for a month or longer and allows every last drop to be poured out as the package is depleted.

Middleton hopes that wine producers or distributors will begin to provide the Boxxle as a premium or an add-on to top on-premise clients. He said he can provide custom, peel-off, self-stick labels to identify the wine brand and varietal in commercial settings. He also hopes to tap winery tasting rooms, although it’s the rare winery that serves tasting room pours from BiB packages.
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Kate Hudson, not just an actress...

Kate Hudson, not just an actress…

 

Actress Kate Hudson and her rock star fiancé Matt Bellamy of Muse have become the latest in a steady stream of celebrities to enter the wine business.

According to Life & Style magazine, the couple were so pleased with their 2010 HudsonBellamy rosé that they now plan to start selling it into bars and restaurants.

The pair are reported to have offered friends and family the chance to buy cases before it goes on sale to the public, describing the wine as “crisp, bright and perfect for upcoming summer.”

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The other day I  stopped in at Wal-Mart to get some things. While checking out, a very large woman in very tight clothes came up from just outside the store and angrily told my cashier she lost her debit card after she paid. While I looked around the floor for the card the cashier said, “Yes, I remember you putting it back in an envelope” to which the woman replied, “Its not in there. I put it in the envelope but you rushed me to get out of line. You rushed me. I want to see your manager!”  ….. Are you kidding me? I had to work at holding my tongue.

What is it about the human condition that makes it so hard to accept personal responsibility? A similar version of that is the medical condition known as …. Headinthesanditosis.

Quite sometime ago I had a client come in the office to talk. Already three vintages behind the market and unable to meet financial obligations, it was time to have a direct discussion about viable solutions. She was really quite an intelligent person but before we could even get to the part where we discussed alternatives in her control like sales strategy, ranking distributors success, branding, market presence, pricing strategy, proper cost allocations, ways to use inventory to raise cash, etc., I was offered the following:

“Its not like I’m the only one with financial problems. The whole industry is suffering and not current with releases. The only problem I have is you wont give me more money.”
I had to tell her the view she held of the market was askew. We didn’t have any other clients who were three vintages behind and in fact because of our financial benchmarking database, I was able to show her just how far out of the norm she was. She was so shocked at the information (see her in shock in the picture —-> ), that rather than accept what was in front of her, she instead tried to poke holes in the database. “Wait, are there foreign wineries in there?”

What is it about the human condition that makes us stretch the bounds of credulity rather than accept it when we aren’t measuring up?

 

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Our most popular post from last year is brought current with the 2012 financial information. The question at hand is: “How much do wineries really make?
 
The answer of course is ……(drum roll please ….) Not enough. Finding the facts is almost as hard as chasing unicorns in this business because the wine business is private. Its a family owned industry with even the largest; Gallo a family owned company. But its really quite amazing from the perspective of what is shared between neighbors in the wine business. There isn’t the sense that your neighbor is a rival or competitor. Its more of a club feel in many ways. If you need something, its quite normal to check in with your neighbor. Need a tractor because yours went kerput? No problemo. Need a little welding and custom fabrication on a pump? I’ll be right over with a welding rig.
 
There is a competitive side that abounds in the business too of course. When it comes to sharing financial information and customer lists, good luck! Ask a winemaker neighbor how its going financially, and you’ll get a mixture of liars dice, false bravado, partial truths and ….. well ….. 

 

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Magic or Science?

Magic or Science?

This is blog post #2 billion on wine marketing. Everybody writes about it. A few of them even have something important to say.

So in summary:

1. Know your market
2. Write well
3. Watch the money roll in.

Ok, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. #3 is patently false. #2 means nothing, you either write well or know how to hire well or perhaps neither. So you may need to work on this. But #1 is the most important here, and that’s what we’ll discuss.

Let’s assume you want to sell wine. Let’s assume you actually make wine or work for a winery. Let’s also assume you make good wine. Selling bad wine requires a skill far beyond our abilities here.

Marketing and selling are not the same thing. To paraphrase marketing guru Peter Drucker, “The aim of wine marketing is to make selling wine superfluous.” So where do you start? Marketing involves everything about your brand: what your labels look like, where you might talk about your wine (advertising, social media, wine events), how people can taste your wine, where they can buy it, etc. Only then will you be in a position to sell your wine. And if your wine is really good, then people who enjoy it can become your best salespeople (now called “brand ambassadors”).

Who buys your wine now? Do you even know? Do you have a tasting room? If so, you do ask for their email addresses and maybe their phone numbers. No? Why not? They are your customers. They want to buy more at some point. Don’t ignore them. Everyone talks about social media (incessantly). Important, yes. But do not neglect email. It’s still (as of this writing) crucial.

If you don’t have a tasting room, do you do winemaker dinners? Tastings at festivals? Wine store events? Do you ask for emails there?

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A fireman's range...

A fireman’s range…

 

What do winemaking and firefighting have in common?

“Not a darn thing,” admits Dan D’Angelo cheerfully. But that hasn’t stopped this Napa firefighter from starting a second career in the wine industry.

Seven years ago D’Angelo created his own wine brand, Vino D’Angelo Wines, with labels Rescue Red and Chief’s Blend.

“I just kind of jumped into it,” he said. “I enjoy it because I like the challenge of it.”

Today, his wines are found at a number of local restaurants and stores including Grace’s Table, Il Posto Trattoria, Sushi Mambo, Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, Siam Thai House, Vallerga’s, Ranch Market, Lawler’s Liquors and Val’s Liquors.

What fire station do you work at?

I’m at Station 3 by Justin-Siena.

How do you find the time to run your wine business?

We get our days off. I squeeze it in.

 

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Wine is social. Sure, you can drink it solo, but it’s best enjoyed with friends, food and conversation.  Selling wine is social, too. Canny wine marketers know this in their bones. The job isn’t about moving a bottle of wine across a counter. That’s just the transaction. The job is about great service, gonzo enthusiasm and killer personality.

They approach a customer, ask the right questions, listen carefully, suggest wisely. If the customer goes away smiling and the wine is a hit, the customer will come back. And next time, bring friends.

If any industry is tailored for social media, it’s wine. The proof is in the data. According to VinTank, a social media software company for the wine business, 14 million people have mentioned wine online at some point, a number that grows by 450,000 people every month. And they’re talking a lot, having 1.5 million conversations about wine online—every single day.

The bulk of this chatter happens on mainstream social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, plus wine-centric apps like CellarTracker and Delectable. People post tasting notes, bottle shots, and ratings from 88 points to Yuck to Wow! They tag their friends, who share it too. Think of social media as the breeding ground for digital word of mouth.

Now, producers, retailers, restaurateurs and buyers have joined the conversation. Getting up to speed in social media means learning a new technology, but that’s not so different from learning a new point-of-sale system (and arguably a little easier). Happily, many wine pros find that success online requires the same kind of sensitivity and savoir-faire their jobs demand in real life.

“Customers are going to talk whether you’re listening or not,” says VinTank’s CEO, Paul Mabray. “You’d answer the phone if they called you. You’d answer an email. It’s fundamental customer service to answer a tweet, or a post on your Wall. And you don’t answer in stupid promotional ways. You just say, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’”

But social media success does require a slight shift in thinking. Traditional marketing was about push. A marketer publishes a notice about a holiday sale, or the arrival of a scarce Bordeaux, hoping customers will come pouring in.

Social media is about pull. Instead of broadcast-and-pray, a marketer goes where the customers are, connects with them, and engages with them on their terms.
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usual-suspects-line-up

 

 

If you are like me, you get offers of reports on trends in the wine business about every day. Several years ago I saw a synopsis of an extensive report that seemed pretty interesting. For the mere price of $2,500US I had a several hundred page report on my desk in about a week. Now this was when I still had an expense account so please don’t start emailing me more sucker offers.

 

Click to enlarge!

Click to enlarge!

 

Sadly, much of the report seemed like it was written by a fresh-out-of-college student, or at a minimum someone who never lived in the wine business. It was rehash of everything you already knew. To make matters worse, I was cited in several places for things I’d said. That instantly devalued the purchase. Why would I listen to me? I always lie.
One of the largest issues in a family owned winery is getting your message out in a way that impacts your customers and prospective customers, helps deliver the right message in a way they hear it, and create an emotional connection with your brand. There is no way you can do that one customer at a time. Its not scalable. And while going with the standard cohorts of Millennials/GenX etc is tempting, that isn’t going to be very effective in the end because of the wide variance in tastes within the cohorts. So you have to find a way to segment your customers and prospective customers into groups so you can then customize a message for that group. That is scalable but it requires defining the groups and individual characteristics of the groups as well as their motivations. If you can do that, then you can do direct marketing and even events with like-minded people.

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