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WITS: On changing technology in wine

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to attend my first WITS – the Wine Industry Technology Symposium.  While i have often wanted to attend, my work obligations prevented it.  Until now.

Why was I so excited about this event?  Primarily because, and if you’ve been reading this blog for some time you know, at long last technology is successfully and measurably crashing in to wine industry.

WITS brings together industry professionals, technology leaders, social media gurus, and people that work with the tools and the people so mentioned.  As a career software professional, with an emphasis on CRM and CRM based ecosystems, I have always championed the use of technology to make you work faster, smarter and more successfully – with less human capital.

Gone (or perhaps while not gone, greatly reduced as people begin to deeply feel the pain of isolated databases) are the days when siloed solutions work for businesses; particularly in the wine industry, having databases of wine club members here, and then a database of DTC customers there, along with trade and media over yonder, is disjointed and confusing in the best of circumstances.  It presents challenges, and what is interesting is that while these challenges are not as unique as the industry would like to believe, many in the adult beverage industry have shied away from technology as a part of the solution to these problems.  Today, in 2014, with the number of technology companies that are customized specifically to the wine industry, this paradigm is shifting.  Small companies are no longer to able to function without a centralized data warehouse and streamlined system of record.

By building a better mousetrap, leveraging existing technology and tools, businesses can uncover more information and truths about their customer behavior that can lead to smarter sales.  But, Social CRM, Social Listening, and Digital marketing are augmentations to existing customer database tools.  And in this case, a customer is a customer – whether we are talking about DTC, trade, a distributor, or the media.  It’s how you handle each type of customer that matters.  It is impossible to build a successful social CRM (sCRM) program on top of a black hole of data; first – build the mousetrap.  Then, build it better.

CRM is, at the most basic level, the tool that you use, to manage the complete cycle of customer information.  This can include anything up to and including wine club orders, online orders, and email marketing tracking, but it doesn’t have to.  Those are all add-ons that augment your core information.

One of the most important factors in today’s market is social CRM (sCRM); as an adjunct to traditional CRM, sCRM allows you to find, track, and respond to what your customers or potential customers are saying about you.  Why?  You might be asking yourself.  Simply put, listening to what is being said about you allows you to be proactive; this can also be a marketing tool.  More importantly, sCRM allows you to engage with your customers are a personal level.  If you haven’t figured it out by now, engagement is king.  If you aren’t’ engaging, you might as well be dead.  How and where you engage can vary (more on that in a later post) but engage you must.

The good news is that today, with tools ranging from as simple as Google alerts and the free version of Hootsuite, to Hootsuite premium and Vintank, all the way up to Radiant6 and more advanced marketing automation platforms, businesses can make engagement easy.  But to do so, you need to be tracking, alerting, and responding to these touchstones.  Customers want you to engage with them and if you don’t – they will drop you like a bad box of wine.  Do you know what your customers are saying about you?  How do you respond?  Just take a look at some prime examples from Twitter and Facebook, in response to Comcast or Frontier Airlines.  Listening is key, but responding is king.

With the use of some tools and human expertise, you can find new paths in to in depth knowledge at your fingertips.  The benefit of a CRM solution in the cloud, or Software as a Service (SaaS) is that they are not one size fits all.  CRM solutions are flexible, customizable, collaborative and unique.  They allow you to integrate multiple tools in a single ecosystem.  The most successful examples combine CRM, marketing automation, digital marketing, and inventory management in a single solution network, but you can start small and build your way up as your business grows.

So ditch the Excel spreadsheets and join the revolution!  Social CRM doesn’t exist in a bubble, but it is the new methodology for businesses.  The tools available to you today can be inexpensive and easy to use (though inflexible), all the way to custom implementations, and all the way in between.  True CRM allows you to manage and build upon your relationships with your customers.  My personal belief is that you need several components that all work together to provide data analysis, tracking, and listening abilities.  What those solutions are, depend on your budget, needs and size.

The progression of CRM through the years, provided by Salesforce.com

For more of my thoughts on CRM in wine, please see:
Why Your Wine Business Needs CRM

CRM Is Not a 4 Letter Word

Still have questions?  Comment here or reach out!

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