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!

Where can wine take YOU?

I’m sitting here in the lobby of the Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa, at the 2nd annual Wine Tourism Conference, in Santa Rosa, with fond memories of the Wine Bloggers Conferences of 2008 and 2009. The buzz is certainly different, with industry reps. tour operators, writers, and print media outlets, but the buss is here.

Spending a brief morning at the trade show, I saw many faces I knew, but I also saw many faces I didn’t.  Up and coming wine regions that you would not think of were represented, and I was looking forward to learning more about them.

All sorts of industry professionals were represented, including tour operators, wineries, tourism associations, PR firms, and of course – those pesky bloggers!  I was looking forward to both getting to know these great group of people ,but also learning what the challenges in the industry are, and how we, as new media representatives can help.

Of particular interest to me were the challenges that individual regions have attracting visitors to their wine destinations.  Both on a personal and semi professional level, the topic fascinates me.  Additionally, the age old question of how ot engage with social media and how to utilize new media.  I am a social media freak, and if you have known me since the first Wine Bloggers Conference, you know that I am also a twitterholic.  While some of this has waned in recent years due to professional and personal obligations, it is still a fiery passion.

In addition to my social meida addiction, I am passionate about finding out how I can help bring the wine business in to the 21st century uses the tgools of the trade.  These tools include CRM but also include business practices and methodologies that are universal across businesses.

So, where can wine take you?  Stay tuned this week and I give you some of my insights, ideas, eye opening moments, and observations from the Wine Tourism Conference.

Cheers!

 

Dream Big

This week marks my 9th Dreamforce, the annual user conference for Salesforce.com.  As one of the largest (ok maybe the largest) CRM tool – at it’s core SFDC provides the basic building blocks of a CRM tool.  Of course, now, 15 years later, it’s so much more than that.  This week promises to be a bit of a crazy one, as usual, filled with great sessions, learning experiences, networking, and dare I say parties.

As I get my body ready for the anticipated lack of sleep, and over filled brain, now is a great time to refocus on the fact the wine & CRM are a natural match.  The philosophy of Customer Relationship Management is one that has been struggling with in the wine industry.  In 2012, only a handful of software companies have solutions that suit the wine industry, but even fewer industry companies are getting the concept of CRM as a tool.  That is changing, and the next few years are an exciting time.

Why does your wine business need CRM?  We all know it’s a tight market out there.  How do you plan to sell more wine this year?  How do you plan to segment your customer base?  Too many times do I get emails from wineries that don’t know my needs or wants.  Why aren’t you paying attention to me as your customer?  You know I bought 5 cases of pinot last year, so what are you doing with that data/ world of the customer?

Keeping in mind that CRM is not a four letter word, many potential customers are scared off by the very concept as a 400 pound gorilla.  Putting the technology on the backburner for a minute, the methodology is the first hurdle to overcome to a successfully customer relationship philosophy. Viewing the big picture is, and should be, the end goal of a consumer focused business.

As I head off to the conference, now is a great time to share some posts about CRM as well as my interview with Paul Mabray, founder of Vintank, about the future of CRM and technology in the wine industry.  Where will the wine industry go from here?  How can we help you get there?

Get your creative juices flowing and start thinking about CRM!  For news from the field, please follow #df12 and my twitter alias!

Cheers!

 

CRM is not a four letter word

Wow!  My recent post on the need for CRM in the wine world has really sparked some inspired conversation.  This is an exciting time, as the more people are talking and thinking about CRM for the wine industry, the more educated they can become.

Today, Silicon Valley Bank presented their annual State of the Wine Business webinar, which reinforced the need for an integrated CRM solution at even the smallest wine business; the ability to capture, track, manipulate, and analyze data is capital if you are trying to grow a business in this ultra-competitive market.

And still, wrapping your heads around the concept of CRM as a communication methodology as well as a technology is a tricky proposition, and even as an experienced professional it is something that takes time and education to accomplish.  As the wine industry is notoriously slow to adopt new tools & technologies, they continue to struggle.  This however, appears to be the year of change.  As markets become younger, and boomers begin to age out of the fine wine market, the GenXers are a huge market force ready to take their place.  With the dot com mentality of the 34-49 year olds, we are better situated financially and more aware of the enabling technologies that can benefit the industry.

One of the most important topics of conversation has been why smaller wineries should adopt a CRM philosophy (and therefore a tool), and how it can benefit them.  In addition, the question of what tool to use is key.  To help wade through the milieu, here are some of my thoughts on that.

First, do you currently think in a CRM frame of mind?  Keeping in mind that CRM is a mindset as well as a tool, do you understand the full picture of your customer data?  Do you want to?  There are several CRM solutions you can choose from.  But before you even start thinking about what tool to use, you need to be prepared to shift your business practices and thinking in to a CRM frame of mind.

CRM need not be a 500 pound gorilla on your back, nor is it a four letter word.  The mere mention of the acronym can draw snark from even the most tech savvy people, and makes small to midsize wineries cringe with fear.  Remember that CRM is a business practice and philosophy first and foremost, and enabling technology second.  You may not be aware that your current solutions architecture (website, ecommerce, emarketing solution) may already have some inherent CRM functions within.  Investigate your existing systems to see what you can leverage.

 

The important thing is that you find a tool that allows you to view all aspects of your customer data in a single source and that you are not replicating databases across multiple systems.  The impact of having siloed databases can wreak havoc, result in multiple versions of the same customer, mass emailing snafus and general grumpiness from both the customer and your employees who are wrangling the data.

 

There are solutions for all budgets, from simple and low cost, to complex, customizable and more costly.  The question is, what do you want to do?  What is your business or marketing goal?  Can you get there with your current data and tools?  How much time and money are you willing to invest?  Do you have the visibility to the data you need at your fingertips?

 

Have questions?  Need help?  Drop me a line.

Why your wine business needs CRM

I work in technology, but my heart is in wine. Every day I see things in the wine business that frustrate me; every day I see how archaic some things can be. The wine industry is notoriously behind the times when it comes to technology, and is even slower to adapt to new methodologies.

What are the reasons behind this? Part of it is certainly economic; however part of it is exposure.  As an IT specialist who spends 8-10 hours a day working in CRM and another 12 thinking about CRM and how to integrate with back office systems,  I spend my days working in CRM systems and designing solutions for a wide variety of companies. And yet, while there are a few key players that are opening their eyes to the value of CRM, the wine biz in general is lacking focus in this area.

On a daily basis, I see siloed, independent systems for finance, customer service, marketing, and order entry that make up a company’s operations.  Each of these systems is independent from each other, with unique data sets that may or may not replicate to the rest of the systems in use.  In the world of wine, for example, you might have your retail POS, a wine club management tool, and an ecommerce or marketing tool.  Switching between the systems is time consuming and clunky, as you have to periodically update tech data set and ensure that each system has an accurate record of your customer.

The need in the rest of the world for an integrated solution to provide the full picture is great. Companies not only need to see the full picture of the customer, but they need to see the full picture of operations.  The methodology behind a CRM culture (and we’re not just talking tools here, but rather a way of doing business), is that you get a full, complete picture of your customer at a glance.  CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, is the art of knowing your customer, and knowing how you can better service them.

Yet today, CRM is still a great mystery to many wineries.  Most understand that it would be helpful, but don’t understand exactly why, or how.  If you reframe what CRM is, you will begin to understand how powerful it is.  More than just software, it’s a lifecycle approach to marketing.  A winery that understands this, knows that CRM can help you develop targeted marketing messages to specific customer groups.  A CRM ecosystem can help your customer service reps receive and resolve issues quickly and effectively, maintaining an audit trail.  A CRM order entry system can track your customer likes and dislikes as well as past orders.

What does this mean for DTC sales?  Everything.  Imagine the power of a tool, and a mentality, that allows you to report at your fingertips.  What did Jane buy last month?  Are you trying to move more bottles of the 2009 Merlot?   Target your offer to those that have shown a consistent order history of merlot.  Conversely, target your offer to those that have never seen Merlot.  With the effective use of CRM based marketing, these efforts become dynamic, and your ROI can be tracked automatically.  The use of a  good CRM database can allow you to market in ways you never thought possible.  In truth, if you build it, and market it, they will buy.

Further expanding on the idea of ROI, there has been a lot of debate recently about whether you can measure social ROI.  According to Vintank’s Paul Mabray, ROI can be measured easily if you view it at a wide angel.  No longer is social ROI a one to one measurement.  If you are tracking the long tail of a marketing effort, the use of an effective CRM mentality will allow you to capture traffic on your website, and new lead management in one fell swoop.  Twitter and Facebook landing pages become information gathering tools that feed in to your CRM database.  Some more robust tools allow you to manage these campaigns and analyze the results from within the CRM system.  How many Facebook likes did you get this week?  This month?  Are you prepared to offer your twitter followers a special deal based on how many times they mentioned you?

Additionally, for any business to consumer company, it is imperative that you have an effective customer service system.  Email is no longer the tool of choice for issue resolution.  Do you have an escalation and resolution policy in your customer service department?  CRM tools that are customized to your internal policies will allow you to track, escalate and assist with resolution in a timely, pleasant manner.  Many tools come with knowledge bases and FAQ structures that you can populate for self service.  As a consumer, if I can answer my own question with a few clicks and suggested solutions, that makes me a happier customer, and gives valuable time back to your team.

But, at the heart of CRM, lies the contact manager.  The base of operations, the contact manager is the centralized database of customer information that allows you to manage customer information across platforms.  No longer do you have to update the customer information in multiple systems.  This is a huge win for a customer, as I have had personal experiences where my information is different for each of the different people I talk to at the same company.  This should never happen in this age.  A good CRM system has a customer portal that allows for self service; enter this portal, and you enter the world of the customer.  Can I update my own email address or subscription information?  What about shipping data?

But, CRM is not a panacea for all that is wrong in the wine industry technology wise.  Each system is only as smart as those that design it.  You need to choose the tool that is appropriate for your business, but you also need to instill a culture of CRM within your employee ranks.  Getting your data correct and maintaining it are constant battles in my world; the good news is, with technology, you can automate some of this.  Can’t ship to Virginia?  It’s easy to create a rule that states pick up only or customer not allowed.  Dummy proofing your system will allow you to give more power and confidence to your employees.

CRM offers a universal view of the customer, in as much detail as you want to go in to.  Do you have information signups in your tasting room?  Where does that information reside?  Can you automate that process of data gathering with a laptop or ipad instead a paper sign in sheet?  Having this information populate directly to your CRM database makes it instantly available across the company and therefore available for marketing purposes.  If you were a customer previously, that information will be available; this allows you to redirect your marketing efforts effectively.

The most important thing is that you have management buy in, and a good business analyst to determine what your true needs are.  There is nothing worse than walking in to a system that has been designed without forethought or intelligence, and trying to use that system.  Can you leverage your current tools to make CRM your operating philosophy?

So, to recap, why should the wine industry adopt a customer relationship management philosophy?  We all know it’s a tight market out there.  How do you plan to sell more wine this year?  How do you plan to segment your customer base?  Too many times do I get emails from wineries that don’t know my needs or wants.  Why aren’t you paying attention to me as your customer?  You know I bought 5 cases of pinot last year, so what are you doing with that data/ world of the custom?

  • Integrated database of customers and prospects
  • Full service 360 degree view of your customer
  • Develop more targeted marketing efforts
  • Have the power of analytics at your fingertips
  • Gain insider knowledge about your customers based on existing data patterns
  • Integrated POS, eComm, Marketing, wine club management
  • Customer service at your fingertips, including self service
  • Measure ROI for marketing and social media marketing campaigns

What CRM tool you use can be as critical as if you use CRM at all.  There are dozens of choices out there, and reasons to choose many of them.  What is important to your business?  Do you need to know more about the existing customer database?  Do you need to integrate with your e-marketing tools already in place?  Do you want to analyze social ROI?  Ask yourself these questions and look to some solutions.

Many of the existing eCommerce and POS systems have some form of built in CRM functionality.  Will that suit your needs, or should you consider growing beyond those solutions?  What information do you need to gather to make informed marketing efforts?  Can you make those decisions now based on the information you have?

There are so many options when it comes to selecting the right tool; there are tools that integrate with Gmail.  There are cheap tools that stand alone.  There are full service tools that can be developed in to literally anything you desire, beyond CRM.  There are tools that integrate with POS and eComm solutions seamlessly.

The most important thing to remember is to view the future, and don’t box yourself in.  The biggest mistake that I see in my job is that a choice was made years ago without the foresight to the growth of the business.  Moving from an outdated system that is inflexible and locked down to a flexible, growth oriented system is a painful process that can cost thousands of dollars.  On the flip side, you can start with a cloud based CRM tool, using strictly basic functionality, and grow that in to a full service ERP, CRM, and marketing machine.

So, where do you want to go?

Have questions?  Want to know more about CRM for your business?  Drop me a line and let’s see how I can help rocket you to the next level.