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.

Where do we go from here?

I’m a wine blogger.  I’m a wine writer.  I’m a wine lover.  All of these things are true.  As a wine blogger, I sometimes become discouraged with the lack of traffic, and total death of the comment as interaction.  Recently, however, I have been reframing this doomsday mentality with the new social media.  is it true that my traffic has fallen off?  Or is it more true that my traffic has changed, and the expressway of my primary URL has migrated to local access roads of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other outlets?

I think both are true.  Yesterday I was reading a post on WineZag in which the author points out that a massive ~80% of blogs (in thise case, design blogs) have less than 10,000 visitors each month.  Personally, i’d like to see this statistic broken down further in to smaller increments, because how many of you have less than 1000 visitors each month?

I have seem my blog traffic steadily decline over the last year, and at first I blamed myself for my lack of posts and interaction.  But rethinking that a bit, my blog persona hasn’t shied away, it’s just changed.

Is traffic really the most important thing? Or is engaging with your audience – whether that’s on twitter, the blog, facebook, pinterest, google plus, or via smoke signals the most important goal?  With the plethora of social media tools out there, how do you accurately gauge the true reach of your blog community?  It’s difficult.  I haven’t quite figured out how to do that myself.

One thing that is important, is having a consistent message.  I have an online identity.  My twitter name, Instagram user ID, and Facebook page are the same name.  Consistant messaging is critical to maintain your audience.  Blogging is morphing in to another beast – no longer is the “blog at least xxx times a week” measure treu.  Do you blog?  Do you Pinterest?  Do you have an engaged community on Facebook?  Do you tweet?  in my mind, all of these things add to your true social reach and contribute to your brand.    While my blogging has certainly fallen off over the last year, my activity in social media has increased.

Taking my cue from other successful bloggers, it’s not the measure of quanitty, it’s the quallity.  So please, stay tuned to Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter (@Luscious_Lushes for pure blog love, @winebratsf for everything else), Facebook,a nd this page.  Blink and you might miss it!  Social media is a spider web, interconnecting users, and it grows and changes as we grow and change.

What’s your preferred social media method?  How do you measure your engagement?



When socializing goes mainstream

What’s a tweetup you ask?  Why would you tweet something up?  Recently, I had the opportunity to meet and greet with dozens of the Bay Area’s finest, bloggers and wine professionals, as well as just some very cool people at the The Napa Valley Tweetup – Presented by Robert Mondavi Winery.

Earlier in the day, the Social Media Seminar provided an in depth look at how social media is changing the wine industry, and how users are becoming more engaged via blogs and other social media platforms.  Then it was time to have some fun!  Hidden int he stunning To Kalon Cellar, with it’s giant redwood tanks and awe inspiring barrel cellar, the in crowd assembled to taste Mondavi’s wines and mingle over a social media cocktail.  In the rather cavernous dungeon, we were greeted by Gabriel Carrejo, who is the cheerleader behind many digital media tweetups and networking events.

Once inside, atop the catwalk above those giant redwood fermentation tanks, there were stations set up with each of the wines, where we were instructed to check in on FourSquare at east tasting station in the hopes that we might win some swag.  More importantly, the social locator allowed us to see who else might have been at the event, and seek out those individuals that we might want to meet, by nature of the geo locating tool.  Say what you might about tools like FourSquare – but for social location, networking, and impromptu meetups over a glass of wine, it is an invaluable tool.

As I wandered from station to station, I saw many of my old friends, and was able to reconnect over a glass of wine.  In addition, it was a spectacular networking event as I met many more tweeters and industry insiders that were in attendance.  The benefit to events such as this are difficult to measure; however, on a personal level, having the ability to meet many people that I have not otherwise had the opportunity to do , and to revisit a winery that I have not been to in a while is invaluable.  Changing perception in this business can be challenging; too often, large wineries write people off if they are no longer repeat customers.  this is a poor business decision in a challenging economy, as EVERY old customer can be a new customer provided that the experience is a good one.

Mondavi is one such winery that I have been underestimating.  Long ago, I was a frequent visitor and a fan.  Then I grew up, and started visiting smaller wineries, and other wineries, by passing the monolith as I cruised up 29.  On this night, I was shown the light, both in the warm welcome by the Mondavi staff, and in their willingness to embrace social media and us, the Mediaites, by providing an elegantly casual setting where social media users and curiosity seekers mingled, discuss business, blogs, twitter, and just have a good time, puts the Social back in to social media. Don’t underestimate the power of inclusive events such as the tweetup.  Personalities such as Hardy Wallace have been instrumental in challenging market perceptions in brands like Murhpy Goode, which are often written off by more experienced wine drinkers (ok fine, me) as the mass produced and overdone wines.

Later that weekend, I stopped by Amista Vineyards (@amistavineyards) in Dry Creek Valley during barrel tasting.  An effective user of Twitter, Amista has been attracting tweeters with their personal attention, and inviting tweets promoting their wines and lovely picnice grounds.  While out and about, Vicky tweeted that I was only 3 miles away and should stop by.  Far be it for me to refuse and invitation, so my friends & I grabbed a picnic and headed out to the grounds behind the tasting room.  Having a personal touch with a warm greeting and a welcome sign will bring in people more times than having a cult cab.  Wineries should take note – it’s about relationships first, wine second.  If you are treat a customer poorly or indifferently, when visiting a tasting room, they are almost certainly not going to becoming a lifetime customer.  Treat a customer like a valued friend, and they will cmoe back over and over again.  Amista has won my Customer Loyalty award, along with Holdredge, Manzanita Creek, Mounts, and Michel-Schlumburger – to name a few in Sonoma.  In Napa, the winners are St. Supery, Titus, and Domaine Carneros, which proves that you don’t need to be a small family winery to understand excellent customer service.

I hope that this tweetup was just one of the first in a long series, as it will go a long way in expanding the value of social media and proving that it’s not just about the static post or tweet anymore.  Social media is a living organizsm, and requires maintenance, just like freindships.

Special thanks to Robert Mondavi Winery, Vintank, Amista, and all of my new & old social media buddies who are now valued friends (and I can’t list them all so here are a few of my rockstars, who mentor me and are just generally awesome)

Pop! Goes the tweet

The other day, I was sitting at home after a typically whacky day at work, trying to decompress, when the nice UPS driver popped by.  After I got over my shock and amazement at the fact i was actually HOME at the time, since this is against UPS edict in my world, I was pleasantly surprised to find a “tweet” of Zonin Prosecco waiting for me.

What is a tweet of Prosecco you ask?  In this case, is it a 187ml bottle of Zonin Prosecco, packed up by an enterprising creative team at Benson Marketing Group.  my happenstance, and happy coincidence, the sender was actually another Thea, which makes this bubbles from Thea to Thea.

Prosecco is one of the Italian sparkling wines, which has grown over 15% in market share since 2009.  At $4 for the split, and $15 for the bottle, this is a great alternative to champagne in these budget conscience times.

The Prosecco OG Brut is the palest of straw colored, and is 100% Prosecco.  This is one of several Italian sparklers, and is the best selling sparkling wine in Europe.  Prosecco is typically off-dry, so it a great brunch wine, aperitif, or anytime treat when you don’t care for the Extra Brut offerings elsewhere.  This wine was made in the Charmat method.  This is the typical Italian way of making sparking wine, in which the wine undergoes its secondary fermentation in tanks, instead of in the bottle.  the resulting sparkling wine is then bottled under pressure.

On the palate, I taste brioche grand marnier french toast, apples, and marzipan, while I smelled apple blossoms and ginger.  Considering that this is only $15, my Prosecco snobbery has been broken.  Gone are my thoughts of sweet, cheap sparkling wine, and in are my mm mm good tweets!  You can follow Zonin at @zoninprosecco.

The importance of being…

As I expand my circle of friends in the wine business, I am often asked what is a wine blog, or what is Twitter, and why should I care.  As I sit here and read the newsletter from one of my favorite wineries, Manzanita Creek, I am struck by the call to action they put forth in the closing paragraph which sums up the most important reason:

Blogging has become and important marketing tool.  It is a win-win for the consumers and wineries.  The consumers gain knowledge and spread the word to other wine lovers with results in sales.  In this economy, we are all struggling.  We need our members support within the bloggersphere!

This in a nutshell is why wineries should blog and engage in new media, why wineries should encourage their patrons to blog, and why bloggers are so powerful.  As a winery or retailer, there are several reasons why you should join the social media revolution.  The first and foremost reason that comes to my mind is that you are missing out on a huge audience that is sitting there waiting to communicate with you.  Social media and online resources are essentially free to you, with the exception of your time.

  • Wine Bloggers are the new way of providing word of mouth marketing .  Anyone who has ever worked in a retail environment, including software sales, knows that WOM marketing is the single most effective way to generate new sales.
  • The new generation of wine drinkers is more media savvy and more wired than ever before.  They are reaching the age of majority in record numbers, and are a mostly untapped market segment.  These are the generation that crosses Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Whatever, born between 1979 and 2002, otherwise known as Millennials.  These consumers aren’t looking to build a cellar or impress their friends.  They want instant gratification and they want gloss.  They are looking for inexpensive but tasty beverages.  They don’t care about Parker, they don’t’ care about shelf talkers.  They are more likely than any other consumer to mak etheir wine purchases based on something written online.  They buy things online in record numbers.
  • We get more of our news online than from any other soruce.  This also pertains ot wine news.  Blogs and e-newsletters are free or next to free tools to spread news and information about your brand to a mass audience easiily
  • Microblogging platforms such as Twitter provide you with a large community of wine bloggers and wine lovers who have formed an online family.  Get ot know a few of them, and they can introduce you to the rest of the wine community.  I liken it to instant messaging a large auidence of like minded people at once.  Twitter is a powerful broadcast media tool and some of the things that I think are great uses of the tool are:
    • Twitter only discounts.  A great example of a retail that does this are The Wine Spies.
    • News & blog post announcements to encourage readers to click through to your website or blog.
    • Participate in online events such as Twitter Taste Live
    • Interaction with consumers with specific questions

Some examaples of good winery Twitterers are:

Additionally, there are literally hundreds of wine bloggers on Twitter.  There is a great list at Wine Twitters. As Michael Wangblicker of Caveman wines wrote,

I use Twitter to connect with wine bloggers, wine enthusiasts, and social media junkies like myself. Recently, I used Twitter and my blog to promote my client’s new harvest intern blog. Along with email, this was a great method of getting the word out. It worked because I am a member of the community and peopl know who I am. Another great application for a microblog would be an online tasting. Bin Ends Wine, an online retailer, conducts monthly “Twitter Taste Live” seminars where a special guest “tweeter” conducts a tasting all over Twitter. I also forsee this working for a winery media tasting.

So what can a winery do to encourage this new media marketing?  COMMUNICATE with the bloggesphere!   There are few key ways that I see this in action:

  • Create Google Alerts to notify your marketing team (or yourself!) when a blogger has written about your winery.  This is a simple and effective tool that emails you when a blogger talks about your winery, effectively giving you free marketing
  • Host Blogger Tasting Forums.  The first of these was held at Hahn Estates recently, and included several bloggers as well as the Hahn team and other winery participants.  This kind of cross dialogue gets people talking.  These are a great opportunity for bloggers and wineries to sit down together, where the host winery is highlighted, and we as bloggers can learn more about your wine while talking to our fellow bloggers and including additional wineries.
  • Participate in a blogger sample program.  Be sure to ask a blogger if they are open to this first, as some bloggers do not wish to receive samples.  This is a very powerful way to get the word out about a new product, which might not be readily accessible.  If you are trying to luanch a mailing list only brand, having a blogger who had 1000 readers a month read about is a huge viral marketing tool.
  • Participate in event s like Twitter Taste Live. Twitter Taste Live is an online tasting forum where participants taste the same thing at the same time across the country (and sometimes across the world).  Dpeending on the focus, you are increasing sales both during the event itself, and after – as blog posts are completed.
  • Come to the WBC! The Wine Bloggers Conference is in its infancy but it was a truely amazing event.  There were many wineries that participated, not just in tastings, and as a direct result we were exposed to them.
  • Exposure is key.  There are over 700 wineries in California ALONE.  How many do you realistically thing we actually know about?  taking that a step further, accessibility can be challenging.  If we can’t get a wine easily than we won’t know about it and you are missing out on sales.

These are just some of my ideas.  There are many more posted over HERE, and I encourage you to cehck it out!

Traditional print media is being weeded down.  As newspapers file for Chapter 11, and the new geneation doesn’t subscribe to traditional wine journals, online media is becoming increasingly important.  Bloggers often have a more distinct connection with the wine buying audience, since we are writing about what we enjoy, what are expereinces are, and what our passions are.  This differs from traditional wine writing since – in my opion – they are talking about the wine in a technical way, without the passion or love that I feel many wine bloggers have.

In Vino Veritas!