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!



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.

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)