Amenities, Supplies, Services,Marketing,Rare Rant,Wine

From Vine to Shelf ~ Forget From Vine to Wine

This past week, I went though a therapy session with my colleague/on-line friend Michael (Mike) E. Duffy of the Winery Web Site Report. A title story, “Most Winery Web Sites Suck” really caught my eye and sensibilities.

“Wow,” I thought, “someone finally said for me what I’ve been thinking for so long.”

So, I commented on his story with a simple, “Amen! Thanks for posting!”

Then, I thought about it for a few minutes, and further replied, “And while I’m thinking about, so do importer sites leave a lot to be desired.”

I’ve been searching importer sites recently, and good luck finding out the most basic info on many of them. Being secretive seems like normal behavior, but imagine giving someone a business card without your phone number? Why even have one, if that’s the case?

What was the key statement that brought me to action to comment?

“…sites without complete information, and sites which make it hard to find information (especially Flash-based sites). Jeez, guys. These people are trying to sell your wines. Help them out for Pete’s sake!”

Ah… finally someone said it on such a gut level that I just had to applaud the effort.

Why do I so completely agree?

Mike sent an Email to me after I posted, “Any thoughts on why wineries don’t use their sites to be authoritative about their offerings?” He also noted, “I presume all *your* clients have good sites!”

Don’t get me started… But he did, so began my therapy session… This is how I responded to his first question and statement about our client’s sites.

We work hard to have our clients have good sites; and they trust Jose, who’s been on a computer since the early 80’s. (He’s a programmer. He’s got the mind of an engineer… turned down MIT, Columbia… about 12 other colleges during the “Year of the Hispanic” for a full scholarship to Bowdoin.) I’ve worked with wineries, knowing what they need for sales, because that’s also what I’ve done… been on the streets with wholesalers. I was one of the very first to demand of my employers – who later demanded that I leave – that they needed a trade section on their sites to support my sales, and get me out of printing 300 press kits at a time, before I went out to work the market. (I always spoke the truth to my employers, and would lose my job to someone who gave good coffee.)

Okay, so why don’t wineries use their sites to be authoritative about their offerings? Because they also suck at marketing.

Some people create wineries not for a livelihood, but for so many other reasons, is what I’m thinking, based on my experiences that I’m going to list.

  • The worst reason is because “I have an ego.” Oh, yes, I’ve heard that one. Don’t ever call that person on his statement later, for the exact same reason, he “has an ego,” because it creates another chapter in my book of Bitch in a Pink Slip©. (I hope that I’m not insulting your sensibilities, and you can laugh at this one the way I do! ;^)
  • They’re retiring, and want something to do. (Of course, they’re not MBAs in business.)
  • Another good one is the MBA who bought his/her way through classes, or – worse – just skimmed by, in order to have an MBA in title… not in theories and/or practices.
  • There’s a whole slew of farmers. Not a problem being a farmer, in fact, it’s most admirable. But it’s the control of not letting someone who’s not a farmer, but knows how to do the job with the freedom to do it, that’s the problem. You can’t give him/her advice, because s/he already knows it all… but never studied marketing.
  • They hire people who they want to tell them what they “want” to hear, not what they “need” to hear.

This prompted Mike Duffy’s second question, “If wineries can’t keep their own sites up-to-date with information, what are the prospects for OwnIT (yourwineyourway.com)?”

He asked this question because OwnIT (yourwineyourway.com) is a site that allows wineries to take all of their sales material content and put it into one place. The benefit of that is that if I am a wholesaler, a wine shop owner, a restaurateur, or an online wine sales company, I now have one place to go to grab sales information about any wine that’s listed there. This means consolidation of a lot of material to benefit sales. It eliminates having to search for winery Web sites. Considering that there are about 10,000 sites to bookmark for wine info, someone came up with a good idea.

From The OwnIT site:

OwnIT is a movement that is going to change the way wine is represented online. We understand that wineries, wine companies, and PR agencies have a incredibly difficult task of managing the product and profile information currently generated by users across a multitude of sites including; marketing agent sites, mobile applications, online retailers, social networks as well as other distribution channels. This user-generated material misrepresents brands and confuses customers and updating product information across all these respective sites is cumbersome, time consuming and nearly impossible to manage. This is what started an industry wide movement to organize all wine data and product information from a single location; and can be managed, accessed and published as needed to best represent your products across these multiple online locations. Ultimately wineries and wine companies will have control over their message and brands by forcing these retailers, social networking sites, mobile applications and more to publish your wines, your way…correctly.

So, the answer to Mike’s question:

Great question, and I’m going to answer it with another question, because this is going to make a lot of sense to you… again, based on my experiences with wine brands.

Your Question: “if wineries can’t keep their own sites up-to-date with information, what are the prospects for OwnIT (yourwineyourway.com)?

My Question: What makes anyone think that if wineries can’t keep their own sites up-to-date, that it’s more likely they’ll keep their info up-to-date somewhere else?

I believe the concept is a great one (OwnIT). I also believe that a company that hasn’t already got its own site up-to-date is less likely to take care of it somewhere else.

If a company is strong in marketing, it will stretch itself in every imaginable area and opportunity. If a company doesn’t have someone passionate about marketing at the helm, it’s very unlikely that this service is important to it.

Sad, but true.

So, while I applaud what OwnIT (yourwineyourway.com) is doing, I also see where their challenges lie.

Honestly, if I could get the 688 wineries that produce Petite Sirah – minus the 74 members of PS I Love You, which equals 614 producers of PS – to support the group’s activities (again, only 74 do support the collective marketing), this variety would bloom a whole lot more quickly than it is, based on the marketing effort support.

Instead, the rest are willing to ride our coat tails, ignore our existence, not feel that the $200 a year is worth it, blah, blah, blah…

People just don’t get/believe that it takes a bit of money to make a bit of money; neither do they understand that if they have something to sell, they need a staff to support all aspects of it, if they are to grow past a cottage business. Some may want to stay cottage, and that’s great. Those looking to grow, however, need to understand that there needs to be commitment, and the experience of growing pains to break out of the pupa stage.

I honestly believe that OwnIT can work, but in order for that to happen, someone at OwnIT needs to be hired to input the data.

Wineries need to keep their own sites up-to-date, and the best of the best at marketing will then take that same energy and put it onto another site… Meanwhile, OwnIT should offer performing that data input as a service to the wine companies, and charge a programming fee. That has a better chance of success, than to leave it to a wine company, whose most important focus is – as it should be – making great wine.

If wineries left the marketing to the pros – knowing that they need marketing, too – that wine company would be more integrated from vine to shelf, not only from vine to wine… There’s the crux… Everyone in this business waxes poetic about “From Vine to Wine,” when they should be thinking “From Vine to Shelf.”

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2 Responses to “From Vine to Shelf ~ Forget From Vine to Wine”

  1. Mike Duffy says:

    A terrific post, Jo, from someone with a *lot* of inside experience. I’m glad to see our exchange see the light of day. And anytime you need some therapy, drop me a line!

  2. Jo says:

    Mike, your questions brought out a lot of inner stuff, that some will love and others will hate. When I tell it like it is, it’s not going to be with a spoonful of sugar… Let’s just say when I don’t PR it, it can bee seen as swagger info. In fact, it’s just a Dorian Grey moment for those people who think, “What!?”, if you know what I mean. Those are the ones that seem to get me in trouble…

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