Marketing,Wine,Wine Business

Finding Myself in The Right Lane, About Two Years Later As I Look Back ~ Not Much Has Changed

It’s always fun to cast a glance over one’s shoulder, to see what’s  happened and what’s not materialized.

I’m sharing the following, because I was asked if wineries would care about a new way to keep track of all their point of sales materials, and having worked for so many wineries and wine companies, I know it’s a rare bird that gets – I mean really gets – marketing.

Another way to look at it… You don’t want me making your wine; so, why would you want to do your own marketing, unless of course you’ve got a degree in Business Administration, too?

It all started with the following:

In February 2010, I went though a series of Emails 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 had been searching importer sites for a while, 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? The same holds true for Websites. Want to see me jump up and down? Watch me go to  a site and the only way you can contact the people who own the business is by filling out a form. Why bother? What’s so secretive about your business that you can’t even put a phone number or info@anycompany.com down as your E-Mail address? Today, most of us can figure that one out.

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… This is how I responded to his first question and statement about our client’s sites.

We work hard to make sure 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.

While I applauded what OwnIT (yourwineyourway.com) was wanting to do, I also saw their challenges.

Honestly, if I could get the 870 wineries that produce Petite Sirah – minus the 88 members of PS I Love You, which equals 782 producers of PS – to support the group’s activities (again, only 88 do support the collective marketing), this variety would bloom a whole lot more quickly than it is, based on the marketing effort support. This means that they’d all be making a whole lot more money. (It just boggles my mind.) 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 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.”

the intention of YourWineYourWay was great. So… being in the right lane: Try clicking on OwnIT (yourwineyourway.com) and see where it’s at today.


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11 Responses to “Finding Myself in The Right Lane, About Two Years Later As I Look Back ~ Not Much Has Changed”

  1. Bob Dye says:

    I agree that there are a lot of bad winery websites, but then there are a lot of bad websites in general.

    Although you don’t explicitly say so, it appears that you’re directing your comments toward medium-large wine producers. Many small wineries are, by necessity, more focused on direct-to-consumer sales than on the wine trade. The website requirements are much different for the two different target audiences.

    I couldn’t evaluate your comment on OwnIT, as the link takes me to a website called wineportfolio.org, which doesn’t seem to have much relevance to what it sounds like OwnIT is supposed to be.

    But, in general, each winery needs to evaluate what the “hub” of their online marketing effort is going to be. Is it their website? Their FaceBook page? Or some third-party site?

    A lot of marketers believe that you should control your own “hub” (usually a website). If that’s the case, then putting your marketing information on other sites can be counter-productive. The last thing you want to happen is for your website to show up way down the page when someone searches for your name!

  2. Martin Jones says:

    Well said Jo! Wineries need to see and measure the effect of their practices. Accountability can cure a lot of ills!

  3. Paul Mabray says:


    Thank you for writing this blog and thanks to Mike for all the good comments.

    Here is the history of Ownit –

    Cruvee (now VinTank) was matching conversations to wines and we were working hard to get all the wines in the database to make our Social Listening software better. In working with many of the wine tech companies we noticed all of them were struggling with the same problem: collecting data from wineries to fill their apps, sites, etc. In fact they were spending 30%-50% of their time “harvesting data.” Where there were solutions they were either filled with dirty data, they charged obscene fees or forced the partner to link back to the company sharing the data (essentially hijacking the tech company’s user base). Being software guys and open source guys we took on the challenge and launched the OwnIt campaign.

    Essentially OwnIt was a service, for free, that allowed wineries to input their data and then syndicate it to wine tech companies for free and efficiently (through API’s). Own it was powered by Cruvee’s software. It was one engine doing both things.

    With the launch of OwnIt we got great press and at the same time a lot of fiefdoms that had data sources trying to discredit the campaign. Our two biggest problems were that we ran OwnIt separately as it’s own marketing program and that we used a tag line that was similar (Your Wine Your Way) but unregistered to a make your own wine retail establishment in Florida which is out of business but was incredibly litigious.

    In going to the market we made over 50 biz dev relationships to provide them the data. Everyone loved the service and data but suffered from two problems:

    1. They didn’t have the resources to integrate.
    2. They felt that we didn’t have enough data.
    3. They took but would not share back data they were collecting (we called it data silos).

    On the winery side we had equal problems. We spent hours upon hours convincing the enterprise wineries the value of data. Many didn’t even have their own data collected and organized and felt that PDF sell sheets were data enough for the market to consume. Smaller wineries didn’t understand at all and the effort to put the data in the engine was to onerous. Mike’s concept about charging wineries to input the data did not elude us and we made this pitch countless times but even at paying someone minimum wage that we’d outsource, they were not willing to pay. We hand entered many wineries data to demonstrate the power and show value and even created a free directory that wineries could even use as a trade section: http://directory.cruvee.com/ (which still exists today and here is a great example of winery leveraging the system – http://directory.cruvee.com/wineries/Jordan-Vineyard–Winery/00331701). Before the social listening software was free we even offered a years worth of the software for free if they entered the data. To further demonstrate the power of the data we built a Facebook app that helped wineries put their wines on their fan page to help educate their fans and convert some to customers. We also gave this away for free. This was our most successful initiative and over 800 wineries entered their data into the system.

    We also added a way for wineries to use that same data to fill out applications for over 6 wine competitions.

    At that point we tired of negotiating with the litigious retailer and integrated the wine data as a key feature in our software (where it still lives today). We shut down the site and let the URL go away and Yourwineyourway.com (which now seems to be occupied by a wine blog wineportfolio.org). We also bought Cruvee and we committed that the listening service will always be free and rebranded the software to VinTank Social Connect. We are finalizing a major release in less than seven days that will really up the ante for the power of the software and make social more relevant to the wine industry.

    The OwnIt part of the data is still alive and well and we have continued to expand the business development relations. In fact we now syndicate to over 300 partners and recently made a key data relationship with BevMedia (http://www.pitchengine.com/pitch/168254/) who power etailers (another key need for clean wine data in the industry). We also wanted to improve the Facebook app and made a key partnership with a company that specializes in Facebook Fan Pages, are great guys, and love the wine industry: http://www.vintank.com/2011/11/we%E2%80%99ve-got-a-new-bff-and-they-love-the-wine-industry/. They also continued the service for free to the wine industry if you put the data into VinTank Social Connect.

    So what has happened over the last three years regarding wine data?

    · It is still a mess and a struggle for all wine tech companies. In fact it is one of the top reasons wine tech companies fail.

    · The wine industry considers digital a tertiary priority despite the fact that we live in a digital world.

    · The major enterprise wineries have started to start data initiatives to get their data out to wine tech companies (mobile apps, social networks, etailers). We have partnered with three of the largest wine companies to syndicate their wine data exclusively. We hope that our soapbox has helped them better understand the meaning of data.

    o Most wineries still don’t understand the value of data and how it helps them sell better. A few examples:

    o Clean wine data and images sell better on etailer sites than wines with limited content and poor imagery.

    o A trade site is still inadequate to solve this problem.

    o This data problem is stifling digital innovation in the wine industry.

    o Have you tried to use any of the apps and search for your wine and not find it there? Imagine a customer having that same experience.

    o Data management helps sell better for all industries: http://blog.caspio.com/web-database/is-database-publishing-in-your-content-marketing-strategy/

    And what has happened to the OwnIt movement?

    It is still alive and kicking today as a key feature in VinTank Social Connect: http://www.vintank.com/our-sandbox/data-syndication/

    It is still free to wineries.

    It is still free to wine tech companies who can find the tech specs here: http://developer.cruvee.com/.

    The directory still works and is free for wineries to leverage after putting in their data: http://directory.cruvee.com/.

    Wineries can still get a free app to put wines on their Facebook Fan Page (like this one http://www.facebook.com/ModusWines?sk=app_135009399849762) from our partner http://www.social-candy.com/pages/ and can upgrade with tons of their awesome features.

    But we are far from solving the problem. This one is going to take a village and needs wineries to own their data.

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    That’s right, Martin. Thanks for weighing in.

  5. Jo Diaz says:

    I agree with you, Bob, with each point.

    The Website is gone, no doubt because of lack of support.

    Honestly, if you keep everything on your site current, and most companies do, the rest is gravy. Your own site, if you’ve got the right tags, will come up a lot quicker than any other, Have extra info out there just keeps spreading the word. It’s sort of like having all the aggregators taking my stories, and spreading them elsewhere. Yes, it takes the numbers away from own site in the listings of how many unique visitors I have, but it is also spreading the word, and that was my original intent.

  6. Morton says:

    I’ve worked from all sides of the issue of producing and delivering marketing information. As a winemaker for a large corporation I worked with the largest ad agency in the country who designed everything from labels, back labels, shelf talkers, ads, product info sheets…everything. later as the CEO of a winery with its own PR dept., marketing managers, and in house design. And later as a small winery wearing all the hats.

    Frankly, in my experience it is a wonder that we do it as well as we do in this industry. Farming out to the ad agency was the worst. They always assigned a lovely, young, sweet copywriter who knew nothing about wine, never understood the subtle issues, and the proof reading/editing process was a long, drawn out nightmare. And they never got it right. When I had it in house it was getting the winemaker to provide the info (that was the hardest) and talk to marketing, it was getting marketing to coordinate with PR, and all of the above to cooperate and provide info in a timely manner to the people on the street. There were about five levels of proofer, editors, and critics all to sign off to avoid the blame game. Finally as a jack of all trades at the small operation I had to design my own materials, take them to the printer, approve the proofs, package up the samples to the critics with the info the way they wanted it. With the advent of the web I had to buiild an online presence, learn HTML and design my site because the “professionals” just didn’t get it and wanted a sizeable retainer to just keep simple stuff up to date. (It’s easier now in some ways now, but you really have to learn Java Script if you are going to make it slick.) Now I’m facing the issues beyond marketing materials and current information, in just trying to get Facebook and the website connected in such a way that I do not have to duplicate efforts at each site and they compliment each other. You want to help me with iFrames? It’s no wonder that we commonly let our info get a little out of date. And I tell you, putting another layer into the mix is not the answer. This all needs to be made more user friendly.

  7. Jo Diaz says:


    Thanks for explaining my world, very much paralleling yours, including my learning HTML. Fortunately for me, my husband/partner handles Java, asp et al.

    It’s so much for one person; however, when you get it done, you don’t have to wait for the five editors, or the blame game.

    Good read.

  8. Paul Mabray says:

    I sent a detailed response re: OwnIt that I think Jo will soon be using in a future blog post. However the net net is that OwnIt is alive and well and can now be found as an integral part of the VinTank software.

    Paul Mabray

  9. Jo Diaz says:

    Paul, I found your reply in my spam folder. Being on vacation in Puerto Rico, I didn’t even think to go looking for it there. I was on Island time, sorry about that. I’ll be posting it as a story, too, this week.

  10. Paul Mabray says:

    Thanks Jo. We still believe and work tirelessly towards the goal to help solve the problem that we think is the greatest inhibitor of success for wine online.

  11. Jo Diaz says:

    I agree, it is the *greatest inhibitor for success.* As a marketer, I sometimes feel like pulling my hair out. (Ha!)

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