Marketing,Wine,Wine app,Wine Business,Wine Business Innovation

Paul Mabray on the greatest inhibitor of success for wine online and VinTank solutions

When I wrote Finding Myself in The Right Lane, About Two Years Later As I Look Back ~ Not Much Has Changed, I wrote it just before leaving for Puerto Rico for nine days. In Puerto Rico, I’m definitely on island time – my favorite time of all. While I was checking my Emails each day, I wasn’t checking my blog spam filter, so I missed approving an important comment from Paul Mabray. There was a site for gathering winery data that was proposed two years ago in this story, and it was completely gone when I checked in to see how it was doing. That became part of my story.

I had written:

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.

The link for OwnIT (yourwineyourway.com) now goes to another site today, because Own IT has been wrapped into another company.  Yourwineryyourway.com is being directed toward Wineportfolio.org. This is very confusing for anyone, I know, and so Paul Mabray of VinTank.com wrote extensively to clear it up. His rebuttal is quite good, and now that I’ve given you the history lead-ins, here are Paul’s thoughts.


Thank you for writing this blog and thanks to Mike [Duffy of the Winery Web Site Report] 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 its 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 too 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 year’s 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.
    • Most wineries still don’t understand the value of data and how it helps them sell better. A few examples:
    • Clean wine data and images sell better on etailer sites than wines with limited content and poor imagery.
    • A trade site is still inadequate to solve this problem.
    • This data problem is stifling digital innovation in the wine industry.
    • 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.
    • 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 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.

We shall see, because Paul and I are in firm agreement on something that he also wrote to me: 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.


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10 Responses to “Paul Mabray on the greatest inhibitor of success for wine online and VinTank solutions”

  1. James Jory says:

    Thank you for posting Paul’s clarification on Own IT. As Paul emphasized, we are still committed to solving this increasingly vital problem. We can’t do it alone, though. We’ve built the digital infrastructure and channels to allow quality wine data to flow in a way that is required by today’s sites and apps but the industry has to choose to leverage it.

    One aspect of your previous post that I’d like to comment on, which also dovetail’s into Paul’s response, is the role of the winery website today and going forward. There’s no doubt that the Internet and how it’s used is evolving every day. And the pace of change is only increasing. The primary drivers for change are social networks and the mass adoption of mobile. In the digital world of the “connected consumer” (term coined by Brian Solis), traditional search engines and company websites are becoming secondary services and often, for company websites, a source of frustration. Connected consumers increasingly turn to their social graphs for news, to find things, and seek recommendations. The web 1.0 workflow of browsing to google.com, searching for a product, clicking through to a winery website, and reading a detail page or PDF tech sheet is dying. To reach the connected consumer your brand message, product details, and digital experience has to live and be optimized for where they live. Publishing content on a webpage or in a PDF doesn’t cut it anymore. The nervous system of today’s Internet is powered by APIs (application programming interfaces) and this is precisely where we have put the emphasis of our data syndication service. There’s a lot more to this but I wanted share some of my thoughts.

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    Amen, James.

    I recently wrote a blog story entitled, “Is Petite Sirah, that Special Black Opal of the Wine World, a Winemaker’s Wine? Winemakers weigh in.” As i wrote it, my Zemanta feature actually popped up with an image for a bottle of Tres Sabores, because I was writing aobut Julie Johnson and how she had inspired that story, mentioning her Tres Sabores Petite Sirah. The bottle popped up as an offered image for what I was writing. The image was provided by Snooth (under your VinTank house). Clicking on the image took me to a page that offered her wine for sale.

    Clearly a brilliant move by you all…

  3. Ian Griffith says:

    James and Paul,

    What is wrong with this industry that you need to drag CA wineries along to do something that will help promote their products and build demand beyond their existing client base? If you weren’t doing this for them they would need to invent you! Keep up the good fight and let us know how Beverage Media can help.


  4. James Jory says:

    As much as I would love to give VinTank indirect credit for the results you saw in the Zemanta plugin, those are coming solely from Snooth’s API. Although our teams are working on plans for data exchange between our platforms, it’s not a reality yet (note that the hurdles are not technical but rather just getting the arrangements in place).

    Nevertheless, what you experienced in the Zemanta plugin is a perfect example of the end-result we are all shooting for. That is, contextually accurate wine data delivered in a usable context.

  5. Jo Diaz says:

    Thanks for clarifying, James.

  6. Jo Diaz says:


    If we think about the fact that the wine industry was born from a group of farmers, not marketers, it makes more sense.

    I can’t make wine for poop, but I can market like mad. Trying to get the winemakers into the marketing kitchen with me, is on of the hardest parts of my job… These farmers can no longer just set up a fruit stand at the end of their driveways and sell of their crops. It’s almost abhorrent to them that they need more people in their food chain, but they do. They have to pay someone to help them to get their marketing done, and some of them just can’t afford it. That’s the real crux of it all; being able to afford to have someone on a computer to do these things for them.

  7. Jo,

    You hit the nail right on the head. Small wineries desperately need marketing skills to embrace the opportunities of social commerce but we can’t afford them. I am a winemaker with some marketing background from my previous life and I still feel like I’m barely hanging on to the tigers tail with how to capitalise on the explosion of “social”.

    Small wineries need to develop social business to build a community and ultimately increase direct sales and retain the margin lost in the traditional distribution system if they are to survive. My winery is set up on VinTank which only costs me my time and I’m hoping that the journey VinTank are leading us on will help achieve that.

    Aside from the commercial imperative I also love the potential social media offers to bypass and subvert the entrenched power of distributors and wholesalers and to bring winemakers into regular, direct contact with everyone who’s talking about, tasting, and buying their wines. It might be a bumpy ride but small winemakers have to be on board to thrive in the new “social” world that this revoultion is creating.

  8. Jo Diaz says:

    Amen, Rodger… and good luck with it all. I have to balance all the new social with traditions, so I know the overwhelmingness of it all, too.

  9. Paul Mabray says:

    Thank you Rodger, please feel free to contact us directly for any help you may need with our software or even in exchanging ideas on how to better deal with social and digital. We are here to help you.

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