Friday, May 27, 2011

My Peeps

This crazy, mixed up world of wine we live in has a few governing principles. Of those, one of the most universal is that we're all a little damaged. That damage can be that we just don't fit into other business cultures due to genius, ADHD, or borderline personalities. That's what makes this so much fun, that we can connect to our fellow "damaged" people. If we are wine geeks, and indeed, you must be if you are reading this, we are inevitably geeks about other things. You can usually bet on the following mix of common interests in descending order of likelihood: Food, Music, Film, Art, Pop Culture, Liberal Politics, Environmental Issues, and Cars. Connecting to these people is one of the perks about this business, or as Cameron Crowe put it more eloquently: "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we're uncool. " Lester Bangs-Almost Famous.

I am a supplier, my job is to sell my clients' wine. The best way to do that is to either get the salespeople from my distributors, or their clients excited about my producers. Since each salesperson's bandwidth is so limited, exposure and attention are difficult to find. One of the best ways I've found to connect with these people is through Twitter and Facebook. I don't believe in egregious self-promotion. I do believe in the ability to bond with like minded people through mutual interests in the forum of social media. As the years have built up, I've found that I bond with more reps and clients through these mediums, and take a away a tremendous amount on enjoyment and satisfaction over the connections, comments and general witticisms shared. As a result, I've been fortunate enough to develop a shorthand relationship with many people I see infrequently, but have a true connection with. Hopefully, each of the connections has an affinity for what I do (from a business perspective) and appreciates my dialogues with each of them within this community.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Would you hand a hot piece of iron to a distributor?

Salespeople sell. Sales managers want salespeople to sell. It's in their DNA. Selling more wine can ultimately solve all problems. So why would anyone want to deal with "branding"? Simply put-the strength of your portfolio is often determined by how well your wines are branded. The success of many distributors is built by their branding efforts. Branding is the image and perception that you influence. Distributors have input into the packaging or language on the label, but the guerrilla branding is done by the distributor. The accounts you sell to, the way the wines are displayed. The waiters and clerks that sell to the end-user, and their training. This all helps or hurts your brands. Taking the time to execute this well is the most important thing a distributor can do for the long term health of a winery.

So why is it seemingly so hard to execute? Reread the first line of this post. Branding slows down sales. Branding can get in the way of a commission check. Salespeople, by culture (Pavlov's dog. Higher sales=bigger check=conditioning) are single minded, you probably can't change this. Frankly-you probably shouldn't change this. While writing this I keep seeing images from "One flew over the cuckoo's nest" for some reason. In order to brand a winery, someone, with authority, needs to devise a branding strategy, and set a road map for salespeople to execute while increasing sales. There is a nimble balance, but at the end of the day, it adds value to the portfolio and long term brand equity. Your wineries will thank you for taking the time to do this.