Friday, February 18, 2011

PT Barnum and his "declassified" Scarecrow

Ever walk into a retailer and have them extoll tales of the double secret declassified grapes that Cult Napa producer basically gave away? It's one of the most cliched scenarios, retailers make bank off this idea, and the reality is, you're getting duped. It's not necessarily the retailer that's doing the duping though. It could be the producer, it could be the distributor. No matter, the truth is, you just cant get Screaming Eagle for $30.

There are 2 ways for the winery to get grapes, they can grow it or they can buy it. Most of the great wines are vineyard specific, or at least a small collection of vineyards specific. None of the top producers use all of their grapes. Not because there's not a market or because they need cash, but because the grapes simply don't make the cut. No matter how good a vineyard may be, there will always be some sub par grapes. Rather than throw these away, they are often sold off on the open market, sometimes as grapes, sometimes as juice, sometimes as finished wine. Typically, there's not enough of any one of these producers left to do anything substantial, production wise, so they need to be blended with other sources. This is the great secondary market, and it produces some very solid wines. For a $20 Napa Cab, or a $15 Monterey Chardonnay it's worth every penny.

Once in a great great while, an esteemed producer will declassify their grapes because their harvest was inferior. They will either put these into one of their own proprietary wines, or sell these off to a separate label. It's these wines that are rumored to be "whisper whisper whisper, Napa Cab" that usually sells for $100. It actually doesn't really matter if it is. This isn't TJ Maxx, the wines are getting discounted because the label is ripped, or last year's item. They are discounted because they are inferior. That means they're not up to their standard, so no, it's not Screaming Eagle. Your harvest is everything, when it sucks, it sucks. You just can't fix it. I'm not saying the wines are undrinkable. Maybe, in the right hands, the wines can be quite good. Then you throw in the rumor/ hype factor. By the time the information gets to you, how accurate is the story? The bottom line is, you get what you pay for most of the time. Don't get super excited that a retailer tells you about the amazing deal they scored by a declassified something or other. Just remember it got declassified for a reason.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Let your customers in

I'm so sick of hearing about your social media, blah, blah blah. We're all on Facebook now, and frankly, many of us have moved on after the awkward reconnection with high school friends we barely remember. What are you supposed to do with Facebook if you don't do farmville? Twittter? Yeah, I do that to, but keeping up with all of the goings on over there can be somewhere between counterproductive and obsessive. For those of you that have found the balance for twitter in your lives, including my brothers (@endcycle, @bradmahler), you are more man than I (or perhaps just less neurotic). And LinkedIn, well, that's just really no fun. Apparently, you're not supposed to have a sense of humor and be in business.

So what's a guy to do? Here's my solution, and I think I have some evidence it works. I decided a while back that social network is like public speaking (I guess, in some form, it actually is public speaking).With public speaking, you sort of just have to go for it. I speak to crowds rather frequently, and I'm just not the polished public speaker type, but I have to let my personality come through. If I didn't I'd end up in a fidgety fetal position. So I let it fly, because that's the only way I deal. In the end, I get comments like "impassioned", "funny", and sometimes "weird". That's ok, that's who I am, and at least I'm being honest. Facebook should actually be the same way. I am a highly opinionated individual, releasing those opinions and experiences on facebook have proven to be a good thing. I don't want to get too narcissistic, but, that's sort of what it's there for. I have 2 places for facebooking, my personal page, and my business page ( I basically use my business page to talk about wine, and personal for everything else. I try to keep both light and witty, with my personality imposed on both. Here's what I've discovered: this has helped the people around me (customers & consumers) to get to know me a little better. And it's really me and my personality. If, as a salesperson, you're trying to make that personal connection, what's easier than letting your acquaintances read about your adventures and opinions about crappy movies? It turns out that even though not everyone feels compelled to post (it is like public speaking), many read, and they read daily. For business, it can be very good that your customers, even though they may not actually interact with you or your posts, have registered opinions and thoughts about things you've said or done. When you walk in that door to sell them something, it's not that it's been months since you've seen them in their mind, they're already caught up.

So how do i know they're reading? what's the impact? Well, in November I grew a beard. It was my "downtime beard" and before market work season returned (mid-Jan) I shaved it off. For the last 3 weeks I've been criss-crossing my market, seeing many of my customers for the first time in 2011. What did I hear more than anything? "oh, you shaved your beard". I didn't know they knew I had a beard, but there were a few photos i was tagged in over the holidays with beard. In their mind, the online reality and the actual reality were now the same. The most important thing is as these customers/ friends have gotten to know me better, they like me more (or are at least more polite),and they buy more wine from me.