“Jigsaw, but better, for wineries and wine salespeople.”
That’s the quick pitch. But before I go on, let me give a little background on why I think this could be a killer app for folks interested in self distribution.
A couple weeks back I was at the Best of the Best at the Westin in SF with a friend who works for Southern Wine and Spirits, tasting some pretty good wines and enjoying the all you can eat prawns (which the wineries – NOT Southern – paid for BTW, along with everything else at the gala). My friend got a new territory late last year and is still working on building the relationships he needs to exceed the sales figures that everyone expects. Watching him interact with fellow salespeople, winery reps and buyers, it was crystal clear that for professional salespeople it really is all about relationships. More than anything else (with the possible exception of quality, and even then not all the time) developing those personal relationships is the number one key to wine sales success.
Wineries that are interested in direct to trade in CA (and elsewhere thanks to Inertia) face the same challenge. Only our problem is compounded by the fact that restaurant wine directors have limited time to devote to being tasted, and frankly it’s a lot harder to manage 200 mini-relationships rather than 4 or 5 large ones. That’s the advantage (among many others) that distributors have.
Still, there’s a reason why winemakers and winery owners go on sales junkets with distributors. Wine directors do like to have contact with the people who are ultimately responsible for the wines they put on their lists. The trick for small wineries is to quickly develop and nurture strong relationships with wine directors that will lead to placements.
Long story long, the best way to develop relationships quickly is to know your customer. Smart businesses have been doing this for years. Harvey Mackay developed the Mackay 66 as a way to track information on his customers that helps his salespeople sell more (envelopes in this case). Each time they talk with a customer, they add to the profile so nothing is ever forgotten or lost. Things like personal interests, birthdays, favorite drinks etc. Each bit of information, if used appropriately, can help to strengthen and improve customer relationships.
But what if you don’t have a database of names, numbers and facts on wine directors because you are new to the wine industry? Or what if you’ve always relied on a distributor, and never made any personal contacts yourself? What if you work for a distributor and you’ve just taken over a new territory, like my friend at Southern?
For me the answer was to create my own database of information. Over the past year I’ve collected the names and contact information of over 450 wine directors in California.
More important than just basic contact info however, I’ve added key information about as many of the contacts as I could (around 40% have detailed profiles) which will help me to understand their personal interests, goals, and wine preferences, and to better serve them as customers. I’ve also included sample wine lists so I can see at a glance what the director’s goals are and if there might be a gap that we could fill.
Here are a couple samples so you can get a feel for what I mean:
Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.
Ultimately this is a time consuming job, and filling out the entire list will likely take years. I think that it could be done quite a bit more quickly if more folks were involved in creating the profiles however, web 2.0 style.
The database combined with a solid social site where folks can get credits for adding to and updating profile information and contacts would be a great use of the wine web IMO.
I’ve got the data and I’ve got an appropriate domain name (winedirectors.com). What I don’t have is time or the technical chops to pull off a site this complex. Do you?
Anyway, that’s what would have been my pitch if I’d made it to Wine 2.0. Feel free to contact me if you’re interested in pursuing it.