4 Critical Roles of a Marketer

Harvard Business Review sends a weekly email with links to article summaries, and I enjoy receiving it to stretch me beyond the issues in the wine industry. Last week, there was a link to "Unleashing the Power of Marketing", an intriguing piece about how GE transformed the function of marketing from a support to a critical role to engineer growth by collaborating with customers, and identifying new product opportunities and markets.*

To create this breakthrough, GE had to change the way it thought about marketing -- from a support function (or worse, "cost center") to a revenue generating "commercial innovator". The company defined the "Key Parts of the Marketing Engine" -- principles, people and process, by identifying specific skills and disciplines, the essential roles and characteristics of marketers and evaluation metrics.

Most interesting to me is the second -- people, which identifies four critical roles for marketers: instigators, innovators, integrators and implementers. Despite numerous business school classes in marketing and management filled with case studies of how marketing-driven organizations operate, I've never before seen these roles so eloquently defined!

The instigator must think strategically to lead change -- practicing high level brainstorming to challenge the status quo by imagining ways to approach solving problems differently. Aptly named, instigators frequently face change resistance and must possess a fortitude of purpose and ability to take calculated risks to achieve a broader vision.

As innovators, marketers look to trends and market insights to identify areas for advancement before the competition. Instead of relegating this role to R&D or engineering, marketing actively participates in asking the questions both during and after the research to anticipate future needs. Again, consensus building skills and ability to fight for ideas is needed.

Hence the integrator role in which marketers seek to unite teams. We do this by cultivating data and presenting information in a clear way, sometimes speaking different languages with independent teams. This requires emotional intelligence and an ability to lead by combining positive, quiet force and shared interests versus outright pressure or more direct methods. A GE executive describes "war rooms" to identify potential issues and seek quick solutions before problems arose. (I realize the use of the term "war room" contradicts the quiet leadership method but these are two different audiences. The management team creates the "war room", then presents a united front to the departments.)

Finally, marketers must serve as implementers, executing the plans and using the integration skills to get the job done. This requires planning, evaluation and a measured approach -- this phase is typically more of a marathon than a sprint.

The authors state that these four behaviors must "be in concert", although "a marketing leader who has them all is rare". GE blends talents and teams to achieve this, and in some cases has two CMOs with complimentary expertise sharing leadership roles. Additionally, the company uses the process score card to evaluate marketers and identify strengths and areas for improvement.

In my next post I'll discuss the capability areas GE defined as part of its marketing process and how they can be used in the wine industry to create a marketing score card.

In the meantime, I encourage owners and operators to assess their teams given these critical roles. Does your winery have an instigator, innovator, integrator and implementer on its marketing and/or management team? Are there areas weaknesses holding the company back from growth an enhanced profitability?

In my own skill set -- without having yet officially self-evaluated, I would rate myself most highly on implementation with strong capabilities in instigation and integration. Innovation is an area I will seek to study and improve in the New Year.

*HBR provides article summaries online. To read the full article, you need to subscribe and buy an individual copy for $6.95.


December Newsletter

Read the latest issue of Strategic Guidance from the Ground Up, our bi-monthly newsletter. Learn about new time saving features from Google, large format bottle design suppliers and read the feature on the Transformative Power of Preparation and Goal-Setting.


A Primer for Analyzing Wholesale Data

In my last newsletter, I wrote about the importance of analyzing account level data from the wholesale market. For smaller wineries, getting this data and knowing how to use it can be a challenge. For larger businesses, allocating the resources to wading through all of the data usually means having a dedicated person or team.

The first step is, of course, gaining access to the data. Depending on the number of wholesalers you work with, you may be able to simply ask for it in spreadsheet form -- this might work for about five to ten markets. After that, investing in software to help manage the business is usually necessary. (See the newsletter for different providers of this software.)

Below are the fields in which I'm most interested for each market:
* Account name and address (would love phone number and buyer, too)
* wine(s) purchased and quantity of each one
* distributor sales rep who made the placement

The above is just a baseline set of information and represents a good start for those who haven't yet made wholesale management a priority. (I always recommend that if you're in a market, you might as well manage it -- it is ultimately the winery's responsibility to do so and those who expect the distributor just to sell through without a partnership will likely be disappointed.)

Software providers like DarWine will help you look at changes in the business because it's gathered monthly and offers a series of reports ranging from account level detail to wholesale business overview. Top level information might include a report showing number of accounts and placements for each wine nationally comparing 2009 with 2010. An example of a detailed report shows this data for an individual market to let me know best accounts, unsold accounts, etc. A further drill-down might be looking into purchasing patterns of individual accounts.

Assuming I just have the baseline information from my clients, here are a few examples of how I use it at different intervals to ...

* have a productive conversation with each brand manager regarding inventory management/depletions and any programming
* send a thank you note to new accounts, or depending on the size of the order, a special token for the staff members
* send shelf talkers to new off-premise accounts who use them
* promote special accounts or events through social media and winery e-blasts to consumers

... quarterly:
* help plan market travel and specific accounts to call upon during the day and patronize each evening
* run a list of accounts for DTC manager to keep on hand for out-of-town visitors to the winery who ask where to find their favorite wine when they return home

... annually:
* call top X# of buyers in each market to thank them and personally invite them to the winery and send a thank you gift
* run performance report for review meetings with wholesalers

Adding wholesale analysis to your repertoire will result in a great ROI if done consistently and well.

Latest Bi-Monthly Newsletter

Edition 15 covers part II of Increasing Sales with Marketing-Driven Strategies, a review of Grappos.com and discusses the importance of analyzing account level data.


Study Finds Marketing Key During Downturn

There is a natural tendency to cut marketing spending during a down economic cycle. When revenues and margin begin to decrease, business managers begin to look at ways to cut costs to maintain an acceptable level of profitability.

Marketing is typically in one of those "first to go" categories. While understandable since measuring ROI can be tricky given the demand creation cycle, cutting these activities actually reinforces the downturn for the company.

Even when there is not a downturn, some firms choose to cut marketing when things are going well -- I saw this a few times in the wine industry when I worked for Ed Schwartz Public Relations (now Calhoun & Company). In one particular example, the company worked diligently for two years to get coverage in a major business publication. Soon after, the client called to end the engagement saying that the work was phenomenal and that he no longer needed PR. Rather than invest in building the momentum, he decided to choke it off at its peak.

This research study by McGraw Hill was cited in a North Bay Business Journal article that came through today's Daily Links. The main take away for me is a reminder that some businesses grow during recessions. For example, one of my clients is up 70% YTD, and the main reasons for it are enhanced focus among the (fabulous) team of people and a strong, targeted marketing plan.

Investing in your brand awareness and loyalty (especially within your target market) when others are cutting, actually brings your business a greater ROI.


The Power of Goals - A 3 Part Process for Plan Preparation

Setting goals is normal part of everyday living in modern society. Whether it's getting to the gym three times per week, creating and tracking a budget, or spending time with the family on Sundays, setting specific goals helps identify what is important and to live a life of purpose.

In the business world, setting and measuring goals is a very important practice for success. John Wooden, one of the most successful college basketball coaches of all time and author of one of my favorite business books, Wooden on Leadership, believed that winning (or losing) was a matter of preparation. For Wooden, the process of becoming the best team possible -- setting goals and tracking success -- was the most important predictor of success:

"Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable."

In the wine industry, particularly in smaller and younger businesses, goal-setting is often primarily focused on the production side. We spend a lot of time setting goals for vineyard yields, fruit processing, aging, style, production level, recognition, etc.

Production goals are undoubtedly important given the need to deliver delicious wine, but, if there is no plan specifying goals for people and processes, managing the business side becomes increasingly difficult.
The symptoms of lack of preparation include rising inventories, decreased demand, unclear and/or inefficient processes, frustration and waning focus among people and, ultimately, decreased sales, profitability, and team cohesion.

Many want to believe that making excellent wine is "enough", but with competition from imports and new domestic entrants, consolidation in wholesale and account tiers, and the variability of economic cycles, it just isn't. I don't necessarily believe in the "new normal" of consumer spending (people tend to revert back to old habits once economic pressures decline), but I do believe in the "new normal" of the competitive landscape in the wine industry.

The great news is that preparation is a proactive process, not something out of our control like enormous flocks of birds preying on vineyards or rain during harvest. It's something we all have in our power to do provided we commit the necessary time and brainpower.

Preparation is also a positive learning process. It helps you understand why certain tactics worked and others didn't, and gain knowledge of team strengths and challenges. Viewing this process in a positive light means freeing yourself as a business manager to make mistakes and then seeking the understanding that comes from correcting them. Wooden again speaks to this value:

If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes.

In my practice, goal-setting for established wineries is a three-part process. First, I seek to understand the winery's strengths and challenges with interviews and surveys: confidential individual interviews and then surveys of key stakeholders including staff, trade and consumers. Then, I provide data analysis and recommendations to my clients and their teams, which serve as a point for further discussion about goals and processes. Finally, based on the knowledge gained from these conversations, I work with owners and managers to develop a strategic marketing plan identifying organizational and sales goals, mapping out specifically who is doing what, and when and how performance will be measured. We work to establish an engaging and motivating review process and coach the "players" to success based on preparation.

The research phase of this process respects and includes the winery's past while mapping out a proactive future. A consultant can't enter a company and effectively make recommendations based on prior experience alone. My experience working with close to 60 wineries ranging from domestic "one-man" operations to global producers gives me a series of best practices, but it doesn't give me the proprietary knowledge that is just as important in delivering excellent preparation.

For new wineries, there is still a research phase based on identified competitors, and focus groups can be used to augment it. Preparation for a new winery means that there isn't a lot of data to consider for the plan, but there is also a "fresh slate".

Operating with a common set of goals has several power effects. Teams become more focused and united, prioritization is easier and more effective coaching is possible. The feeling of setting and achieving (or surpassing) a goal also helps build momentum needed for the next year, when we need to plan all over again!

In my next post, I'll discuss meaningful business goals for the wine industry.



Swiftwater Cellars Grand Opening Friday

It gives me great pleasure to announce the grand opening of Swiftwater Cellars this Friday! This is truly Washington's ultimate destination winery -- delicious wines by Tony Rynders and Linda Trotta; fine cuisine and hospitality by Chef Matt Bates, F&B Norm Dillard and Club and Event Manager, Jami Parks; and a solid accounting and business foundation by Controller, Bjorn Gjerde. It's a beautiful location about an hour from Seattle in the Cascades. And there is something for everyone given the Suncadia resort -- golf, trails, spa, fishing and much more. All created within the vision of founders, Don and Lori Watts and their son and GM, Donnie and his wife, Meghan.

I have had the pleasure of working with the ever-growing team for the last 17 months and to get to this point is both professionally and personally thrilling. They broke ground in only August of last year so the fact that such a beautiful facility was finished in such a short period of time is nothing short of amazing.

Here's a detailed look at the work we've done together over the last year and a half:

*created and revised a messaging platform
*written and revised a business plan
* developed labels, packaging and a wide range of marketing materials with Joe Farmer of WhizBang Studio
* sourced software for the winery and restaurant
* written job postings
* sent 6 press releases and 7 newsletters
* pitched 300 writers and counting
* promoted 35 resulting articles, a video and radio interview so far... still counting!
* created a website and planned a new one with Brett Lytle of Lytle Works
* sourced bottle photography from Image works
* developed 3 social media platforms
* created two rock star wine clubs which already have over 150 members
* grown our contacts from 100 to over 1000
* hosted ground breaking and participated in Taste WA and Wine in the Pines
* worked with the Suncadia marketing, PR and event teams
* written and revised a speech
* sourced dummy bottles, branded items, glassware and "This is how we roll" shirts
* had 8 meetings and spent likely 5 full 24 days on the phone
* sent thousands of emails and logged 5000+ driving miles
* enjoyed many delicious meals at Portals in Suncadia, Seattle and the Watts family homes in Cle Elum and Kennewick (can't wait to finally have one at the Hoist House!)
* seen a Tri-City Americans ice hockey game and attended a baby shower
* visited several Prosser area wineries
* shared dinner two IPNC Salmon Bakes
* met many family members, friends and business associates
* congratulated Don on his Puget Sound Hall of Fame award
* and last but certainly not least... welcomed two new babies
Whew! This is just what I've worked on... multiply that by a factor of 100 for the full team's efforts.

In February of 2009, I'd never heard of Cle Elum, Suncadia, or the Watts family. Thanks to an introduction by Tony Rynders, whom I'd met at a conference in June 2008, I became part of an incredible team and business vision. For all this I am truly thankful.


OR State Fair Wine Competition

I was happy to return as a judge for the Oregon State Fair's wine competition. As usual, Elaine Lisle and Desa Swaim did an incredible job with the volunteers, organization and excellent treatment of their judges. The pre-judging dinner at Bentley's in Salem is always a treat because it features gold medal winners from the prior year. Sommelier Brian Kemmerle, a fellow judge, and chef Derek Ridgway do an excellent job pairing wine with the cuisine.

Some highlights included tasting the Italian varieties from Cana's Feast by winemaker, Patrick Taylor. And of course Stoller Vineyards' 2006 SV Estate Pinot Noir being awarded "Best Red of Show". (No, I had no idea which of the many Pinot Noirs was my client's because this was a blind tasting :)

It's always interesting to compare your judging notes with the overall medal list. As I wrote after the WA wine competition, there isn't a lot of time to savor these wines, so my notes are my 30 second to one minute impressions. Here I present my personal "Golds":

Phelps Creek 2009 Gewurtztraminer
Mineral, fresh rain, oregano and white peach aromas. Pretty tangerine and lime notes in mouth. Delicious with great acid!

Phelps Creek 2008 Chardonnay
Deep golden delicious and red apple. Nice oak integration with spice and good length. Best white of show/Best wine of show.
Shadow Mountain Vineyards 2009 Pinot Gris
Very inviting notes with pretty lemon-lime and fresh rain aromas. Bright acidity with a crisp mouthfeel with a touch of almond on the finish. More of a Grigio style -- fun and sexy.

Firesteed 2008 Rose of Pinot Noir
Ripe strawberry, sour cherry, floral and herbal aromas. Strawberry really comes through in mouth with nice acid structure -- refreshing.

August Cellars 2006 Pinot Noir
Deep, inviting red cherry, raspberry and baking spices -- multiple layers. Some good stewed fruit notes with a touch of fresh tomato, cherry and a nice minty/herbal character. Long finish.
Stoller Vineyards 2006 SV Pinot Noir
Very inviting, sweet black cherry jam, tea leaves, curing tobacco, earth with a hint of dusty character. Ripe, rich and round with a long finish.

Stoller Vineyards 2007 JV Pinot Noir
Deep, beautiful ripe, brambly raspberry, cherry and espresso aromas. Espresso turns to toffee and mocha in mouth which has rich feel. Love this nose! Nice balance and smooth finish.

Evergreen Vineyards 2008 Pinot Noir
Brambly with raspberry, cherry and fresh leather aromas. Deeper black cherry with earthy/forest floor and baking spice in mouth. NICE.

Cana's Feast 2007 Sangiovese
Deep red berry, leather, sweet curing tobacco with white pepper. Nice, dusty mouthfeel with raspberry and great acid. A terrific food wine with a long finish. What more could you want in a domestic Sangiovese?!! Best one I've ever tried.

Cana's Feast 2007 Nebbiolo
Blueberry, cherry, raspberry jam; smoke and moss. Good acid/tannin balance. Nice present finish -- still juicy so more time left to age in bottle.

Ribera Vineyards 2007 Merlot
Very concentrated aromas of stewed plum, fresh leather, clay. Delicious soft and round mouth with big fruit flavors retaining complexity of nose. Silky, velvety and round.

Cana's Feast 2007 Counoise
Peppery fabulousness. Red cherry, blackberry. Ripe with good acid.

Devitt Winery 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
Plum, bark, blackberry, clove, olive, mint and a little je ne sais stank. What a nose! Ripe fruit with good balance. Love the mouthfeel. What a delicious glass of wine!

Stone Wolfe Vineyards 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
Blackberry, black cherry, fresh leather, tobacco, eucalyptus. Very focused, fine ripe sweet fruit with peppery note and silky mouthfeel. Good tannic structure and balance. Long finish.


Latest Newsletter

Check out the latest edition of Strategic Guidance from the Ground Up, the Trellis Wine Consulting bi-monthly newsletter. In this issue I discuss how to create a marketing-driven business plan, an online meeting scheduler and present latest client and company news.


Diary of an Andrea Johnson Photo Shoot

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of working with Andrea Johnson of Andrea Johnson Photography on a lifestyle photo shoot for Stoller Vineyards. The winery is a fantastic place to spend an afternoon picnicking or a weekend escaping from daily life. With 3 guest homes on the property and ample space for relaxation, it's a great Willamette Valley destination. Further, the hospitality provided by the great staff is nearly unparalleled -- many in the industry forget we're in the hospitality industry first and the wine industry second!

Our goal was to show people enjoying themselves around the various areas of the property to highlight these features visually. We will use this imagery in various marketing arenas - ads, website, tasting room video and b-roll, and distribution presentations. (We have also begun a video process to create a multi-media piece but more on that later.)

To pull this off required the following:

* 2 meetings to brainstorm and edit
* 2 full days of working with her excellent models (she prefers actors as they are more relaxed and I can see why!)
* 12 wardrobe changes
* 4 trips to Farm to Fork to get picnic items
* about a case of wine used for pours and re-pours
* patience and cooperation from the winery team and good attitude about being asked to model
* ability to load Adirondack chairs on top of a golf cart and drive it without spilling wine or food
* ability to run through field in flip flops
* Spanish language knowledge

Very difficult to pick a favorite photo from the shoot but this well captures the spirit of Stoller:

Here's the behind-the-scenes look at what it took to get it (taken by my low res Blackberry camera) -- good thing she's fit and has a good attitude:

My role was a hybrid between creative director/water fetcher/housekeeping/damage control. As for the last part, we had just headed over to one of the guest homes to shoot a "perfect" picnic when a combine truck arrived. I immediately ran through brush to avoid the dust bowl beginning and politely ask the driver to back out of the shot for 10 minutes. He somewhat understood me, but thankfully, Eric speaks Spanish and was able to explain why we were interrupting his work day.

The "perfect" shot:

The drive to stop the dust:

We ended up with about 90 excellent shots. Now time to get these into the marketing materials!


Big Day for Marketing in Oregon

This morning I spoke to a crowd of about 40 participants at a wine marketing workshop hosted by Oregon Wine Board. The focus was on outlining the key elements of a business plan, drilling into the specifics of the marketing plan, and discussing best practices for getting started, implementation and creating a culture that seeks continuous improvement. I was impressed by the good comments from the crowd and thoughtful questions. If you would like a copy of the presentation, please email me.

Katherine Cole, wine writer for the Portland Oregonian, also posted a piece on marketing wine to women which quoted me. When asked about my thoughts on the subject, my mind immediately went back to a period in my marketing life where I was put in the unenviable position of promoting low-carb wine. (Not a good feeling considering that I knew it would be ridiculed by the press -- the worst is that one of these articles lives on to this day.) While this wasn't specifically aimed at only women, it is yet another example of trying to take advantage of a fad versus truly creating something meaningful for one's target audience.

It's important to keep in mind that my comments were directed toward the Oregon wine industry specifically. I do not have sales data on Bitch wines, so there is a possibility that the brand may be going gangbusters in its selected target market. In the end we're all in business so if Bitch is a creation women are buying and loving, more power to them. For Oregon, however, where the costs tend to be higher and the output lower, I do not see this as an effective way to reach women.


"If you don't ask, you don't receive"

This year I've completed a number of market research surveys for Stoller Vineyards. When the project began I surveyed the wine club and brand managers to get feedback on topics ranging from wine quality, pricing and value to brand communication and sales materials. We also studied visitor experience and perceptions. I then used this feedback to develop a SWOT analysis and the 2010 marketing strategy, which means it is considered for brand messaging in ads, media relations and social media, as well as how we develop consumer and trade programs. In other words, it is used on a daily basis.

Today I finished analyzing another survey of Stoller club members regarding events and soon I will begin a series of surveys for a new client, Chehalem. Market research is a pursuit I enjoy, but more importantly, it is very valuable to wine businesses. Don Morgan of GMA Research, a fellow speaker at the June Southern Oregon wine marketing conference, puts it best: "Positioning is what brands aspire to... market perception is reality." He also noted that the most critical market research question is whether or not your customers or clients would recommend you.

As a marketing strategist, my role is to survey market perception, build or re-build positioning (and reality) based on this feedback. Too many consultants have a tendency to come in and change everything without a true basis for their recommendations. While not every decision should be made with a survey set -- best practices do exis, this approach can be financially wasteful and ignores what the current organizational strengths. A good marketer should seek to understand before she seeks to improve.

PS - I do also practice what I preach. In a recent survey of all of my past and current clients, here's what I learned:

* 100% would recommend Trellis Wine Consulting either "very highly" (57%) or "highly"

* 86% rated my service's quality, integrity and professionalism "excellent" -- for value I received "excellent" on 57% of responses

* the two most important factors in selecting my company were its wine focus and the ability to work directly with me (versus an account executive) -- no one rated location in Portland or my references as important

I also learned more about my strengths and challenges on the open-ended questions. This feedback is very helpful to me as I continue to grow my business and plan for the future. One of the challenges of being an independent service provider is that unless I ask for feedback, I don't get it!


Your First Wine Tasting Trip

Do you remember it? I think mine was a Sunday afternoon drive to Sonoma with visits to Domaine Carneros and Cline Cellars in August of 2000... Well, actually, that's not true -- it was while studying in France in 1998: I had arrived early for a program through Duke at La Sorbonne and decided to head to Bordeaux. While there I booked a tour through the Office du Tourisme and ended up on a bus with 30 plus people from around the world. We visited Chateau Myers and Chateau Croizet Bages plus a third which I couldn't locate in my picture album. There was also a tremendous lunch in a cheese cave. The only sad thing is, I didn't care for cheese back then -- my how much has changed!

I recently learned that two wine-loving friends (who moved to the Northwest from the Bay Area about two years ago like we did) had never visited a winery. I couldn't believe it, especially given how much wine we've shared with them. I took this as a personal challenge and offered to serve as tour guide. Planning our excursion was a pleasure since enjoying wine is of course one of my great loves.

We began the day with Sheila Nicholas of Nicholas Vineyard and Anam Cara Cellars. She and her husband, Nick, purchased the Chehalem Mountains property in 2001 and transitioned it from a run-down walnut orchard to the beautiful vineyard it is today. Sheila gave us a delightful glass of 2008 Riesling before we headed out for a vineyard walk to check on vine development and learn what truly goes into tending a vineyard (HARD work).

After the walk, we returned inside for a tasting of two 2007 Pinot Noirs -- Estate and Estate Reserve, plus a Gewurtztraminer ice wine. I loved the rich, ripe red apple flavors of the Riesling (which by the way is a dry style) and the earthy, dusty and mineral notes I got from both Pinot Noirs. The Estate Reserve needs some time to open up -- we shared this over a lamb dinner and it was fantastic. The Gewurtz is just plain yummy. So we of course had to purchase all of them.

The next two stops in Dundee were for lunch. The gentlemen had to have Huckabee's BBQ and the ladies decided on Farm to Fork takeaway including a couple of their baguette sandwiches, Manchego cheese and duck pate. There's not much better for a sunny day picnic than Chef Paul Bachand's cuisine.

The perfect spot in the Willamette for a picnic is Stoller Vineyards*, located a couple of miles south of Farm to Fork in Dayton. Here we enjoyed the 2009 JV Rose with our lunch and the warm hospitality of Tasting Room Manager, Emily Olds, and Hospitality Associate, Serena McCauley. It is quite a setting with some sharing picnics and the panoramic views, others playing disc golf or settling into the Adirondack chairs, and everyone just relaxing and experiencing the wines. (Most wineries simply have you "belly up" to the bar -- I prefer those who offer you something special, a memory or a unique take.) Stoller is not a place you want to rush through; a good two hours is about right.

The 2007 JV Pinot Noir is a great wine to serve with a slight chill in the summer if you insist on drinking red on a hot summer day. Our friends were in a white wine mood, so they bought both the JV and SV Chardonnays to compare. I can't get enough Rose, which always sells out; so I left with more.

We ended our day with an appointment with the Manager, Courtney Shields, and her dog, Mac, at Soter Vineyards . I always tell people that Stoller is a "wow" experience because you have this unexpected beautiful property atop a winding hill. Soter is a similar feeling but here you are even more removed since you reach it up a long, winding gravel drive. When you walk into the open air tasting room, you immediately relax with the serene cross breeze. It is a place where you pause, take a deep breath, and just enjoy being. (Note that you need an appointment to do so.)

Here we enjoyed the 2005 Brut Rose, 2008 Northstar Pinot Noir, and a truly interesting mini-vertical of the Mineral Springs Pinot Noir (always nice to follow a wine writer -- Bruce Sanderson of Wine Spectator had been by earlier in the day so some library wines happened to be open). Tony Soter also makes a delicious Cabernet Franc from his Little Creek Vineyard in Napa.

We are most appreciative of the people who helped me make this great day happen!

*PS -Stoller is a client of mine. And yes, it would still be the best place for an afternoon picnic in the Willamette Valley even if it weren't. Check it out for yourself and definitely let me know if you feel otherwise!


Blogger's Conference

I spent this past weekend in Walla Walla at the wine blogger's conference. My reasons for attending were two-fold, to present Stoller's 2007 JV Pinot Noir during a live tweet red tasting and to network and learn. Happy to report that the wine showed very well -- our main goal was building awareness. The follow up is measuring an increase in that awareness and translation to sales -- hardly a mathematical equation, but an important step for analyzing return on marketing investment nonetheless.

As far as learning how to improve my blog, the conference was less useful since I write primarily about business matters and to a very (intentionally) limited audience. The vast majority of attendees were non-industry and focused on learning about wine and educating/reviewing. However; when viewed from a macro level in terms of increasing overall consumer awareness of and appreciation for wine, the conference and social media in general are a great movement for the industry.

It was very well organized and the Saturday field trips were a highlight. Our group visited Forgotten Hills vineyard which supplies Waters, made a pit stop at Cailloux vineyard owned by Cristophe Baron of Cayuse (my personal favorite 5 minutes!) and Walla Walla Vintners where we walked to Leonetti's Mill Creek Upland vineyard. We then lunched at Cougar Crest.

Spending some one-on-one time with traditional media proved to be an unexpected benefit. Unfortunately, I missed Steve Heimhoff's Friday introduction given a delay in leaving, but I did enjoy Lettie Teague's keynote on Saturday evening. She was genuine, positive, funny and quite refreshing. I've loved reading her column in Food and Wine over the years and will be following her at Wall Street Journal. Paul Gregutt generously invited me to a tasting of older Washington reds which demonstrated the aging potential of these wines. My two favorites were a 1994 Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot and 1998 Wineglass Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon.

Below are Cayuse's Cailloux and Leonetti's Mill Creek Upland Vineyards


Grapevine Article and Latest TWC News

Grapevine recently published my article, The True Meaning and Value of Marketing, in its May-June issue. I examine the differences between sales and marketing, demonstrating how the former is what moves the boxes and the latter what creates demand for them. Then I go on to examine the components of a marketing-driven sales strategy.

Also, check out my latest bi-monthly newsletter where I discuss what your label should and shouldn't do for your wine brand, some website tips and a new section, industry spotlight, featuring some of my favorite graphic designers.


SOWine presentation featured on Medford ABC affiliate

Medford's ABC affiliate, KDTV channel 12 featured SOWine on its website with an article and video


(My) Washington Wine Competition Winners

I had the pleasure of judging Washington's Sunshine wine competition on June 12. My panel, headed up by Andy Perdue of Wine Press Northwest, saw Viognier, white blends, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux blends, dessert whites and fruit wines. As usual, Washington Cabernet Sauvignon shined.

Below is a list of my favorite wines with tasting notes and two medal notations -- the one I personally awarded and the wine's ultimate award given by the panel.

In wine competitions, everything is done "blind", so we only know what variety and perhaps vintage we're tasting. First, individual judges taste and note their scores (you'll see my notes below are not full reviews because we only have 30 seconds to a minute to evaluate each wine). After each flight, the panel discusses the individual wines and must come to agreement on a final medal.

2006 Le Chateau Bordeaux Blend - aromas of blueberry, graphite, cedar and cassis; smooth, pretty and integrated on the palate with a soft finish (Gold from me and overall)

2007 Foxy Roxy Vixen Bordeaux Blend - earth, moss, and blackberry aromas with a similar palate offering dusty tannins; nice finish (Gold from me; Silver overall)

2007 William Church Sur La Mer Bordeaux Blend - pencil shavings, deep blackberry fruit with a little rhubarb burst; palate has herbal, coffee and raspberry notes; nice lingering finish (Gold from me; Silver overall)

2006 Robert Karl Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon - sweet black cherry, cigar box and herbal aromas -- great blend; good depth and finish (Silver+ from me; Gold overall)

2006 Portteus "Old Vine" Cabernet Sauvignon - graphite and sweet curing tobacco aromas (reminds me of home in NC); awesome black fruit, minty, herbal and graphite flavors; good tannic structure and complexity (Gold from me*; Silver overall)

* We had so many Cabernets and Bordeaux blends that we actually judged two rounds of each. The first was a "retain/eliminate" round where we decide collectively whether or not to send the wine to the medal round. This makes it interesting because I have two sets of notes on every wine. Since I remember liking this one so much, I went back to my "retain/eliminate" notes to see if I was consistent. Indeed I had given it a "retain ++" and noted its "herbal, older world style with mint and leather and nice graphite". It retails for $38.

2007 William Church Cabernet Sauvignon - apparently I like this producer's style -- stewed black fruits, cedar, tobacco; silky and slightly spicy palate with nice mouthfeel (Silver+ from me; Gold overall)

2007 Rio Vista Cabernet Sauvignon - graphite, dusty black fruit and cedar aromas; very nice integrated fruit on palate with good tannin level; doesn't have a super long finish but I like it (Gold from be; Bronze overall)

2008 Kiona Chenin Blanc Ice Wine - very deep gold color with nose of golden delicious apple, pear flambée, and a hint of very ripe cantaloupe; honeyed on the mouth with a little fresh spritz (Gold from me and overall)

2007 Northwest Totem Cellars Viognier Ice Wine - tangerine, white peach, lavender with a hint of fresh cut grass; nice mouthfeel with hint of acidity (Gold from me and overall)

2008 Kestrel Semillon Ice Wine - nose of rose petal, tangerine,and a little fresh hay -- very pretty (Silver+ from me; Bronze overall)

For a complete listing of winners, visit the Sunshine & Wine competition website.

SoWine Report

What a fantastic conference put on by marketing guru, Marilyn Hawkins of Hawkins & Company PR of Ashland, Oregon. Marilyn and her right-hand woman, Vicki Griesinger, were organized, enthusiastic and kept the schedule running on time -- not an easy feat when you have over 100 people in attendance.

SoWine was created to focus on sales and marketing for the fast-growing regions in Southern Oregon such as the Rogue and Umpqua Valleys. My talk, Developing a Solid Marketing Plan for Wine and Wine Grapes, highlighted the essential components of such a plan, how to compose one and tips for continuous improvement.

Below I list the best tips presented by each of the other featured speakers:

Eugenia Keegan of Keegan Consulting on Sales & Distribution in a Tough Economy
* do not underestimate the pricing effect of the true laid-in cost which is FOB plus transport and taxes
*make sure that the wholesale markets you choose are places you're comfortable visiting twice per year -- if you're not working the market, your competitors are

Don Morgan of GMA Research Corporation on DIY Research Tools
* one of the best ways to improve your marketing efforts is to think like a research scientist -- ask questions and use the answers to your benefit
* if you're only going to ask your customers one question, it should be "Would you recommend us?"

Rachell Coe of 4theGrapes on Making Your Website Work Much Harder
* make sure it is very clear how to sign up for your newsletter and buy your wine on a homepage that downloads in less than 10 seconds
* use free measurement and management tools like Google Analytics to monitor traffic and conversion, browser shots to see how your site looks on various platforms, and a link checker to make sure nothing is broken

Chris Oggenfuss of Oggenfuss Wine Marketing on the Value of Social Media and Customer Contact Innovations
* Facebook is the third largest "country" in the world -- if you only embrace one form of social media this should be it
* Snooth has a wine trade platform where wineries can and should manage their profiles as its the largest online wine database
* call your customers to thank them and sell more wine -- this is a vastly under-utilized form of communication in the industry

Porscha Schiller of South Stage Cellars on Special Event Planning
* begin with a goal in mind and be sure to check with the community and neighbors to find out if there is a competing event that will diminish your return
* 15 to 20 minutes before the event begins, "arrive" as if you were a guest to tackle last minute issues

It's always a pleasure speak at industry events and even better when I return to the office with a few pages of marketing notes for my clients and my company. A special thank you to Laura and Kurt Lotspeich of Trium who hosted the speaker's dinner the evening prior on their beautiful deck. Check out the winery and their Viognier next time you're in the area -- it's delicious!


Southern Oregon Marketing Conference - June 14

On June 14, I will be speaking at SoWINE, the Southern Oregon Wine Marketing Conference being held at OSU extension in Central Point (Medford area). The purpose of the event is to enable small wineries to address current challenges and better plan for the future of their businesses. My talk, Developing a marketing plan for wine and winegrapes, will be a more in depth presentation than the one I presented at the Oregon Wine Symposium this past February.

The event has a wait list but I am happy to send my follow up materials to anyone who is interested afterwards.


Brand Value Equation

I have before written about what I call the PPQ, the inter-relationship between pricing, packaging and quality that delivers value customers at the point of consumption. During this year's Oregon Wine Symposium, I learned a new and particularly impressive value equation presented by Rob McMillan, Founder of Silicon Valley Bank's Wine Division. McMillan quantifies a brand value as follows:

value = (wine quality x brand experience)/ price

Measuring experience is important for two reasons. First, it underscores that we're essentially in the hospitality business -- every point of contact with a consumer is part of a winery's experience. (Contact points aren't limited to tasting room visits and include e-newsletters, club shipments, phone conversations, off-site events, etc.) Second, experience is an important differentiation tool. Differentiation provides the unique and compelling factors adding special value for consumers and helps prevent trade-offs to other brands.

A winery can differentiate in many ways -- packaging, pricing, winemaking philosophy, story, etc. but the experience can arguably be most memorable. Think about it: How many wines are "made with passion from a great vineyard"? Now how many of those actually deliver a unique and compelling experience --a special one that makes a customer want to return again and again?


Oregon Wine Symposium Presentation

On Monday, February 22 I gave a presentation on developing a strategic marketing plan. My co-panelists were Mark Freund of Silicon Valley Bank and Scott Lawrence of Michael Skurnik Wines. Stephany Boettner, Marketing & Communications Director for Oregon Wine Board, moderated.


Strategic Guidance from the Groun Up Vol. 11

Check out my latest newsletter which highlights the True Meaning and Value of Marketing and a great way to file 1099s online.


Canopy Wine Marketing Network Launches

From Oregon Wine Press, February 2010- During times of economic recovery, many businesses are looking for valuable advice on how to keep their doors open and their books in the black.

Wine-related businesses in the Pacific Northwest resolving to revisit or launch sales and marketing strategies in 2010 now have a versatile resource through the newly formed Canopy Wine Marketing Network (CWMN). Read full Oregon Wine Press article...


Direct to Consumer Symposium

I just returned from the Direct to Consumer Symposium held in Sonoma, California. Mobile marketing via short message service (your phone's SMS setting) was the most interesting emerging trend discussion. Craig Harper, CEP of Apisphere, educated attendees about how wineries can use text messaging to connect with consumers. For example, a winery might use text wine club members in a specific area of a retailer tasting. Or communicate with opted-in customers when they travel to the surrounding area about wines available to taste that day.

I was also drawn to a finding that 90% of wine club sign ups are done in the tasting room. While not surprising, it certainly speaks to the power of the winery experience in connecting with higher value customers. The chances that a more impersonal website purchase will lead to a club membership are therefore relatively low.

A recommended quick tip is continuing to treat customers who have had to drop out of your wine club due to financial reasons as if they were still members for four to six months (i.e., offer tasting room fee waivers, purchase discounts and any other benefits). This will build goodwill, demonstrate loyalty on behalf of the winery, and increase the chances that they will return when their financial situations have improved.


Selecting Software for Direct Winery Sales

Check out my latest article, Selecting Software for Direct Sales, published in the January 2010 issue of Wines & Vines magazine. It outlines a three-step strategic process -- needs evaluation, competitive analysis and interview, to help wineries select the best fit and avoid common hassles and problems.