January 11, 2010

Vinography and how wineries will fail

I enjoy Alder Yarrow's Vinography blog from time to time. Recently he wrote about his experience researching information from Sonoma and Marin county producers in California for a new wine atlas he's contributing to.

He was surprised at how so many wineries are so unresponsive to phone calls during business hours, emails asking for confirmation of addresses and other basic information, and the like. It's basic stuff, right? Be responsive, especially when someone is trying to help publicize you.

Alder's point is that wineries need to be even more responsive in the new century as consumers want a relationship beyond simply giving money for goods. I get all that, and am putting money where my mouth is by starting my own small wine business. I love to make wine and am a total wine geek. That's the easy part. I see a market opportunity for a business that makes a huge effort to be responsive and accessible to customers and wine lovers in general. That's what got me to get serious about turning my passion into a business.

Still, I'm hardly shocked at what he's found. For crying out loud, he's writing a book. That's hardly Web 2.0 and he's certainly not the first person to come calling as he prepares his manuscript. They probably wouldn't have called back anyway, but someone they probably haven't heard of (even if they should have!) who's writing a wine book? Meh.

Also, I don't predict so many producers will go out of business because they aren't with the 21st century program. To me it's not "do it or die." It's "don't do it and you miss out on an opportunity." And you miss out on the fun of connecting to people and making a real difference in their lives and your own. We're social animals. You don't need to be a raging extrovert to get out there and mix it up with your people. Do it, be real, have fun, you might find business follows. Don't do it and it might hurt you, but maybe you don't notice it too much.

Every industry and pursuit has this issue. People should have their shit together and return your calls and write you back. But they don't, whether it's work related, church related, or even to someone who's volunteering his time to coach another person's kid's sports team. I know. And it's not just because people are so busy. There's a lot going on, sure. But people are just flakey.

All this social connection isn't really new anyway. We haven't just begun to want relationships with the people and places we patronize. Similiarly, people haven't just begun to be flakey with their communication. I don't think things have changed so much that people who don't bother to return calls are finally really going to feel the pain in a huge way. They'll go on pretty much as usual. Meanwhile, those who do return the calls and emails and generally make themselves available will find things to be better, and more fun.

Technology isn't inventing a need for us to connect. It is, however, providing a better opportunity than ever before to separate yourself from those who don't want to make the effort to connect, for whatever reason. I for one welcome that opportunity, but I won't be surprised when those who continue to bumble along still manage to stay in the game. I do expect to be smiling more than they do, and that's what really counts.


Sharon said...

Great post, and I couldn't agree more.

Anonymous said...

On your point about unresponsiveness, try being a winery that submits samples for restaurants, wine shops, distributors, etc and never hears anything back. I mean, we all know that sometimes we will get a "no thanks" but to not hear back either way is just rude and unprofessional. Also, being responsive to customers is a must have in any business and frankly I think is key factor in a business being successful. So, all you readers of this take note and spend your hard earned money with those businesses and really do care about you and respect your time enough to respond.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Very good point. This goes both ways. I was spurred to write the original post after seeing another wine writer post on a wine discussion group about (essentially) the gall of wineries that didn't respond to his usual request for samples for a year end list, blah blah. You've got to be kidding. You don't free wine and I'm the problem? From the winery's perspective, of course. There's always another side to the story. Thanks for the input.

Mitch said...

While technology doesn't invent the need to connect, it can make it easier and as a result when people don't connect it can feel more insulting then before.

The flip side of course to all this "easy connectivity" is the chaos/confusion it can create e.g. "Did they get the SMS text I sent related to the blog post and is their response via email to the SMS message or the voice mail I left?"

Vincent Fritzsche said...

That's true, it's confusing and there are heightened expectations. However, one part of the equation that should go away is voicemail. If I have a record that you called, I'll call you back. No need to leave a message...especially a rambling one, which too many people do.