Pressing Data Into Great Wine Brands
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“Understand the customer” has been a mantra of business for seemingly decades, but it has fallen short for much longer than we realize.  In prior decades, companies focused on understanding an entire demographic or psychographic of people at a time because the cost to focus on specific individuals were excessive or there simply wasn’t available data.

For better or worse, this is starting to change, and as Shel Israel and Robert Scoble described, we now live in an Age of Context, where it is possible to get that information down to a person. This is a new height of precision not only for marketing but all aspects of a customer relationship. The real question now is what can you do with it? To understand the potential, I talked to Paul Mabray, CEO of VinTank, a new type of business focused on helping the wine industry get closer to their customers, one-on-one.

When it comes to competitive markets like the wine industry in California, each additional piece of data is a potential path to growth. Retail sales in the US of California wines reached an estimated $22 Billion in 2012 grown by 160% compared to ten years earlier according to the Wine Institute. While the lion’s share tends to be to the major brands, there are still thousands of other brands competing for customer attention.

“Wine is one of those top eight categories discussed online [alongside] food, travel, music, movies, restaurants, and software,” says Mr. Mabray. With partner James Jory, the pair launched VinTank five years ago to reinvigorate the steady staid wine industry, starting with California’s Napa region. In a short time, their small team have raised 4700 wine brand customers—about 90% small business and 10% large wine enterprises, mirroring the make up of the wine industry itself.

That distribution harks another truth. With major brands holding marketing power, the smaller wine brands have to work so much harder to grow their customer base. The complex wine supply chain to customers also dilutes awareness of customers. Per Mr. Mabray, there are two layers of obfuscation between wineries and their customer. What is a small business to do?

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