Calling All Opt-outs; Wine Guy Waxes Marketing

‘Wine Guy’ Emphasizes That We’re Only ‘Human’

“Vaynerchuk, who hosts the Wine Library TV blog and runs a large wine-retailing business, said his extensive email list averages 97 opt-outs a day. Three months ago, he said, he instituted a program of telephoning every person who opts out, to try to re-engage them.”

I saw this item yesterday, from the site BtoB, and it made me pause; it was coverage of the 2011 Email Evolution Conference at the Eden Roc in Miami. (That happens to be the same place SIPA will be heading to for its 2011 Marketing Conference, Dec. 7-9.)

I first learned of the Wine Library many years ago when my brother started taking me to the store in Springfield, N.J. (It had another name then.) It was owned by Gary Vaynerchuk’s parents, who in the late ‘90s turned over the reins to their son. That’s when the uber marketing began—he quickly rebranded it to the present name—and grew the business from a $4 million entity to a $60 million megahit. Now “wine library tv” airs about four times a week starring Vaynerchuk in wine-tasting episodes of varying lengths—with an estimated 80,000 viewers. (Yesterday’s episode on white burgundies ran over 18 minutes and drew 227 comments.) And Vaynerchuk has become quite the marketing rock star.

The fact that he and his staff make almost 100 calls a day to opt-outs underlines his main theory that marketing needs to come from the heart. Vaynerchuk blamed the problems email is having on an industry that is “too self-referential, focusing on brands and promotional offers instead of the interpersonal, ‘more human’ characteristics of social media.”

“I am firmly convinced that nobody in this room cares about their customers enough,” Vaynerchuk keynoted at the conference. “All we’re doing is pounding peoples’ faces. We’re talking too much. In the ecosystem we live in now, based on word-of-mouth, the currency is trust, appreciation and humanization.

“We underestimate humans,” he said. “To me, when something comes from the heart, it changes the entire relationship.”

Apparently, WLTV has created a full-fledged community. “The viewers (self-named “Vayniacs”) convene on an extremely active forum and have organized numerous off-line gatherings,” the Wine Library website reports. “Gary and the viewers have teamed up with Crushpad in the past year to create the first ever community wine, Vayniac Cabernet.”

In 2008, he started offering free shipping. To promote it, a direct-mail marketing piece cost $15,000 and brought in 200 new customers. A billboard cost $7,500 dollars and brought 300 customers. And tweeting the news brought 1,800 new customers. Guess which direction he turned next?

“Content is king,” he has said. “…Charisma or an over-the-top personality wouldn’t mean anything in the wine business if I didn’t know a zinfandel from a Chardonnay.”

Asked about what it takes to produce his tv show, Vaynerchuk said: “A $100 video camera is fine. People overthink the quality of the mike, the camera, the lighting. What matters is the heart and soul you put into it. I have a simple camera and no special lighting. Mott, my friend and employee, shoots the show for me. I love the interaction. We don’t use a script or edit it. You could do it yourself with a simple webcam.”

He said that even if you are not great at tv, it’s still worth doing. “If you do it poorly, and you get only one response, that is better than zero, which you would have gotten without it. It takes work, hustle and patience, too. I started my show in 2006, and it took 18 months before it began paying off.”

Vaynerchuk, also a huge New York Jets fan, envisions the day when just as many tailgaters are drinking wine than beer. Given his incredible marketing skills, I better pack my corkscrew now for next fall.

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Speaking of good wine—Rieslings perhaps—and good marketing
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