Focus on Blocking and Tackling

200px-Pat_Riley“When you’re playing against a stacked deck, compete even harder. Show the world how much you’ll fight for the winners circle. If you do, someday the cellophane will crackle off a fresh pack, one that belongs to you, and the cards will be stacked in your favor.” … Pat Riley

During Monday’s NBA Finals game 3 something seemed off with Kobe Bryant. His focus just wasn’t there. ThisKobe Bryant usually isn’t the case. Kobe is arguably one of the top 10 professional basketball players of all time. His skill set is matchless, and usually so is his focus. Needless to say, the Lakers lost. We’ve seen this lack of focus in sports before with the Pens’ goalie Fleury in last week’s NHL game 5 at the Joe, or with pitcher Barry Zito most of last year at the Phone Booth. It seems that a key observable attribute among those that succeed in any endeavor is the ability to focus on the task at hand. Focus that is the culmination Kennethfoxof awareness, preparation and execution. As a matter of course the wine business entrepreneur is often pulled in multiple directions, and in place of the necessary laser like focus on the end game these distractions tend to diffuse one’s original vision. In observing this situation, a former associate who prior to his life in the wine business was a senior US Navel officer was fond of saying that ‘a good Admiral always knew the outcome of the battle before sailing from port.’ So, like good admirals we should all have a thorough understanding of our brand positioning, and the strategy and tactics necessary for the competent and successful execution of same on the road to winery viability.

Without regard to a specific channel model, understand that you are in the wine distribution business. This is just the process by which your wine gets to the final consumer. This includes the selling, shipping, merchandising and promotion ofWine trade tasting your wine. In performing these functions it seems important to understand the unique and individual needs and wants of each and all of your customers – sales agents (including distributors), trade and consumers. It also requires an understanding of the marketplace and your competition. It is through the acquisition of this knowledge that leadership is developed in crafting quality products that fill the needs and wants of your targeted audience. Being a visionary in anticipating your future opportunities will allow you to continue achieving your brand goals. But, in order to shape your brand success you’ll need to identify, create and communicate your winery’s unique brand position.

Small to mid-sized wine companies need a keen awareness of the perceived attributes that determine their brand positioning. For Cabernet Sauvignonexample, where your wine grapes are planted, and the set of geological, geographical and cultural attributes inherent to this point of origin go a long way to the determination of positioning – i.e., take the vineyard location of Cabernet Sauvignon. While Cabernet Sauvignon’s organoleptic profiles, without regard to origin, share some similar characteristics, the point of origin provides some significant points of differentiation as to brand positioning. Cabernet wines grown in Napa Valley will tend to be positioned differently thaimages-7n Cabernet wines from Bordeaux, or even neighboring Sonoma; and, certainly on a different tier than the good Cabernets grown in Monterey’s Hames Valley or in the nearby Paso Robles AVA. Consider the unique brand position that Ste Michelle Wine Estates achieved for Washington State Cabernets. All of these are different but potentially good wine regions, but each is perceived to have a unique sets of attributes by critics and consumers alike. And these attributes tend to aid in directional decisions concerning volume, price, and channel, hopefully resulting in consumer take away.

images-8For those brands in broad market distribution, whether in a DDT or a three tier model, there are three basic questions to ask and answer:

Where are my wines now sold?
Where should my wines be sold?
How do my wines achieve desired targeted distribution?

Effectively answer the above inquiries and you’ll be worth every penny of your income aspirations. In other words, define the current state of affairs and establish brand goals. Yes, this is detailed work, but without targets, goals, and a foundation of specific in market knowledge, your house of cards is in danger of crumbling. So, roll up your sleeves and create an effective CRM list of targeted accounts, by market (geography), name, class (volume potential) and type (on or off-premise). The broad market is dynamic, so continually modify, maintain and update your CRM database.

Now that you have this baseline brand distribution intelligence, your future sales efforts should be directed towards increased markePalace Kitchen Seattlet penetration in your now targeted account universe. Goals should be established within each designated sales territory by account and varietal. Target specific goals should also be codified and achievement should be tracked. These targets, for example, could be wine list or WBTG placements in New American cuisine restaurants in Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. Or, fine wine retail placements and ads in Boston, New York, and D.C. Your case goods volume, price point, product mix, and brand intelligence will help to determine this market specific distribution strategy.


FocusThis is how the top 30 largest wineries tactically achieve their success. They do this in all their key markets. While it’s almost always a good idea to observe and mirror other successful wine businesses, you’re going to have to be more focused and crisper in your execution. You’re a much smaller business and your wines are at FOBs that exclude certain points of distribution. Take advantage of your unique brand positioning proposition. Focus your efforts on fewer markets. Perhaps look to hotels such as Four Seasons, or Ritz Carlton or Kimpton Hotels, and not just wine list or wine by the glass, but in addition pursue placements in banquets and events. Country Clubs and private clubs are an under serviced account base,  but once established they tend to be long-term loyalty accounts and their members represent a key demographic base of influencers. Some of my brands most sustainable distribution was achieved in private clubs, common in most major metropolitan markets. By the way, caterers are always looking for differentiated wines.  So, put on your game face and become a focused niche marketer. Focus on your execution, and focus on scoring those winning placements.

Note: Copyright © 2009 Think Wine Marketing® All rights reserved.

Strategies for Motivating Broad Market Wine Distributor Sales Management

“It is a crowded confusing market, and, in confusion there is profit” … Thomas Watson, a former CEO of IBM whose motto was THINK

The basic idea in any marketing endeavor is to think: think intellegently, think differently, think constantly. As someone who may be charged with the dual task of being a brand visionary and a brand missionary, it will quickly became apparent , not withstanding individual state statutes, that a multi-tier distribution system is inherent to the wine broad market sales channel. Even if your primary market model is to achieve a majority of your sales through cellar door direct sales, by establishing a clicks, or, a bricks & clicks market model; i.e., wine club, private client direct mail allocations, and/or, Winery hospitality/tasting room operations – it is best to spread your risks and opportunities through the establishment of a niche,targeted broad market sales model. This requires securing, appointing, working with and selling through this multi-tiered distribution channel. The question that arises, after this sometimes difficult and time consuming process, is “How do I get my Distributor to perform?”

In order to obtain sustainable distribution in today’s rapidly consolidating, but product rich marketplace, an understanding of the concept of motivation must play a significant role in the management of any wine brand/distributor relationship.

Motivation is a nebulous social science. If one believes that measuring the metrics of ROI for social networking is difficult, then defining motivation is even a more oblique exercise. Some basic definitions exist, such as the Oxford American Dictionary’s defining motive “as that which induces a person to act in a certain way”. However, St. Augustine advises us “there are hidden depths in every man which we can never probe”. Research coming out of the Nebraska Symposium on Motivation revels that ‘the characteristic of motivated behavior is that it is goal directed…and is characterized by its organized, highly directed nature.” And, that “any goal directed activity is controlled by a conscious intention to achieve these aims by means of a specifically chosen course of action.” This may sound like a set of physic-like rules, but, we know that individuals don’t follow the laws of physics; however, a determinate of our success is the ability to motivate others, and to achieve desired end results.

Marketing/sales management’s function is the production of performance. Organizations don’t have plans, and they don’t do things. People have plans and do things. Progress isn’t made  by companies, but by people. The manager is a means to an end, and not the end itself. Management’s only product is performance. It’s not Phil Jackson out on the Staples Center floor winning games. It’s Kobe Bryant and his teammates.

The first step towards a successful wine brand/distributor interface is identifying the achievers within your distributorship(s); and, then concentrating your efforts. Achievers get things done. They have initiative, and they generate results. These are individuals who aren’t content with moderate success. By shaping performance expectations for this group, and by tying this go-getter group into the idea that success is important, your goals can be reached in the best way, in the shortest time, and at the lowest cost.

Identify the decision makers. This is where loyalty is built; and, this is the group that has the highest degree of achievement motivation. In managing your distributor relationship, be clear, consistent, competent and committed. It is necessary to the development of a long-term business relationship to create a buy-in mentality with key managers, and staff. The basic construct for doing so is to imbue the following attributes:

  • Security – the feeling that one is liked and understood
  • Recognition – appreciation/importance of contribution to effort
  • Sense of Belonging – as a team member achieving the mutually determined goals
  • Dignity – treat with respect in all interactions
  • Achievement – provide an achievable challenge
  • Opportunity – the probability of attaining goals
  • Purpose – feeling that one’s contribution is worthwhile

Prioritize! What’s Next? What’s most important? Create a priority list. As winery managers, direct and control the action, rather than trying to be the most productive participant. Don’t try to out perform a given distributor. Write a plan. Poor performers are usually poor planners, and, action takes the place of thinking, busyness takes the place of effectiveness, and hard work substitutes for achievement. In the plan, provide for reasonable, reachable goals; and, divide long-range goals into single performance phases – quarters or half-years. Provide a specific framework for expectations. Set a standard of performance, based on mutually agreed upon achievement requirements. And, most importantly, involve the distributor manager who is going to influence and deliver results that contribute to the success of the plan.

In writing the plan, involve the key distributor manager(s). Both the winery sales manager and distributor sales management team must define specific goals. Both must be convinced that they can deliver what’s wanted. Your performance measurements must be established in the plan; and, provide the ability to inspect the expectations. The plan must provide an opportunity for innovation. The plan must be responsive to change and modification; and, the plan must function as the foundation for effective performance.

The Plan

  • What should be done?
  • How much should be done?
  • When should it be done?
  • Who should do it?
  • Where should it be done?
  • Why should it be done?

Optimize Opportunities

  • Know where you want to go
  • Set targets
  • Pursue planned programs

Define Goals

  • Focus thinking of yourself and the distributor manager
  • Identify mutual needs
  • State purpose of proposed plan

Set Performance Parameters

  • Define the degree of autonomy
  • Develop feedback modalities to recognize achievement
  • Discuss the degree of involvement by each acting party

Be sure to effectively communicate the plan! An ineffectual presentation of the plan will tend to diminish goal achievement . Be responsive – give true reactions; stimulate response; be brief, be simple, be direct, be clear and human; and, above all else, be enthusiastic. An interesting reaction will take place. Individuals tend to mimic the behavior of others in social/business interactions. This phenomena is called mirroring. By enthusiasm, we generate enthusiasm.


If we accept to the idea that to motivate is to direct the activity of other towards specific goals, then we can identify the basic goals of our mission.

  • Have a plan
  • Define achievement goals and rewards
  • Involve your distributor manager
  • Develop a loyal team
  • Effectively communicate the plan
  • Be competent, be self-motivated, and be enthusiastic

Common sense and good sales-management techniques, will in the end, help the winery marketing/sales manager motivate distributor management in achieving the common-purpose goal of building a strong, sustainable brand.

Note: Copyright © 2009 Think Wine Marketing® All rights reserved.