With the volume of conversations that take place online today — literally exabytes worth — I’m constantly amazed by some companies’ lack of monitoring/leveraging these conversations to improve marketing, product development and customer service. In some ways, ignoring this information is tantamount to having a group of your best customers sitting down in your companies’ parking lot telling you everything they like and don’t like about you and your competitors’ products through a bull horn. Instead of listening, you block your ears and pretend they don’t exist.
Fortunately, more and more businesses are realizing that there is a wealth of online information that exists to help them run better. Also helpful is the fact that companies like WCG (the agency I work for), Social Dynamx (the company my sister works for) and Vintank (the focus of this post) are helping companies listen, analyze and then act on the trillions of conversations happening on the social web. To that point, I had a chance last week to sit down with Vintank’s CTO, James Jory, to get an in depth demo of their “social CRM” platform that targets the wine industry. What I can tell you is that I am impressed. Now in the spirit of full disclosure, I sit on the advisory board of Vintank (an unpaid position) so I know a fair amount about what James and Chief Strategy Officer, Paul Mabray, are doing. But what I can tell you as objectively as is humanly possible is that these guys are focusing on all the right things.
After walking through Vintank’s social CRM platform, I am particularly impressed with four aspects of what they do:
- Vertically focused listening
Their platform is optimized and tuned to effectively filter conversations for products and brands in the wine industry. According to Jory, this is particularly important for wine due to the various ways consumers identify and describe wine brands and products and the massive volume of product selection (150K wines released in US market just last year and most products stay in market 3-10 years). For example, a general purpose listening platform would likely consider “corked” and “cork” to be the same term in a conversation when in reality these words have entirely different meanings in wine.Also important is the fact that Vintank actively listens to and captures ALL conversations that occur in their segment and not just the conversations related to their clients. This allows them to reach back through three plus years of social media activity in their system to bootstrap new clients and provide historical views for existing clients. During the demo, Paul Mabray framed the importance of this feature by saying, “We believe that vertical social listening coupled with social CRM creates unprecedented and invaluable context to create more meaningful engagement with customers.” Amen to that sir!
- Social Commerce or Commerce + Social
Paul and James believe that that the push to bring commerce to social is putting the cart before the horse. Instead, they feel that social media can be much more effective when it is brought to commerce in the form of customer context and customer intelligence. A winery may have 1 or 2 transactional interactions with a narrow segment of their customer base each year (a tasting room visit, wine club shipments, winery event, e-commerce purchase, etc.). This provides them with an extremely limited context for each customer. However, they know their customers are consuming wine all year long and increasingly sharing those experiences through social media.
- Rich Customer Context
Building on the thoughts above, the cornerstone of Vintank’s social CRM strategy is customer context. This includes stitching together all of a customer’s social profiles, presenting views of mentions of my brand as well as wine general, interactions with owned channels (twitter, FB, LBS), most recent purchase, lifetime value, wine club membership, membership in customer segments, team notes, and so on. This allows both small and large winery businesses to be more effective with their social media activities and interact with their customers with more context and knowledge.
- Winery Social Index
Vintank’s Winery Social Index provides a scoreboard of sorts on how wine brands are performing in social media. The algorithm was built specifically to level the playing field for wineries of all size. It rewards engagement (I wrote a post on the importance of this metric last week) and healthy fan growth over the vanity metrics such as reach. It has provided a valuable KPI for the wine industry as wineries find their footing in social media.
So what can your company learn from Vintank and the way they help their customers look at the market? At a minimum, the fact that you shouldn’t be ignoring that “group of customers with their bull horns” in the parking lot. Beyond that, you may also realize that paying closer attention to how you are engaging with your customers versus how your competitors are doing it is also key. And finally, what role can social play in your commerce and customer relationship management strategy? Hopefully, the answer is “a big one.”