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Café Innovation – New bottles (or, ways to sell) and old wine

Okay, perhaps the title should not just limit new bottles for use with old wine, but extend their use to new wine as well, but it was hard to resist the temptation to repurpose the famous “old wine in new bottles” saying.

I just happened to chance upon an article about selling Napa wines in which I found the quote:

At 87, Mr. Grgich recently bellowed to his staff: “We have to upgrade everything! Get me Facebook and Twitter!”

The article appearing in The New York Times titled, “Try the Red: Napa Learns to Sell” by K. Heron on February 16, 2010 is about the challenges the wine business out of Napa is faced with in getting its products into the hands (or wine-glasses) of consumers. In this context the article discusses how things are changing at some of the wineries. Heron tells us that “Mr. Mike Grgich, the founder of Grgich Hills Estate, distrusted computers so intensely that for decades he insisted on handwritten accounting.” This is what makes Mr. Grgich’s demand to use “social media” tools to aid his business all the more significant.

There are many executives in their 40s and 50s out there who are yet to appreciate the changes in how people use technology and how it can impact their businesses. For example, not too long ago discussion on Twitter about how a domestic appliance company rendered woefully inept customer service actually caused a drop in their sales numbers for a period of time within hours of the Twitter traffic. We all know how the stories around Iran’s last elections got out (see my post from June 16, 2009 titled: Café Innovation – Social networking, revolutions, and how to approach innovation). These are events that reflect a trend, and should we ignore them it will be at our own peril.

The New York Times article above points out hopeful signs with the example of another winery that has appointed a Director of Social Media, and he, in addition to getting a Facebook following going, has started to organize virtual wine-tastings via Twitter (not exactly sure of the details around how that works, but I am open to finding out if anyone knows)! The point being that, to the extent possible, social media is being used to move more product.

So even if you belong to the baby-boomer generation, you are well advised to take heed of how our world has changed. As business process experts we have a passion to deliver process excellence – let us be cognizant of embedding within processes, as far as it makes sense, a role for the use of social media, internally and externally. For all of us Mr. Grgich, at age 87, should be a role model in this context.

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