A while back in a post titled "A Tribute to Passionate Craftsmanship", I blogged about Gary Vaynerchuk over at Wine Library TV and how impressed I was with his sincere, down-home yet technically savvy, customer-centric approach. Just recently, my brother-in-law, Jon, was in New York and had an opportunity to take a side trip to the physical Wine Library store in Springfield, New Jersey. It turns out that Gary was on-hand, and the two had a chance to meet in person. In that visit, Gary personally reaffirmed all of the laudable behavior that I blogged about previously. It was a delight to learn that the physical persona matches the online one - and more. He treated Jon to some great hospitality, was generous with his time, and even indulged us with a short video including a very nice plug for WillToons.com (shot on Jon's digital camera, so no ripping on the "production values" ;-). Check it out:
Just yesterday, I was alerted that a quote from my original blog entry was featured in a full page Wine Library TV ad in the Wednesday New York Times:
Aside from being a bit of a kick for me, I was struck by the fact that even Gary's ads are community oriented and customer-centric. Of particular note, check out the special attention and explicit credit they give to Chris Stanisci - an enthusiastic customer who put together an elaborate spreadsheet summarizing Gary's ratings:
Engaging the customer community, leveraging their skills, and sharing the credit (or "sharing the love" as Gary refers to it) are sincere cornerstones of the Wine Library business strategy. It's kind of like the emerging principles of Open Source development and Web 2.0 user generated content (UGC) meet retail. The "new" world infusing the "old". Very cool.
Toward the end of my original post on Gary and Wine Library, I remarked: "To date, I have not bought a single product from the Wine Library, but I'm sure that I will someday, if for no other reason than the fact that I admire Gary and enjoy the experience he is sharing. To me, that's just good business - no hard-sell needed." Well, the time indeed came. Last night I purchased a half case of the 2004 Gravity Hills Tumbling Tractor Zinfandel featured on his Thanksgiving Wines Episode (free shipping!). I'm sure it won't be the last purchase.
There's a lot to be said for fostering a loyal community of customers by treating each of them as you would a friend - no matter what business you are in.