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Gary Vaynerchuk (Re)Visited. Sharing the Love.

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.

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Too Dull? Alpha Update and the FamZoo Logo Goes Urban...

Too Dull?

Still thinking about whether I need to jazz up the lettering treatment in my latest revision of the FamZoo logo or just keep it super clean and simple. Here is an example of my recent experimentation:

This injects a little fun and a little color into the lettering without getting cartoonish. It feels a touch unbalanced visually though. I probably need to experiment a bit more. As always, comments are welcome...

Alpha Update

For those of you who may be thinking that I fritter away most of my time tinkering around with the logo in Paint Shop Pro and writing goofy blog entries (ummm, Dad ;-), I just want to reassure you that I have actually been spending the vast majority of my time writing code lately - really!

My first tangible deliverable is an Alpha version of the site for use and evaluation by my own family. Target date: Thanksgiving at the latest. The focus of the Alpha is functional as opposed to visual. In other words, it is about as visually appealing as craigslist - very bare bones look-and-feel-wise. For the Alpha, the majority of my mental energy has been devoted to developing the data model, the "business" logic, and the core page flows (i.e., the key pages on the site and how one moves between them).

My Alpha strategy is in no way meant to diminish the importance of the visual aspects of the site. In fact, an appealing design as well as excellent usability will be essential to FamZoo's success. My feeling (and prior experience) is that I will be far more efficient and successful working with a professional web designers and usability experts if I have a functional, working site for them to interact with in a hands-on way. Allowing them to actually experience the functionality first-hand with real data (instead of just reading, hearing, or guessing about it) minimizes ramp-up time, eliminates conceptual disconnects, surfaces what otherwise would have been unforeseen corner cases, and just generally optimizes communication all-around - particularly if the collaborators are in remote locations (highly likely). If you are interested in reading more about these kinds of product design and development issues, I recommend checking out Marty Cagan's Silicon Valley Product Group Web site and reading articles like this one.

The FamZoo Logo Goes Urban!

As a fun parting note to this week's post, my boys have been working up their own ideas for an edgier, more urban FamZoo logo. Here are their submissions:

Easy extra credit: See if you can match the picture with the associated grade level - elementary, middle, and highschool.

I'm thinking the skull and dripping goop themes might be just a touch off base for a family-oriented site focused on fiscal and social responsibility. Gotta like the artistic and creative efforts though!