This is going to be a strange one but stick with me on this…
I just got a new TV and it came with Roku, one of the many cable-cutting options out there. You scroll through the available services, some free and some not, and add them to your options. I added the CW Network (for free!) because we are big fans of Supernatural around here.
And now we can watch a favorite show.
Except we have to watch commercials. Can’t fast forward through them. Can only mute them. But it’s the price we pay for free.
In order to get no interruptions and an overall a better experience, we could pay for the subscription.
So nothing here you don’t know already. This is the way the world works now.
Except, as often happens, this isn’t how it works in the wine and liquor industry.
Here’s the out of the box thought: what if there was a subscription wholesaler service? A wine wholesaler that restaurants and retailers paid to join in exchange for the best experience possible? A wine wholesaler that was so much better than all the others, so choosy with what they sell, so clean and clear about the information you need to know, and so picky about who they sell to, that it’s worth the investment by a retailer or a restaurant to simply be part of the club.
The legality of this is totally murky, and I’m not saying this is a realistic idea at all. But here is what I’m getting at: we in the wine industry can identify, without too much thought, a few common themes:
- Most retailers and restaurants have complaints about their wholesalers. Maybe not all of them all of the time, but some of them most of the time.
- In exchange for bringing on another wholesaler, an account is giving permission for interruptions (much like the commercials I have to sit through for free TV). Sales calls, texts, emails, invites to lunches and dinners. If you average a handful of these per week per supplier the inbox fills up fast.
- All wholesalers are willing to offer a ‘trial subscription’ period for free, introducing their portfolio, pouring samples, trying to drum up business. But if this free period lasts too long without a retailer or restaurant actually buying then the ‘trial period’ will naturally end.
- The question of who is investing in which direction and why is rarely talked about.
Maybe the point is this: when a customer (TV subscriber, wine retailer, whoever) INVESTS in content and information suppliers, then the relationship and value expectation changes dramatically.
So with that in mind, as a wine wholesaler, how do you get your customers to INVEST in you instead of just wanting everything for free?
Investment. No simple answers, but worth thinking about.