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Uncovering Blind Spots to Differentiate Your Brand

Expert Editorial

Winery owners—most business owners, for that matter—live and breathe their brands. They believe in them wholly and unconditionally. This passion and confidence are critical ingredients in the success of small companies. At the same time, brand passion and confidence can create blinds spots that expose flawed thinking, missed opportunities and poor decision-making. In this article we raise the question: How can business owners use balanced passion and confidence to capitalize on opportunities and address the needs their brand requires for success? In subsequent articles we will continue to explore this concept of blind spots and provide suggestions for preventing or overcoming them.

A blind spot is an area in your range of vision that is obstructed. The most frequently occurring blind spots in business concern the relationship between a business and its customer. In the wine industry, blind spots can pertain to certain aspects of the distributor relationship, retail or other point-of-sale relationships, and of course, with the consumer themselves.

According to Steve Diller, author of Blind Spot: Illuminating the Hidden Value in Business, “Blind spots cause companies to miss important cues, obscure lucrative opportunities, and assume they have the complete picture…because they never see what they don’t look for.”

I met with a winery owner recently who was touting the recent LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certification for his winery while simultaneously bemoaning the fact that his distributor wasn’t focused on his brand and sales were suffering. Many, like him, are dealing with the same frustrations. I talk to winery owners all the time who are perplexed and frustrated that their distributor seems indifferent to their beautiful tasting room, strong wine ratings and great package. They express indignation about their distributor’s inability to see how great their brand is.

So, what gives? What is the problem and why is this so prevalent in the wine industry?

Each product or brand is made up of a series of attributes and features –akin to their DNA. These characteristics comprise everything a brand has to offer in terms of potential value to customers and consumers. In a cluttered category like wine, figuring out which product and brand attributes matter most is the key to creating resonance and action with your buyers (and of course, when we say buyers, we are talking not only about end consumers but also your distributor and retailer stakeholders). The reality is that more is not always better, and some brand attributes and features matter more than others. It Is a critical business success factor to sort through yours to more clearly understand:

  • which attributes make your brand unique;
  • which attributes drive purchase for your buying groups; and,
  • how to focus your energies on attributes that are aligned with your goals.

Finding Unique Attributes

In every industry and category, differentiation is hard. Wine is certainly no exception. Shine the spotlight on Napa and the task gets even harder. If you are a winery owner, look at your winery and brand. Do you have a great product? Do you have a great tasting room? Do you have good ratings? A notable winemaker? A beautiful package? If you answered yes to at least two of these, guess what? You are in the majority of other winery owners. These attributes, while important, are the cost of entry.

What else does your brand offer? Maybe you have a unique family story, maybe your winemaking process is unique? But is it unique relative to the competition? Yes, you could engage in thousands of dollars gathering data to inform this question, but when was the last time you simply asked your distributor how unique your brand is in their portfolio? Or any of your other buying groups for that matter? The difficulty of managing one’s business is often directly correlated to the number of different perspectives and insights one is receiving about their business. Yet, if you are willing to listen and know when to act, unexplored perspectives and hidden insights beyond the blind spots can offer your brand a powerful advantage.

Know Your Purchase Drivers

Just as important as assessing your brand’s uniqueness is evaluating the degree to which these same brand attributes drive purchase. I know many winery owners that don’t know the answer to what drives purchase of their brands, either because they claim they can’t afford consumer research or because they presume to already know the answer. In the case of the owner focused on his winery’s LEED certification, he was disappointed to discover that his investment did not yield the distributor interest he was expecting.

The wine industry is filled with nuance and specialness and we want to believe that what we think is important about the brand is also what incites buyers to purchase. We believe we can convince others to see our way of thinking. Sadly, this is not a reasonable expectation and facing the disappointment that our perspectives don’t align with those of our buyers is a difficult but necessary step in addressing blind spots.

Focus the Message

Even when you know what drives buyers to purchase your brand, it is difficult to walk away from everything you have been saying about and focusing on for your brand up until now. Selling to win business is not about putting forward a buffet of attributes that buyers can choose from in the hopes that one catalyzes their buying decision. Rather, focus on the select few attributes that are most unique and important for purchase to create a unified, clear message that buyers know and remember you by. The little details do matter but making sure you are clear on what your audience of buyers cares most about will help ensure you spend energy delivering superbly on those attributes.

As we explore blind spots and differentiating your brand over the coming articles, you might try this exercise to begin thinking about uncovering your blind spots so that you can more easily build value with the distributors, buying groups, and consumers in your market.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  1. What do you know is your brand’s key differentiators?
  2. How did you reach this conclusion?
  3. How do you currently apply these differentiators to your product improvement, marketing, and sales processes?

Moving the obstructions that create blinds spots is your first step toward true differentiation.

This article is the fourth in a series on improving your standing with your distributors.

Laura WebbExpert Editorial
by Laura Webb, partner with ELA Consulting

Laura Webb is a partner with ELA Consulting based in the North Bay. ELA focuses on helping companies and their leadership teams define and implement strategies for growth.

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