The principal of one of our partner wineries called me yesterday and asked my opinion on whether or not he should attend the WITS conference (2007 Wine Industry Technology Symposium, Tues. Jul 17, 2007, Meritage Resort, Napa) this year. It wasn’t like it would be a hardship for him to go, he lives here in Napa. He mentioned he hadn’t attended any of the previous years and that his experience, in general, with wine industry symposia had been less than stellar.
Inertia Beverage Group is again a sponsor of this year’s WITS, and you’d expect, that as a sponsor, I’d respond with a resounding yes! Surprising myself, I didn’t. I’m not sure whether the pause that followed was long enough for him to notice, but I did pause.
I paused because I have attended every year of WITS. I paused because the topics covered in the past didn’t necessarily separate WITS from other industry forums, they weren’t necessarily about technology although the attendees at the original WITS were usually technology people—after all, it WAS the “Technology” symposium. Looking through this year’s agenda I suspect this will be the most informative conference for WITS to date and perhaps the most important conference in our industry this year. Although it looks more focused on technology this year, it is still, perhaps, misnamed. Maybe a better name would be the “direct” conference or the “forward thinking” conference.
Topics which in the past were perceived ancillary or “non-core” to our industry have moved through “modestly important” to “very important” in a period of two or three years. Selling “direct”, either through a wine club, tasting room, “release”, allocation, or ecommerce is becoming central to more and more winery business plans. At Inertia, we’re proud to have been involved in that evolution of thought or the “revolution”. In order to succeed in this space there is a lot to learn. Tuesdays WITS conference will address many, if not all of the strategies and tactics needed for success.
The share of mind “direct” now commands has naturally led to new thinking, thinking about the current distribution system and supply chain for wine. I told our customer there would be some ground-breaking news about that as well.
My pause ended and I encouraged our client to attend. He said he wouldn’t miss it.