Meet the Competitors
Gary Vaynerchuk aka “The Wine Library TV guy or Gary V.” – If you’ve been exposed to the online world for any length of time you’ve probably heard of Gary V. He’s become something of a social media legend to many. From his crank-you-up speeches to his bestselling books Gary V. has become the poster child for the power of social media and a personal brand. An aspiring owner of the New York Jets, Gary V. has made numerous television appearances, received multiple awards for his achievements, and has over 90,000 daily viewers of his daily video blog Wine Library TV, which he launched in February of 2006. Needless to say, this Gary V. guy is a heavy-hitter in his industry and as an entrepreneur in general.
Bottlenotes aka “The Match.com of Wine Community” – Rapidly gaining in popularity, bottlenotes.com is an online community of 20- and 30-somethings who gather together virtually, and in-person, to learn about the world of wine. Founded by Alyssa Rapp in 2005, Bottlenotes not only uses social media to reach its audience, but can actually attribute its success to using a social network style business model. Carrying an impressive set of accomplishments herself, Rapp got the idea for Bottlenotes running a student led wine club while getting her MBA at Stanford Business School. Originated as a wine marketing firm, Rapp made the decision to shift Bottlenotes to a social media site in 2008. The transition proved to be the right move. Bottlenotes is set to double revenues again in 2011.
The Rules of The Game
Now for the purposes of this case study, let’s assume some things that may or may not be true surrounding circumstances for The Wine Library and Bottlenotes.
Obviously, The Wine Library and Bottlenotes are competitors. At their most basic level, they are both wine communities targeting the unconventional wine consumer. And, they both use social media marketing to drive their business.
Now, for some assumptions. By 2008 The Wine Library had tremendous momentum, and in 2009 Gary V. published his wildly popular motivational gem Crush It! By all outward appearances breaking into the wine industry online (particularly using social media) may have seem futile to most, right? I mean Gary V. had to have the online wine community on lock, didn’t he? It would be a losing battle to tap into his market share, wouldn’t it?
Apparently, Alyssa Rapp didn’t think so. In fact, I’d like to think that while conducting market research Alyssa became very familiar with The Wine Library, Gary V., and his social media presence. And, I’d like to think that she knew there was an overlap in their markets, amongst other competitors, and went for it anyway.
What’s This Got to Do with You?
What follows is a practical assessment of why YOU DO NOT NEED TO FEAR your competition. What follows are practical ways you can DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF FROM those serving your same market, with similar products and services. What follows is motivation to ANTE UP, and bring your passion to life through your online business. It’s time to quit your crying, your worrying, and your waiting. As Gary V. would say, it’s time to crush it!
It’s The Battle of the Bottles: Gary V. & The Wine Library vs. Bottlenotes
I’m going to keep this as straightforward as possible. Keep mind, my observations are limited by my research so I know I’m missing things, but based on my findings here’s what I could assess:
How They Are Similar
- Both Bottlenotes and The Wine Library have built online wine communities that rely heavily on social media marketing, relationship marketing, and a niche industry interest (wine lovers).
- Specifically The Wine Library is built around a wine video blog (the last episode garnered 318 comments!), a daily newsletter, a Gary V. Wine of the Month Club, a Wine Library TV Forum, a relatively defunct Ask Wine Library TV thread, a SirusXM Radio Show, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
- Both are an information portal for those interested in wine who may not necessarily know much about the complexities of wine tasting, purchasing, or collecting.
- Both seem to target the younger, more casual wine connoisseur over the exceptionally informed wine aficionado.
- Both sell wine and wine gifts online.
How They Are Different
- Bottlenotes does not have a “live” retail space, but instead a retail sponsor.
- The Wine Library originated as (and still is) a retail store.
- Bottlenotes hosts “live” events around the world for their community.
- The Wine Library does not.
- The Wine Library is primarily a personal brand that is wholly associated with Gary V. and his persona.
- Bottlenotes is primarily a community-based brand that more closely reflects its users than any one originator.
- Although both are community-based sites, Bottlenotes provides a greater number of ways to engage in the community- forums, video, blogs, and an actual networking platform with personal profiles and “friending” capabilities. Gary V. on the other hand is very active in existing social networks and leverages his visibility in those spheres to promote his brand and business.
- Bottlenotes has taken a personalized approach to assessing users wine preferences. They actually help users decide what kinds of wine to drink based on a personal food and taste preferences known as their “Bottlenotes profile.” I think it would be cool if they put you in a Wine-O category. Like “Congrats! You’re a spicy, earthy, bold Wine-O!” Okay. I digress.
- The Wine Library also offers personalized assistance with wine selection but they do it much differently. With Gary V. and The Wine Library you can hire a personal wine shopper to help you make your wine selections.
Bottoms up! The Practical Application of The Principles at Work
So, what can we learn from the similarities and differences between these two online wine communities? When you look at the assessments set forth, it’s easy to extract the principles that make them so different. Below, I’ve crafted a slew of questions based on these extracted principles that you can apply to your online business so that you don’t have to ever worry about your competition again.
To set you and your online business apart from the herd and diffuse any threats your competitions might pose, ask:
- How will you build your relationships with your community?
- Will the relationship be between you (your personal brand) and your audience, or will you be a relationship facilitator for your community?
- Do you want communicate intimately (one-on-one) with your audience, or do you want to incite conversations amongst your audience?
- Do you want to influence your target audience with your knowledge, experiences, and preferences as they relate to your products and services?
- Or, do you want to identify the individual preferences of your audience and offer them options based on your products and services to serve that preference?
- Do you want to attract a like-minded target audience, or do you want to attract a diverse audience?
- Do you want your online business presence to be an extension of your brick and mortar business, or do you want your online business to be a hub affiliated with one or multiple brick and mortar businesses?
- Is it better to build your own social network for your community, or should you leverage existing social networks to build your audience?
- Do you want to communicate a sophisticated, intellectual, polished, chic, hip or trendy vibe?
- Or, do you want to communicate an authentic, raw, rugged, rough around the edges, uncut, or no holds barred vibe?
- Can you provide your product or service that incorporates personalization in an unorthodox or unique way? The example here would be Bottlenotes computer generated profile for a users wine preferences vs. The Wine Library’s personal shopper service.
- Can you package your products and services in a way that makes them easy for current customers to share with their sphere of influence? Bottlenotes has a “gifts” section. The Wine Library has a “wish list” option & an online apparel store.
It’s a Matter of Splitting Hairs
If I had to put the distinction between these two entities in one sentence I’d say: Bottlenotes has harnessed social media such that its business model actually mimics a social network by monetizing “community,” whereas Gary V. and The Wine Library harnessed the power of social media to build a community of die-hard fans and loyal purchasers. Ultimately, they are both incredible examples of entrepreneurial genius.
I’m very curious to know how much of their markets cross over. (Gary? Alyssa? Care to share?) Maybe their markets don’t cross over much at all. Maybe, they’ve done such an excellent job defining their brand and the experiences they offer that they attract very specific segments of an overall larger market.
I believe therein lies the key to being able to stare your “competition” right in the face and never even blink. Get obsessively clear about what you stand for, who you serve, and the experience you provide.
Use the questions above to help you do that. If you can do this, you won’t have to worry about your competition or about having to “stand out.” You won’t have to be intimidated by anyone in your field. You’ll become a magnet for the audience that seeks you.
So what do you think? How can you use some of these questions to better define your online business to attract your ideal audience? What did I miss? Do you see any ways they differentiated their businesses that you could apply to your online business? Let me know in the comments below. HOLLA!
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Thanks for sharing!