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July 04, 2012 | Tom Ballard

Vaynerchuk clearly impacted “Ready Set Boost” attendees

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Teknovation posted a report on June 20 on the “Ready Set Boost” conference, but promised a more extended article about Gary Vaynerchuk and his speech. This is the follow-up story.)


An article posted recently on Business Insider probably provides very valuable insights about Gary Vaynerchuk who was the wildly received and applauded keynote speaker at the recent “Ready Set Boost” business conference in Greeneville.

To set the context, the reader needs to know something about Vaynerchuk who was making his first visit ever to Tennessee. He is a Russian immigrant whose parents came to the U.S. when he was three years old. He started his first company, actually a chain of lemonade stands, at age five. He has become a serial entrepreneur, New York Times bestselling author, motivational speaker, expert on social media, marketing consultant and wine guru.

His number one goal in life is to have a billion dollars to buy the New York Jets. Yet, as passionate as he is about achieving that goal by his early 70s, Vaynerchuk is just as equally passionate, if not more so, about businessmen and women understanding and successfully capitalizing on the “disruptive communications” impact that social media is having.

With that context, the headline for the article on Business Insider read as follows – “Gary Vaynerchuk has figured-out the best wine to pair with a Taco Bell crunchwrap supreme.” His verdict: Chilean Syrah. He described his reasoning this way: “Do you remember purple Nerds candy? Put that into the microwave, get it to a reduction sauce, and that’s coming across . . . a great explosion of red flowers (with) a little hint of black licorice. Going with the spiciness of the meats and the cheeses — perfect harmony. This doesn’t overpower it, so you still actually taste the Supreme, but the wine coexists, dances a perfect dance.”

Vaynerchuk told this story and many more during his 90-minute captivating presentation to the “Ready Set Boost” crowd. As I noted in the earlier story, he used humor, irreverence and personal stories to impact the crowd.

From Lemonade to Wine and More

The serial entrepreneur migrated from the lemonade chain, where he said he rode his big wheel from stand-to-stand to collect his profits, to the weekend baseball card sales that netted him $2,000 to $3,000 a weekend from 1987 to 1989. For context, Vaynerchuk was 12 when he started the endeavor.

“I was a shockingly poor student,” he admitted, but obviously excelled at making money. Unfortunately, all of that successful capitalism came to a halt when his father put him to work in his wine and liquor store making $2 an hour. While Vaynerchuk was not happy with the diversion and loss of income, the several years in the wine store’s basement, followed by a “promotion” to the sales floor, proved to be a significant move that would change his life forever.

He related to the “Ready Set Boost” audience that he told people who came into the store looking for a popular wine that was difficult to keep stocked that he was taking back orders. In fact, the store did not provide this service, but Vaynerchuk found a great deal of interest. It helped propel him to launch Wine, an online, discounted wine story.

“We made $173 in revenue the first year – 1998,” Vaynerchuk said, noting that his “Soviet dad” had invested $15,000. In other words, his father was not impressed!

The experience, however, taught the younger Vaynerchuk an important lesson that he underscored in his presentation.

“You can be very patient and run a marathon or you can be very impatient and run a sprint,” he said. “The only way to build a business is to run it as a marathon. Nothing happens overnight.”

Between that first year in 1998 and 2005, Vaynerchuk grew the business to $60 million a year through innovative usage of email and execution focused around understanding customer needs and delivering high-quality service.

Yet, he realized that he could not build a billion dollar company shipping wine. So, if he was going to realize his dream of owning the Jets, he would have to do something even bigger – “become America’s wine guy.”

“You cannot (legally) ship to every state,” Vaynerchuk said.

From Distributing Wine to Informing About Wine

So, the entrepreneur started a video podcast called Wine Library TV in 2006. It ran for five years – five days a week – with Vaynerchuk offering reviews on one to five wines a day. About 1,000 episodes were taped in the family wine store in New Jersey.

From this experience, Vaynerchuk explained some critical things that he has learned in his still relatively young life of 36 years.

  • “We are grossly, heavily underestimating the impact of the Internet,” he emphasized. “We are living in a world called the stream economy. It is the biggest culture shift of our time.” He underscored this point by noting that “social media sites are helping overthrow governments that have had a lock on their people for four or five decades.”
  • He told the audience to use “to find people looking for what you are offering.” In his case, Vaynerchuk said he used the twitter search to find everything he could about what people were saying about Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, Merlots and Pinot Noirs.
  • He noted that people who have not seen each other in decades are reconnecting through social media. The impact of this is only now beginning to be appreciated, but he suggested that it could portend a desire for more “warm and fuzzy” in customer connections.
  • He noted that big companies no longer have the advantage over small companies in sales. “The stakes are high,” he says in noting that one-half of all goods will be sold online. “The company that has the best relationship with the customer will win,” he points out.
  • Further underscoring the point about the impact of social media on sales, he said that “we are living in a world where word of mouth is on steroids.”
  • He believes that social media will “find its niche in retention (of customers), not in acquisition.”
  • Finally, he asked the Greeneville audience how many had taped television shows and fast-forwarded through every commercial since January 1, 2012. Amazingly, 80 percent of the attendees indicated they had.

Vaynerchuk’s latest book, The Thank You Economy, was given to every attendee. It is about one-on-one relationships enhanced through the personal approach of years ago that can be scaled to unbelievable numbers through social media.

To underscore his points, Vaynerchuk used a simple example. “It blows my mind when I get a phone call,” he said in describing the massive change that is occurring because of social media.

When the two-hours had ended, the audience was clearly very inspired and ready for more.

My takeaway was simple: many consider social media to be mass communication. Those who learn how to effectively use it will build relationships one-by-one.

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