Gary Vaynerchuk may make a living selling and critiquing wine, but he’s got a few things to say to real estate professionals about building brand, marketing and advertising.
In the process of transforming himself into an Internet celebrity and marketing guru, Vaynerchuk has all but left behind the newspaper ads and other traditional marketing techniques that helped him and his father re-brand their New Jersey liquor store as Wine Library and boost sales by 1,200 percent in six years.
Vaynerchuk — a keynote speaker at the upcoming Real Estate Connect New York City — is perhaps best known for his daily video blog, Wine Library TV, which has turned the often staid and stuffy world of wine criticism on its head.
Wine Library TV has brought Vaynerchuk more than the requisite 15 minutes of fame. He’s appeared on "Late Night with Conan O’Brien," "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and "Nightline." The Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine and The London Independent have all taken note of what’s been called his "gonzo" approach to wine criticism.
"It is impossible to transcribe a Gary Vaynerchuk performance without capital letters and exclamation marks," The Independent noted in a recent profile that dubbed him "the first major wine critic of the YouTube generation."
The humor and brash charm displayed by the 32-year-old son of immigrants from the former Soviet Union have raised his celebrity profile. But he’s also respected for his knowledge of Web 2.0 marketing techniques — techniques he’s learned first hand.
"When I built Wine Library, I spent millions on newspaper ads and everything else," Vaynerchuk told Inman News. "I built the Wine Library TV brand with Web 2.0 methods. I wish I had had these tools available to me 10 years ago."
Vaynerchuk’s become a sought after consultant and public speaker. His recent appearances include the Web 2.0 Expo in New York, where other keynote speakers included digg’s Jay Adelson, IAC’s Shana Fisher, Huffington Post publisher Arianna Huffington, and Ben Huh of "I Can Has Cheezburger."
Brian Solis, of the public relations and new media agency FutureWorks, calls Vaynerchuk’s videos the "quintessential definition" of social media.
Writing on his blog PR2.0, Solis says Vanerchuk has managed to humanize the "once faceless wine industry," while demonstrating how to "spark action, conversations, and build global micro-communities and priceless relationships along the way."
Video works well for Vaynerchuk because, he says, "I can’t write so I missed out on the whole blogging thing originally." He believes transparency and authenticity are the keys to branding.
"What does not work is trying to force feed an agenda or just pumping out content without doing the work to promote it," he warns.
Posting videos on a personal blog about real estate gives brokers and agents the ability to seed places like craigslist with links.
"You’ll have a sexier click-through rate because you can say, ‘Watch my video blog on this.’ " Vaynerchuk says.
You can’t just put a video on the Web and expect the world to come to you, he says. To build "personal brand equity," Vaynerchuk recommends spending hours on real estate blogs, leaving comments that link back to your own site and joining the conversation.
Vaynerchuk thinks most real estate professionals have good communication and marketing skills, but they should realize "we’re living in a transparent world" and that clients appreciate straight talk.
"Look at listings from around the world, not necessarily in your area, and talk about whether they are good buys or bad buys," he says.
Pointing out bad buys "builds up your street cred so you are not just shilling all the time, just like when I pan wines that we sell at our store," he said.
Vaynerchuk said that when it came time to buy his own home, he didn’t let the Realtors he dealt with talk too much.
"We spent more time talking about wine," he recalls. "Once I saw the apartment, I pulled the trigger."
For agents and brokers seeking insight on a good wine to present to a client who’s just bought a home, Vaynerchuk recommends grower Champagne.
Grower Champagne? According to a New York Times article on the subject, about 10 percent of the 20,000 small growers in France’s Champagne region not only sell their grapes to the big name-brand labels, but bottle small batches of their their own product. So-called "grower Champagne" can be identified by a tiny "RM" on the label, which stands for récoltants-manipulants. Champagne bottled by name brands are labeled NM, for négociants-manipulants.
Vaynerchuk’s recommendation of grower Champagne is, perhaps, just another example of the knowledge underpinning the notoriety he’s gained on the Internet. While not he’s not universally loved in the world of wine — some winemakers and critics have taken offense at his popular approach to wine criticism — Vaynerchuk isn’t losing any sleep.
"I’m a love-me or hate-me kinda guy, so I have very thick skin," he says.
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