Investing in Automation with Drew Hendricks


by Drew Hendricks
Last updated Jun 24, 2021

Legends Behind the Craft Podcast

Last Updated on June 24, 2021 by Amy Geldean

Drew Hendricks

Drew Hendricks is the President of Barrels Ahead, a wine and craft marketing agency that accelerates company growth through content development, SEO, and paid search. Drew is also the President of Nimbletoad, Inc., a company that helps wineries expand their digital footprint to increase membership and sales. He is the Founder of VineCat, which, before closing its doors in 2010, allowed users to inventory and track their wine through a cloud-based cellar management application. At Barrels Ahead, Drew helps companies define their unique stories to attract more customers and stand out from the crowd.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Drew Hendricks discusses the annual fundraiser for the grassroots coalition Free the Grapes!
  • Examples of companies and people doing exciting things within the wine industry
  • Why should you invest in automation for your business?
  • Messaging and technology tools for your winery
  • Barrels Ahead’s process for getting companies in front of their ideal customers
  • Drew talks about his early days of internet marketing in 1993
  • Drew shares some of his favorite go-to wines

In this episode…

In the wine and craft industry, it’s important to develop your marketing strategy, attract your ideal customer, and increase sales. But how can you do this in an efficient, cost-effective way? The answer is in your company’s automation tools.

As stated in Wine Business Monthly, 66 percent of wineries say they’re not going to spend any money on automation this year. According to wine industry expert Drew Hendricks, not investing in automation could result in a big loss for your company. Automating your business workflow allows you to do more with less: you can reduce the amount of staff necessary and fully utilize all of your resources.

In this episode of Legends Behind the Craft, Rise25 Co-founder Dr. Jeremy Weisz sits down with host Drew Hendricks to talk about automation in the wine industry. Drew discusses the best automation tools for your business, his tried-and-true methods for getting companies in front of their ideal customers, and how wine industry marketing has changed since the early days of the internet. Stay tuned!

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Barrels Ahead.

Barrels Ahead is a wine and craft marketing agency that propels organic growth by using a powerful combination of content development, Search Engine Optimization, and paid search.

At Barrels Ahead, we know that your business is unique. That’s why we work with you to create a one-of-a-kind marketing strategy that highlights your authenticity, tells your story, and makes your business stand out from your competitors.

Our team at Barrels Ahead helps you leverage your knowledge so you can enjoy the results and revenue your business deserves.

So, what are you waiting for? Unlock your results today!

To learn more, visit barrelsahead.com or email us at hello@barrelsahead.com to schedule a strategy call.

Episode transcript

Drew Hendricks:

Drew Hendricks here. I’m the host of Legends Behind the Craft podcast where I talk with leaders in the wind and craft beverage industry. Today I have Jeremy Weisz here of Rise25, who has done thousands of interviews with successful business leaders. Today we flip the script, and he will be interviewing me.

Jeremy Weisz:

Drew, thanks for having me. I am excited about this episode because it’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart, and if any company knows this is near and dear to their heart, which is about automation. We’re going to get into that in a second, but before we do, I just want to say this episode was brought to you by Barrels Ahead. Barrels Ahead is a wine and craft marketing agency that helps propel revenue growth. They use that by using a powerful combination of content development, SEO and paid search.

Jeremy Weisz:

Drew, what I like to say is basically, Barrels Ahead, your specialty is helping companies get in front of their ideal customers. When we were chatting, I didn’t know this about you, Drew, and your team. You’ve been helping companies in the wine industry since 1993. Okay, you’re building websites for the industry when people didn’t even know what the internet was. At that time, I didn’t know what the internet was.

Jeremy Weisz:

You’ve even built a wine subscription club back in ’96, which was one of the first wine subscriptions outside of the traditional winery. If anyone listening, if you’re a winery, a wine company, a supplier, or in the beverage space, give him a call. If you’re interested in attracting more customers, you can email them. They’re very friendly. hello@barrelsahead.com, or you can go to barrelsahead.com to learn more and check out episodes of the podcast. Drew, you got the Wine Business Monthly and something jumped out at you. We’re going to talk about that, but I also want to point out an organization that you love and you go to their conference.

Drew Hendricks:

Oh, yeah.

Jeremy Weisz:

What was that?

Drew Hendricks:

Oh, yeah. We were talking before about the Free the Grapes! conference. It’s always one of my favorites. Every year it’s up in Alameda. This year it was virtual. They still did a stunning job. The one thing I love about that conference is it’s actually a nonprofit fundraiser. Their sole mission is to really do what they say, free the grapes. Ensure that everyone around the country has direct access to wineries and the wines that they love.

Drew Hendricks:

There’s still about four states that they really need your help in writing to the legislators to help them gain access. In New Jersey, Kentucky, Alabama, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Ohio, Delaware and Indiana. Residents of those states don’t have the same access to wines that we do in California, Oregon or Washington. It’s a great cause. Love the winery. I mean, love that conference. It really just helps wineries across the united states. It gives them skills on how they can better market to consumers, and better attract the right consumers.

Jeremy Weisz:

I love the name Free the Grapes!. The best relation to conversations are when we’re all drinking wine together, right? There was some people you were mentioning. I think the name was Laurie and Zach. What do they do?

Drew Hendricks:

Yeah. That’s where I met Laurie for the first time. Laurie from Outshinery. Her company does bottle shots, which is one of the most important things that really if you’re selling your wine online, you need a good picture. Don’t just do stock pictures. Hire Outshinery. Go into their program and get great bottle shots.The other one was Zach, Zach Kamphuis, from Commerce7. Zach and what they’re doing over at Commerce7, they’re really revolutionizing the online sales of wine. What they’ve done is they’ve actually detached their eCommerce system from the website so you’re not burdened. You have a lot more freedom to show your wines in the way that you want, and then still have a solid eCommerce system to back it up. They’ve been doing a lot right now with helping wine clubs, or helping wineries shift from the traditional club model to a subscription model where you have a little more freedom of choice. That’s Zach over at Commerce7.

Jeremy Weisz:

Yeah. I love this talk about tools and automation, because we’re always looking at ways to improve our businesses, make it easier. Talk about Wine Business Monthly. What stuck out to you?

Drew Hendricks:

Yeah. I just picked up the hard copy and was flipping through it yesterday reading it. One of the shocking things that I saw was that… What was that? I’m actually looking right now on here. In 2021, 66% of wineries out there say that they’re not going to spend any money on automation this year, which to me was shocking. You can fully utilize all the equipment that you have.

Jeremy Weisz:

Yeah. That makes sense, because you do more with less, right?

Drew Hendricks:

Absolutely. It was shocking to read that statistic.

Jeremy Weisz:

What’s a company out there that people should look at, as far as automation goes?

Drew Hendricks:

Well, the one I’m really excited about is InnoVint. They just came out with some new technology that allows them to do some vineyard monitoring without the use of wifi, which is a game changer. I mean, a lot of these vineyards, you’re nowhere near cell reception or wifi. To be able to monitor the temperatures and the whole vineyard [crosstalk], it frees up a lot of man power or personnel power to have to go out there and manually get these statistics and see where everything’s going.

Jeremy Weisz:

I guess that gets to the next question. There’s automation. Then the next question is about messaging. With the survey that you saw, I think a lot of these automation tools are going to have to do a better… I don’t know if it’s an uphill battle, but it’s going to be somewhat of a uphill battle getting in front of these companies, and getting the wineries to see that it’s not just an expense. It’s actually going to save them a ton of money, right? Because you’re an expert, you’ve seen these wine industries for decades. What’s the messaging that you see, or what are some things that InnoVint’s doing right and some examples of messaging that they can get in front of some of the wineries? What sticks out to you with InnoVint as their main, core messaging of what they do?

Drew Hendricks:

They’re doing a great job of really explaining how their software makes it easy. They’ve got some great customer stories, and they’re one of the few that have come out with these customer stories where people actually… You have wine makers giving them testimonials online that talk about how it’s been a game changer for them. They’re doing a fantastic job.

Drew Hendricks:

Not all the companies are doing such a great job with relating the ease and the customer stories back to their brand. They’re a little too laden with features and tech, and not really translating that to the end result, which is saving the winery money, making the job easier. At Barrels Ahead, that’s where we come in a lot of times with a lot of these supply tech companies, we’ve got the best and the brightest scientists coming up with just game changing new tech, but the challenge is relating it to the winery owner who may not have a technical background, or the oenologist at the winery, and show them how this tech is actually going to improve upon what they already know. When you have two of the best and the brightest talking to each other, oftentimes there’s a disconnect, and we help make that connection. That’s what I think InnoVint’s done a great job of. Looking through their site, some of the other automation companies may not be doing right now.

Jeremy Weisz:

Talk a little bit more about that, Drew, which is I’d love to hear your process a little bit. Let’s say a barrel maker, or a label maker, or one of these companies that wants to get in front of a customer, I mentioned three things. I mentioned content, SEO and paid search. How do you incorporate those into getting people in front of their customer?

Drew Hendricks:

Well, in the wine business, it’s a little different than the way we would do something out in another industry. A lot of the people find these new companies through business directories, through Wines Vines Analytics, through the wine directory. The key here is that you’ve got your explanation on the wine directory, and you’re going to the site. If you don’t have the proper tracking, a lot of times people will go straight from the director onto the website, and then they may or may not ever become a customer.

Drew Hendricks:

One of our challenges is, or one of the services that we do is we help reengage those people from the different sources where they come. Whether they come from search. Oftentimes they’re not googling, “Winery automation software,” on Google. Or they’re not using anything. They’re using Wine Vines Analytics in the producer directory. Or they’re using one of the other ones. The idea there is that once they get to the site, you’re able to then re-target them through a much less expensive paid advertisement than a blind Google search ad.

Drew Hendricks:

We helped them basically maximize their budget, and make sure that the messaging on the site is easily consumable. Even if you’re a brilliant PhD, you still need to have easily consumable online content. You can spend all day diving into numbers and statistics. It doesn’t mean that you don’t need a few key sound bites on the website when you visit it for the first time. It’s those sound bites or those key pieces of knowledge that allow people to go down…

Drew Hendricks:

We use the term funnel in marketing. Down through that funnel from barely knowing that this winery automation company exists, or this boxing company exists, to the point where they’re actually now understanding the value that that person, that company presents to the point where eventually, that sales team’s engaged in helping nurture that relationship through the sales cycle, which a lot of times is a very longterm sales cycle. When you look at capital expenditures in a winery or a craft beverage company, they’re not buying new equipment every year. When they do come to buy that, when the time does come for them to buy that new tank, or that new fermentor, or that new crusher, we want to make sure that our clients are at their top of mind.

Jeremy Weisz:

Yeah. Yeah. It’s totally true, because what ways can you shortcut the process without… That’s why the Internet’s amazing, because they can get a lot of this. They can get to know you, like you and trust you all if you have the right content out there. I would love for you to take me back through to 1993. And that website. What was the internet like then? What was a website that you created?

Drew Hendricks:

I remember getting our first domain name. It was a wine store. It was wine store. At the time, I believe it was called Mr. Liquor. It was at Taraval Street in San Francisco, and we had just changed the name to San Francisco Wine Trading Company. That was my first branding. Came up with the logo. Still using the logo today. We got sfwtc.com. That website’s long gone, but at the time, there was a [inaudible]. At the time, I probably would have bought a whole bunch more domains.

Jeremy Weisz:

Were they expensive at the time? They were probably like 100 bucks.

Drew Hendricks:

I never remember being them being all that expensive.

Jeremy Weisz:

They weren’t, okay.

Drew Hendricks:

At the time, it was a hard coded site. Straight an html. This was all self-trained. My background’s in philosophy and Attic Greek. I guess the learning a dead language like Attic Greek is-

Jeremy Weisz:

It’s like programming.

Drew Hendricks:

It was almost like programming without the programming before there was programming. It wasn’t too hard to to pick up html. I actually found some Open Source CGI scripts way before Open Source was a thing. Shortly after, I would say in ’95, we had a CGI script out there that was doing in store wine auctions to help some of the customers be able to resell their wines. That was right when eBay started opening it up. eBay did flirt with wine sales, or wine auction sales for a few years. It was fun back at the time. That was basically the site. Very bare bones. Just a business card with some wines online. Mostly it was a way for people to see our current stock and give us a phone call. It was all very phone based back then. Still is.

Jeremy Weisz:

Yeah. Thank you, Drew. I really appreciate it. I have one last question. Before I do, thanks for sharing some of the automation. You have your finger on the pulse of what’s important, what’s next with this industry, and also how people can do more with less. I appreciate your thoughts on all this. Before I ask the last question, which is going to be probably one of your favorite topics, which is your favorite wines and what you have in stock, but I want to just point people towards more episodes of the podcast. People could check out barrelsahead.com. Drew tell me, what are your favorites, and what do you like to have in stock?

Drew Hendricks:

Anybody that comes over to our house knows that I’m a huge fan of Tablas Creek. That is one of my go to daily reds and whites. Man, their whites age so well. Tablas Creek for the Rhone-style blend. Huge fan of McPrice Meyers. They’re just down the road from them. A little more richer, dark, inky style. I got a little best of both worlds. But you know what? You always have to have the Oregon pinots. Love Beaux Freres. Beaux Freres pinot is just awesome. Super delicate. I mean, it drinks just like a Red Burgundy. I’m not drinking as many Red Burgundies as I want these days, so Beaux Freres is filling the niche.

Jeremy Weisz:

Drew, thank you. It’s like talking dirty to me when you describe these wines. I love it. It’s like, “Inky.” The way you describe it is awesome. Check out more episodes of the podcast. Check out Barrels Ahead. Thanks, Drew, for having me.

Drew Hendricks:

No, thank you. Thank you for interviewing me.