By Colleen Isherwood, Editor
LAS VEGAS — “If you don't understanding marketing in 2016, it's like not knowing how to balance your books,” Gary Vaynerchuk told Choice Hotels International convention delegates today at Mandalay Bay Convention Center. “You have to follow the attention of your customers,” and if you're marketing to 18-25 year olds, it's SnapChat.
Vaynerchuk, who runs VaynerMedia, a thriving digital agency, is also the author of four books and host of the #AskGaryVee show. His keynote presentation at Choice was based on a lifetime of building successful multi-million dollar companies.
“Keep the romance at the door,” he told the delegates. “It doesn't matter how you got here; it's where you're going next.” Vaynerchuk added that he doesn't even particularly use social media. “I like social media because it sells stuff. Social media is just the plumbing of word of mouth. You have to know what platforms people are interested in.”
Vaynerchuk, who came to New York from Belarus when he was three, wasn't your average kid. When he was seven years old, he had a six lemonade stand franchise, and he would ride his big wheel bike around to collect cash from all six of his friends. By the time he was 12 or 13, he was in the baseball trading card business, often making $2,000 to $3,000 per weekend.
“When you're that age and you have $30,000 in cash under your bed and you're not selling weed, you're doing pretty well,” he said.
He took quite a financial hit when he turned 14, and his dad had him work in the family's discount liquor store for $2 per hour on weekends and during the summer holidays. Then, when he was 16 years old, he was finally allowed to come upstairs to work in the store rather than the basement.
He noticed that a lot of people would come in asking for a certain wine that they had heard about in the Wine Spectator, and they would leave when the store didn't have it. So he started telling people they would put it on back order and call them when it came in. Then one person that came in said he wanted six cases and that he collected wine.
That year, Vaynerchuk traded in his Beckett Baseball Guide for the Wine Spectator. He had visions of owning four thousand wine and liquor stores across the U.S. Then he would sell them and buy the New York Jets.
His dreams changed in a freshman dorm room when he was introduced to the Internet. Within six minutes, he had found people buying and selling baseball cards, and by 1996 he had started WineLibrary.com. Vaynerchuk took over his Dad's business at age 22 and used Internet sales to boost the business from $3 million to $65 million a year.
“It's all based on marketing in the year that you live in. We are living through the biggest market shift in history. In 1997, I did an email campaign and got 91 per cent open rates. Back then, attention was on e-commerce and e-newsletters.
“But you have to pay attention to where the eyeballs are.” By 2006, YouTube was that place, and Vaynerchuk did well by doing wine reviews using that platform. “I was selling ungodly amounts of wine without paying for marketing,” he said.
“Unless you are retiring in the next five years, you need to understand that a lot of things have changed in the last decade. Email open rates are collapsing. Google AdWord clicks are down 15 per cent. Marketers are trying to ruin every platform.”
Vaynerchuk said the world is changing with mobile phones, Instagram and Facebook coming to the fore. It's important to pay attention to where the eyes and ears of the individual are, and to create content on those platforms.