We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Laurent Yung a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Laurent, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Naming anything – including a business – is so hard. Right? What’s the story behind how you came up with the name of your brand?
Before launching SomMailier, I worked with a fantastic local marketing agency, Ameba, to help me with the critical components of a business before launching it such as Website creation, positioning, marketing and of course the name of the business. For some people, I guess that the name comes very obviously but I was glad I worked with Ameba to help me with this task.
Of course, I had some ideas on my own but going through a brainstorming session with professionals really helped me in many aspects. Not only for the name of my Business but also to make sure I had all important answers I needed to have a successful business launch.
Regarding the name we picked, SomMailier, when I saw it on a board, I immediately knew this was going to be my business name. Everyone know what a sommelier is in the world of wine and to write it this way with “Mail” instead of “Mel” was perfect as I am, in some ways, “mailing” wines to my customers + I had spent the past 20 years working in the Mail Order industry!
I have to admit that I had conflicting remarks about the name at first. Most people found it funny, clever, original but I remember reading in my social media account, someone saying that he/she would never order wine to a company who doesn’t know how to spell sommelier properly. I really had mixed feelings when I read this as, while this was only 1 person, I didn’t know how many other people could feel the same and not order from us because of the name. Until today, still decided to keep the name as it is.
Laurent, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
My name is Laurent Yung and I was born in France near Bordeaux. I grew up in my father’s winery and most of the discussions around the dinner table were about wine since my very young age. My family has been making French wine for 5 generations now. When I graduated from my Business School and after studying in France and in Spain, I was given the choice to work with my father or to do something else. I chose the latter and I ended up working for a Swedish company in the Publishing industry. I really loved this company, not only because I could travel the world with them while learning new things all the time but most importantly because I met my wife and mother of my 3 children while working for them. We were pretty much the only 2 French persons in a big working group at that time and we ended up together, go figure! After 20 years working for 2 companies in what people would describe it like “Corporate America”, I decided it was time to do something on my own and I decided to start somMailier (this was in 2017).
The decision to go into the wine business was very natural. I think I was one of the only members of my family not working in the wine industry yet! I had to do something about it and start leveraging all our connections and helping all great artisan winemakers we had known for so many years. My brother Patrick is the owner and President of a wine distribution company in Paris called Laplace and his focus is to distribute fantastic wines from artisan winemakers in France to restaurants, hotels, retailers and even some French Ministries! Some of the wines we import can be enjoyed in Paris during diners with diplomats from many different countries.
What I really enjoy with my work is, on one side, helping incredible boutique wineries getting more visibility in the US through our club but also reading all the beautiful reviews from our customers they leave us after trying the different wines we send them every quarter. There is nothing more satisfying to me that knowing, both the winemakers and the consumers are extremely satisfied of what we do. The business has its own challenges of course but knowing this is already a victory. One important thing to note is that all wines we import can’t be found anywhere else in the US for the most part. I think this is something that my members really appreciate as well. It’s not the typical wine that you will find in our local grocery store.
And while the core business is a wine club for people who want to receive incredible and affordable French wines directly to their home, a big portion of our volume is sold as gifts that people can send to friends, families, colleagues, or clients. I’ve seen people sending our French wine boxes for birthday, Valentine’s Day, retirement parties, weddings or just to say “I love you ma chérie!” I guess French wine is something romantic then :-). We also have real estate agents using our wine box when they close a house or as Christmas presents or just to stay in their client’s mind (by sending a new box every quarter). I guess that when you do the math and realize how unique our products are with the story behind it, it must be a good retention tool.
All in all, I’m very fortunate to work in this industry and to have created this brand and this community around somMailier. I really wish we continue growing and giving more and more pleasure to our members by introducing more new and incredible wines quarter after quarter.
Where do you think you get most of your clients from?
The best source of new clients has been my affiliate program through the Shareasale platform. for those not familiar with affiliate marketing, this is a great way to recruit new customers while controlling the cost as you are paying a commission on the sales you are making. While it’s not as easy as it looks, it can become a great source of new customers for your business if you can attract and find the right affiliates for your business. Basically, an affiliate is someone who might have a blog, a website, social media presence and who will drive traffic to your website. The traffic can be traced back to the affiliate when it results in an order and an agreed upon commission is then given to the affiliate. My goal is to always try to build strong relationship with my best affiliates and listen to their recommendations to drive more traffic and increase the conversion from this traffic. For a good affiliate program to work, it needs to be a win/win for both the affiliate and the merchant. What’s important is to find affiliates that are string in your niche and work closely with them so that they can try your product and be ambassadors for your brand. First and foremost, you need to make sure that your product and value proposition is impeccable. No affiliate with promote a product they don’t believe in as, at the end, they promote it to their audience that they took time and effort to build.
How do you keep in touch with clients and foster brand loyalty?
We are doing various things to build our community and keep our members engaged with our brand. there is no particular order of best versus worst but here are the things we currently do: 1) We are present on social media (Facebook and Instagram mostly) and we try to post new things every 2 or 3 days. since not everyone follows us on social or even have a Facebook or Instagram account, we are also doing the following.
2) Sending blog emails. SomMailier is not a typical wine merchant, and we provide a lot more than just the wine. We try to educate people on many aspects regarding French wines. Such as how to read a French wine label, the different French wine regions, wine/food pairing ideas, etc… Once a month, we are sending a new blog to everyone, and this is a good way to keep in touch with our members and build a strong brand.
3) Top notch customer service. When it comes to fostering brand loyalty, we want to make sure every customer can enjoy a five-star customer service experience. Today, Julia is the main point of contact for our customers, and I could not be happier with her work and her integrity. If you read some of our reviews on our website from our customers, you will see the name of Julia mentioned many times and always extremely positive.
4) I also personally like exchanging with my customers. This is one of my favorite times when I can directly communicate with our members. I learn so much about how they perceive all the work we do and while most of the time, we are doing great, I also want to hear about the times where we might have dropped the ball so that we can rectify this for the next time.