Whether you’re thinking about starting a wine club or have one you’re looking to grow, the potential ROI is hard to ignore. Direct-to-Consumer (DtC) sales account for a whopping 60 percent of winery revenue. Think you’re too small to cash in? For wineries making less than 2,500 cases per year, that number jumps to 74 percent.
Continuity sales are an opportunity to significantly grow your bottom line.
Wine clubs are one of the most lucrative sources of revenue for those who understand a handful of truths -- and tactics -- when it comes to engaging and keeping clients.
This may feel a little “David and Goliath” when you realize you’re competing with the buying power of credit card companies, magazines and hotels, all who sponsor their own wine clubs. So what does even the smallest winery have to trump the global reach and sheer variety these giants can offer consumers?
Loyalty. Trust. A personal connection to you and your story.
You have a unique opportunity to build one-on-one relationships with customers, and that usually starts in your tasting room, the place where almost 90% of wine club members sign up. It gives you the chance to start building trust, to understand your customer’s needs, and to keep them as loyal members long past the average 2 years other clubs’ members stick around.
1. Build relationships and trust.
Wine club members rarely sign up for convenience. There are less expensive ways to explore new tastes than shipping wine to their doorstep. What they’re there for is the experience and often the sense of community that comes along with it. Find the sweet spot on delivering both, and you can boost the acquisition of new customers by as much as 10 percent. The relationship you have with your members is your top priority.
Start by telling your story. Do it in your brochures, on your website, on social media and in person at tastings. People don’t do business with companies. They do business with other people. Connect with them authentically. Tell them about the milestones you’re excited about as a grower. Have you added a new hybrid grape that’s going to let you make something really special? Has your winery just received a special award, or been in the family for generations? What struggles did you have to overcome to make a particularly unique wine or simply do what you do? When members relate to you as a person, they stop being a client and become a friend.
Don’t just communicate when it’s time to send a shipment. Keep in touch to share the special moments above. Tuck a post into your social media channels and invite them to share their own stories, favourite wines and pairings, a special family moment they celebrated with one of your wines. Share insider information that gives them a glimpse behind the scenes. Invite them to visit to meet the winemaker. Set up a calendar to schedule themed topics and present featured wines as part of an experience, including pairings, recipes and fun hosting tips.
2. Understand your members’ needs.
Create channels to invite feedback. This can help reduce attrition, and with most wine clubs experiencing a loss of 30-60 percent of their members each year, there’s significant revenue at stake. With memberships being one of the most lucrative sales channels, you want to be sure that you catch changes in attitudes and tastes as they happen so you can quickly adapt.
One of the ways to do this is by simply asking, whether in an email or a survey. Members are often happy to be given a voice in shaping the club.
Why not tuck a note into each shipment inviting engagement? Invite members to rate the wines they receive, and to share ideas and even pictures on social media for food pairings they loved. Use it as an opportunity to invite them for a tour or tasting, and to buy a bottle of their favourite wine to share with a friend or two.
If you really want to boost engagement, invite them to join a private channel where they can interact with other members, whether through exclusive forums on your website or private social networks. What members often value most is that sense of community where they can share their ideas with others and be given a chance to shine.
3. Be flexible and offer options.
There was a time when wineries shipped hand-picked selections to members, and that was that. With the competitive nature of today’s clubs, you need to give members the ability to customize.
Offer selections featuring certain varieties, or appeal to those who want to focus on specific genres (only red or white.)
Invite members to customize each shipment in a way that lets them curate their own adventure with new tastes.
Offering memberships at various price points, including entry-level options that make it easy for new members to dive in and premium packages for those who want to cultivate a deeper experience. The richer the way you engage with your members is, the more likely they are to convert to the second option. And on that note ...
4. Treat members like the VIPs they are.
The more valued your members feel, the more likely they are to be long-term, loyal customers. Even the smallest investments can reap big rewards.
Host special events for wine club members only. Host a private tasting party and invite them to bring a friend. Remember, most signups happen in the tasting room. Those guests may be your next members. For those not in the area, invite them to an online party to share a glass of the latest club arrival while being treated to a personal chat with the winemaker or another special guest.
Send handwritten thank-you’s, signed by the winemaker when a new member signs up, and another on the anniversary of their membership each year. That may seem like a lot, but 59% of wine clubs have fewer than 500 members, and you don’t need to write an epistle. A simple sentence or two, heartfelt and signed, is all it takes. It may be 15 minutes at the start of each day that leads to years of revenue.
5. Create experiences.
Whether in-person or from afar, there are some truly creative ways to make each shipment an experience! Why not tap into the ingenuity of other wineries that have made engagement a memorable affair?
Pickup Parties - Have local will-call members? Turn it into a party where they can bring friends and meet other members. Some wineries have hosted paint-and-sip parties and other fun, themed events.
Members-only Dinner Theater - If your winery has a restaurant or venue, why not turn it into an exclusive event? Mystery theater dinners have a widespread appeal. Some wineries have also used this as an opportunity to benefit special causes within their community, with raffles and donations creating a little uplift along the way.
Turn your shipments into dinner parties in a box for send-only and long-distance members. Suggest a theme, tuck in recipes that pair well with the selected wines and tips for hosting their own party. Invite members to share pictures of their event on your social media for a chance to win a free shipment or other prizes.
6. Reward loyalty.
Another way to fight attrition is to offer loyalty programs to your members. These can increase customer acquisition by as much as 10 percent. In addition to exclusive membership events, consider offering private tours, tasting workshops, concierge services and exclusive wines. Wondering just how much of a return you might get on your investment? A “Finding Benefits in a Small Business Loyalty Program” study found that:
69 percent of consumers’ choice of retailer is influenced by where they can earn customer loyalty/rewards program points, and 70 percent feel that these programs are part of their relationship with the company.
Repeat customers spend up to 67 percent more than first-time shoppers. These customers are also more likely to provide feedback, which can help you make adjustments to your online wine store for better performance.
7. Celebrate tenure.
As a fine wine improves with age, so should your recognition of a member’s devotion over time. Some of the ways you might reward long-time members include:
a private meal with the winemaker,
a special table and personal recognition at your events, or
a personal nod in your newsletters, on social media and club membership brochures.
Promote these benefits well. Intrinsic rewards (think bragging rights and recognition) are great drivers of loyalty and engagement.
8. Amplify the good by rewarding referrals.
Offering rewards for referrals is one of the easiest ways to boost your wine club enrollment. Here are some simple ways to do this:
Tuck a couple of referral postcards into shipments offering a free month for both the new and the referring member.
Invite members to bring a guest to exclusive tasting events and offer a reward for both the new and referring member when the guest signs up.
Do a promo on your social media channels inviting people to tag a friend for a chance to win a shipment for themselves and the person they tagged.
9. Technology is your friend.
You've got to meet people where they're at. Most wineries embrace websites as their virtual front door, benefiting from the boost eCommerce gives in helping new people find you and making it easy for them to buy from the comfort of their own home. One of the things many still overlook? The opportunities that mobile promotions provide. Why does that matter?
A study shows that 75 percent of consumers would switch brands if they received special offers directly to their smartphones.
Technology doesn’t just create opportunities to promote. It also provides opportunities to engage. Building a robust club membership doesn’t happen through a single promotion. It depends on continued and meaningful engagement. Constantly connecting and providing value for your members is essential and certainly easier online, whether that happens through a mobile phone or desktop computer.
10. Make it personal.
As above, getting people to welcome you into their home through your shipments requires a devotion to communicating and connecting frequently and meaningfully. In addition to hosting special events and tucking recipes for food pairings into your sends, there are a handful of ways to turn a member into a valued friend.
Tuck a video hello from the winemaker and grower into club membership channels. Tell your story. Connect with the people who choose to do business with you in the way a friend would. Let them know how their membership makes them a special part of growing the story together.
Create opportunities for members to connect with each other and with your staff through ongoing social channels. When you share your stories, ask them to share their own. Invite them to share anecdotes and pictures of the memories they build around their favourite wines.
Don’t be a talking head. Mingle! At tasting parties and other member events, be there fully. Encourage staff to ask members’ opinions, share tips about clever ways to build experiences around their favourite wines, and simply enjoy the mix. Nothing goes further than real and relatable when it comes to forging the kind of bonds that lead to long and loyal connections.
Want another pour?
Looking for more ways to boost your brand and your sales? Here are a few places to start ...
Wine consumption in the U.S. has enjoyed unprecedented growth during the last twenty years, but the annual “State of the Wine Industry 2018” report cautions we’re now at the end of that boom. It predicts: “Successful wineries 10 years from now will be those that adapted to a different consumer with different values—a customer who uses the internet in increasingly complex and interactive ways, is frugal and has less discretionary income than their predecessors.”
So how do wineries adapt to not only survive but thrive in a market that’s rapidly changing? Here are some of the strategies and tactics that define the winners ...
Can SMEs compete with large estates and virtual wineries? According to an in-depth look at the differentiation strategies and financial performance of small-to-medium sized wineries over a period of 5 years, the answer is “Yes!” Perhaps more importantly, the study answered the question: “How?”
- How does a winery stand out from the competition?
- How do the strategies they use to do this impact the bottom line?
Here's why your tasting room and technology will be your greatest assets ...