Recently, I spoke on the wine club panel at the Eastern Wine Expo in Pennsylvania. To prepare for the presentation, I interviewed a handful of wineries who don’t have wine clubs yet to find out why. The most common reason winery owners gave for not starting a wine club is that they did not know where to start. Many winery owners I spoke with also had no idea of the income that a wine club can generate. In these challenging economic times, my goal is to convince winery owners why a wine club is a sound marketing strategy.
For a winery owner, the thought of adding one more thing to her plate is daunting. But you can’t start generating more income if you don’t take that first step. So here are our top reasons why wine clubs are a good business idea:
1) Revenue can add up.
What winery would not want to have a steady stream of extra income? Additionally, wine club income is relatively consistent throughout the year. As the club grows so will your direct to consumer sales. Plus, you will generate additional sales with re-orders.
2) Future sales can be projected
Wine club shipments can be timed for periods when winery traffic is slower. Therefore, the wine club generates income when cash flow is otherwise low. This will also help you determine production needs for the year.
3) A great way to build brand loyalty.
A wine club creates a base of loyal customers who are your best ambassadors. Wine club clients bring their friends to the winery because they “know” the owners and have tasted wine side by side with the winemaker at a wine club only wine tasting. Derek Whittington from Tassel Ridge Winery in Iowa, who was also a panel member at the Eastern Wine Expo, said that one of the main reasons his customers sign up for the club is because they love the wines and the experience and want to stay connected with the winery. This word of mouth marketing for your brand can’t be purchased with any amount of advertising dollars.
4) Selling more wine to an existing customer costs less than finding a new one.
New wineries are springing up every day and the competition is fierce. Keeping your loyal customers happy with events like pre-release parties, limited edition wines, reduced pricing for events, barrel tastings with the wine maker and members only parties they will keep them coming back.
5) A great way to have some fun with your club members.
We are in the hospitality industry so lighten up and have some fun. Take a look at Twisted Oak Winery in California and their Twisted Few wine club members.
6) Non-traditional wine club options
Traditional wine clubs offer dry, sweet and fruit wine clubs or combinations of these. How about offering a Medal wine club where you send a bottle of a different award winning wine four times a year. Or perhaps a seasonal wine club? For example, include a pumpkin wine in October and chocolate flavored wine in February? Another idea is a holiday wine club with a different bottle for six holidays throughout the year. Or if you really want to get creative, start a non-traditional holiday wine club and send wines for Paul Bunyan Day, National Chili Day, Kiss and Make Up Day, No Housework Day or my favorite, Cupcake Day!
7) Keep it simple.
Create the infrastructure of the club first; but don’t make it so complicated that your staff needs a cheat sheet when explaining it to customers. The wine club needs to have rules and regulations that are easily understood. I love Jowler Creek Winery’s Creek Club for its simplicity and the downloadable wine club fact sheet.
8) Customer Relations
Wine clubs are a great reason to communicate with your customers. Club members become part of this community and form relationships with the winery and the other club members. This is also an opportunity to personalize emails, recognize anniversaries, birthdays and wine favorites.
9) Your staff is your secret weapon
Train and educate staff on the winery story, wines, wine making, and vineyard. Consider offering winery staff incentives for selling wine club memberships. The incentive awards could be discounted wine club memberships for employees in the range of $5-$15 per membership. Another possible sales award is a gift certificate for lunch at the employee’s favorite restaurant after they have signed up a specified number of memberships.
10) Wine club software keeps the operation organized
Wine club software makes many of the following wine clubs tasks easy: accounting, government compliance, tax and shipping rates, up to date member information, and personalized communication with members. There are many wine club software programs available; Microworks, WineWare, Elypsis, and VinNow are just a few of the popular programs.
If your winery is currently selling its entire production and making all financial targets, then a wine club might not make sense. But if you want to increase revenue, build customer loyalty and stay ahead of the competition, then you might want to consider a wine club. For more information about winery marketing strategies please contact me.