Recently, I was invited to be a guest speaker on a panel at the Wine Club Summit, presented by Vineyard & Winery Management Magazine. This summit was designed give wineries feedback about what we, as wine club members, want and don’t want, so they can improve what they offer to us.
Overwhelmingly, the wineries in attendance indicated that they value us as committed customers, and really want to improve our experiences as wine club members. Wine clubs are the wineries best source of a stable cash flow, with a high margin. You control the club, what is in the club, and we you get out of the club. Wine Clubs give the consumer access to wines that they might not otherwise get an opportunity to taste, and gives you, as the winery, exposure to a new consumer base.
Some of the hot button questions that came up were:
- What benefits of being a wine club member are most attractive to you?
For me, as a knowledgeable consumer, I want to know that I am getting access to wines that the average consumer would not. I join wine clubs for 2 primary reasons: First, because I have tried the wines, and I know that I like them. Second, because I know that I will have first crack at allocation only wines, or special, wine club only wines, that regular visitors do not get the opportunity to try. We expect to be given our tastings gratis at the tasting room, and we expect a follow-on purchase discount. Not having these benefits lowers the value of the wine club.
Thanks your customers. You need to ensure that you have some sort of thank you event for your club members at least once a year. It is acceptable to charge a nominal fee for these events, but we do expect good food, good times and free flowing wine. It is going to turn us off if you say, “Thanks for your business, now here are your two drink tickets for the party”.
- How is the current economy effecting your participation in wine clubs?
I am fortunate in that I have not had to modify any of my wine clubs, but I am aware that this is an issue for some people. As a winery, allowing the flexibility to have club members place shipments on hold, or modify the number of shipments, lets us maintain our participation without completely dropping out.
- What makes you stay in a club? What makes you drop a club?
As a member of 3 wine clubs today, I stay because of the wine, and because of the benefits. I receive a generous discount, gratis tastings, and invitations to special events. While I pay out of pocket for the special events, we are given the first opportunity to RSVP, and receive a discount. I also stay in these wine clubs because we are given the opportunity to purchase special wines that the general public has limited access to. This makes us, as wine club members, feel special. it is that special customer feeling that has made me a loyal member of 2 of these clubs for over 4 years.
I have dropped clubs in the past because the cost of membership was not worth the value of the wines & events that we were offered. If we can buy the same wines in the store or at the winery at a minimal mark up, what benefit is there to the wine club?
I have also quit wine clubs that offered poor customer service. As your number one customers, you need to ensure that your staff treats us as the valued customers we are. If I receive poor customer servie from anyone, you are not going to like the response. If I receive poor customer service from something I have a particular affiliation for, you can bet I will tell my friends to avoid it.
- What single piece of advice do you have for wineries to retain their wine club members?
Wine Club members are you evangelists. We love your wine, and we want to share your wine. This is the cheapest source of marketing you will find. Word of mouth marketing, including new media, blogs, and wine club discussion, is becoming increasingly important as the economy slips and traditional media falters.
You need to be flexible. Offer more than one type of club. The best example of this is to offer us the option of 2, 4, or 6 shipments a year. This allows us, as the consumer to make the best choice for us, economically and environmentally.
Be judicious with your marketing efforts. Snail mail is a thing of the past. Sending targeted and regular email communications is both cost effective and has the most impact. Wine Club shipments lead to follow up sales. Follow up sales equal new customers. If i receive a targeted email from a wine club that contains something meaningful for me, I am more likely to open it and read the detailed information than if i receive a general email from a winery. I belong to many winery email lists, and I generally ignore the emails unless it says something specific, like “Allocation Announcement for ABC Wine", or “Wine Club shipment for February”.
Now these are the opinions of one lush, but what do YOU think?