August 2018 Issue of Wines & Vines

10 Tips for Successful Wine Clubs

Whether online or in person, DtC sales are dependent on consumer engagement

by Wise Academy

Wine clubs are the lifeblood of a winery's direct-to-consumer program. You can't just let them run on autopilot if you want to keep your members. Here are 10 tips to strengthen both a club program and relationships with members.

1 Customize One size does not fit all. Traditionally, wineries expected club members to take the wines the winery wanted to sell, and that was that. Nowadays, every business is customizing to let customers get what they want, and wineries need to do the same. If you want to keep and grow your most lucrative sales channel, then you need to offer customizing - the percent of customers who actually choose to customize will be surprisingly small, but the return on your investment will be huge. If people see you're willing to send them the wines they want, the way they want, they'll be more likely to join and buy more.

2 Be a good tasting room partner If you are working in the wine club department, come and work in the tasting room one Saturday afternoon each month, especially during the summer when club members visit the winery and shipments are fewer. It's a chance to hear firsthand what your members are saying about your club. Since members frequently bring friends, it's a chance for you to sign up more like-minded members. It also shows your tasting room partners you are part of the team and not just managing the club from the office.

3 Create benefits for tenure Just like a marriage where the first anniversary gift is paper and the 50th is diamonds, your relationship with your club members should get better over time. Find a way to reward long-time club members. This doesn't necessarily mean bigger discounts, but rather think about privileges that give your members bragging rights. Lunch with the winemaker for local members or a stay in the guest cottage for top out-of-area members could fill the bill. Clubs that include benefits for long-term members and promote this benefit are more successful, especially with lower attrition rates.

4 Create benefits for out-of-area members Are your members day-trippers? Or do most of your members live further away? We know that we need reasons for out-of-area guests to join the club since they can't come in for frequent complimentary tastings. Some benefits that could be considered are: letting members gift their privileges to local friends or others who travel to wine country, make sure they are the first to know about winemaker dinners in their area, etc.

5 Offer a party in a box One of the big enticements to join a wine club are invitations to member parties. For those who can't, create a party in a box. Give them the theme, the recipes and a deal on the wines that will be poured at the party. Encourage them to host their own event and post the pictures on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

6 Stay in touch beyond shipment emails Relationships are based on frequent communication. Nobody likes to hear from a winery only when it wants money. One of the main reasons people join your wine club is the insider connection to the winery. Create a communications calendar with topics for monthly emails to members. These don't have to be long, just relevant to your club members' interests. Tell them what's happening in the vineyard, introduce new club or tasting room staff, spotlight the winemaker or the winery dog, and invite them to visit.

7 Clean up our database Do yourself a favor and be ruthless about clearing out members who have been on hold forever. Contact the lapsed members and give them a last chance to opt in for a shipment or cancel their membership. A clean database will help when it's time to budget because you can be realistic about the volume each club shipment will generate.

8 Send an annual survey Make sure your club members are as happy as you think they are. Let them know you are listening. Send an annual survey to find out what they really value about your club and act on the results. Nothing says love like introducing a new benefit that was suggested by your members.

9 Make friends with your software provider Squeaky wheels get the grease. Are you attending your systems provider's user group meetings? There's strength in numbers, so when wineries band together as users to request a system enhancement that we all need, we're more likely to see progress. Tell your tech folks what problems you are trying to solve and what information you need to run your business. The good systems providers will welcome your suggestions because these will make their system more effective and desirable.

10 Don't forget the whales and the exes There are a bunch of great customers who would never join a club and club members that have quit your club, but NOT your brand. They deserve privileges too if you want to keep them coming back. Create a program that rewards their spending and treats them like the valued customers they are.

It's all about our relationships. How strong are yours?

WISE Academy (Wine Industry Sales Education) offers a comprehensive curriculum designed specifically for wine industry professionals, and is celebrating its 10th year in 2018. Learn more at

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