Is Your Wine Club Still Relevant?

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As Groucho Marx famously once said “I’d never join a club that would have me as a member”.

Let’s assume you are a craft producer with a well conceived and unique branding approach, and don’t mass produce your wines; then why would you mass produce wine club members? Wine Clubs are now in place at 90% of all wineries in US, and are growing year over year by an average 15%. They have become an expected commodity. How to differentiate your offerings from the madding crowd of clubs?
First of all, let’s note some of the many ways a winery can fail at the basics of wine club execution.

• Not asking people to join your club (not selling membership)
• Not asking for member referrals and providing member rewards
• Not auto charging cards in advance of pickup
• Allowing members to purchase their wine allocation at their leisure over time
• Growing members too fast and not being able to service them
• Not providing special treatment to your members during a tasting room visit
• Not communicating regularly with your wine club (1/4ly club news and invites)
• Not having enough club events and pickup parties to engage and sell to your members
• Doing the same things most other wineries do; not offering something unique
• Shipping paid for wine without communicating to members
• Not offering a “Choose your own wine” option. Mandating the “Winemaker Selection”

What happens when you lose Members? See my 2012 article on “Wine Club Loss Management”.

How to make your club offering more
relevant in today’s competitive market?

Start with surveying your club members. Survey Monkey is a free survey tool that is easy to use, anonymous and no cost to you for up to 10 questions (which are plenty). You will be surprised and impressed with what you will learn from your own best customers. Next, design and implement some changes. Announce the results to your club members with great aplomb and thank them for their feedback and ongoing loyalty. Communicate the details of your next club event when the changes will be rolled out. There is really not much to it, but to do it.

Other than discounts, what motivates members to continue patronizing your club? I’m starting to see “Experiences” rather than discounts emerging. I have a client who decided they weren’t giving purchase discounts to their members, but would create a dynamic series of unique group experiences instead. I was resistant at first but came around (Fellow consultants, listen to your clients!). Seated tastings have also been widely proven to increase the average wine purchase per visit and wine club signup rate. This makes sense since customers opt to pay a few dollars more for something special and you provide exceptional and personalized attention.

Also, points based loyalty programs, where the buyer decides what level of discount they want to earn, are another example of an innovative client rewarding the folks that spend, after they have spent! This is very similar to what the airlines and lodging industry have popularized.

Why bother to up the ante and
keep your club relevant?

Average tenure of club memberships has increased from about 18 months to over 2 years. Average annual spend per member appears to be up from an $450 two years ago to almost $650 per member. Let’s do the math here. That’s a lifetime value of about $1,500 per member. Is that enough of a reason to keep your Wine Club relevant?

CARL GIAVANTI has been involved in business marketing and public relations for over 25-years; originally in technology, digital marketing and project management, and now as a winery marketing and media relations consultant. Carl started consulting wineries in DTC marketing over 7 years ago, and formed a Winery PR Consultancy over 3 years ago. (http://www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.com/Media). Clients are or have been in Napa Valley, the Carneros, Dry Creek Valley, Willamette Valley, and Columbia Valley.