With tasting room vistors at an all-time low—thanks to the proliferation of urban tasting rooms, new wine shipping services and changing demographics—producers are striving to make their wine club experiences more dynamic. Not surprisingly, this was the focus of a panel at the 12th annual Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium held outside San Francisco last week.
“Wine clubs need to make sure they are creating enough value for members,” said Janiene Ullrich, executive vice president of direct to consumer sales at California-based The Family Coppola. “Don’t be afraid to revamp the look of the newsletter or make invitations to events more creative.” She added that Coppola even created an H Block wine for its annual H Block party held for wine club members.
She went on to stress that making club members continue to feel valued is essential. On their fifth anniversary Coppola members receive a monogrammed tote bag. She added that in continued communication with members needs to “revert to the authentic base of your story.”
Increase membership value
Tweaking and revitalising the perks that wine club members receive is also essential to a good tasting room and wine club marketing strategy, said Patricia O’Brien, vice president of sales and operations at the Temecula-based Danza del Sol Winery. She added that 90% of her winery’s sales are currently direct to consumer (DtC) from the tasting room and wine club and she would like to keep it that way.
New wine club members are offered a private tour of the property to make them feel welcome. They also receive a birthday card every year offering them new, special buying discounts. She also puts a recipe to go with the wines in every shipment and encourages other wineries to “get creative and think outside the box”.
While many wineries host dinners and concerts, O’Brien says each winery should find a special signature event to promote and draw business to the estate. At Danza they have an annual Bluegrass concert that is free for members. They also offer harvest tours with the production team. Both events make consumers feel like winery insiders and help to drive sales.
The winery’s club house can also be rented by members for events. She also makes sure to contact anyone who has dropped out of the wine club with an offer to get 20% off their next tasting when they return to the winery. As a result of all these promotions and offers Danza has seen a 3% increase in wine club members and a 6.1% net increase in membership participation.
The panel’s moderator, Tammy Boatright, president of the Bastrop, Texas-based VingDirect—which helps wineries increase DtC sales—commended both wineries for being so proactive. She noted that Enterprise car rental company has engendered a lot of good will by asking customers how their experience was, and that wineries should do the same.
Luis Corro, tasting room manager at the Napa-based Bouchaine Vineyards, who attended the seminar said he, “liked the idea of members getting different perks and that it is a good way of getting people in the door.” At his own winery they offer members 10 free passes to friends with the hopes that they will visit and potentially join.
It is clear that winery owners will have to be ever more dynamic and inventive if they want to forge long-lasting relationships with consumers.
Liza B. Zimmerman