Wine Club Member Retention
Daily reminders of the struggling economy surround us. Housing foreclosures are on the rise, restaurants and retailers are suffering, and businesses are cutting back. Despite Napa Valley’s notoriety as a world-class wine-producing region, it is not immune to the effects of the economy. Overall sales including direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales are down. Wine clubs, which account for a winery’s best profit margins and serve as a great way to build a loyal customer base, are taking a hit.
The average wine club member belongs to multiple wine clubs, and several are opting out completely or simply limiting the number of clubs they belong to in an effort to save money. These members are savvy consumers and the quality of benefits offered definitely shapes their decision making process. This is, therefore, a critical time for wineries to proactively assess strategies for wine club member retention.
In general wineries offer the same amenities to their wine club members: discounts, VIP access, free tastings, “club only wines”, reduced shipping rates, winemaker notes, recipes, and private events. To remain competitive, it is imperative for wineries to critically evaluate their wine club as a “product” and compare their amenities and programs with their neighbors. Wineries should focus on a number of tools to retain members, but for the sake of this article I will focus on recipes and events.
food as the natural marketing partner for wine
On premise sales are down for a large percentage of Napa Valley’s top wineries, and more people are dining at home. If your wine club offers recipes, now is the time to focus on comfort foods that pair well with the winery’s more affordable bottles. Choose recipes with broad appeal, using ingredients that won’t break the bank.
If your winery doesn’t offer recipes, now is an auspicious time to reap the long-term benefits of developing an exclusive recipe program to excite the existing wine club base. Involve wine club members in the process and ask them about their personal cooking interests and then develop quality recipes to reflect the personality of the winery. Value added collateral marketing material such as recipe pairings doesn’t just benefit wine club retention; it can also attract new membership to the wine club.
‘value events’ for 2009 and beyond
The economy is weak but that doesn’t necessarily mean wineries should limit their number or quality of wine club events. Consumers are still looking for activities and social events, and by offering free or low-cost events, the relationship between the winery and the consumer is nurtured and equally important, the winery creates an additional opportunity for sales. By utilizing your facility and existing talent, it is possible to successfully create budget conscious events such as a meet-and-greet with the winemaker, a crush party, or a themed supper featuring low cost dishes.
wine club member participation
Some members are more active than others, and I’m sure you’ve noticed a few regulars who attend every event. They are obviously personally invested in your winery, so why not encourage them to participate in the planning of events? Not only will this give them as sense of ownership, it gives you a free source of labor.
don’t forget your other team members
Caterers, musicians, linen and tent rental companies, and a variety of other vendors with whom you have worked with have likely been adversely affected by the economy as well. You have shared in each other’s success and will likely continue to do so as the economy improves. And, as a result, they will probably be open to work within your feasible budgets for ‘value events’.
stay connected with your past wine club members
When a consumer does not renew their membership, save their contact information in a separate mailing list and keep in touch via e-blasts or a blog. Beyond keeping them apprised of new wine releases, let them know you appreciate their past loyalty by sending them a recipe and wine pairing or offering a discount on value wines each quarter. The economy is going to improve and when it does, they will appreciate your loyalty and generosity in these difficult times.
Winery Chefs offers custom support tools for wine club retention, drawing on years of experience in the culinary arts and a deep passion for food and wine. Services include recipe development, program development and implementation, and collateral marketing material. For more information, please visit www.winerychefs.com or contact Chef Richard Haake at 707-637-7403.