By Chris Towt, Co-Founder of VineSpring
Whether your wine business features a brick-and-mortar tasting room, a direct-to-consumer model, or both, having a robust wine club is essential to your success. Creating and retaining club members forges an intimate relationship with consumers, a must when trying to inspire long-term affinity with your brand. In that way, a wine club does more than pad a producer’s bottom line. It creates a loyal, built-in customer base as far as the bottle can ship.
Here are three keys to creating a thriving, enduring wine club
The Vineyard Experience
Nothing quite replaces the experience of visiting a vineyard or having a bespoke experience at the source of the wine. For a craft producer pouring their heart and soul into sourcing grapes, the personal connection between visitors and the vine is powerful. This experience can have a wide expanse from sampling wines and speaking to the experts who create it, to overlooking the bucolic setting where the grapes are grown with perhaps a personal tour into the vineyard itself. This unique opportunity is especially important for first-time wine tasters, as each wine purchased and future shipment will take them out of their home and transport them back to their day at the vineyard.
Remember, too, that new customers who have this novel experience with your vineyard and/or wine-tasting room will lead to a high conversion of people into your wine club. The consistent practice of inviting customers in for that personal connection will, over time, also lead to longevity in club membership for years to come.
Grapes, of course, are the foundation of any good wine. Robert Mondavi is credited with saying “You can make bad wine with great grapes but you can’t make great wine with bad grapes.” As the world’s leading expert on every bottle you ship, you’re positioned to connect the experience of club membership with the most important detail of the wine.
A Special Meeting Point
Not every producer will be able to invite potential club members to their source vineyard. That’s OK. There are still plenty of opportunities to create powerful memory associations with a place that channels the spirit of your brand.
Select a location where you can host someone, such as the actual winery where your wine is made. The wine-making process and up close experience with what it takes to make the product can foster conversion to clubs and membership. Maybe it’s a place that is important to you, the winemaker ―an old barn in a field, or a historic house that’s special to you in some way. As long as it forges a unique connection to you or to the product, that sense of place allows you to separate your wine club from everyone else’s.
Remember, the power to convert new club members lies in transporting them out of their home to someplace special. That place must allow a customer to learn something about you and your product. The key lies in creating that memory association.
Another reason someone might become a club member is if they heard about an incredible wine-tasting experience from a friend or someone they trust and admire. Also, when people share photos on their Instagram accounts, or voice their impressions on Twitter, others take notice. Reading and learning about another person’s exciting adventure and experience with a winery, vineyard, and/or wine club will make others want to experience it too.
In this way, there’s an avenue for creating potential members by connecting through a person rather than directly through a place. If that person’s taste is well-respected and admired by their peers, their friends might want to taste what they’re tasting―before they visit a tasting room!
It all points back to the importance of marketing at the point of sale, and what comes next. Being invited or inspired to join the wine club by a friend creates an opportunity for people to connect over something they love. Even in the digital age, a wine club can be more than a mere list of names. It’s the latest iteration of a tradition that dates to Ancient Rome.