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How to Run the Most Effective (and Profitable) Wine Club Possible

October 3, 2018

cellar door smallThere’s no doubt that wine clubs are a significant driver of revenue for wineries. Accounting for up to 33% of DtC profits, a successful wine club can not only guarantee sales, but a truly engaged wine club member can provide word of mouth marketing and a passion for your wine that cannot be measured.

The problem is, there are costs to running a wine club. These come in two forms – either the cost of a salary to maintain the club or the cost of time for an existing staff member to run it. While they might offer ongoing revenue, many small wineries put clubs in the too hard basket, while bigger wineries continue to lose revenue by not running their clubs efficiently.

The good news is that there are several simple things you can do right now to get more club members, keep the ones you have happy and save time on all the administration.

Start with a story

Even if you’re already running a wine club, consider this. There are a lot of wine clubs out there and not all of them are even run by wineries. With bottle shops, online providers and even big companies sponsoring clubs, as a winery you need to sell on the greatest advantage you have and that’s your story.

You have a true connection to the wine that you make and often a strong brand or history that you can draw on to inspire your members. For some wineries, this will be the story of generations who have all created wine or it will be the winemaker who quit a job in corporate finance to pursue a passion. For others, it might be a desire to draw attention to unusual varieties or even experimenting by making traditional wines in new ways. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that everyone in your business is able to communicate that story and how to connects to your wine club.

Draw your members into the story and help them feel the passion for what you do. It will make every delivery they receive just a little more meaningful and in turn encourage longevity in your members.

Look at your cellar door

The other advantage that you have is your cellar door. With over 90% of people signing up in your location, making sure you’re offering the best possible service to customers who visit you can make a significant difference.

There are many ways that you can provide a better service and that’s for another blog but for now, it’s about putting your best foot forward. Make customers feel comfortable and be guided by what they want. Understand the different people who may visit you and adjust your selling technique to them. Understand that your wine club might be the ultimate goal, but many customers may be unwilling to sign up the first time they interact with you. Instead, focus on getting their contact details and begin to build that ongoing relationship with them. Stay in touch and continue to sell your story, the benefits of being a wine club member and give them reasons to come back and see you again.

Offer more than one club (but no more than 3)

Customers like choice, but this can be difficult for a business. Do you let your customers pick their wine? Do you let them decide when they want deliveries? The truth is, too many options can be overwhelming for them as well as you and can make communicating the benefits of joining a wine club difficult.

That said, a Wine Business Solutions report found that running multiple wine clubs is more profitable, so for our clients, we recommend running 2 -3 clubs. Your first club should be a winemaker’s selection, where all wines are selected by you and your second club should allow customers to choose the wines themselves. The third club should be an invite only club, offered only to your top customers. We also recommend that club members should be able to decide how frequently they receive their wine and whether they want to receive all whites, all reds or a mix.

By structuring your clubs this way, wineries are able to get the benefits of wine clubs, without excessive administration while customers have a much simpler time deciding what club is right for them.

Find software that works

We’ve got some bad news for you – Excel is not software that works. While it might be common practice in the industry, it’s simply not the right solution for any winery that wants to be running a successful (and time effective) wine club.

In our own research, it is the time a wine club requires that prevents wineries from starting one. Finding the right software means this time requirement is more than cut in half. Most software will support multiple club setups and complete tasks like sign ups, email alerts, batch processing and reporting, while others also integrate with your existing systems and provide marketing support to continue to grow your club engagement.

For wineries who employ a club manager, software can also free up their time to build relationships with club members instead of simply calling them when their credit card has expired (sounds familiar, right?)

We might be biased, but to us, this is the single most important thing you can do to make your wine club more efficient. Yes, there is a cost involved, but this is normally only equivalent to a few cases at most per month and the benefits are incredible.

Get Personal

Design or modify your wine club with your customers in mind. Consider what benefits matter the most to your customers and don’t be afraid to shy away from a discount only model. While many wine clubs will offer some kind of discount, your benefits should go beyond that. Consider free shipping, exclusive events or access to pre-releases as well as a special newsletter just for members.

Beyond the standard benefits, think about how you can surprise and delight these customers that matter to you. Be creative - select a club member at random and send them a single bottle of wine to thank them. Most club members are wine lovers and giving them opportunities to learn more directly from your winemaker or get involved in vintage could be another money can’t buy experience you can offer.  Think outside the box and don’t be afraid to ask your existing customers what they want. Often, that can be the best place to start.

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