Is your Direct Program Punky?


Do Ya Feel Lucky … Punk?

As Dirty Harry said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” I know mine. I also know the importance of client acquisition, retention, and state of the art technologies that are available to retail wine operations and current thinking on integrating experience and product in DtC trade. But I’m no expert.

In a recent blog about CRM, tasting room, and DtC, I took a run at the topic and within the post tried to shame one “unnamed” expert into guest blogging for me to give you some street-level information. That shamed person is M.J. Dale of KLH Consulting in Santa Rosa, CA and she is one of the sharpest people I’ve met in the wine business.

So in a departure from the norm, while I’m away in Argentina MJ has graciously accepted my invitation to guest-blog and will offer a two-part piece on Direct Sales. I’ve handed her the keys to the car and she will be moderating the discussion, offering expert advice, and policing the rowdies… so you just watch yourself! 

Since Mary Jo makes a fair wage, it’s worth your time to get some free consulting out of her with your questions on the topic. You only have to ask yourself one question before you comment though: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya…. punk?

Trouble in Paradise

Across the wine country, there are whispers of trouble in Wine Club Paradise.  Do any of these trends sound familiar?

  • Average club tenure of shorter and shorter duration
  • Increasing cancellations year over year 
  • Slowing customer sign-ups, especially at the higher volume clubs 
  • Unexpected spikes in credit card declines, with fewer re-instates 
  • Wine club shipment needs drive the number and kinds of wines made each year

For far too long, our industry has used the “Wine Club” as a proxy for true customer relationships.  If a customer is in one of our wine clubs, then they are a top customer.  If not, well then, we send them a blast email offer (if we even collected their contact information) …and hope for the best.
Over the last several years, the proliferation of wine clubs (thousands across almost every winery, countless media organizations and many high end retailers) means that consumers are barraged with options for wine shipments.  How is one winery, with only one or two brands expected to compete?

The answer is simple: wine clubs will continue to be of interest to consumers—but their main purpose can’t be viewed in purely mercenary terms.  A club is not there “just to increase sales volume” or get rid of extra inventory.  They provide a great opportunity to stay connected with your customers, but will only work well if treated thoughtfully–one tool among many needed to build lasting customer relationships.


       Sell the wine AND the Experience

       Excellent, not just adequate, customer service

The hospitality industry knows that superb service is everything to the customer’s brand perception; especially their first impression.  In the wine industry, we need to remember that most of us are really in the hospitality business, even if we are lucky enough to be selling a scarce luxury wine.  We must deliver a near flawless customer experience from the very first if we expect the customer to be “sold” for the long run.

       Great Wines   (OF COURSE!)

Quality is a given. Winemaking in this country and around the world has improved dramatically, at all price points.  The consumer’s expectations have risen as well.

       A Unique First Visit to the Winery Tasting Room or Website

Be honest, are you offering visitors something more than great wine that stands out from the thousands of other wineries? Are you known for an “edutainment session” or some other offering that truly transcends the everyday?

(Please take note: Concierges at luxury wine country resorts tell me that barrel tastings, blending seminars and vineyard tours are a dime a dozen. Even hot air balloon rides with a wine tasting are offered widely. Please send them unique offerings, well executed, so they can refer their best customers with confidence.)

For examples of wineries stepping out of the mainstream, look at Raymond Vineyards very different tasting room options. In the digital world, simple edutainment examples include Ridge Winery’s aerial vineyard tour and Buena Vista Winery’s historical timeline. Find ways to stand out from the crowd while remaining true to your brand essence.

EDITOR NOTE: There is more to come next Sunday. Hopefully some of these thoughts have whetted your whistle.  But why wait till next week when you can have it now? Go ahead. Be a spoiler. Ask away on any question regarding DtC, Tasting Room, CRM and client experience. MJ is working for free on the weekends!

SVB on Wine

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