What Wine Club Members Want
There ought to be substantial benefits of membership for wine club members.
Fifteen percent discounts on regular shipments? Great! First dibs on new releases. Lovely. Waved tasting fees at the winery? Dandy.
But if you want loyal club members, ones that keep coming back, members that recommend membership to their friends, then give them something special. Give them reason to come together as real members of a club.
Here are some fine ideas for Wine Club gatherings that will keep club members happy, give them reason to gather and provided added value to your wine club:
1. Comedy Night
Members that laugh together stay together. This is remarkably easy event to produce. Find a good booker of comedians in your neck of the woods (call the closest comedy club and ask for the talent booker), hirer three professional comedians, provide dinner and drinks, then give them the laughs. An annual comedy night will sell out quick. Every one likes to laugh.
2. The Annual Charity Poker Tournament
You'd be surprised how many people now play Texas Hold'em. Some do it at home games. Some go to poker rooms, others indulge when they head to Vegas. Have your own. Bring in professional dealers (call the closest poker room), limit the number of folks to 100 to 150, charge $100 per person to "buy in", provide for prizes, wine and food and give the buy in money to your favorite charity. Poker is amazingly social, gets your members chatting, gives them bragging rights and makes them feel good about playing games.
3. The Annual Club Golf Outing
Why? See above. Additionally, your local golf courses will be happy to help you organize a wine club member golf outing. Better yet, show case your wines by having one wine tasted every other hole. You'll get mainly men attending, but you'll build lots of good will.
4. The Showcase of Artisan Foods
Given the explosion of artisan and craft food producers over the past 20 years, it's likely that you've got a ton of cheese, honey, meat, condiment, bread, pasta and other food producers in your neck of the woods. Give your members access. An annual showcase of local culinary artisans is the way to do it. Have 20 or so of them set up on your grounds, let them sample, let them buy and make sure they taste your wines at the same time.
5. The Roving Wine Dinner
Chances are every winery has ambassador-like club members across the country. Go visit them. In fact, set up a series of wine dinners in the homes of these members, let them show off their connections to their best wine loving friends, have a local chef or caterer brought in to fix the meal, then extol the guests with your story. And sell some wine. This kind of event is becoming more and more popular among the smaller, artisan wineries and it's a great idea and leads to new club members. And don't forget to thank your host.
6. The Harvest Lunch
If you are crushing lots of grapes, chances are you are also feeding lots of hard working harvest workers. Why not invite club members to join them for lunch. It will cost the members, but it gives them sort of the ultimate insider experience. Eating a fine lunch, on the premises, with the folks who are at that moment crushing the grapes that will eventually end up in the members' cellars.
7. The Vintage Dinner
If you are going to pour your older library wines for anyone, it really ought to be your wine club members first. They deserve it and they are most likely to rid you of whatever older vintage you may still have in inventory and are willing to part with. Limit the size of the event. Hire a really great chef. Set up a nice long table in your cellar or cave or on your lawn. And show off what your wines can do with a little age. This is a nice excuse for a very elegant affair. I've been to such events where it's primarily candlelight and there are large screens on four walls with older black and white films playing while nice jazz floods the room. Brilliant
8. Oscars Night at the Club
This is a no-brainer, isn't it? Whatever it is about the Oscars, folks love to get together, predict the winners, critique the dresses, watch the ceremonies and drink. Throw out a red carpet, create a schwag bag, get a few really big screens, set up tables, provide wines and food and watch the members revel together. Make sure there are prizes for most winners correctly predicted.
There's a larger point here: Take care of your club members and your club members will take care of you. Treat them well. Treat them special. Give them more.
These are some excellent ideas, Tom. Have you ever thought about starting a business where you advise wineries on publicity and promotion?
After working with wineries to create club programs that increase sales, club retention and growth I agree. You nailed it!
The 1st push back from wineries is time and money. I hear that they can’t afford such evetns as it will eat into profit margins. In response, one important factor that I remind them of is that wine club members will pay for such events.
Cover your costs and you can even make a profit from the event. But participation is key. The more members who enjoy about your club, winery, business and staff, the harder it is for them to replace you with another competing winery’s program.
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I’d probably ask the Club members to pay for every single event I listed. Not huge amounts. But enough to cover what it costs to put it on.
I have once client that has a special “reserve club”. Probably only has 150 members, but they commit to taking enormous amounts of wine annually. For them, we give them an annual lunch gratis with lots of wine.
Those of us in the hinterlands can only drool over the regular club events at our favorite left coast wineries. But organize the occasional members-only dinner / vertical / release party in, say, Detroit or Chicago — now you’re talking!
Jason Haas, you reading this?
I’m curious as to the demographics of the typical wine club. Are most club members local, or very easily able to travel? If so, then these suggestions make sense, as all but one require a local membership. If not, outreach has to be done in a different way to reach those who are remote but still loyal to their chosen club and brand.
I really like the Roving Wine Dinner idea and I’m sure there are members who would enjoy hosting something like that, especially if wine was part of the “thank-you.” (wink, wink) However, I have to agree with Rachel. What other kinds of outreach can you do for non-local members? These ideas are great if you’re living in SF and you’re only an hour or two away from Napa and Sonoma. But what if you’re in Seattle and the winery is located 4 hours away in Walla Walla, or worse yet, 900 miles away in Healdsburg? For something really special, I would make the effort to attend, but for most wine club events, I have to pass simply because of the distance.
I know a couple of wine clubs that do an annual trip to a major wine growing region, such as France, Italy, Argentina or Australia with some success. Members get a couple of days with the club’s winemaker and then they’re on their own to explore. It’s a major undertaking, but if a winery has a sister winery in another country, it’s a great way for non-local members to get together and have the ultimate guided wine tour. Of course, members pay their own way to get there and for overnight accommodations, but the one or two days spent with the winemaker and other club members are gratis.
Even if you only make some nickles on the event, it is worth it even still because of they will spread the word. Our quarterly pick up parties are being held two nights because we can’t fit everyone into only one night. If the come they will buy too so it’s not all about the event at hand, offer them bigger discounts for that evening. The wine club proceeds is probably our best tool for releasing wine, planning of bills to be paid, making new customers and ….. eating good.
Gracias. A smile and thanks. A kiss. A hug.
After working with clubs what I can tell you is that the demo and socio-graphics are across the board. It varies by winery, wine store, brand, and even by the type of marketing vehicles you use.
But understanding who they are and what triggered them to join, to buy, to remain in your club and to leave is very important.
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I am glad you are expanding the pick up parties to 2 nights but this may be a big indicator that price and discounts are not necessary.
I have learned that people rarely ask what percent discount is being offered. When they do, they may not be the right fit for your club.
Selling the club on the benefits of first release options, Club member privileges and special events (like those referenced in the article) build the relationships and experience. These sorts of things build lasting relationships (with profit). If someone joined a club for the discount, there are so many discounted wines sources that your ability to keep them may depend on deepening the discount.
In parts of Canada you are not allowed to discount at all. Shipments are most often 6-12 bottles and every other month. And many of those wineries have clubs over a thousand members strong! These wineries understand it is about the relationship.
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Benefits like the cruises and tours actually are revenue generators for the wineries and wine stores who host and promote them.
Wineries can offer online events like chats with the wine makers, chat with the vineyard managers and even the owners, etc.
I have arranged for wineries and wine stores to bring in outside venders who sell wine glasses. They do a presentation on different glasses and hosting parties. They were presented online as well as with a live audience. This provided the attendees (both near and far) to participate and ask questions.
Online wine club tastings for each release provided direct interaction with the wine makers and club members. It also provided an excuse to get the participants to open the wine, talk about them and learn more about what the winery did. It resulted in increasing sales too!
Other benefits can come from sharing what goes on behind the scenes and in the vineyards. This provides a sort of “Insiders Knowledge” and special treatment.
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Really nice ideas to carry out in a wine club along with wine. A wine club with such effective actions will attract people to join the club.
The different wines from around the world can be combined with some delicious food or other gift items that can match the personality of the person or the interest you are purchasing. Good examples are the baskets of wine, including golf gifts for golfers, spa gifts for women on your gift list, or everyone’s favorite, chocolate for almost everyone.
I love wine and love to know about wines by visiting wine clubs. I’ve visited many wine clubs of South Africa but have never come a crossed the way to other wine clubs. But I really wish to visit these wine clubs so that I could interact and get some more information about wines.
any ideas for small boutique wineries and their members?
Wonderful ideas! I’m working at a new winery in Virginia and am knocking around ideas for our “inaugural Member Pickup Party” in February and am thinking of a Mardi Gras theme and inviting the winemaker as our special guest.