The Three Things to Consider When Starting a Wine Club

This post is the second in our six-part series: Secrets of Successful Wine Clubs.

Our first post in this series focused on metrics supporting why you should start a wine club. Now we’ll cover what it takes to get a club off the ground and running smoothly.

To build a long-term lucrative wine club, you need to focus on three areas:

  • Marketing
  • Infrastructure
  • Retention

It All Begins with Marketing

You’ve probably heard of the “4Ps” of marketing: Product, Price/Packaging, Placement, and Promotion. Let’s start with your product - it goes way beyond just your wine, it’s your wine plus your brand, and your brand can make or break your wine club business. That’s because customers aren’t just buying your vintages, they’re buying your story.

Your brand communicates who you are and includes three main components:

1) Brand Positioning

Brand positioning is the foundation of your brand and tells your unique winery story. Ask yourself: Who is your winery? What makes it special? How is your story different from other winery stories?

The average wine collector belongs to multiple wine clubs. Differentiating yourself with a strong brand position is absolutely critical to your long-term success.

Here are some wineries who have great brand positioning:

2) Brand Identity

Your brand identity is the visual representation of your brand: the logo, color palette, typography/fonts, and image styles that illustrate who you are. A graphic designer can create a brand identity for you to reference as you promote your club. Typically, designers provide guidelines for using the brand identity elements along with digital files of your logos. (More on finding a graphic designer in a bit.)

3) Messaging

Your words should also reflect your brand positioning. Messaging is the language and tone of voice in your marketing materials and should match the look and feel of your brand. A professional writer can help you create a dialogue with your customers and further distinguish your brand from your competitors.

Pricing and Shipment Considerations

When structuring your wine club, keep it simple! Think what it will be like when you have hundreds, even thousands of wine club members. The more pricing or configuration options you provide, the more difficult and time-consuming it will be to create and process orders. Here are some common configurations:

  • Red Club, White Club, or Mix of Red and White
  • 3, 6, or 12 bottles
  • Monthly, quarterly, or yearly shipments

Also, if you are going to offer a discount, consider doing so on shipping, not on your product. You’ve poured your heart and soul into your product - set a price that you think it is worth and stick to it. Build incentive to join a higher bottle-count club by providing zero-cost shipping at the best level, 50 percent off of ground shipping at the mid-tier, and 25 percent off shipping at the low tier.

Promoting Your Wine Club

One of the best places to promote your wine club is in person when you have a captive audience and are sharing your personal experience. If you charge a tasting fee for the experience, consider waiving it by joining a club. We’ll dive deeper into more ways to promote your wine club later on in this series, but begin to think about promotional opportunities on-premise. 

Helpful Wine Club Marketing Resources

There are great consultants and professionals who are available to help you build your wine club brand. You can find graphic designers (brand identity) and copywriters (messaging) through LinkedIn’s ProFinder, your local Chamber of Commerce, or your professional network. Consider asking your eCommerce provider for some names, as they often work with many professionals in the industry and enjoy matching your needs with the right person.

Another option is to hire a consulting agency to do the whole thing for you. A full-service agency can flesh out your brand positioning and have their design and writing team bring it to life. Here are a few to check out:

 

The Right Infrastructure Simplifies Everything

To make the leap from on-site only sales to eCommerce sales you will need the following:

  • A secure, online storefront to sell your wine online
  • A Point of Sale (POS) system, such as Square, to collect payments in person
  • A fulfillment system to ship wine to club members
  • A system for maintaining compliance and managing taxes
  • An email system to communicate details of shipments and promotions
  • A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to track activities with customers and prospects

If the idea of signing up for, implementing, and learning these systems makes you break out in a cold sweat, we understand, but there’s good news: we created VineSpring to simplify the DTC process for winery owners. VineSpring offers an online store that supports clubs, allocations, and fulfillment, plus it integrates with other software you might need for your club, including:

  • ShipCompliant
  • MailChimp
  • QuickBooks
  • Square

Build in Ways to Retain Customers

Wine clubs are seeing double-digit growth, so there’s never been a better time to launch your own brand. But those that see success will do so as a result of excellent customer satisfaction. We’ll share more tips on customer retention in an upcoming post, but in the meantime, here are some general rules for keeping customers in your club:

  • Make them feel special with free shipping, events, and exclusive access to wines
  • Keep the lines of communication open, especially about club delivery dates
  • Track the experience and get customer feedback on a regular basis

The key to keeping customers happy is to make them feel like they are part of something special. Connect with them on a personal level (address them by their first name), provide them with excellent customer service, and make them feel special through exclusive “member-only” offers.

Again, you don’t have to do all of this yourself. For help managing customer retention, check out ChatterBox Wine Marketing, a wine marketing agency offering email marketing, telesales, and customer data services, specifically for wineries.

Finally, once the wine club is up and running, many wineries hire wine club managers to manage the day-to-day activities. This often includes management of the tasting room, accountability to wine club sales, and customer support for wine club members. You can see some job descriptions here to get a better idea of the common responsibilities of a wine club manager.

Now that you understand the scope of your marketing, infrastructure, and customer retention considerations, you can begin to prioritize the work that needs to be done to set up your club.

Stay tuned for guidance on promotion, retention, and more in future posts. Subscribe here to get an update when our next post in the series is published.

BusinessAndrea Steffes-Tuttle