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Nadia Kinkade
March 27, 2018 | Nadia Kinkade

Four things to take your Wine Club to the next level in 2018

The rains are fading off and spring events are in full swing. By now most of us have processed our first wine club run of the year. How did it go? Do you know? As you head into the busy selling period, it's important to take a moment to reassess your club successes, failures, and strategies to determine your best selling plan moving forward into the tourist season. Here are some best practices we recommend to improve your club health in the coming year:

1. Know your digits

We know that not everyone is a nerd about numbers like we are, but if you're like most wineries, your wine club is your bread and butter and about 1/3 of your direct-to-consumer income. With one channel holding your future in its hands, you should make it your business to know if the channel is healthy or not. Below are some numbers you should be looking at each month, and we give you some benchmarks, too. Benchmarks are helpful to set your own goals. If you are blessed with a good location and high-traffic, then your numbers should be higher than the benchmarks. If you don't have a tasting room they may be lower. But whatever your goals, post it for your tasting room so everyone is aware and everyone is working on a common, clear goal.

  • What is your conversion rate of visitors to members? This is a great motivational statistic for the tasting room, but it requires you counting visitors. For example, if you have 100 visitors a day and you want to convert 3% to the Wine Club, your Tasting Room staff is shooting for three sign-ups a day. The averages range from around 4% for tasting bars (standing tastings) to almost 25% for seated private tastings. Given the huge increase in conversion for seated private tastings, if you have the ability to add this into your winery offerings, it is something you should consider. The conversion rate is also a great diagnosis tool. If your conversion rate is low - maybe you need some staff training or better handout materials. If nothing helps, then maybe your club benefits aren't resonating and you need to rethink your strategy. Your conversion rate isn't your growth rate - you need to cover for the ones that leave, too.
  • Which is why you need to know your attrition rate. This is the rate, on average, that your club members leave the club. The national average is 16% per year or 1.3% per month. The best CRM programs have a field to record reasons why members are leaving. Encourage dialogue and collection when the customer calls in to cancel. If you don't know why they're leaving, you can't fix it. And read behind the words. If members are canceling and saying "too much wine" that is likely a polite way of saying "I don't like your selection" so consider a custom club. If cost continually crops up, consider discounting or including your shipping rates. If reasons aren't collected or they don't point toward a diagnosis, consider a survey to canceled members to find out more information.
  • Add these two together and you get your net club growth. This is the net number you've moved after adding in all the additions and subtractions for the month. So, if your Wine Club is 1,000 people and you add 16 and lose 6, your next growth was 10 or 1%. The annual national average is 14%, according to Wine Business Monthly. This works out to about 1.16% monthly. 

2. Determine your shipment dates for the year

It seems like a simple step, but this planning tool is often overlooked. Before it gets crazy with tourists, plan out your late spring and fall wines and inventory dates, and let your partners know so they can be ready. When you ship in the month can have a big difference on your wines. If you ship too early in February it may be too cold, if you ship too early in September, it may be too hot. Think about holidays. If you have a November or December shipment, you may inadvertently cannibalize your holiday offers, so consider programs that encourage members to add gift sets or more wines to their shipment. 

3. Keep up with credit cards

We all have the habit of only focusing on club member cards when there is a shipment processing, but if you can set up an email to remind customers when their card declines, or pull someone off of the floor on a dead Tuesday morning to make some calls, you'll be happy you did. Just like anything else, if you let it go to the last minute, it is much harder to manage than if you continually pick away at it. And again, give yourself a goal - such as no more than 10% of the club will have expired cards - and keep it to that level.

4. Communicate

If you haven't sent a shipment since the fall you will want to give your members time to update their cards, and if you have a custom club, they will need time to select the wines for their shipment. Let them know what wines are coming, when they will be shipping or available for pick up, and what the cost is. We often hear "we don't want to bother them,” or "every time we email them we get cancellations.” But then you're not emailing them valuable information often enough. We find a reminder email a few days before you charge is appreciated and helps eliminate customer service issues during processing. And don't forget about them in between club shipments. Don't be that person that only emails or calls when you want something. Tell them what is going on in the vineyard, with winemaking, in the tasting room or with the winery cat. Make them feel like they are truly part of a club, and not a sucker whose card gets charged four times a year.

These steps are just the beginning - you also have to provide great wines and make it easy to reorder and deliver great customer service. Whew, running a wine club is hard work, but the reward is happy and repeat purchasers that sustain the winery during the winter months.


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