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Susan DeMatei
August 5, 2014 | Analytics | Susan DeMatei


If you cringe when databases and “CRM” is brought up in marketing conversations, you are not alone. 

Many wineries are confused about this area of their business, or feel they aren’t ready for CRM, or that having a database strategy involves complicated and expensive technology.

In reality, you probably already have a database, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, and a strategy.  Anything that helps you to keep track of customer data so that you can serve them and make sales, by definition, is your CRM system.  Twenty years ago it was a Rolodex, now it is an excel sheet, your Quickbooks,, or another customer database…whatever is appropriate to your comfort level and your size business.

But, just like developing a the tools and knowledge about wine, slowly moving into more sophisticated customer management techniques doesn’t need to be scary.  Just take it slow, ask a lot of questions, and learn a long the way.



Wine aficionados tell us to swirl and gaze upon the wine to start to learn about it.  Do the same with your database.  Get to know it, analyze it, understand it.  Are your customers new, old, frequent Club buyers, or one-time tire-kickers?  Do they fall into segments by varietal, or the on-site party-goers and the off-site email buyers? The most important question you’ll want to answer in this step is what your primary database need it.  It will likely be one of two goals:


  1. Add new customers to a stale database that doesn’t have many new names coming into it and the existing buyers have bought about as much as they’re going to.
  2. Convert the database you have when you have an acquisition channel that is working but you’re not keeping your list clean, engaged or segmented.

You are probably thinking that both would be nice…but usually one goal is more important to your business than another.


We’ve gazed at our wine, we’ve “volatilized the esters”, now we stick our nose in for a big snort.  This is supposed to tell us what is to come on the palate and give us clues about the wine.

We can do the same with our database in the form of testing.

If you’ve decided the acquisition is your #1 priority, then explore 2-3 new channels and try minimal campaigns. For instance, try a pouring event with a follow up email, test a small, targeted list buy and offer mailing, and execute a Facebook ad campaign.  Then compare the three.  Just remember to track your acquisition channels and make the barrier to trial as small as possible (e.g. breaking 3 packs into single bottles or reducing shipping.)  Also remember that, sadly, gratification is usually not immediate.  It often takes 2 or more communications for a customer to purchase.  So, don’t disregard a channel too early and give it at least 2 “touches” before you determine if that customer group was worth your effort.


Finally we get to drink it.

Once you got your groove on with your objectives and channels identified, now is the time for the “relationship” part.  To truly engage your customer you’ll want to capture profile and preference information across channels to launch segmentation and personalization in your programs. From an acquisition standpoint, start by including a field for a mobile number, or twitter or facebook on all online opt-in forms. Make sure to include additional fields for basic segmentation data, in particular zip code and applicable demographic information, e.g. date of birth. Insert segmentation data capture as part of the tasting room standard process in order to collect data directly through an opt-in.

Follow a similar strategy for retention campaigns, collecting customer data in exchange for providing customer value. Remember, direct marketing is a two-way street, and as long as customers feel they are receiving value from campaigns, they will gladly share pertinent targeting criteria.


Now you can roll around in all that glorious data.  Analyze activity across channels to develop content and outreach would be an initial goal.  For instance, when I printed half a million holiday wine catalogs for Fosters I knew my (AOV) Average Order Value would be around $275.  So, this was a great chance to dangle free shipping and other discounts for orders of $285 and above to encourage “just a single bottle more” on every order. (It works, too.)

In addition, use can your new knowledge to understand the types of outreach that best activate specific types of customers. View data through the lens of customer-centric metrics such as lifetime value and sales created, as opposed to channel-centric metrics like open and clickthrough rates.  In this way you’ll know if those tasting coupons or tasting events are bringing in case or bottle buyers.

You didn’t learn about wine overnight, and you won’t intimately know your database easily either.  But, as with wine, with discipline and practice the rewards of managing your relationships with your customers is extremely rewarding.


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