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Happy New Year!

I know it happens every year but it always surprises me how fast the holiday season goes – and now we are beginning a new year with a fresh slate!  With consumers dealing with holiday bills, and thereby slow sales, January is a great month for planning the upcoming year.   Take the time to pull reports, do some analysis and take a look back at what worked and what didn’t.

Email campaigns. What did your customer respond to the most?  What action item got them to click through?  How can you drive up open rates and interaction?  By delving into the details, you can implement the most successful strategies in the year to come.

Social media.  Did you reach your social media goals?  What posts garnered the most “likes” and interaction?  Are you driving people to your sites from various platforms and are you posting consistently?  Now is a great time to set up that communications calendar that will keep you on track.

Fulfillment.  January is always the best time to review your fulfillment practices.  Do a cost analysis to make sure you are covering your costs and make rate changes, if necessary.  And then do a customer service analysis – is your fulfillment meeting your expectations?  If not, set up a meeting and address any issues.

Systems.  Hopefully, your CRM is working properly for you and not against you.  Pull your sales and wine club reports and determine what products, offers and shipments your customers responded to most.  Setup and take advantage of any new features your provider may have implemented – now is a good time to test and retest.

Releases.  Set up your annual release calendar and begin building in shipment dates and communications (understanding that it is always be subject to change).

Customer service.  Are your customers happy?  Take a look at recent communications and who is doing what to find any flaws or gaps.  Prompt response to inquiries and creative problem-solving are the goals, so take a look to make sure you are covering all aspects of your customer service.

It is always good to review the past when planning for the future, so take a little time for analysis and then put your plan for 2016 into place!


Key Questions to Ask on Your Next Wine Club Survey

Making changes to your  wine club or allocation program should always be carefully considered.  If your program is stagnant and you are no longer growing your wine club, or if you are receiving more cancellations than signups, it may be time to find out the root of the problem.

The best way to find out what your customers want in a wine club or allocation program is by asking them (I know, it is a crazy notion!).  Set up a short survey that includes key program concepts to help you formulate the changes you are thinking about making.  If you try to implement changes without feedback from the very people you are serving, you run the risk of getting very little buy-in for the new program.

Ask questions like:

How often would you like to receive shipments?  In every survey I have ever sent, the answer is always more than the winery thinks – those twice-a-year shipments are way too few for the majority of  your customers.

How many bottles would you like to receive in each shipment?  Give them a choice and present the new options you are thinking about – not only will they tell you how much wine they want but it will plant the seed of change going forward.

What is your wine preference?  Are you thinking about adding some different varietals to your portfolio?  Adding a “Cabernet only” option?  This will give you a good indication of what your customers value in your portfolio.

Rank the importance of benefits.  Surprisingly, discounts will not come out on top of this list (at least they shouldn’t – if they are, you are doing something wrong with your current program).  Exclusivity, access to special tasting options and personalized service will more than likely outrank any monetary benefits.

Be sure to position your survey questions to not only answer key questions that you may have but to also support any planned changes.  Again, this is an opportune time to give your customers early insight into any changes, so when those changes are implemented, there are no surprises.

If you need help crafting an online customer survey, we can help – contact us at

What Your Customers REALLY Want

We all think we know our customers and why they are interested in our brand.  But there are a few things that remain constant about customer needs, regardless of production size, appellation or pricing:

customerThey want to feel connected. Your customer may have come to visit you, enjoyed a tasting (through the tasting room, VIP service or any variety of experiences in-between) and is now at home trying to recreate that positive experience.  Make sure you communicate regularly with winery updates and give them a reason to consistently purchase your wine and share it with friends.  They are just waiting for that opportunity, so take advantage of it.

They want excellent customer service.  We all know there are orders that go astray, are charged incorrectly or damaged in transit.  Your customers are human, too, so they understand when problems arise.  Or perhaps they want to reorder but have questions or just want to talk to someone about their options.  Your job is to be there for them at all times and communicate.  Implement a system that allows frequent customer communication monitoring and a policy that allows prompt, courteous customer service solutions to all issues.

They want to feel good about their purchase.  Whether you are a high-end, limited production, highly allocated wine or a million case producer, your customer wants to make sure there is value in what you are selling.  That value can be access to wine that very few can get or it can come in the form of pricing and discounts – regardless, the customer has to feel that the money they spend is worth it so they keep coming back for more.

Want to know what your customers really think?  Try sending an online survey to your mailing list – the results may surprise you.  Need help?  Contact us at

Keeping Your Mailing List Clean

Managing data is one of the most important things to do when running a successful direct-to-consumer program.  Emails change, phone numbers change, addresses change – how do you keep up with it all?

Whenever I work with a new client, I always ask them how clean (they think) their list is – the response rarely varies – either they don’t know or they haven’t kept it updated.  Everyone wants to add people to their mailing list but if your current list isn’t maintained properly, your metrics will be off and you won’t be touching those customers who already are loyal to your brand.

mailUpdating physical addresses

I always recommend a physical mailing at least once a year to the mailing list – it can be an inexpensive postcard (with proper branding visible), offering a special, asking for email updates or simply to say hello.  Make sure you send it so that you receive any undeliverable mail back – these often include updated addresses where the forwarding period has expired.  It costs a little more but it will give you current addresses, so it is worth it in the long run.

Updating email addresses

Email delivery is contingent on the validity of the address and the willingness of the recipient to accept your emails.  Encourage your customers to add your marketing email to their approved list of senders for the best chance of delivery.  If an email does bounce, you should be using a system where you can identify those customers and then send them a postcard or give them a call to update their email address.  If you have a customer unsubscribe, you will need to prove to your email campaign provider that they really want back on the list, in accordance with CAN-SPAM law.  Keeping customers with valid emails on your list that may have not acted recently may skew your metrics a bit but there is also the chance that something will eventually catch their eye and they will re-engage.

Updating phone numbers

Implementing a telemarketing campaign will tell you very quickly how clean your phone list is – doing a campaign to your good customers twice a year is not only a good idea for sales but can keep information current.  Phone numbers seem to change less often than physical addresses or emails, so if you capture your customer’s phone number upon your first contact, it is a good way to keep in touch.

Keep in mind that every time a customer contacts you – via phone, email or in person, it is a good idea to double check their information.  Ask them to confirm not only their billing and shipping addresses but also email and phone numbers.  It will save you time and money in the long run and keep your list up-to-date.

Print is dead. Or is it?

The world is turning more and more to digital content – it is easy and inexpensive to produce, access, and promote.  But print materials should still be a integral part of your direct to consumer experience.  Here are some ways to maximize the use of print collateral to help engage your customers:

printThe Wine Club Brochure

The wine club brochure is a helpful tool for your Tasting Room staff and it gives the customer something tangible to touch and feel, making it more real.  The brochure should mirror your branding (along with your website, labels and online medias) and should include:

  • Benefits
  • Cost
  • Frequency
  • Featured Wines

Ideally, it should designed is such a way that the customer can fill out the form that you can keep (and yes, you should get a signature on every wine club signup – they are useful when customers or credit card companies dispute charges) but they can retain the club information to take with them for their reference.

The Welcome Postcard

Create a generic (or specific) postcard to send out to new customers and wine club members.  Be sure you take advantage of graphics and use a stunning picture of your bottle or winery on the front to further your branding.  Offer an incentive to purchase on the back – it can be a percentage or dollar discount but be sure to use a distinct coupon code in your system to track the results.

Whether or not they take advantage of the offer, they know that you appreciate their business and that you are willing to make a further commitment to gain their loyalty.

The Wine Club Newsletter

It is important to include collateral material with every shipment, but it is especially important for your wine club shipments.  These are your best customers and you have an opportunity to engage them, so take advantage of it.  Think about what the customer experiences when they open a shipment.  Is the wine wrapped?  Are the materials on top?  It gives them something to read and get excited about before opening and drinking the wine.

The newsletter can include:

Wine notes about the wine in the shipment.  If people are sharing the wine with friends or family, they want to sound educated about it, so help them out.

Recipes. Include a recipe that pairs with the wine – and make sure the recipe uses the wine!  Make them open that bottle, enjoy it and then order more.

Coupons or deals. Encourage them to buy more wine.  Put a coupon code in for their next order or even a small insert to make it stand out.

A story from the winery.   Tell people what is going on in at the winery or vineyards – and make them want to come visit or remind them of their experience when they have visited in the past.  Everyone wants that connection to the winery.

The next shipment.  Let them know what is coming up in their next shipment so they can plan ahead and keep them engaged.  Create anticipation.

While print materials can be expensive, they can pay off in the long run.  Print is not dead – just use collateral wisely and monitor the results so you can see the impact.

Integrate Your Promotions

Since we just celebrated one of the first “celebratory events” of the year – Valentine’s Day – it is time to take a look at your promotional calendar and make sure that any offers you choose to promote throughout the year are integrated across all channels (or are deliberately segmented based on historical data).

Celebratory holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas give you a simple opportunity to promote your brand and offer up a selection that is perfect for each event.  That Pinot Noir may pair beautifully with Easter ham, so why not let your customers know and encourage them to order?  Or give them a recipe that will help them impress their friends and family, working in the wine you would like to offer.  You can offer a special price for a limited time or include shipping in the event price – whatever works for your brand.

Now that you have decided on a feature wine or offer, make sure you push it out through different channels including email, social media and onsite tastings.  If you would like to track what channels are most effective (and you should!), make sure you set up different coupon codes for each channel so that it is easy to track within your systems. This will help you make future decisions on promotions:  maybe the Tasting Room sold a ton of the wine but your online sales were flat.  That may indicate that your online customers are looking for something different or a better incentive – work with your customer base and begin to track preferences and results.  Building a promotion history will allow you to effectively create and manage your offerings throughout the year.

Capturing Your Customer’s Attention

I just read an article from Wines & Vines about the growth of wineries in North America – with over 7, 000 wineries vying for attention from customers, how do you stand out?  Here are a few tips:

Tell your story effectively.  What makes you unique?  Find something about your brand that customers can relate to and be consistent in your message across all marketing platforms.

Find partners for content and customers.  Reach out to industries related to wine (food being the most obvious) and push your message out through their platforms.  Find a chef that can produce pairing recipes or a restaurant that can host a branded wine dinner.  Everyone wants to collaborate, so do some research and find the best fit for your brand.

Go where your customers are.  By analyzing and segmenting your database, you should be able to find out where your customers live and how they interact with you.  Whether it is market visits or pushing content through mobile, make sure you are part of their world.

Personalize your customer service.  Make sure your current customers feel wanted and loved – do whatever you can to respond to them quickly and effectively.   Target messages to their buying habits and preferences and show them you really do care.

Give them a unique onsite experience.  Most new customers come to you through your Tasting Room.  Make sure their experience is pleasant, unique and personalized.  Once you give them a good experience, they will keep coming back for more – and refer their friends.

With just a little effort, you can stand out from the crowd and engage your customer with personalized service and communication.  Cheers!

Planning for 2015

With the New Year upon us, now is the perfect time to map out your release and marketing schedule for 2015.  We all know that January is the slowest wine sales month of the year, so take this time to review your 2014 numbers, set your goals for 2015 and begin implementing that direct marketing strategy that will take you to the next level.

Set your release schedule.  We all know that releases are subject to change but you have to start somewhere.  Sit down with your management and winemaking teams and set a release schedule for the year.  Do not release all your wines at once – focus on one wine at a time. Build in time for marketing and communications, including fact sheets, web updates and email campaigns.

Make a calendar of communications.  By laying out a 12-month calendar of email campaigns, newsletters and social media posts, you will be able to stay on track and keep the team on point.  Leave room for additions and adjustments – but if everyone knows what the basic plan is, it is much more likely to succeed.

Set your goals.  Want to grow your Wine Club by 20%?  Maybe you want to increase your tasting room visitor count?  Whatever your goals are, write them down and track them every month to stay on track.

Align your marketing.  Take this time to make sure that all your marketing channels are consistent and up-to-date.  If you want to introduce a new Wine Club newsletter format, the beginning of a new year is the perfect time to make those changes.  Make sure you website is fresh and updated and evaluate your social media channels to make sure they are working for you.

Share your vision for 2015 with your customers.  Let your customers know what to expect in 2015 – your new releases, your events, improvements at the winery, etc.  Make them a part of everything you do – and they will reward you with loyalty buying and support.

Happy New Year!



Take Advantage of the Holiday Season

Now that the holidays are actually within reach, it is time to bring out all your marketing tactics in order to capitalize upon the season.  The fourth quarter of the year is the biggest, so don’t miss out on opportunities to serve your customers and fulfill their holiday shopping list.

Here are some suggestions to make the most of the season:

Bring out the large format and library wines.  Now is the time consumers will spend more on that special bottle or vertical, so review your cellar list and see what interesting packages you can put together.

Special packaging.  Have logo wooden or cardboard boxes? Tissue wrap?  Take some time to make the wine packaging look appealing to the holiday shopper and do some additional branding at the same time.

Greeting cards in the shipments.  Does your fulfillment company have the ability to include handwritten notes in wine shipments?  That little personal touch for gifts is a big plus for consumers – be sure your customers know they have that option.

Offer shipping incentives.  Go for volume this time of year and offer shipping incentives on 6 bottles or more or on special packages you develop.  Everyone likes to get a deal, especially during the busiest shopping season of the year, so make sure your customers know they are appreciated.

Corporate Gifts.  Target some of your best customers and let them know you have the ability to do corporate gifts for them. One-stop shopping is invaluable for the busy executive – and they will be thanked over and over again for a gift of wine.

Find out what your customers want this holiday season – and then deliver it!

Creating Exclusivity: When is SOLD OUT a good thing?

As we head into the largest wine sales quarter of the year, I have been talking to a couple clients about the fact that they are out of their current vintage of wine and when to release the new vintage.  Rather than just releasing the new vintage immediately (whether it is ready or not) I have encouraged them to stop and think about the best way to use their “sold out” status for some of their favorite wines.

Nothing creates more fervor in the wine industry than not being able to get the wine you love from your favorite winery.  Exclusivity sells – if your wine is available all the time, demand goes down.  So does it hurt to wait a month or so to release the new vintage?  Not at all – as long as you make a big splash when it is released.  Here are some other helpful tips to make the most of your inventory:

Let people know you are on “last call”.  Send a message to your customers that a particular wine is almost gone – this will create interest, especially if they know they can’t get any more.

Let people know it is “SOLD OUT”. Leave the product on your website with those daunting words next to it so customers visiting your store can see it.  They will be more inclined to add a few bottles of the new vintage to their cart next time they order if they see there is demand.

Tease them with the new release.  Talk about any upcoming releases so you can build anticipation and so your customers can plan – for many high-end wineries, their customers have to budget their luxury purchases, so give them plenty of notice so they can build in future buying.

Feature your other wines.  Take advantage of being out of a particular wine for a short period of time and focus your customer’s attention on other wines that may not be as popular.  It is a good way to introduce them to new wines as well as move other inventory.

Take pre-orders from your best customers. Personalize a message to your big buyers and let them know they can “pre-order” the new vintage coming out in a month so they will be the first on the block to receive it. They will appreciate being singled-out and the result will be instant sales once the wine is released.

Releasing a wine “before it’s time” can be a crucial error, possibly resulting in not only customer dissatisfaction with a wine that is too young but also a disconnect with the rest of your releases, so use your release schedule to your advantage.  Creating exclusivity by holding onto new vintages is a good strategy for customer engagement and loyalty, so be sure to use it to your best advantage.

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