Wineries: Why Relevance Matters

The importance of the customer

I love talking to wineries about their customers, and how they strive to keep them engaged from vintage to vintage. It can be a struggle. But when it comes to enhancing customer retention and loyalty, I am often asked the question “how much is too much?” in terms of the frequency of emails, phone calls, or other channels of outreach. I’ll get to some takeaways later on this post to address this more fully, but let me first put the problem in context.

I find this question to be a challenging one because, when asked in a vacuum, there is no right answer. If every contact with a customer is a relevant one for the customer, then there really are no limits. This means once a week, once a month, or once a quarter could be okay if there is a “what’s in it for me” approach, with the “me” being the customer. But if it’s just a batch and blast approach to a general email list, then even one email may be too much.

Relevance is the key. All too often the messaging is about what’s really relevant to the winery and not the customer. Inventory to move, an event to sellout, or something the winery thinks is important to their brand. But what’s really in it for the customer?

Why Relevance Matters

Relevance = Content + Context………If you miss either, you’re sunk. A clear example of this is the local butcher offering an organic hand-raised turkey at a great price right before Thanksgiving, which sounds compelling. The same offer made the week after Thanksgiving falls on deaf ears. Context is everything.

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This brings me to the “fear of marketing”.  I have met with a number of wineries over the past year who sought me out because they are treading water in keeping up their wine club rolls and growing their email lists, two important key components of the DTC channel. The common theme among them is that their wine club enrollment is falling, as are wine purchases from these same constituents. In addition, their email marketing and ecommerce sales are unsatisfactory to their expectations.

What these wineries share in common is a philosophy about their customers, and themselves. Whenever they send emails to their wine club members, they get a significant number of customers cancelling their memberships. And when they email their non-wine club members, they get significant numbers of unsubscribes to their email list. Their “logical” response is therefore to communicate as little as possible, in the order of 1–2 times per year to each segment.

Where's the loyalty?

Rather than trying to find out where the love went in the relationship, and how they can make their customers fall in love with them all over again with relevant loyalty driving engagement and relevant communications, they run for the hills out of fear. The self-fulfilling prophesy here is obvious.

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The same goes for outbound phone contact, direct mail, and other channels of communications. I have had a number of wineries express their concerns to me that phoning their customers would be a “pestering form of communication”. But these wineries forget that they are actually a positive difference maker in consumer lives; that they remind their customers of the great experiences and relationships that they have built with the winery. The phone call therefore becomes an extension of the true service heart they exhibited on their customer’s first visit to the winery, and is a highly relevant act of reaching out.

So, what to do?  Some tips for the wise in sending out your emails:

Think of how you can make your customers love your emails rather than just worrying about how to make sure they land in the inbox.

  • Know your audience — demographics, location, average purchase, history, etc.
  • Find out what your subscribers want and deliver on that.
  • Have a clear value proposition for subscribers and customers — deliver value, not just email.
  • Don’t just batch and blast — segment your list and use preference based marketing data.
  • Think responsibly, and responsively — make sure your emails are mobile optimized.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your customers what they think about your emails or your other forms of outreach? Survey them.

Don’t be afraid. Just be relevant.