Why email lists don’t work for building your commitment wine club.

The Success of Email Marketing

Ecommerce is an ever evolving, ever changing sales channel for businesses the world over. When companies first started selling online, the experience was very one dimensional. They’d email an offer to a list of people, and hopefully some made a purchase. Email marketing has proved to be a tried and true method for promoting your business.

Consequently, many businesses have focused on collecting emails from potential customers rather than asking them to make a purchase. Unfortunately, this mentality is not only costing these businesses sales, but also hindering potential consumer relationships.

This rings especially true for wineries, since so many potential customers need to sample products before making a purchase decision. Many winery owners or staff believe that asking for sales and sign ups to their wine clubs in person is too high pressure, and they’ve clung to the idea that email marketing is the best way to build their online clubs and drive ecommerce sales. This isn’t entirely wrong; email marketing does have the best return on investment (ROI) of any online direct marketing tool. According to Kiss Metrics, email campaigns have an ROI of 4300%.


The problem here is that many of these customers are seeking discounts. This not only shrinks the profit margin for your business, but means that every time you want to have your customers make a purchase, you have remind them to, and likely incentivise them to buy. According to Vertical Response, more than 76% of the population use coupons or promo codes when they buy online. You want to create value through engagement, not by discounting.

The Downside of Email Marketing

What does it take for you to react to an email campaign these days? Is it brands, price, exclusivity? How many promotional emails are in your inbox first thing Monday morning?

The success of email marketing has inevitably led to its overuse. Too many emails and lack of content disengages people. How many email lists have you unsubscribed from because you receive too many and the content isn’t interesting? How much time is it taking your organization to produce, manage and analyse your campaigns?


For wineries, promotional emails can have a real and negative effect on the bottom line. Imagine going to a vineyard, enjoying your time there, and then buying a bottle or two. You’re a happy customer who then gives your email address thinking you’ll get information about the vineyard and maybe the occasional sale or special release. Instead, the first email you get is for 50% off the wine you just bought. From then on, you get a monthly email offering non-stop discounts. Not only do you feel cheated for paying retail at the cellar door, you’ve also learned never to pay full price from your brand.

Don’t train your customers to purchase only when a discount is on offer. The end result is lower profit margins and repeat customers who aren’t brand advocates, but discount seekers.

The Wine Club Experience

Your loyal fans and VIP customers aren’t going to buy your wine simply because you email them. Wine clubs are based on a premium experience and preferential treatment.

All of this relates to the experience in the tasting room. Too often, tasting room staff are told to add people to email lists so marketing coordinators can gently sell the club to potential new members over time. The problem is that by the time these people have returned home, the experience they received from a particular winery on their tour begins to fade.


80% of wine club members will be acquired while they are at your cellar door. Your staff need to learn the art of the soft sell from the minute a customer steps into your tasting room. Asking customers if they are a wine club member in the first 30 seconds is a great way to plant a seed that your winery has a wine club. There isn’t any pressure, you are simply asking a question. If they say they are a member, great, you can now crank up the VIP treatment immediately. If they’re not a member you can now seed the club a few more times during their encounter. By the end of their cellar door experience when you ask for the sale it won’t be a foreign concept.

The customer has consumed your wine, they are happy, having some laughs, and have already set aside a few bottles they’d like to take home today. This customer has just been converted from a stranger into a brand ambassador. They like you and are willing to spend money. Can you convince them to take the next step and be a part of the best thing the winery has to offer? Now is the time to close a wine club sale.

The Numbers

Wine club members stay in clubs for an average of 24 months, spending anywhere from $300-$500 annually according to Wine Business Monthly. This amount doesn’t even include add-on sales, tickets to events or promotional items.

Active promotion in the tasting room is the key differentiator in whether or not a club is successful. These numbers are the averages of several wineries using different promotional strategies. The wineries that actively promote and sell their clubs in the tasting room see their clubs grow and flourish while those who rely on their email lists alone lag behind.

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The wineries that promote their clubs to their mailing lists will generally see an initial uptake when they first launch, without much activity afterwards.

email members

Wineries whose primary focus is on signing up visitors in the tasting room from the start will see steady increases in their membership. Some wineries report signing up anywhere from 5 to 15 new members on busy weekends in the summer months. These are people who likely would not sign up if they weren’t joining the club in person.

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Often winery staff and managers feel as though they are pressuring visitors to sign up to a club, and default to collecting just an email addresss. Getting an email is easy, getting a sale is much harder.

Asking visitors if they’d like to join the club gives them the opportunity to say “yes, I want to stay connected to this brand and I want to enjoy your wines in the future”.

Here are some ideas on how you can fine tune your sales pitch for your wine club:

  • Have materials about your wine club in your cellar door
  • Have examples of your wine club offering in your cellar door
  • Ask visitors questions: Are you club member? Have you heard about our club?
  • During the tasting seed some of your club benefits
  • Sample a wine that is a wine club exclusive. “Oh wow, this is great!”
  • If the customer starts asking you questions about the club that’s a great sign, close the sale.
  • If a customer is on the fence, what can you do to sweeten the deal to sign up today? Immediate discount, free bottle? What is a wine club member worth to your brand? (hint: lots)

Keep it simple and ask for the sale. You and your new wine club members will be happy you did.

Moreover, make sure to monitor your efforts and set goals. How many people come through your cellar door in a week? Can you convert 1%, 10%? Here’s some quick math to help get you started: Sign up 1 person everyday and you’ll have roughly 300 wine club members within a year. If each of those 300 members are worth roughly $500/year you’ve just closed $150,000 worth of business. If you can close 2 a day that’s $300,000. Compound your growth year over year and you’ll near a million dollars a year in recurring revenue quickly. It’s worth your time.