In my many years as an avid lover and consumer of wines all over the world, I have had mixed experiences in my efforts to stay interested and loyal to a particular wine, winery or subscription programs. Like many other wine lovers, I have been enamored and romanced by innumerable and delectable wines and options on loyalty programs with which to stay connected.  Whether it be the quality of the product, the varietal, the region, the cost of entry and added value proposition, I have had to make some tough decisions on which brands continue to maintain my interest (and the limited space in my wine cellar) for years on end. Like any long term relationship, making optimum decisions on which wine relationships are worthy for the long haul draws some similarity to selecting a mate.  First you get introduced, adrenaline releases, you flirt, you date and then ultimately make a long term commitment based on quality, trust and the feeling of being loved.  Suffice it to say, one needs to kiss many frogs before selecting your prince(s).

Comparing the DTC backdrop for a winery using the romance process, let’s break this down. 

Introduction – There are many opportunities to “meet” new wines.  Since the largest % of DTC wine and wine club sales originate in the tasting room, first impressions usually start there.  It is important this introductory meeting drive all subsequent levels of infatuation.  If you can’t get past the introduction, there will be no first date.   Ensuring this experience is memorable will depend on your presentation, your product and ability to build intrigue, drive passion and enticement.  It is pivotal to ensure your first impression staff is trained to be able to establish the initial client connection in a meaningful way and have the savvy to know how to take the next steps, whether it be a wine purchase or a longer term commitment via loyalty program. 

Flirting   After the first impression is made, it is important time is invested to develop a rapport and relate to each important client in an effort to drive interest and keep the adrenaline flowing.  Relationship development skills are pivotal during this first impression stage.  Not knowing your customer, their preferences, motivations and interests is a key failing of many wineries as they do not invest in ensuring these skills are attributed to the very people who hold the future of the entire relationship in their hands.  Ensuring there is not only intrigue, but trust being built between your offerings and potential clients is the basis for a longer term relationship. Believe it or not, many people are not born with skills to proactively listen nor have the savvy required to know the steps needed to build the connection to actually get to that first date- (which is a wine purchase or better, a commitment to try the wine club or loyalty program) But that’s ok. These are skills which can be taught and mastered with a little practice and a lot of passion.

Dating   According to WBM 2014 annual survey Report returning customers spend 67% more than new customers.  Once the client has established trust, it is important you keep the romance exciting.  Having the appropriate plans and execution models in place to ensure you are not overzealous or not paying enough attention is a slippery slope and one that also requires focused skill and strategy to stay on course.   Having tools in place to understand your clients’ demographic, their location, interests, opinions, how to best communicate and having a plan to ensure you are proactively following up are key to building a lasting relationship.   This is accomplished by shoring up the relationship building skill sets among your sales and loyalty club personnel and leveraging technology and tools to stay connected.

Long term Commitment   Statistics show ~80% of DTC sales are tied to the top 30% of wine club members.  Having framework in place to identify who they are and having an ongoing strategy in place to make them feel special are paramount as these are your loyal and committed relationships who are in it for the long haul.  Keeping the relationship intriguing will help keep them from moving on to have an affair.  Building a successful loyalty program should be the easiest and most focused aspect of growing your business and where you are making investments in hiring and training skilled sales personnel who can develop proactive and trusting relationships with these dedicated clients during the introduction, dating and long term relationship cycles.  Don’t let your clients become runaway brides. Great partnerships are based on joint trust and initiative.  With those pillars in place, relationships can thrive for the long haul…..In sickness and in health; until death do you part.