Roll Out the Red Carpet – Member Events

Four Member-centric Event Styles & How To Maximize Each One

As we approach harvest season, wine club members are looking for ways to engage and interact with their beloved wineries.  There are so many great ways to get your biggest fans involved and active in your brand with events.  The importance of setting defined goals for events cannot be overstated.  This ensures there is direction, purpose, and expected outcomes.

Typically, there are two main types of goals for membership events: (1) Revenue Generating goals and (2) Retention & Relationship Building goals.

  1. Revenue Generating goals can be in the form of generating immediate revenue (wine sales) or generating future and ongoing revenue (club sign-ups).
  2. Retention and Relationship Building goals can take on the form of reducing attrition, ensuring members are taking all their scheduled shipments, or fostering brand loyalty and advocacy. These can be more difficult to measure but depending on the specific goals, identify key metrics, such as attrition/retention rates, social media posts & shares, and referrals, that can be tracked and measured in order to provide information on the success of these events.

‘Pick-up Party’ Pick me up

We all know the pick-up party is the standard way to get members to the winery, give them some splashes, maybe some bites, hand off their wine and send them on their way.  But what if we kicked it up a notch and made sure these events had specific goals?

Revenue Generation: While these are usually appreciation-focused events, don’t leave sales on the table!  Pour wines that aren’t in the release that members are coming to pick up.  This helps boost sales with add-ons and gets members to taste a broader range of wines to further pique their interest in the brand.

Retention & Relationship Building: If members are allowed or encouraged to bring guests, track data capture and club conversion for non-member guests.   Create ‘social media’ moments and spaces where members can snap a photo, tag with event-specific hashtags, and share on their social platforms. Consider ways to reward members who bring friends who then join the club. Or ways of acknowledging long-term members with recognition at the event (even with color-coded stickers, ribbons…)

VX (Virtual Experience) Modification: To make this type of event VX-friendly, host a virtual tasting of the new releases with the winemaker and wine club team!  It’s great to have a couple different hosts to keep the content conversational and fresh.

Winemaker Dinner Events

Ah, the classic winemaker dinner.  It might feel played out to all of us in the inner circle of the wine business but customers still LOVE these.  It’s a chance to rub elbows with the winemakers of their favorite wineries, get to know them, and deepen their relationship with the brand. Winemakers are the ‘rockstars’ to our club members.  These type of member events can take on a different look and feel depending on the goal of the event.

Revenue Generation: Ensure this goal is communicated to the winemaker and other staff working the event.  Winemakers aren’t always natural sales people so giving the star of the show some talking points and tips ahead of time is a great way to prime them for the soft-sell.  Have order forms and POS capabilities on hand and ready.  Offering bundles of the wines highlighted at the event or shipping deals are helpful ways to incentivize sales.  Consider ‘winemaker’ picks/bundles, or signed ‘special’ copies (especially if you want to move product.)

Retention & Relationship Building: It can be difficult to spread a winemaker around to all the guests of a dinner.  Having a cocktail hour before and a dessert reception after allow for more free movement around the space so that guests can have a chance to connect with the winemaker even if they didn’t sit near them.  Involving other winery principles can help as well.  Having ownership or the GM/CEO in attendance provides further opportunities for connections (with the rockstar’s ‘band’) to be created.

VX Modification: Partner with a local chef and pair the wines with a dish or a meal they created.  It’s a wonderful co-branding opportunity!  Invite members to join over a private Zoom session or for a broader reach, Instagram Live!

Roadshow Events

Bring the wine and festivities to your members!  Nothing says ‘we care’ like meeting wine club members where they are.  It’s easy to tack these onto travel the winemaker is already doing in markets to help mitigate costs to the winery.  Whether helping members host an in-home dinner event or throwing a soiree in their town, these events are full of opportunity!  Not only can they have revenue and relationship goals but an added benefit of going out to where your members are is a chance to gather information about their preferences, habits, and daily lives within their ‘natural surroundings’ where they’re comfortable and familiar.  People are certainly more willing to share and be open when they’re at ease and on their turf – don’t miss an opportunity to collect data in order to provide tailored and custom experiences.

Revenue Generation:  When hosting an offsite event at a member’s home, one of the most important steps is to communicate expectations beforehand.   If the member is clear that the purpose is sales and wine club sign-ups, they’ll make sure to invite friends and family who have a higher likelihood to buy and join.  There’s also an opportunity to incentivize sales and sign-ups with perks for the member.  Get creative and personalize these to entice them!

Retention & Relationship Building:  Events that are more retention and relationship focused come at a higher cost when taking the show on the road but are incredibly powerful (“You came all the way here to see me!?”).  Inviting top members for a round of golf with the winemaker or on a dinner cruise will make the winery friends for life, not to mention the word-of-mouth value that will evangelize their friends to your brand!

Masterclass-style Events

Members love to learn and also love to show off what they know.  What better way to make this happen than masterclass-style events!  Put on a blending seminar with the winemaking team and invite top members.  Host a wine-tasting class and partner with a sommelier.  If you have an in-house vineyard manager or a great relationship with the vineyard management company, do a vineyard deep dive collaboration and get nerdy about everything from trellising to terroir!

Revenue Generation:  Selling tickets for these types of events – whether they’re member-only or open to all with special member pricing – will likely be the primary revenue generators.  Because masterclass-style events are smaller and more exclusive, the ticket prices should be reflective of the rare opportunity presented with these.  There’s also social media ‘revenue’ to be gained here through encouraging attendees to share and tag the winery and event.

Retention & Relationship Building: Because of the intimate nature of these events, they tend to be dialogue-heavy which is a great way to create and foster connections with members.  They’re making memories and the winery is making new and stronger relationships.  Masterclass-style events are personal to both those involved in hosting as well as those attending so there’s a good chance that great conversations will spark and be carried beyond the event itself!

VX Modification: Masterclass-style events can be rather easily translated to VX events.  Hosting a winemaker & sommelier lead tasting class is not a huge departure from the live event and a VX format makes it more accessible for members who can’t travel to the winery or venue.  Get a Go-Pro and a vineyard masterclass can go virtual with a little dynamism and creativity!

There is much to be gained from hosting membership events, whether the goal is to make money or to make friends, or both!  Defining the goals ahead of time helps set expectations, budget, and ensures key players know how to best leverage their strengths for the success of the event.   A few things to keep in mind…

Revenue isn’t always the immediate sale – there are ways to lay a foundation of long-term sales either through an initial club sign-up or creating a deeper connection with existing members to increase retention.

Solid relationships with wine club members are enriched further by listening.  Listen and understand what they’re looking for out of their membership.  Ask what events they’d love to attend.  Make note of key personal details they share with you in order to customize experiences and show that you know and hear them.

Members are a winery’s most reliable source of income and referrals.  Showing them appreciation through exciting and engaging events is a must.  As harvest season approaches and we’re planning for 2022, set aside some time to build out a thoughtful event plan and get team members involved to share and generate fresh ideas.  Have fun with it!