Monthly Archives: April 2009

The How Series 4: Gen wYne Club – Expanding to Millennials

Many wineries today are concerned with the declining number of wine club members. Wineries with smaller case productions especially need to find a way to grow these repeat customers right now – WITHOUT dropping prices. One solution: Build a special club for the younger consumer.


Take that club shipment down a notch for Millennials

Take that club shipment down a notch for Millennials


With tourist season coming up fast, everyone is going to see younger wine-drinkers walking through their tasting room doors. Unfortunately, many of these 20-30-somethings aren’t the main “target” that wineries are looking at for their wine clubs.  Based on past performance, this is not a group that will spend the money on an expensive high-shipment club. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS.  Now that we all know how to reach out, relate, and create a relationship with Millennials, use it to your advantage and give them the option of joining your wine club at a level that they are comfortable with.  Provide a lighter case shipment option to people 35 and under.  If you normally offer your “smallest” club at 3 bottles 3 times a year, bring it down to 2 bottles twice a year.  

…you are creating consistent sales to a group that is not a part of your current club – that’s growth.

But how does a business owner prevent current wine club members from opting out of their larger shipments and signing up for this new, less intense version?  Limit the club to ONLY young wine drinkers.  Your consumers are only eligible for this if they are 35 years of age or younger.  This is similar to banks and credit card companies offering special deals to students – the terms are more affordable and the payments are more flexible – but only students are eligible.

By doing this, you are offering a solution to an entire group of people that might not feel comfortable spending hundreds of dollars each year at just one winery.  This way you are creating consistent sales to a group that is not a part of your current club – that’s growth.  You are also showing this important consumer group that you are putting in the effort to reach out and cater to their situation.  Odds are that the businesses that offer this will be the first wine club that many young people will ever belong to.  If you can create a life-long customer simply by offering your service on terms they respond to, then you’ve got a good thing going.



Filed under Growth, HOW Series, Marketing, Outreach

The How Series 3: Millennials and the Search for Authentic Experiences

The Search

Millennials are searching for authentic experiences.  Whether it’s a huge group pillow fight on the streets of Downtown LA, a Flash Mob in NYC, hiking the Appalachian Trail or backpacking through Europe, we search these unique experiences out.  There are many points of view (including my own) on WHY this is the case, but a more immediate question is how businesses in the wine industry – ESPECIALLY WINERIES – can tap into this search and become a part of it.

2008 Pillow Fight in Downtown LA.  Photo courtesy of Nate Matteson.

2008 Pillow Fight in Downtown LA. Photo courtesy of Nate Matteson.

As The How Series continues, this week’s tip uses a winery as an example to teach businesses in the wine industry how to reach out to Millennials as the powerful consumer group they are.  As always, try putting it into practice over the next couple of days to see the results right away.

Building an Experience – Give Us A Story

Think about building a fort when you were a kid.  The biggest and most impressive forts – like treehouses – were always the ones that were planned out and executed perfectly (I mean, let’s hope so – it’s a house in a tree). Sometimes, though, the most fun and fulfilling forts were the ones you made on the fly out of pillows and blankets on your living room floor. You took what you had and made it exactly what you needed – your very own fort/castle/tent/cave – and you had a blast.

Creating an authentic experience for your younger guests is very similar to building that fort. It doesn’t need to be big and fancy or take a lot of time and planning. If you can get creative while keeping your goal in mind, you’ll be able to offer something that  will pay off exponentially in creating a core of repeat customers in the Millennial age range.  The goal here is to find a simple, unique opportunity for them that won’t require a lot of infrastructure, time and DEFINITELY won’t require money.  What this means is you’ve got to have a good idea of what 20-and 30-somethings are looking for in these experiences.

What Exactly is an Authentic Experience?

A simple answer to this question is any experience that is “off the menu.”  Something that you don’t have advertised. Something unique.  It is access to something that a normal guest walking through your doors wouldn’t normally get to see.

If you have barrels on-site, take 10 minutes and take a young group back for a quick barrel tasting.  This doesn’t have to be a big ordeal.  Have them go through your regular tasting, then choose ONE of those wines that you currently have aging – grab a thief, bring them back and let them taste the following year’s vintage.  Odds are, this could be something they’ve never experienced before.

Or, if your winery is located on a vineyard, take those 10 minutes and bring them out to the closest vines.  Let them know what kind of grape it is and if they tasted these grapes in any of the wines they tried in the tasting room.  Let them touch the vine, show them how you grow and tell them how you harvest.  How do you know when to pick?  How many people does it take?  What are some special considerations a winegrower must account for with this particular grape?  Answer their questions and bring them into the agricultural side of your business.  Especially if the group is from a major metropolitan area, this will be a side of life that few of them ever get to experience.

These are just a few examples of low-key (for YOU) experiences that you can provide.  Now that you know what younger people are looking for in an experience, get creative – the most mundane part of the job for you is likely to be the most exotic for your young guests.

Create the Relationship: Following Up

Once you’ve taken the time to give them the experience, find a way to follow up with them. This is the most important part – solidifying the experience.  Take their email addresses and give each group their own little email list.  Follow up with them a week later with a short personal note welcoming them back anytime.  Mention your facebook page, twitter, website – anything you want – as a way to stay in touch.   Then put a note in your calendar and let them know when you’ve bottled the vintage they tasted from the barrel.  Send them an email when (roughly) you think you’ll be harvesting the vines that they learned about.   Or, even easier, get their names for facebook and follow up there (using personal messages, of course).

Now each person has a real relationship with you.  You’ve given them something that we are all looking for when we travel – A STORY.  They’ll be more likely to purchase while they are there in order to remember their experiences.  They’ll be more likely to return and more likely to think of you first when they need to purchase wine for a special occasion. Just one or two emails a year will make a huge difference. Also, as they get older and their income increases they will be more willing to spend money at your winery than any other.

These are just a few examples of how wineries can truly differentiate themselves while building a strong core of young REPEAT customers. They will return from their trip and be talking about this for years to come – and your winery will always be special part of their lives.

Your business and your wine now have personal connections with a new & important group of consumers – and all it took was a good idea and 10 minutes of your time.


Filed under Basics, Experiences, HOW Series, Marketing

The HOW Series 2: Building a Millennial Customer Base


A big concern for many of us in the wine industry is price points – will we have to drop prices in order  to make money these days?   Many people associate price drops with the Millennial generation because it’s assumed they buy cheaper wines.  What if instead of dropping prices and hoping to gain sales, a business could build an additional customer base with their EXISTING prices?  A business will have to change a few things in order to create a Millennial customer base, but  prices don’t have to be one of them.  Each Friday I’ll be bringing you a specific tip and serious insight on how to reach out to Millennials as CONSUMERS.  You can put these tips into practice immediately and see for yourself how effective they can be.

Last week we discussed the danger and tendency to generalize an entire generation.  This week we continue our example of the young couple in a winery’s tasting room…


This is key.  As a sales person, asking questions is how you find out if your young couple that just walked in the door are looking to buy a $35+ bottle of wine or if you need to guide them.  Keep your questions casual but targeted.  Find out if they are from out of town – if they have taken a special “wine country trip” they may be in the area to buy bottles.  If so, be sure to mention some “insider tips” on wine and buying – they are obviously serious. Ask where they are staying – an old trick for finding out what their price range could be.

As a business owner, you are not only learning more about a group, but you are making a sale creatively and perhaps one that you never expected.

If from your questions you discover that they wouldn’t normally purchase a bottle in your price range, point out a special occasion or a gift possibility.  According to my own 100+ blind survey (stay tuned for full report) the majority of Millennials are willing to spend more on a bottle of wine as a gift, and 80% of Millennials sampled buy wine as gifts. Have you found out why they are in the area?  Is it a vacation? A family wedding? Getaway weekend?  A special bottle that they both enjoy could be a wonderful keepsake for these trips.  Before I even worked in wine, my boyfriend and I had a getaway to the Central Coast where we decided that we’d splurge on a great bottle we loved in order to lay it down and open it the next year.  Suggest that for a special occasion – it’s something they might not be thinking of.  You get the idea.  You can only make these suggestions if you have a working knowledge of who they are and why they are in your tasting room.  The more you know about them, the better you can tailor your sales pitch.

Again, this is a simple and logical step, but one that is not taken by the majority of business owners with Millennials.  It pays off all around.  As a business owner, you are not only learning more about a group, but you are making a sale creatively and perhaps one that you never expected.  By asking questions, you are focusing your attention and not judging them. From their point of view, they see that you are investing energy and time in them and will have a positive experience along with their purchase.  This means positive feedback outside – facebook, twitter, yelp, blogs, as well as good old-fashioned word of mouth.

Congratulations – you’ve started to build a new customer base.


Filed under Basics, HOW Series, Marketing