One of the often overlooked direct sales tools is the telephone. While many associate telemarketing with the intrusive dinner-time calls from our local newspaper or random healthcare brokers (ugh - I learned that lesson recently!), the opportunity for a winery to reach out to key customers and engage in a person-to-person conversation is nearly always overlooked. Think about it - your customer list is made up of folks who are either on your wine club (loyal to your brand), came to your tasting room (interested in your brand), or found you through another event (again, interested, assuming they freely gave their contact info of their own will). Bottom line: they're interested. And if you already have their interest, it’s much easier to provide a purchase opportunity for them while engaged in conversation.
While many view telemarketing as a skill set that is either learned or trained into, your phone outreach should be easy: a friendly connection, no different than that of the hospitality staff and their welcoming of guests into your tasting room. Since we know your outreach will be to consumers who are already engaged with your brand (Wine Club members), or who enjoyed their experience in your tasting room well enough that they were eager to request more information, the openings don’t have to be hard. It’s the sales pitch that follows which can be challenging. No one likes asking for a sale, but if framed in a way which supports and demonstrates knowledge about your customer, it can be an easy process.
The following are a few examples of both reasons to call, and sales opportunities to include in the conversation. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but I’m willing to bet your winery has an opportunity to use at least several of these.
WELCOME AND THANK YOU!
1 –Personally call and welcome each new club member who joins. This may be time consuming, but you also have the opportunity to provide a “welcome new club member!” offer during the call. Perhaps to send their first shipment now, instead of waiting for 2 months before the next scheduled shipment goes out. Or, provide access to certain library wines or special reserves that may only become available to select customers during the year.
2 – Thank them for their purchase in your tasting room and see how they enjoyed the visit. Here’s an opportunity to do a little hospitality survey: was the staff friendly and knowledgeable? Were they welcomed at the bar immediately? Was their visit enjoyable? Follow up with a “Thank you for visiting” offer of a discount on their next online purchase.
3 – Let them know about some fun events that you’re hosting, similar to the one they attended recently. Again, surveying your customers to find out what worked - and what didn’t - is always valuable. Use this opportunity to contact a select group and improve your next event. In the meantime, don’t forget to offer them a special promotion on wines poured at the event.
4 – See how they’re enjoying their club membership. Customers join wine clubs to get something special, to feel a part of something, or to get access to information and products not given to the general public.. Make your customers feel like you care by checking in! Give them a call, thank them for their time in the club, chat about what they’ve enjoyed and want to see more of, and give them a reason to continue as a member. They already receive membership discounts on wine, and access to unique products. Perhaps offer complimentary shipping on a purchase, or a larger discount than they already receive, or access to a very special or unique library wine. This is a “thank you” sale. Make sure they feel like any offer given is truly a reward for their loyalty.
KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON
There are likely a few calls that your team is already making. These are the operational calls, but can be just as much of an opportunity to engage the customer:
1 – Updating expired credit cards prior to a wine club batch process. Your credit card expired rates can be 5-10% of your total. Don’t lose out on your full club value by neglecting to clean up your data. But give customers a call a month or so in advance of the next shipment –don’t offer them a promotion when they’re about to get a shipment.
2 – Updating declined credit cards during a wine club batch process. This is another potentially lost revenue opportunity for your club. Decline rates are running higher than ever now, upwards of 10-20% of a club run. Give your customers a call to help ensure you’ve got the right information on them, but don’t push too hard on new promotions. Your job in this instance is to make that brand connection and not embarrass your customer. Give them a reason to stay on, or respect any requests to put their clubs on hold for a period, or even cancel if desired.
3 – Confirming a mailing address that may be bouncing back. Wine club shipments are expensive to ship, to return, and to re-ship. Having correct information for your customers is critical. If shipments are being returned, use the outreach as an opportunity to provide better service to your club members: offer to ship to a business location or to ensure the location you’ve got on file is the correct one. Don’t be shy about asking if they’re interested in hearing about your latest promotion or special wine sale after the conversation.
MAKE IT RELEVANT. PLEASE.
Remember that when calling your customers, regardless of the reason for contact, it's most important to demonstrate to them that you know who they are. You've likely got the mailing address, their purchase history with you, their birthday, any event they’ve attended, or more. It's appropriate to greet your customer by name, and ask a relevant question ("How are you enjoying the 2006 Cabernet you purchased?"). Similarly, when presenting a new offer to the customer, be conscious of the same - don't ask that repeat Cab buyer to partake in your Sauv Blanc special. Make it relevant, and make them feel as if you "understand" their needs. Your job is to segment your list and define which offers will be most relevant to your segmented customer lists. Your response rates will be higher, your telemarketing sales will be stronger, and your customers will be happier.
One final note:
One of the concerns we've heard from wineries about outreach to customers with declined credit cards, or who have not purchased in consistent volume, is that your call may "inspire" them to cancel their membership. True - some customers' cards are declined due to financial hardship. At that point, they would have cancelled anyway. Why not take advantage of your relationship with the customer to graciously accept their cancellation and ask if you can keep them on the list nonetheless! There's no reason to lose the relationship just because they're not purchasing regularly. They may return sooner than you think, and it's about building brand trust & loyalty. Perhaps they're purchasing your brand in retail stores and when out dining with friends anyway. Make your exchange with them easy, natural and comfortable. They'll remember you far longer than the winery that never called and simply removed them from the club as a "non-payer".