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Start a Wine Club Member Onboarding Program

Wine Club Onboarding is the surest way to increase club member loyalty

New-member onboarding programs set expectations for new wine club members and turn them into believers of your brand.

For improving long-term member loyalty, nothing beats welcoming new members with a well-planned onboarding process.

In this article, we explain how to create an onboarding program for your wine club.

Wine club onboarding tours in Italy come with not one, but TWO glasses of wine.

We’ve heard rumors that wine club onboarding tours in Italy come with not one, but TWO glasses of wine.

What happens when someone joins your wine club? Do your new members receive anything from your winery before their first shipment arrives on their doorstep? Do new members have a person they can call if they have questions?

Wine club retention rates over recent years have vastly improved in wineries that include even a basic wine club onboarding process to welcome new members and let them know what to expect.

Yet wine club onboarding programs are by far, the exception rather than the rule, with a surprising number of wineries offering no onboarding of any kind, and a vast majority providing nothing beyond a single welcome email.

For the host who signs up a new club member, the sign-up is seen as the finish line — that is what they are incentivized to do after all. But for the wine club, the new club sign-up should merely signal the beginning of the welcoming process.

Here is a list of 5 Best Practices for developing an effective wine club onboarding process, which you can put into action at your winery right away.

5 Best Practices for Onboarding New Members 


Let Your New Members Know What to Expect
When new members sign up, let them know what’s going to happen next. If your winery sends out an email confirming all the details of the wine club, tell your new members to keep an eye out for it. This way, they won’t feel that they have to remember everything you’re telling them in the tasting room.

Tell your new members when they’ll receive their first shipment, and that they’ll have a chance to review it before it goes out.

Lastly, give your new members the name and contact details of the person to get in touch with if they have questions.

Each of these small gestures as part of a wine club onboarding program is welcoming to your new members, and they take the focus away from the transaction, and towards an elevated level of service that your club provides.



Send a personal hand-written Thank-you note — right away!

Standard practice for any wine club onboarding program should include the Thank-you note — hand-written, of course. Hand-written thank you notes, if sincere, are for family and friends, which is how you want your club members to feel.

The sooner your new members receive a personal Thank-you note from you, the bigger the impression it will create.

Make your process for writing and sending thank you notes as smooth as possible so new members receive them soon after joining. This includes having a ready stock of thank you cards, envelopes, stamps, and — if coming up with the right words is a struggle — some prompts to help the author speak from the heart.

Often, the missing component is a dedicated person responsible for this honor. Many wineries like to have the host signing up the new member to write the thank you, while others like it to come from a member of the wine club team.


Digging Deeper: why thank you notes matter

It turns out, your mother was right: thank you notes really are a nice touch

Chloe Tyer, Director of Membership for the iconic Napa Valley winery Heitz Cellar in St. Helena, describes the 24-48 hours after a new member joins their wine club as the time interval that sees the highest cancellation rate.

“People are visiting Napa from Chicago and they have six hours to visit five wineries. They have these ... sparkling Napa eyes — everything is beautiful, they love all the wine, they love the vineyards, they’re in love with their partners, and then when they get back home and they’re back in their routines and the credit card bills start coming in, with all the wine clubs they joined, they start thinking, ‘What the hell did we do?’ — that’s when they start cancelling.”

As a wine club manager, you’ve seen more than enough new club members who joined while they were visiting the winery, had a good buzz going on, and liked the idea of getting their tasting fees comp’ed, only to reject the first shipment and quit soon after.

Tyer ensures that new club members receive a welcome email within 24 hours, and a Welcome Pack within 5-7 days. The timing of the welcome pack is intentional and is designed to coincide with the possible buyer’s remorse new members might be feeling after returning from their wine country vacations.

The Thank You card doesn’t need to include details about wine preferences, the name of the club tier they joined, or anything else — just a sincere, heartfelt, hand-written personal note expressing your gratitude. All the other details will be in the welcome email.

Minda Zetlin, author of Career Self Care: Find Your Happiness, Success, and Fulfillment at Work, says in an article written for Inc.com, “The most important element is this: Make a personal connection. There’s a procedure to follow that will help you write the most effective note possible, but creating a personal connection is the best thing you can do in a thank-you note.”

You can read the article here: How to write a sincere thank you note that will make people smile.



Send a Welcome email — also right away!

Your Welcome email should, naturally, welcome your new members by describing everything they can look forward to the perks, the access to limited wines, the discounts, the benefits, the events, and being a member of your winery family.


Digging Deeper:

Setting new member expectations

Ryan Moore, VP of Consumer Sales for Ridge Vineyards on avoiding unwanted surprises.

Ridge Vineyards, with tasting rooms in Lytton Springs (Alexander Valley) and Monte Bello (Santa Cruz Mountains) has had a formal on-boarding process in place for ten years.

Ryan Moore, VP of Consumer Sales for Ridge Vineyards explains that new members receive a welcome email on the day they sign up, and a Welcome Packet is ready to go out in the mail that same day.

The Welcome Packet includes a standard letter explaining their member benefits and what to expect in the coming months so there are no surprises, along with a hand-written note from the person who worked with them, and that staff member’s business card.Additionally, the welcome email contains a link to a page on Ridge’s website which gives 10 suggestions for getting the most out of their membership.Lastly, new members who display as not having opened the welcome email receive a follow-up phone call just to make sure the email was received and if the member has any questions.

Your new club members have likely been, or still are, members of other wine clubs, so this is your chance to show how your wine club is more personal, welcoming, and interested in making members feel wanted.

If a couple returns home after visiting Napa and they’ve joined five wine clubs and one of those sends a hand-written note welcoming them to the club, along with a high-end print piece that explains all their member benefits, which wine club do you think they’ll stay with?



Other helpful details include how to reach someone at the winery, what exactly they’ve signed up for, and when to expect the next shipment.



Include a Free Winery Tour

Including a winery tour as a standard component of your wine club onboarding process is something that everyone loves. And it provides a great benefit to the winery.

Spending time with your new club members as you casually stroll through the barrel room or vineyard is the perfect way to showcase everything unique and great about your winery. New members will feel like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory as you sip wine samples drawn from tanks while sharing insider stories about how the winery had its humble beginnings with nothing more than a dream and a refractometer.

Having a chance to tell your winery’s story this way is of great value to your winery because it gives your new members a story they can share with their friends.

The number and quality of these touch-points during the period before the first shipment, the more personally invested (that is, loyal) your wine club members become. Likewise, additional touch-points between the first and second shipments can securely cement your club members in place for a longer term. After that, it’s your job to continue to get to know your members and show them that you care.



Follow up with a Phone Call

It’s never a bad idea to call your new club members to check in and see if there are any questions you can answer. You might be surprised how often your new members wish they’d picked up more wine while they were at the winery, and guess what? It’s not too late — how fortuitous your call will feel when you offer to get some wines out to them in today’s scheduled UPS pickup.

Wine club onboarding tours are loved by new members, and they start building loyalty to your winery from the very beginning.

Seems like a friendly enough chap for a wine club onboarding tour

One last thing to think about

Are your tasting room staff incentivized to sign up as many club members as possible? Or are they trained to sign up people who will stick around for a long time?

The cost to sign up a new member is significantly more than to keep an existing member. Therefore, it is a worthwhile investment to identify those potential members who will be a good long-term fit for your winery. Your attention can now be directed to forming lasting and genuine relationships with them.

If you pay your tasting room staff a meaningful amount for club sign-ups but also consider early departures into the compensation calculation, you may be more likely to sign up members who will remain loyal to your winery.

You can get some help setting up all of these onboarding recommendations here.


Bradley Squires


Bradley Squires, the founder of Wine Chemistry Creative, helps wineries become memorable. He thinks of this as Creating Chemistry with your customers and future customers. Bradley has provided marketing services for some of the largest (and smallest) brands in the U.S.. Notable brands include Vintrace, UCSF, Ericcson, Grgich Hills, The Nature Conservancy, and Napa Valley Vintners. He holds degrees in Oenology, Viticulture, and Wine Marketing. He doesn’t have a dog.

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