Join the Club

Regular readers know that we encourage wholesale borrowing of good ideas from other industries.  Last week your intreprid blogger was in Branson, MO, a town that markets itself as the "live entertainment capital of the United States". 

One form of entertainment in Branson is the winery tour.  Until just this month, there was one winery in town, Stone Hill,  offering wine-tasting, and of course, the opportunity to purchase wine and wine accessories.  Last week, a second one, Mount Pleasant, opened its doors.  Always looking for good topics for MYOB, we decided to check it out.

This might be a good time for a little background.  The wine-producing region of Missouri is located primarily in the center of the state, much closer to St. Louis than to Branson.   Tacony Corp’s St. James manufacturing plant is located right across Interstate 44 from a winery which is probably the farthest one from St. Louis.  The actual wineries of the two companies with operations in Branson are less than an hour from St. Louis.  There are no actual wineries in the Branson area, although Stone Hill does do some bottling there.

Wine_country

The main purpose of the Branson "wineries" is to introduce Missouri wine to the 8 million tourists who visit the town every year, and to sell some product  A secondary purpose is to get visitors who live in Missouri used to buying the local product.  Missouri wine is available at local retail outlets within the state, but the majority of sales take place at the wineries themselves.  To promote those sales, Missouri wineries have concerts, dinners, and other special events at their headquarters.

While we were in the store, after we had sampled several of the winery’s offerings, we were invited to join the "Vintner’s Circle", a club for wine enthusiasts.  Members of "the club" get the following benefits:

  • Two bottles of wine shipped to your home every three months.  (price $20.00-$50.00)
  • Free admission for four people to "winery events."
  • Quarterly newsletter with wine tips, food parings, recipes, and other wine-related information.
  • 20% off wine and merchandise purchased at the winery.
  • Other discounts in the town where the winery is located.

There is a membership charge, but as a special promotion, we were invited to join for free.

How can you use this idea to promote your business?  Take a look at what the winery accomplished?  First, I’ve agreed to buy two bottles of wine every three months.  That’s not much, but it’s two bottles I probably wouldn’t have bought otherwise.

Second, I and three of my wine-buying friends get to attend "winery events" at no charge.  In other words, we are lured back to the winery (store) for an event that almost demands that we buy some more of their product.

Third, every three months they’re going to send me recipes and other information that’s going to encourage me to buy more wine; wine that I get at a discount if I visit the winery where I’m likely to buy more merchandise than if I just went to the local grocery store.  To encourage me to make the trip, I also get discounts at other local merchants, including bed and breakfasts.  (If I spend the night, I’ll probably visit the winery more than once.)

You may sell products that easily lend themselves to this type of marketing, or you may have to get a little creative.  But any kind of "club" is going to make your customers feel more connected to your business. It’s part of that relationship-building that we hear so much about. It also gives you all the important contact information on a customer who has given you permission to use it.  What’s the total cost?  Free admission to a few events and a 20% discount on merchandise that the customer probably wouldn’t have bought otherwise. 

It’s a win/win.

If you’ve been successful using a similar promotion in your business, we’d love to hear about it.

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