Waiting in Line to be Loyal
By John Hennessy
Jon Grant of Turley Wine Cellars was kind enough to spend time speaking to me. Turley makes really good wine and is known for their outstanding Zinfandel. One of Mr. Grants many responsibilities is to run Turleys mailing list.
The majority of wine Turley makes is sold to the customers on the list. The waiting time from when you sign up until when you get the opportunity to purchase bottles of Turley
wine is about two years. Turnover on the list runs about five percent a year. Turley never shares the mailing list information.
I signed up and waited the two years and am glad I did.
Turleys mailing list is an amazing bit of marketing. Those who are on the list longest earn the ability to buy more bottles of wine. Newbies like me start with a more modest
allocation but can aspire to larger allocations by buying all wines offered. Allocations are determined by how long you have been on the list, how much of your previous allocation
you purchased and of course, current wine production.
Many customers send in additional money with their order to cover wine and shipping for wines beyond their allocation. Mr. Grant refunds the extra monies but he will let those
customers know if there are extra bottles available of wines they requested or other similar bottles.
Turley does little marketing to support the mailing list. Word of mouth and a single billboard with directions to their Paso Robles winery where they promote the list is the extent of their marketing. Those on the mailing list receive a newsletter with their assigned allocation. Their Web site has been “under construction” for six years. They dont accept credit cards for orders.
Turley focuses its energies on farming and winemaking. They recently purchased two draft horses, built a barn and sent their vineyard manager to plow driving school. While plenty of modern equipment is available, modern equipment is heavy and heavy leads to soil compaction.
According to Mr. Grant, the benefit of this “innovation” wont be realized for about a decade. But thats not an unreasonable timeline for Turley.
Turley also focuses on its customers. In the late nineties, when red wines were extremely popular and wineries were increasing their prices, Turley kept its prices stable. Mr. Grant said they received numerous thank you letters from mailing list customers. Many of these customers are wine lovers and on the mailing lists of multiple vineyards. They appreciated Turley keeping the fair pricing they have always offered. As Mr. Grant said, “We dont drink $100 bottles of wine, why should we charge our customers that much?”
Moderator’s Comment: How can you benefit from the example of the Turley wine list? Or does the inherent scarcity of their wines make this model and their
success with it is unique? How can this type of exclusivity be applied to other loyalty programs?
The one thing I took away from my conversation with Jon Grant is that Turley Wine Cellars focuses on winemaking and farming first and foremost. The majority
of the employees are, “vineyard folk.” Even he gets involved. One of his multiple hats is assistant winemaker.
This focus on product quality is essential to the longevity of a program like Turleys mailing list. The program would not be as successful or long
running if wine quality began to slip.
Ill get out ahead of comments that Turley has a unique situation. Wine is a very commoditized business. Price typically drives sales, not brand. And
when brand matters, there are a lot of choices.
Turley gets another benefit from their mailing list that I dont think Mr. Grant even considered. Cultivating a strong, loyal customer base through
their mailing list program contributes to wine quality. They are able to plow more money back into winemaking rather than divert it to advertising and marketing.
Mr. Grant also impressed me by checking before he called back to make sure my recent allocation had arrived. Thats a level of individual customer
focus that I seldom experience. He was even able to tell me when I initially signed up and what year I received my first allocation.
If youre not in a hurry, consider signing up for the Turley mailing list. Youll enjoy some great wines that will be worth the wait, and be rewarding
a company that takes pride in its product and takes terrific care of its loyal customers. –
John Hennessy – Moderator