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This article originally appeared in the October 2017 edition of Grapegrower & Winemaker.


Richard Warland is an expert in direct marketing and customer relationship management. He believes there is plenty of room for wineries to ‘lift their game’ in these areas. In the third instalment of his series, Warland outlines how customer relationship management can boost wine sales.

CRM is a strategy and a science

In the February and April 2017 editions of Australian & New Zealand Grapegrower and Winemaker we looked at the importance to the small winemaker of Direct to Consumer (DtC) or “Cellar Door” sales. DtC marketing is a subset of Customer Relationship Management or CRM.  One could argue that it is the reverse, but CRM also plays a vital part in retail (B2C) and wholesale (B2B) marketing.

CRM is much misunderstood

On the website whatis.com, Tech Target, Margaret Rouse is quoted as saying

“Customer relationship management (CRM) refers to the practices, strategies and technologies that companies use to manage record and evaluate customer interactions in order to drive sales growth by deepening and enriching relationships with their customer bases.”

The strike through is mine. Margaret’s definition is not bad, but it is let down by her reference to technology. In truth, a CRM program could be run with pen and paper if the business is small enough!

“The aim of this understanding is to increase the customer’s satisfaction and loyalty”


At the risk of losing your attention, my definition is as follows:

  • CRM can be described as the application of transactional data enriched with socio and geo demographic data in order to better understand one’s customers and their emotional and physical “drivers” in relation to one’s business.
  • The aim of this understanding is to increase the customer’s satisfaction and loyalty and hence life time value (LTV) to the business, by engaging with them in a manner and form and with a frequency that they appreciate on an individual basis.

Putting it simply

The principle of CRM has been around since the first trader sold something to a fellow primitive human being. In the 1990’s however, “The Big 5” consulting firms started spruiking technology-enabled CRM and subsequently many companies, mainly big publicly listed entities, have been unsuccessful at implementing the technology and wasted millions of dollars in the process.

CRM can start with staff – just make sure they aren’t plastic like this guy.

The reason for this is that CRM is not a “thing” and cannot be bought. But, it can be learned.

The actual principles of CRM are simple –

  1. Know your customers
  2. Use this knowledge to serve or communicate with your customers, with offers that are relevant, through the channel they prefer, at a time they prefer.

Implementing your cellar door DtC CRM strategy

If you decide to invest in CRM technology (and it is very affordable today – see below), there are a couple of key preparation items, namely –

  • Thoroughly plan your strategy
  • Get stakeholder ‘buy-in’

The first would seem logical and although I hate the term stakeholder I have, through sad experience across Australasia, learnt how important it is. Stakeholders are all of your staff who will have any involvement, not just customer-facing staff, but also the back-room people in accounting, packing and shipping.

Stakeholders are all of your staff who will have any involvement, not just customer-facing staff, but also the back-room people in accounting, packing and shipping.


Unless your operation is naturally gifted, a CRM implementation involves change and staff generally don’t like change – especially if they are busy. In reality, they will benefit and become more efficient, enabling you to sell more wine, but in my experience they rarely believe that scenario!

CRM – Ground work essentials

There are a few “must do’s” without which your strategy risks failure:

  • Accurately record customer names & contact details (There are subtle techniques, more on that later).
  • Capture ALL interactions in ONE data base. (This is the much touted “360 Degree view of the customer”, more on that later).
  • Keep your data clean (meaning accurate and up to date).
  • Know your numbers (or have staff that do).

The foregoing is not as difficult as it seems and there are some marketing possibilities few of you would have dreamt of, but discussion will be too lengthy for this article and will be covered in a future edition.

Assistance offered.

After twelve years away from the wine industry, I am dedicated to the idea of helping wine companies achieve world’s best practice CRM.

Accordingly, I am now consulting to winery clients of WithWine – http://www.withwine.com/

While at first sight, it looks like just another wine “app”, founder Richard Owens, ex-Macquarie Bank, Rothschild Bank and Apple Corporation, has built a full service DtC SaaS (Software as a Service) solution that can manage your customer data, your DtC marketing and the administrative functions of your cellar door sales. You will not believe the cost. Two or three cases will recover your outlay. If you use it properly and don’t achieve a massive return on investment via incremental sales I will drink the difference!

Needless to say, your customer data is treated in strict confidence – as if it were compromised; Richard would be out of business in no time!

In future editions

In future editions of this journal I will expand on the issues involved and techniques of implementing a CRM profit centre strategy in your business. If you would like to contact me in the meantime, please email me at richard.warland@rtsronline.com

Richard Warland is a Roseworthy Oenology graduate (class of 1970-71). He made wine in the Barossa, McLaren Vale and Hunter before moving on to sales and marketing management and thence to CEO positions in wine direct marketing finally spending eleven years with Cellarmaster Wines after they bought his company. From 2005 – 14 he lived in Hong Kong and Macau, consulting on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Loyalty Marketing to companies spanning many industries in China. He is now based in the Adelaide Hills and consults on direct and loyalty marketing in Australia and Greater China. Since 2010 he has lectured on CRM to the multi-national MSc Wine Business class at The Burgundy School of Business in Dijon. Richard can be contacted at richard.warland@rtsronline.com