The Search

Millennials are searching for authentic experiences.  Whether it’s a huge group pillow fight on the streets of Downtown LA, a Flash Mob in NYC, hiking the Appalachian Trail or backpacking through Europe, we search these unique experiences out.  There are many points of view (including my own) on WHY this is the case, but a more immediate question is how businesses in the wine industry – ESPECIALLY WINERIES – can tap into this search and become a part of it.

2008 Pillow Fight in Downtown LA.  Photo courtesy of Nate Matteson.

2008 Pillow Fight in Downtown LA. Photo courtesy of Nate Matteson.

As The How Series continues, this week’s tip uses a winery as an example to teach businesses in the wine industry how to reach out to Millennials as the powerful consumer group they are.  As always, try putting it into practice over the next couple of days to see the results right away.

Building an Experience – Give Us A Story

Think about building a fort when you were a kid.  The biggest and most impressive forts – like treehouses – were always the ones that were planned out and executed perfectly (I mean, let’s hope so – it’s a house in a tree). Sometimes, though, the most fun and fulfilling forts were the ones you made on the fly out of pillows and blankets on your living room floor. You took what you had and made it exactly what you needed – your very own fort/castle/tent/cave – and you had a blast.

Creating an authentic experience for your younger guests is very similar to building that fort. It doesn’t need to be big and fancy or take a lot of time and planning. If you can get creative while keeping your goal in mind, you’ll be able to offer something that  will pay off exponentially in creating a core of repeat customers in the Millennial age range.  The goal here is to find a simple, unique opportunity for them that won’t require a lot of infrastructure, time and DEFINITELY won’t require money.  What this means is you’ve got to have a good idea of what 20-and 30-somethings are looking for in these experiences.

What Exactly is an Authentic Experience?

A simple answer to this question is any experience that is “off the menu.”  Something that you don’t have advertised. Something unique.  It is access to something that a normal guest walking through your doors wouldn’t normally get to see.

If you have barrels on-site, take 10 minutes and take a young group back for a quick barrel tasting.  This doesn’t have to be a big ordeal.  Have them go through your regular tasting, then choose ONE of those wines that you currently have aging – grab a thief, bring them back and let them taste the following year’s vintage.  Odds are, this could be something they’ve never experienced before.

Or, if your winery is located on a vineyard, take those 10 minutes and bring them out to the closest vines.  Let them know what kind of grape it is and if they tasted these grapes in any of the wines they tried in the tasting room.  Let them touch the vine, show them how you grow and tell them how you harvest.  How do you know when to pick?  How many people does it take?  What are some special considerations a winegrower must account for with this particular grape?  Answer their questions and bring them into the agricultural side of your business.  Especially if the group is from a major metropolitan area, this will be a side of life that few of them ever get to experience.

These are just a few examples of low-key (for YOU) experiences that you can provide.  Now that you know what younger people are looking for in an experience, get creative – the most mundane part of the job for you is likely to be the most exotic for your young guests.

Create the Relationship: Following Up

Once you’ve taken the time to give them the experience, find a way to follow up with them. This is the most important part – solidifying the experience.  Take their email addresses and give each group their own little email list.  Follow up with them a week later with a short personal note welcoming them back anytime.  Mention your facebook page, twitter, website – anything you want – as a way to stay in touch.   Then put a note in your calendar and let them know when you’ve bottled the vintage they tasted from the barrel.  Send them an email when (roughly) you think you’ll be harvesting the vines that they learned about.   Or, even easier, get their names for facebook and follow up there (using personal messages, of course).

Now each person has a real relationship with you.  You’ve given them something that we are all looking for when we travel – A STORY.  They’ll be more likely to purchase while they are there in order to remember their experiences.  They’ll be more likely to return and more likely to think of you first when they need to purchase wine for a special occasion. Just one or two emails a year will make a huge difference. Also, as they get older and their income increases they will be more willing to spend money at your winery than any other.

These are just a few examples of how wineries can truly differentiate themselves while building a strong core of young REPEAT customers. They will return from their trip and be talking about this for years to come – and your winery will always be special part of their lives.

Your business and your wine now have personal connections with a new & important group of consumers – and all it took was a good idea and 10 minutes of your time.