Deerfield Fine Wines has been sending out these great emails for the last couple years. They hit my Inbox every Thursday or Friday. Each email features either an upcoming Friday night tasting event or a fundraiser for a local charity. The emails look fantastic and tell me what they are pouring at this week’s tasting. Last week I hit “Reply” to compliment them on what an impression they make. After a couple more email exchanges, I asked Dean Cesario, the store manager, if he would agree to being highlighted here on the blog. On Tuesday we got together for an interview.
C: How long have you been using email to promote your tastings?
D: Two years. After I started here we changed the format of tastings and my wife convinced me to use Constant Contact instead of a plain email. She sets them up every week for me. (she’s a corporate auditor)
C: How did the format of the tasting change?
D: They used to be 1 wine rep pouring 3-4 wines and 15-20 people would show up and taste wines from one wine region. I moved here from the Midwest and have a restaurant background, I thought we could improve the format of the tastings. I worked with Michael Pace, La Bella, and his restaurant group for 16 years. We changed the tastings to “Chicago Style.”
C. What’s “Chicago Style?” (Disclaimer: Chicago is one of my favorite towns EVER)
D. That means more of a party atmosphere with restaurant type service from our staff. We have a live band, valet parking, food, and 3 wine reps pouring 4-5 wines each. We help the reps select what they pour giving customers a broad taste of a single variety being made in different regions around the world. So for instance, one night we will have 12-15 wines all made from chardonnay grapes being made in France, Australia, Sonoma, Napa, Argentina and South Africa. The customer gets a broad experience of what the grape can be depending on the part of the world it’s grown in.
C. Did your turn out change when you went “Chicago Style?”
D. Oh, yeah. We went from 15-20 people to 70-80 people.
C. Sounds like the changes were well received.
D. By the customers, yes. By our wine reps, not so much. They took some convincing. They were used to “owning” a tasking. In the end they rose to the competition, pouring and educating customers, and expanding their palates. There’s one group who come regularly, all 22 year old U of D students, they come in with wine books to learn while they taste. That broadens what we buy from the reps.
C. Any other changes?
D. We started doing fundraisers for local charities. They get $10 at the door, have raffles and get 10% of sales for the charity. Attendance for those events is 80-100 people. Now I have 2 or 3 charity organizations come in everyday to get on our calendar. We don’t have room to do our own tastings any more. My calendar is filled through early fall with charity fundraisers 2 or 3 days a week. It’s a bit lighter for summer while people are at the beach, but we’re still booked full.
C. Wow, that’s a big increase in attendance. Do you sell enough wine to make it profitable?
D. We break even by the time we cover the band, valet, food and what we pour. But we aren’t doing it to make money that night. We do it for the community and to broaden awareness of the store in our market. How we treat folks while they are here is what brings them back on a non-event visit to buy from us. We remember their name, know where their kids go to school; we treat them like family.
C. How much of the success do you contribute to the email distribution vs. “Chicago Style” atmosphere?
D. That’s hard to gauge, since we implemented both about the same time. Our email list is 3100, and we have an open rate of 13-15%, with an average of 90 people showing up. People like knowing in advance what we’re tasting, the email gives them that, and the visual gives newcomers a taste of who we are as a store before they walk in.
C. Do you use any other social media channels?
D. No, I’m a face to face person. I don’t really like the computer other than for email and inventories.
C. Anything else we should know about the emails or the tastings?
D. Everybody needs ID to get in and no kids. It doesn’t matter if you’re 50, no ID, no entry. We have a set up for the kids – they can have pizza and movie in the yoga studio next door while Mom & Dad come to our event. Mom & Dad both need ID.
So as impressed as I am with the emails, the events themselves are the true stars. I’m going to one on Friday night.