Special Opportunities for Your VIP Customers

“Yield to temptation. It may not pass your way again.” – Robert A. Heinlein

A good way to increase the lifetime value of your customers is to sell them products and services that are outside the scope of what you can deliver yourself. An example: Dry Creek Vineyard recently sent me, as a member of their VIP Club, an invitation to participate in a cruise.

The promotion was simple – a personalized letter from Kim and Don Wallace, the “proprietors” of Dry Creek, explaining that they were “reaching out” to me about an opportunity that they “thought [I] might be interested in.”

“Granted,” they warned, “these opportunities are not for everyone; however, for some this could be exactly what you are looking for.”

The phrasing is a little awkward, but the idea is right. Because of its VIP Club, Dry Creek has a special relationship with me. It makes sense for them to contact me and the other VIP Club members when a “VIP” sort of opportunity arises. In this case, it’s a first-class Mediterranean cruise aboard the Silversea, topped off with a few days watching some of the America’s Cup race.

I’m not a big cruise person, and I have no interest in yacht racing, but I feel pretty good about the invitation. It seems appropriate for the exclusive, upscale personality that Dry Creek has attributed to the VIP Club.

The accompanying brochure – a four-page, four-color, heavy-stock piece almost certainly provided by Silversea, but with some Dry Creek Vineyard personalization throughout – has the high-quality appearance I would expect from the VIP Club. The Dry Creek logo is printed on both covers and there is a photo and blurb about Don and Kim Wallace, “your hosts,” on the second page. Like any good cruise brochure, it has some great photographs (a luxuriously appointed, spacious suite, restaurant service, a tempting plate, several photographs of wine service, and an impressive itinerary featuring some of the “port highlights”).

It has a pretty good title too – Mediterranean Getaway: A Celebration of Wine, Food, and Travel – that encapsulates the image.

And, finally, there is a substantial discount for VIP Club members. Overall, it’s a well-crafted package. Despite the fact that I own two travel businesses that run tours and cruises I can never find time for, I am almost tempted to go on this one.

Why? Because of Dry Creek Vineyard’s good back-end marketing, based on these tenets:

  • Sell immediately.
  • Sell constantly.
  • But make sure each sale is consistent with the image established by the first sale.

Think about your own back-end marketing. Do you sell something to your new customers immediately after the first sale? Do you continue to keep selling them?

If not, you have an opportunity to dramatically increase your profits. But to do a good job of it, you have to follow a few rules:

  1. Put someone at your business in charge of establishing a personal relationship with your customers. (The owners of Dry Creek Vineyards have put themselves in that position.) Make sure all back-end communication comes from them.
  2. Strengthen this newly established personal relationship by communicating with your customers regularly via a newsletter or some other vehicle.
  3. Create some sort of VIP service so you will have a rationale to send well-heeled new customers high-priced offers.
  4. While maintaining your brand, make sure you have a good variety of products, packages, and prices to offer your customers. (In the case of Dry Creek Vineyards, they can sell ordinary wines, expensive wines, wine literature, membership in a wine-tasting club, etc.)
  5. To bolster your back-end offerings, look beyond the products and services you can produce yourself to joint ventures with other companies. (Dry Creek Vineyards was smart enough to hook up with an upscale cruise operator. Knowing what I know about the cruise business, I’d venture to say Dry Creek gets a considerable chunk of the $4,000 to $10,000 fee that each VIP Club member pays for a cruise ticket. That’s a lot of money for a business with an average sale that must be around $50.)

As we’ve said before in ETR, you need to have high-quality front-end products that attract new customers. But if you don’t develop a strong lineup of back-end offerings, you’ll have a hard (if not impossible) time keeping those customers you worked so hard to get.

[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]