On the first day of any salesperson’s training they are taught to ask for a referral. If you’ve just bought a new TV, they ask if you know anyone else who would like to enjoy the big game on a big screen. If you’ve just purchased a new car, they ask if any of your friends or family would like to obtain an equally good deal. Surprisingly, very few email marketers ever bother to ask for a referral as part of their winery newsletter campaigns, and that’s a considerable failing that is costing you case sales!

Ask for the Referral

There are countless ways that you can weave a referral request into your email messages, and they’re limited only by your imagination:

  • Don’t let a single newsletter be issued without asking your readers if they would like to refer other wine lovers
  • Adopt the same practice in your blogging
  • Send a followup email a week after checkout to express that you appreciate their business as much as they’re appreciating your fine wine and ask for a referral
  • Do the same on the annual anniversary date, or incorporate it into the discount offer you’re proposing on the customer’s birthday
  • Place a referral request in the confirmation email you send out upon checkout
  • Integrate the referral request in the confirmation to a new subscriber

It’s All in the Phrasing

The way you phrase your referral request will have a powerful impact on the adoption rate:

Ask for a concrete number of referrals – “Let your friends know about our wines” is not as effective as “tell three of your friends about our wines.”

Suggest the best referral candidates – “All your friends” is weaker than “the people you know who are fine wine connoisseurs like you.”

Categorize your wines for referral – “Everybody loves our wines” falls short of “your wine cognoscenti friends would appreciate the fine damp forest floor aromas of our Pinot Noir, while our Merlot is a great introductory wine for the younger set.”

Be Creative!

Referral requests require a clarity of purpose and a skill in composition that should be matched in your email campaign only by the subject line and the preheader. Creativity is key when drafting a referral request:

  • Can the referral request come directly from your vintner or the founder of the winery?
  • Have you designed the images and overall layout to be pleasant, yet elegant?
  • Is there a positive current event or industry development that you can tie into which might motivate your subscriber to carry through with the referral?
  • Can you provide testimonials from previous satisfied referred customers?


You also might be able to commingle qualities of your wine with the request for a referral, such as:

  • Would your wine loving friends be mistaken in thinking our Southern California Sangiovese and Tempranillo were actually imported from Malta or Sicily?
  • Our Cabernet Sauvignon is redolent of black cherry, raspberry and chocolate tones, but would your connoisseur friends be able to discern the tobacco and cedar notes?
  • Your friends would rave about our Chardonnay which is produced in soils that have had specific minerals worked in, to duplicate the flavors unique to Burgundy.

Answer WIIFM

You’ll have to tread the fine line between becoming too insistent and providing your customer with ample opportunities to refer your wonderful wines to their social circles. Of course, you have to answer the time honored question of WIIFM: What’s In It For Me? Referring their friends to enjoy the same wine they love can give your subscriber a warm and fuzzy feeling inside, but experienced winery email marketers will tell you that the best way to motivate a customer is to provide a valid incentive. Over and above generous discounts, you may also want to offer:

  • Seasonal gifting of bottles or cases
  • Access to a VIP gift catalogue of wine accessories
  • Gift baskets of wine and fine local cheeses
  • Two for Ones
  • Complimentary annual subscription to your Wine Club
  • Free shipping

Referrals are the beginnings for word of mouth, and that’s the best advertising available anywhere. So why aren’t you asking?