The concept of having a cult following is beyond intriguing to me. The ability to have people ‘crowd’ around your brand whether it be a service, product, or a person is what anybody would desire to have. Using the term ‘cult’ is not a negative in my mind; it simply is a fantastic word to describe the loyalty and ‘I belong’ mentality. We can bring up big brand names or certain individuals that have a large dedicated following but I like the example that I’m about to give due to the fact that not everyone knows about it.
In our local area there is a winery, Tobin James Cellars, that potentially has the largest wine club in America at 22,000 people ( http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2010/11/18/1375451/biz-buzz-interest-in-wine-club.html this article gives the number of 22,000 people via a co-owner of the winery). I say potentially because there is evidently nothing that tracks this accurately enough. My point being, this winery in the sleepy town of Paso Robles has, by any standard, a massive loyal following; how? After having been in there numerous times, having been to their last industry party they had, as well as having been a wine club member before; I can tell you that the three owners simply understand the value of their staff and more importantly, their customers.
It is actually astonishing at how well they get it versus everyone else. They make their following feel like part of the family through events, the great gifts they put in with each wine shipment, the atmosphere in the tasting room, and cruises they put on every year for wine club members, and something as simple as the wine club name: The James Gang. Tobin ‘Toby’ James is out there all the time with the employees and the customers chatting it up, hanging out like one of the guys. It doesn’t hurt a bit that Toby’s reputation for partying right alongside his 22,000 closest friends is, well, legendary. Every single time we’ve been in there we feel like its New Year’s Eve and there is something to celebrate.
Every one of us, whether we’re selling a service, a product, or our brand can take lessons from the crew at Tobin James Cellars. I’ve been talking to my wife about this for years, and it always amazes me how difficult the gurus and experts make it. Although, if they didn’t make it sound difficult, they would not make any money selling you their products which supposedly help make it easier. You need to have the product, whatever that may be; then you need to be able to engage, listen, relate, create a feeling, follow up and follow through, and make people feel that they are a piece of something wonderful. Behind it all, you have to believe these things, you have to believe in the people, in the creation, in the journey…because people feel that from the inside out.
My wife and I have a wine blog, here is a link to the post we did about the Tobin James Cellars industry party, three videos and some written content. http://www.hootnannieblog.com/?p=205