As you are planning your next meeting with your distributors, be sure to go over your checklist and do a thorough review of your accounts. Every meeting counts and making the most of them means knowing what they are looking for. Do everything you can to make your beverage as desirable as possible and project confidence in your product's ability to succeed (or continue to succeed) in your target markets. Here are a few 'must-know' tips to help get your products into the portfolios that matter most:
1. Use referrals
When contacting distributors for the first time--if you can't get a referral, use a success story - distributors love to bet on "winners!"
2. Good strategic fit/explore niches
While the brand owner may think you have the greatest opportunity for success, the distributor may not see the strategic fit. Try to find a niche that is not covered by the distributor's current portfolio.
3. Brands need to "be wanted"
Distributors will work harder and do a better job if they "want you," rather than you "wanting them."
4. Try to be "first in"
If you are the 3rd Argentine Wine or the 4th Vodka, your chance of success in that house is far less than being first.
5. Build your brand within a Network
Selecting a beer house (A-B or M-C) for new wine & spirits and/or selecting a wine & spirits house for new craft beers (Wirtz or Glazers) can lead to better results due to FOCUS, time, energy and share-of-mind.
6. Self-distribution is an option
If you can't find a distributor who will work your brand, then consider doing it yourself.
7. Work your brand once you've landed
Just shipping the brand to the warehouse does not guarantee success. With so many brands in any given house, you need to work every market with the sales force--once per quarter is a minimum visit. In core markets, once per month is a good visit schedule. Make sure you get to retail--don't spend your entire time in the office--sales are generated on the street.
8. Product quality is paramount to your brand's success
If your product quality is inconsistent, the consumer will tell you and your hard work of gaining distribution will be for naught. Get it right the first time, especially with the number of new craft brewers, wineries and craft spirits companies coming out with new products.
9. Keep the brand moving at retail
Develop marketing and sales promotion programs that directly impact the product and assist the sales force in gaining distribution. These can be price discounts, refunds/IRC's, display enhancers, advertising/social media, on package promotions, continuity programs, sales/trip incentives and consumer value-added promotions (where legal).
10. Use all communication vehicles available
Email is good, but a phone call can be better because it's more personal. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and websites are all vehicles that should be considered for communications.
11. Protect your brand
It is your #1 asset besides your time. If you run into a roadblock with your current distributor, you need to review your options. It's always good to be friendly with your competitor on the street; you never know when you have to interview them for your brand.
12. Use a Distributor Appointment Agreement/Contract With Appointed Territories
It protects both the brand owner and the distributor in the event there are irreconcilable differences.
13. Develop an annual market plan/budget that is aligned with an annual sales forecast
This is a good starting point for both you and the distributor. It outlines both of your annual commitment to any given brand--it also can be reviewed and updated quarterly or semi-annually.
14. Listen to the market
Most good ideas come from distributor sales personnel, retailers, consumers and brand champions--persons who act as your brand ambassadors when you're not in that market.
15. Thank your distributor for their business
They work hard for your brand all year--don't just thank them at Christmas time--do it regularly. Hand-written notes are read and posted in the sales room. Try to make a sales meeting and personally thank the guys/gals on the front line.
Take advantage of these tips when you are planning your next sales meeting. You want your distributors to be confident in you and your beverages – so take every opportunity to optimize your sales pitch. Look at your products strengths, understand your target markets, develop strong marketing, offer support programs and give your distributors ample incentive to promote your brand. As you see your distribution steadily growing you will know that it was worth the extra effort.