Distribution is the heartbeat of any growing business. In the case of a distillery you have some unique business challenges that most businesses don’t. In most states, visitors to your distillery can get a sample of your spirits but often not much more than a thimble full. And, let’s hope they like to drink your spirits straight because most states don’t allow for mixed drinks. The real enthusiast in the group might like it straight but most people don’t drink their spirits straight.
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Now they’ve tasted your spirit and want to buy a bottle of clear and a bottle that’s been aged four years. Depending on your state, you have to explain they have to go to the local liquor store to buy a bottle or they are limited to one bottle per visitor every 12 months – which one bottle would you like? Great customer experience right?
What’s really going to make your brand grow, is your relationship with a distributor or reseller.
Distribution is essential to distillery brand growth. Distributors generate revenue streams for suppliers of all sizes. It eats freight, staffing, collateral costs and more. But when distilleries fail to properly manage their distributor partnerships, things can become a bit wishy-washy. Here are a few tips on how to manage these relationships.
A lot of suppliers think distributors want volume. Realistically, it’s sustainable inventory they want. Retail stores are in the business of keeping spirits stocked. So before distributors consider adding you to their supplier portfolio, they need to know that you will fulfill purchase orders. Too small? Then create a non-allocated policy and grow slowly. At least this way you can protect the relationships you have, establish a hell of a reputation and keep your brand from falling short of demands.
Making false promises will break you in any industry. People want to know that you have what it takes to follow through. If you’re indecisive, then make distributors part of the process when establishing priorities and goals. Be clear, concise and upfront about what you want. When plans change, and they will, notify them immediately. No one likes to be left in the dark.
Larger distribution equals economic efficiency. However, if you rely on distributor sales reps to get your message accurate, then you may be in for a rude awakening. You are the expert of your own brand. Always act like it. In order to be taken seriously, maintain account presence as much as possible. Not only does it make accounts feel special and build loyalty, but it also helps develop stronger partnerships with distributors.
Always remember that distribution companies have an abundance of daily supplier requests. Your relationship with them must prove mutually beneficial, and if you are a pain to deal with, then you will lose business.