Artisan Spirit: Summer 2015

Page 43

DISTRIBUTION ELOCUTION WRITTEN BY STEVEN SEIM

In February at the annual ACSA conference there were several panels meant to highlight helpful information for distilleries on dealing with distribution. Artisan Spirit was there to sift through it all and report some of the most important advice. This article is meant to guide and prepare you for meeting with and deciding on the right distributor which can help you grow at the pace you desire, and to help you make the most of a partnership which should benefit you both.

FIND YOUR MATCH One of the big questions on the table is: “Which distributor do

want to drink local, even sometimes unconsciously, and even

we work with?” In order to get the scoop on who works best with

if a product is actually lesser quality. Distributors may look to

retailers and restaurants, distilleries should talk to them directly.

see if you’ve made headway in the easier home market before

If you hear several retailers mention the same distributor, they’re

deciding on a partnership. Moreover, distilleries should know

probably worth approaching. Especially locally, finding out who

that a successful home turf sales strategy may be harder to

is good at getting their stuff on shelves and who everyone likes

execute in other cities. When showing a distributor plans for

working with will give you a leg up.

growing in other markets, make sure you’ve factored in more

When communicating with potential distributors, make sure you have a marketing plan ready. Presenting your goals,

than what worked locally. Perhaps most important is making sure you get along with the

strategies, and production plans will help any distributor give

people who will be distributing your product. Most successful

you accurate information about how they can help achieve those

distilleries have recognized that they are in the relationship

goals. Inventory forecasting is also important for the distributor

business. If your contacts aren’t people you are friendly with, a

to know that they won’t get stuck with too much product, or not

successful partnership will be harder. Sales reps and managers

enough. One panelist said it is helpful for a distillery to plan

that like you might push your brand more. Think of it like

months in advance when interviewing distributors (like getting

this: you are struggling for mindshare with the employees of

your UPC code certified). Understanding retail tiers, product

a distributor just like you are struggling for mindshare in the

positioning and your expected pricing will make conversations

consumer market.

easier. Finally, your knowledge of local laws is crucial. Knowing what distributors are allowed to do for you can ensure them that working with your distillery won’t be a waste of their time.

WORK ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP

One of the biggest advantages a distillery has is selling in their

A productive ongoing relationship with your chosen distributor

home city. It was repeated across most panels that consumers

will help grow both businesses. So what did the representatives

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