NEVER ENDING CAMPAIGN FOR RELEVANCE WRITTEN BY JEANNE RUNKLE
Keeping your distillery doors open isn’t just about selling that first, or even second, bottle—it’s about creating fans. You’re hard at work every day— sweating at your still, using up shoe leather going account to account and educating mixologists and managers on your product. It seems to be an uphill battle, creating
may seem a bit daunting. Or a lot daunting. As I’ve been
the country talking with people from all sides of the industry, here are the recurring themes and ideas I encounter about today’s craft distilling. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
WHERE WE ARE GET YOUR PRODUCT OUT THERE. The elephant in the room that most people actually will talk about is distribution. It’s difficult to get a large distributor to care about your brand. If the distributor reps aren’t pushing your product, you’re the one left calling on accounts. It’s easy to spread yourself too thin; so before you hit the road on a 12 state sales trip, make sure you’ve covered your home turf. Do your research and find the hot spots that fit with your brand so you don’t waste valuable time. PEOPLE LOVE PEOPLE. Don’t forget the bar managers, either. They’ll be the ones to place the order when the bottles are empty, so they need to remember your brand. Make sure you’re memorable in a positive way—no bottles with things floating in them (unless that’s intentional and you can explain it), no poorly written marketing materials. Your first visit may be your last if you don’t pay attention to the details.
TASTE IS EVERYTHING. You’ve done it. Signed the lease, received your permits, and built your still. And while you’re excited, the bills are looming large. There’s temptation to hurry things along to get a bottle on the shelf, but there’s no substitute for flavor and quality. Malahat Spirits in San Diego makes their spiced rum with vanilla beans that are split by hand. When I asked one of their founders, Ken Lee, how that would scale, he said, “We’ll just hire more people! I won’t sacrifice the integrity of our spirits.” If you need to cut expenses, find another area—taste is what will sell your second bottle (and hopefully many more). YOU ARE YOUR BRAND. Denis Lynch, General Manager of Vine & Table, Indianapolis’s premier fine wine and liquor store, summed it up perfectly: “The men and women that are doing it right are doing it for the love of the spirit. It’s not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme, it’s about doing what you love.” Make sure that shows in clear, consistent messaging and branding. You’re not just selling your whiskey/gin/rum, you’re selling your passion. 109
The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.