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How Breweries Can Get USA Distribution

Insights from Sid Patel, CEO, and Founder of Beverage Trade Network and USA Trade Tasting on How Breweries Can Get US Distribution

Are planning your next meeting with your US distributor? 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 into 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 amount 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 product's 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.

About London Beer Competition

The London Beer Competition is being launched to identify and reward those brands and products that consumers actually want to buy, rather than simply recognize good quality beer for their beermaking ability alone. To be a real success a beer brand has to be bought by consumers, be it on a supermarket shelf or a restaurant or bar's list. The London Beer Competition will single out and highlight the beer brands on sale in the UK and International markets that are truly commercially successful. Read more about how it works here.

Get product feedback, score breakdown professional tasting notes from trade buyers. Time to enter.

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