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Due to the three-tier system of alcohol distribution in the US, there’s absolutely no way you can take your beer to a supermarket and stack it on their shelves. Okay, that was a bit too much wasn’t it? What we mean is, there’s no way to skip the ‘distributor’ step in the three-tier system. It’s a pretty simple looking system - supplier/producer; distributor; the retailer. That’s how it has been going since the repeal of prohibition, and we don’t think there’s going to be a change to that anytime soon.
So before your beer ends up on the racks of retail chains, or on the shelves of a gas station, or in bars and restaurants, it needs to be added to a distributor’s portfolio, because in the end, it’s the distributor who has to go ahead and get your beer into your accounts.
Keep in mind, that the beer market in the US is a large one - and with everyone wanting to get into the US market, distributors get prospects not only from the US but from across the globe as well. This makes grabbing a spot in a distributor’s portfolio a little harder than it used to be.
Once you pick the right distributor for your beer, the next step is to think about how to get added to that distributor’s portfolio.
The first thing you need to do is prepare a solid pitch for the distributor. Remember, when you first meet with the distributor - you’re going to have to show them passion in your work. They’re going to want to see your vision and what you want out of the deal.
When pitching to a distributor, make sure you have everything they would want to know. Distributors like to be assured that your product is going to sell, so before pitching, try to get intents from retailers or other accounts that they would be interested in selling your product. This way, the distributor will be assured that your product is selling.
In your pitch, you should make sure that you have a branded case. A branded case will show the distributor that you’re organized, and they will know that if your case is in the warehouse, it will be easy to spot. For example, if you have a case marked yellow and a key sheet which says yellow is a lager, red is stout, and so on, the distributor is happy.
For both distributors and retailers, it’s much easier if you have a standard price for your products. For example, when a retailer is entering a new SKU, they want everything as simple as possible. Say, $6.99 for a lager, $6.99 stout and so on. A standard price keeps the retailer and distributor happy. This will make them want your product as they wouldn’t have to do much thinking or calculations themselves and it won’t create any friction. Distributors want people who make their jobs easier, and standard pricing is one of the best ways to make the distributor’s job easier.
Once you’re done pitching to your distributor and your meeting is wrapped up, make sure to send across samples of your beer to them.
Along with the sample, add an evaluation form and your marketing materials (which you would have already pitched to them, but it’s always an added bonus to go through it once again while tasting the beer).
Tip: Your marketing materials should include the following
Click here to get technical evaluation for your Beer bottle.
Once you’re in touch with the distributor, you need to build a relationship with them. Take them out for lunch, or for a drink. Connect with them on mutual likes, share your passion about the business with them.
Distributors love people who are willing to sell their own product, and the days, distributors are always looking for suppliers who are all in. And frankly,, who would be better at selling your product than yourself.
Assure the distributor that you will be there throughout the year to help with everything needed. This could include coming up with new deals for festivals and holidays, being present for deliveries and stocks, being there when a new account is being set up, and always being available for the distributor. Once the distributor sees you’re all in, and you’re making the job easier for them - then there’s no way they will deny adding your beer to their portfolio.
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This might be something you’ve heard over and over again, but building relationships with the sales personnel are very important. The sales personnel are the heart of the distributor. There are many ways in which you can build relationships with the sales personnel. Some of them being, sending Christmas cards, or the occasional extra pack of beer just for them, or a simple thank you.
The next time you want to get your beer on a distributor’s portfolio, don’t forget this.