Most craft makers have spent a lot of time securing distribution, but haven’t thought about what happens after signing the contract. Instead it’s often seen as the direct path to sales and something to celebrate. While we don’t disagree that securing distribution is a big win and deserves celebration, it doesn’t always lead to meaningful sales. Here are some of the most common alcohol distribution mistakes craft producers make after securing a distributor so you can work smarter and not harder when it comes to driving sales…
The Tendency To Get It And Forget It
You have secured a distributor and now your spirits are available on and/or off premise. Woohoo! Your work here is done, right? Wrong.
Securing distribution is great, but you need to turn that distribution into sales. It’s a common misconception that because your products are in the market they will start flying off the shelf. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Especially since consumers are more likely to pick up something that they have heard of before or is familiar so… big brands. Craft alcohol has grown and continues to grow every year. So it’s important you’re actively helping consumers become aware of you in order to make the most of distribution.
In fact, hit play on the visual below to see how much the maker (wine glass = all craft makers) to distributor (truck) ratio has changed over the last 30 years. To make matters worse, big booze brands have deep pockets. So, they’re able to incentivize distributors to pay much more attention to their accounts than smaller craft makers typically can.
According to ISWR Drinks Market Analysis “Despite the turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic, in 2020, craft spirits in the US registered a volume gain of close to +8%, while non-craft spirits volumes posted approximately +5% growth. This allowed the craft segment to achieve a 5% volume share of the total US spirits market, and a 7% value share”. This means there are so many more products for consumers to choose from. While distributors can get your products on shelf they are not always able or willing to promote every brand. It’s your job to work with your distributor and accounts to ensure you are getting the results you want. This means hosting events, educating account staff, doing on-location demos, and more.
Chasing A High Accounts Sold Metric
You might think if you have a lot of accounts carrying your brand (this is called a high accounts sold metric) you’ll get more sales but again… that is not necessarily the case. Like most things in life, more is not always better. Spreading yourself across too many accounts can cause increased energy, time, and money expenditures without a proportional increase in sales. You want a deep & thick distribution strategy, not a wide & thin one. Not only does this make better use of your limited resources, it also tends to deliver higher sales per account. Why? You’re focusing on a smaller number of curated accounts that really match your brand and target market!
This means you need to be strategic about which accounts you choose. And also think about how they fit in with your overall marketing plan.
So, start small, ensure there’s a true brand fit with that account, and slowly work your way up to more accounts. Do this by first putting in the work to make the accounts you currently have successful. What does putting in the work look like? Building relationships with high potential accounts. Because if they care about you and you make it clear that you care about them and their success, the rewards will be significant in both directions.
Ready To Learn How To Drive Sales With Distribution?
Our Craft Alcohol Marketing Bootcamp covers everything you need to know to to help you market your craft alcohol business. It covers everything from marketing 101, to tasting room traffic, to paid advertising, and more.
Plus, we have a course, “You Have Distribution, Now What?!” specifically created to help you drive results with distribution to help your brand grow.
Expecting Distributors To Educate & Market For You
While distributors are responsible for getting your products out there, they are not responsible for ensuring accounts are educated about your brand and products. It’s a hard truth to swallow, I know. Nor are they responsible for marketing your product. This is your brand and no one knows it better than you. So, it’s important you’re doing the work to bring it to life for all of your accounts.
You have to remember, distributors are spread way too thin in today’s world. Much more so than they used to be as we illustrated above. So, even if they promise to do amazing things for your brand the truth is they often can only handle the bare minimum. Which in the distribution game is storing and shipping your product. That’s it. And, honestly, many modern distributors don’t even do this anymore! They simply manage the legalities of the tree tier system for you. Then it’s up to you to get your product to each account.
Educating accounts yourself starts with your brand story. People connect with people and stories, not products. So, it’s important for you to make sure you have established your brand story. Communicate this clearly and effectively to those in a position to sell your brand. Put resources into telling accounts the story of your craft, what it means to you, why drinking local and craft is important, and what makes your brand unique. These will speak to them, be remembered, and ready to share with customers when the time is right.
Not Looking At Other Alcohol Distribution Options
Traditional alcohol distribution through bars, restaurants, and stores is a great place to start, but it is not your only option in this day and age. Over the last few years direct to consumer distribution is on the rise. With companies like Drizly, The Original Craft Beer Club, and Winc popping up everyday, you now have more options to distribute your craft tipples straight to their door. Be sure to check your state laws because this is not available in every state but if it is, this option could be a great for your craft alcohol business.
Whether you are just starting your craft alcohol business or already have distribution, make sure you don’t make these mistakes when trying to sell your products in the market!
Using Old School Methods In Today’s Modern World
Boots on the ground, stacks of business cards, on-site sales calls! Yes, those are all still important, but in today’s modern world there are much more effective ways to maximize results from your alcohol distribution.
For example, do you have a segment of your mailing list identified specifically for communicating to contacts who work at potential and existing accounts? Are these people even in your CRM? Do you have a CRM?
Whenever you have news to share with consumers, you should be sharing a more relevant and targeted version of that news with your existing and potential accounts too! You should also have a download on your website that walks potential accounts through your portfolio and brand story on demand with clear information on how to contact you to set up a tasting and secure your products. Some savvy craft makers even have entire landing pages for this that they run ads to, so well-targeted potential accounts find them on their own!
Speaking of ads—are you using Lead Gen ads on Facebook to identify and target potential accounts? Remember, the people who work at these accounts are people and on social media just like everyone else. And with Facebook’s ability to target by job title, location, interests, and more it’s never been easier to get in front of the right people digitally. Plus, with lead ads you can have them fill out a form to collect their information before they get access to a valuable download or tool so you can follow up with them via your mailing list, phone, or traditional sales calls as well.
There is a lot of technology out there today that can amp up your results from the distribution you already have and help you land the right potential accounts, so make sure to use it to your advantage! There are even great options out there to sell directly through your website using a 3rd-party online retailer behind the scenes. So make sure to be continually learning and innovating on your approaches to maximizing results from distribution.