Building Distributor Confidence through Branding
Written by Ian Palm, Craft Brand Agency Founder, Brandpetite.
Congratulations! You’ve worked hard to build your distillery or secure a private label supplier to produce your final product. Now you need a distributor.
There are two primary types of distributors you can work with. Your first option is selecting a smaller partner with a niche for craft spirits. They’ll likely have more time to be attentive to your brand which can be a huge plus in a competitive marketplace; however, you should also be aware that smaller distributors may only have access to a handful of the connections needed to be successful with on-trade markets and retailers.
Alternatively, you can try and negotiate with a larger, better recognized distributor in order to get wider coverage. The benefits may be a faster order turnaround and greater visibility at industry events — such as the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) Convention. Eventually, these partnerships can also help you push into new states; but of course, there are always risks. The downfall with this option is that sales reps tend to focus on products with existing demand instead of pursuing new innovations.
Regardless of who you choose to partner with, whether it’s a new distributor, importer, sampling team, or travel retail agency, earning their trust — and getting them excited about promoting your product — is going to be a key to your success. This requires a firm understanding of your value proposition.
One way to build distributor confidence is by maximizing your value through branding and marketing that support your partners as they generate sales. In my breadth of experience engaging across distribution networks, I’ve discovered that this requires a combination of having your own team presence on the ground, as well as ensuring all are armed with the appropriate branding and marketing assets. In other words, when you finally decide you’re ready to get started, make sure you’ve got what you need to be successful.
Distributor Meeting Checklist
First impressions are important to setting the tone of any relationship. To earn partner conviction and buy in, you should have as much material as possible prepared for the first meeting with your distributor.
Not only will these checklist items help you be successful as a business and a brand, but they will also assist you in developing positive and productive relationships with all of your business partners.
1. Branding Assets
Have a brand design with memorable, purposeful, and authentic logos and typefaces. For added coverage and assurance, be sure to ask your agency for copyrights to the artwork, confirming in writing if they are providing any stock images or texts.
You’ll also want to include a 10- to 15-page brand manual that outlines the rules for promoting your product. Being prepared with these assets will show your partner that you are also in the right head space for establishing a serious distribution plan supported by a solid brand identity.
2. Marketing Assets
Supply a digital asset folder housing the logo, font, and campaigns your distributor can use to promote your brand and products.
Campaigns should include a cocktail list and drink photos that they can publish throughout the year on social media and for other promotional purposes. For a start, it’s also a good idea to provide at least two digital creative campaigns, like video ads or static vertical/horizontal banner ads.
Speaking of the digital, it’s going to be in your best interest to have a website ready. This is an easy way to showcase your distillery’s story, a brand newsletter, contacts, cocktail list, and other relevant announcements and information.
Essentially, what you accomplish here is equipping your distributor with the tools they’ll need to be a lucrative partner for you as they endorse your brand to their network. It also helps you establish an industry presence that will help expose your products to more consumers.
3. Product Portfolio
Provide your portfolio of products with clearly communicated and easily understandable packaging. This one sounds pretty straightforward, but you’ll need to reflect critically here — both on your individual product assets and your portfolio as a whole.
Consider how responsive your packaging is to your brand and to each product. Does it reflect the taste or appeal of the product? Of the brand? Is it consistent with where and how it’s made? Does the appearance justify your pricing? How cohesive is your product portfolio, overall? Having a thoughtfully designed brand with a sensible portfolio of products will demonstrate your competence as a business owner and brand developer.
Finally, it will help to include a single-page sales sheet to cover the basics concerning your distillery, products, and contact details.
Smart Spirits Branding for Craft Distillers
As a craft distillery, it can be difficult to juggle the demands of building a brand on top of everything else. That’s why you might consider working with an experienced branding partner who can help you develop and manage your marketing assets.
Brandpetite, LLC, is a Miami-based company that has built an arsenal of brand collateral at reasonable rates for craft distillers to increase product demand. Brandpetite specializes in communicating the vision of entrepreneurial distillers — such as those that come through the doors of Moonshine University and Flavorman — and our mission is focused on growing the craft spirits movement.
Brandpetite was founded by drawing inspiration from our roots of once owning a family distillery in Santa Cruz, Cuba, lost through nationalization during the revolution of 1960. Since then, we’ve gone on to design brands from Norway to North America, streamline packaging procurement, conduct cocktail photo shoots, create interactive websites, and build sales tools to blend trailblazer spirits with an archive of evergreen sales and marketing tools.
The best part? Our services don’t require a giant marketing budget. Because we cater to craft distillers, we offer competitive, affordable pricing and can provide a complete toolkit for you within 2 months.