Tips on Getting a US Distributor

Tips on Getting a US Distributor

Tips on Getting a US DistributorGetting a US distributor for your wine can be a difficult process.  The market is steadily growing, your brand is new to the marketplace and distributors are being offered thousands of new products every year.  So, how can you create a winning pitch and make sure your brand stands out against the competition?

Understand the distribution system

The US alcoholic beverage market is regulated by the three tier system and knowing how to manage your brand in each tier is very important when you are looking to get new distribution partners. From boutique importers to multi-state, national distributors – every entity you talk with will present distinct benefits and drawbacks for your company’s profile and it is important to understand that they will all want to hear a pitch that is customized to the way their business works.

What’s in it for them?

As much as fancy packaging and a quality product will help you sell your wines, the question you have to ask yourself before you start communicating with a distributor is: “How can I show them that my product will make them money?”

US distributors expect a margin of 20% to 40% and so will your importers and retailers.  Make sure you’ve priced your product in such a way that everyone can take their cut, while also getting your product onto the shelf at your target price. Even if you have the best tasting product in the most innovative packaging, distributors won’t add it to their portfolio if they can’t make money selling it.

Perfect your sales pitch

Every distribution company is different, but almost all distributors want a streamlined approach to the regular problems they face. It’s your job to customize your services so that you can guarantee a successful brand launch, including: making sure your marketing budget is directed at servicing depletion rates at the retail level; ensuring you offer high margins; social media programs; trade event participation; customized packaging; awards and reviews you can use for promotions; or being able to offer a dedicated sales team who will hit the road running.

If you’ve done your research and understand your potential distribution partners then you should be able to craft a pitch that caters to their exact needs.

Here is what you should know about your potential partners before you call on them: when do they typically source new brands? For example, in the high-sales period of October-November-December, you probably won’t even get a response from them. How does their supply chain work? What’s the typical turn-over rates? When and how do they pay? What support programs do they expect from you? What incentive packages do they expect from you? What is the average price of similar products in their portfolio? When do they review the brands in their portfolio? What are their biggest accounts and highest volume markets?  Gather all the information you can – even personal facts, like the favourite drinks and sports teams of the company’s buyer.

Networking is key

It can seem like an overwhelming amount of work just preparing to do business in the US, which is why it’s important to speak with as many people as you possibly can. Take part in trade events, speak with brand reps, hire brand ambassadors, get consultants on board and always make sure you are in touch with current trends and data.

Tips on Getting a US Distributor

Sid Patel,
CEO and founder, Beverage Trade Network, which organises the USA Trade Tasting.

USA Trade Tasting is an annual specialist trade tasting and business conference helping boutique wineries, craft breweries, and distilleries connect with importers, distributors, and retailers. Learn more about USATT 17 and how you can get involved here.