The drinks industry is a relationship business. We know it, we live it and that’s why it attracts so many new entrants every day. At the same time, we all know that it is also one of the issues in our industry. The informality of our business makes us think that everyone is a friend of a friend. We tend to overestimate the power of relationships. Who has not had a bad experience with getting paid by a friend of a friend? Who hasn’t been waiting for a reply from that friend of a friend with a bar?
Relationships are important, but they hit a glass ceiling. You must support them with clear expectations between the parties.
We all love our industry but we are also here to make a profit
If bar owners listed all the friends' brands, they would need to have 3 back bars and 10 drinks menus.
The same applies to distributors. They can’t list all their friends’ brands in their portfolios. Well, they could but many of those cases would collect dust in their warehouse. Not good.
It's a simple equation. Distributors hate dusty cases at least as much as bar owners hate dusty bottles.
They take space ⇒ money. They hold capital ⇒ money.
Relationships are important, but they are often not enough to move bottles. Relevance = Movement. In-person, it's easy to get a smile and a handshake agreeing to sell more of your brand. Reality hits when you leave. Whether you leave their bar or have a quarterly review meeting with your distributor. It's when you go back to the airport that you understand how relevant your brand is in that market.
If you are not relevant to distributors and customers, you’re a dusty bottle.
The moment your brand is born, it needs to move. Everyone wants to get rid of it, the distillery, the importer, the distributor, etc.
Relevance is what makes you move to the next link in the value chain. You can collect dust on a distillery floor, in a distributor’s warehouse, in a restaurant cellar, or in a home bar.
• Only the links in the chain you are relevant for help your brand rotate.
• The more it rotates, the more people will want to work with you.
Easier said than done, right? Let me help you clarify how to fix it. There are 3 levels at which you can be relevant. You should aim at all 3 to win in the market:
Tip #1: Emotional relevance. Distributors and customers love your brand only because of the relationship you established. The challenge here is you often rely only on some individuals. Their seniority doesn't matter. It can be a distributor or bar owner, a bartender, or a sales rep. If that love is not translated into real targets and brought to the rest of the team as KPIs, it's ephemeral. When that person is gone, you are back at square one. Even worse, a new cool kid in the block will come and overshadow your brand.