In today’s issue, I’ll talk about the importance of giving clear guidance to distributors to understand where to sell your brand.

By being clearer, you’ll likely increase your strike rate in the right outlets, and your distributor will see you as adding value instead of just asking to sell more.

Unfortunately, most brand owners think that "clearer" = 100 pages on PowerPoint and end up being uselessly analytical.

Brand Owner - Distributor dynamics are always fascinating to me. For many years I represented brand owners. They were some of the biggest drinks companies in the world, and when I was trying to learn from internal best practices, they were always cocky. Representing a large company, distributors and on-trade customers had to listen to you.

That's what I thought until I realized I had a problem. I was working for newly established global brands. In the export department, the brands were only significant in the home market and a handful of others. In the countries I was selling it, nobody knew them. I could not rely on an army of salespeople. Distributors had a handful of them.

Those internal practices were useless because I didn't have the muscle that my brands had in those countries.  Did I mention I had a tiny marketing budget, too?

So I started developing my way of building brands from the bottom up, working the same way as craft brands.

After working with 30+ markets worldwide and talking with as many distributors, I realized that most brand owners work top-down. They do so mainly in two ways:

1) A basic way of working that has not changed since last century: the brand owner signs a deal, sets ambitious targets, and beats the distributor every month for not reaching them.

2) A more sophisticated way that some others use is what I call "the wanna-be bottom-up": they give directions to local distributors on where they should sell their product, but they still do it top-down, without "boots on the ground."

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