<#031> From rejected to in-demand: a 5-step system to get your drinks brand listed by wholesalers

<#031> From rejected to in-demand: a 5-step system to get your drinks brand listed by wholesalers
Photo by Mika Baumeister / Unsplash

In today’s issue, I’ll share my 5-step system to crack wholesalers' rejections for your brand.

By adopting this process, you’ll focus on the right steps to raise attention. You’ll likely increase your strike rate in the right outlets and land a deal with the right distributor.

Unfortunately, most people lack a pragmatic system. They are getting rejected by distributors as they can't show proof of concept for their brand.

Months ago, I wrote a guide addressing this issue. The guide ended with a series of steps. In this article, I will go into it step by step. Let's dive in.

By now, you probably know my love for a bottom-up approach, but let's clarify what I mean:
- top-down: you push the brand, enter via an importer, and ask them to buy and resell your product.
- bottom-up: the market pulls the brand, meaning that you start from the bars in which there's demand for your brand, and you build your route-to-market backward from the glass.

Usually, brands enter a market with an importer, but the brand gets stuck in its warehouse. That is the first underestimated challenge. Brands think the job is done once they appoint an importer, and pallets will start flowing. They assume they will sell to bars, so they ask them to get listed as the best outlets in town.

They often fail because it's not about the best bars but the best ones for your brand.

Most often, importers have small field teams and must re-sell brands again to wholesalers with field teams.

The thing is that it's very tough to get listed by wholesalers because they already have many brands in the same category in their offering. They want to see some effort from brands before taking them on board. They want at least one of these efforts:

  • Boots on the ground: they want to know that there is a person actively selling the brand to bars
  • A&P (Advertising and Promotion) budget to support brand-building efforts and rotation to afford a dedicated person in that city
How to understand the right bar for your brand:

Target Occasion: how does your core occasion fit with theirs? If your occasion is a "shot," a fine dining venue won't be right for you, even if it's on all the guides as the best place in town.

Commercial Proposition: what's your purpose, and what values does your brand represent? How would you translate your brand positioning into three types of outlets? Those are the outlets where your brand would ideally fit its drinks range.

Let's now focus on changing the approach and working bottom-up. How can you change things and get unstuck? Following the check-list from Newsletter Issue #015 (read this before) let's dive deep into each step:

1. Understand the right bar for your brand in the new city

Focus on your occasion and list the bars that focus on it.  Is your brand perfect for an aperitif, a light meal? An after-dinner? Best neat or in cocktails? Etc. Try to be specific; you can then grow it from within. Understand which outlets focus on that occasion and prioritize how to approach them.

2. Soft-sell your brand. Understand if there is an interest in it

Once you have identified those venues, approach them and understand if there is an interest. Explain what your brand is about from a liquid, occasion and proposition perspective and try to get a pre-order. Would they be interested in buying a bottle if you can get it to them?

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