Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Building a Foundation for the Distribution of New Beverages

When expanding your portfolio in the beverage distribution business, a distributor must understand and follow certain guidelines that affect the rollout of a new beverage line. I believe that additional groundwork, preparation, and sales presentation tailored locally for a new beverage introduction will pay considerable dividends in the establishment of new brands in your market. Many distributors assume the brand programming developed by the supplier will be automatically successful in their local market. Many times this is not the case. A one-size-fits-all approach will not always work. Exceptional distributors that build brands will take the brand programming and revise it with their local intricacies, pricing influences, and vernacular to help establish an enduring foundation for the brand.

An example: My company focused on initial Red Bull distribution in the on-premise on our own at our own expense, not only for its undeniable reputation as a mixer, but because all the support we received from Red Bull NA for the first year was product. We supplied the bars with personalized point of sale that we did in house and sampled it extensively. In fact, we didn’t even try to place it in the off-premise for the first two months. I firmly believe that a beverage consumed and asked for in social situations will translate to acceptance on a convenience store shelf and floor. I also believe that Red Bull has created a bureaucracy it doesn’t need. The brand’s mystique and distributor network should’ve been sufficient. An arrogant sales force will be its demise.

There are three parameters a beverage wholesaler should abide by when establishing a foundation for new product distribution:

1.Product and Supplier Knowledge. Extensive research must be conducted on the product and supplier by the distributor. Know every ingredient. Have a list of benefits, nutritional information, and product specifications. Know company contacts, advertising slogans, and all of its uses. Its imperative to know what the supplier’s mission is, what it stands for, and its beliefs. Due diligence is an absolute must before you sign the contract.

2.Local Geographic Brand Programming. You will always receive a new brand or package introduction sales presentation from a supplier. If you don’t, be worried. Anyway, once you get this ask your supplier representative to help you tailor it to your local market, if he doesn’t ask you first. Always ask for extra funding for incentives. When building your local programming, build it in language your sales force will understand and give them the tools they need for the rollout to be successful. Train them extensively. Have signage already produced, sufficient inventory of glide racks and ice bins, street sheets printed and ready to go, plenty of product, iced down samples, straightforward objectives that are not overcomplicated and confusing, and an attainable incentive that creates excitement. Try to design and convey to your sales force the exact message and look you want to see in every account. Make your employees compete…track sales, distribution, and display execution. A cookie cutter approach that designates the slightest details in the introduction is the optimum tool for a successful product rollout.

3.Convince the Retailer Beforehand. People love to buy and shop, but they hate to be sold. I am a salesman, but I hate to be sold something. I can’t stand a cold call. I want my retailers to be convinced that they need my products. I want my customers to shop from me. I want my products to be the retailer’s idea. I want my retailers to be creative with my products. A soft sell where the retailer is convinced in the product’s benefits and contributions to his own business is wonderful. Start a campaign a month before the rollout. Gain placement of teaser point of sale. Give away samples and merchandise. Talk to your customers early and tell them what you need for the brand to be a success. Make people want and ask for the product before the introduction.

Following these three brand programming guidelines for beverage distributors when introducing new beverage products will help you in building an informed and knowledgeable sales force, retailer and customer satisfaction, and trust and dependence from your suppliers.

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