+1 (425) 218-8602

Successful Strategies for Small Wineries Tackling Distribution

There are definitely challenges for wineries in the national market. Competition is fierce, and generational preferences are shifting rapidly. As a result, it’s becoming more difficult to get attention from distributors and the trade. Despite all of the obstacles, wineries can still be successful working collaboratively with their wholesale partners.

Most wineries believe that once they land a distributor, their work is done.  In most cases, their journey is just beginning.

Every winery needs a strong identity.
  • Distributors have hundreds (sometimes thousands) of brands. It is imperative that you have a great story, and one that differentiates you from the rest. It doesn’t have to be flashy, but it needs to be authentically you.
  • Your story needs to be delivered in a concise, engaging format. I once had a distributor owner ask me to describe why my brand is different and exciting in 90 seconds.  Not only do you need an elevator pitch, but you need it to be compelling and memorable.   
Don’t wear your tasting room goggles.
  • Always remember, tasting room visitors don’t need much convincing. They are at the winery, and they love every minute of the experience. Give them a few fun facts, and they are fans for life.
  • On the flip side, your distributor calls on accounts (restaurants and retail) that service consumers who have not drunk the Kool-Aid. In reality, most of their customers don’t know that much about your wines or your story.
  • It is imperative that you inspire your distributor in a way that makes them want to sell your wine and share your story with their accounts. They are the gatekeepers to the outside world. 
Every winery needs to be relevant and stay relevant.
  • Assuming you’ve inspired the sales team, you also need to inspire the boss. You need to prove that your wine will sell. If not, you need to let them know that you will collaborate with them and make sure that the relationship is mutually beneficial. Present yourself as a part of their team.
  • Wines need to be priced strategically, and expectations need to be clear.
  • Your distributor is running a business, and while they may like you and your wine, if your brand is “a tough sell” or you are deemed “high maintenance”, it becomes financially (and sometimes emotionally) draining.
  • It is imperative that you continually feed your distributor management team with tools and exciting news to help move your product.  Work the market, participate in collaborative discussions, celebrate wins, address challenges head on, hold yourself and your distributor accountable – be a partner.  

Consider hiring an expert to help you navigate through the three-tier system if it becomes too challenging. If you want to become a national brand, wholesale management is almost always a part of the puzzle that cannot be ignored.  Distributors are not the enemy. If you work hard and collaborate on all levels, everyone wins.

Leave a Comment!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *