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RightEyeBrewing
11-01-2013, 05:54 PM
Those of you that are self distributing, what are your strategies for getting your beers into the market? Are you sending out "sample kegs"? Just walking into restaurant and bars trying to sell your product unseen? We are still in the start up phase, and have secured a couple of accounts once we get our licensing. And just curious as to how the rest of you do it.

Thanks
Andy

einhorn
11-01-2013, 08:18 PM
"Sample kegs" are illegal in CA. Just sayin'.

You can drop off samples, invite on-premise owners to your taproom or sometimes word-of-mouth can suffice if you are making decent (and requested by customers) beers. Remember that draft sales are tough - the BMC guys are everywhere with their house brands and craft brands, and have a lot lot of power of persuasion. Wink wink.

callmetim
11-02-2013, 07:33 AM
First make exceptional beer that stands out from other comparables. Next go to the best place - keg and/or bottle and take some bottled samples. I generally call ahead and ask who is the person who does their beer buying. If you can get in at the best place the others will follow. We have about 40 accounts so not a ton but there are only 2 of us so that's a good number right now. over half of our accounts called us because either their customers requested it or the owners had it at another place.

However, keep in mind that we are not peddling a blond or amber. if you make something like that you will need a totally different strategy. Hard sell, aggressive, neon signs, glassware give away and other promotional stuff to get you notices and honestly the places that I want to be in don't really go for that. Wisconsin has very little pay to play. I've never had an overt cases of asking for anything but after a while you can tell what's going on. We have no interest in places like that either. as far as the BMC guys they have actually referred some of their customers to us even though they get nothing out of it. I don't know if we'll self-distribute forever but its a great way to learn the business, bond with your accounts and sell yourself as well as the brewery.

oh an done other tip, get to know the bartenders on a first name basis. they are your direct contact with customers and they will hand sell your product.

RightEyeBrewing
11-02-2013, 09:32 AM
Thanks for the insite. I'm not much of salesman. But talking to people doesn't seem to be a hard thing for me to do.

nateo
11-02-2013, 05:39 PM
Thanks for the insite. I'm not much of salesman. But talking to people doesn't seem to be a hard thing for me to do.

I used to work in sales. The trick, IMO, is to listen. Find a need and fill it. Talk to potential customers about what they want and why. If your beer fits their vision, sell it to them. The last thing you want to do is sell your beer to someone who doesn't really want it. If you have to hard-sell to move the product, you've got a lousy product.

RightEyeBrewing
11-02-2013, 11:32 PM
we are still in startup phase just signed our lease so we haven't had to try and sell anything yet.

gungadin
11-03-2013, 09:15 AM
I used to work in sales. The trick, IMO, is to listen. Find a need and fill it. Talk to potential customers about what they want and why. If your beer fits their vision, sell it to them. The last thing you want to do is sell your beer to someone who doesn't really want it. If you have to hard-sell to move the product, you've got a lousy product.

As a former wine and liquor salesman and manager here's my two cents.

You may not need to hard sell but you will certainly need to sell hard, if that makes any sense. The farther you get from your home base the less name/brand recognition you will have and the more effort you will have to put in to "selling" your beer, no matter how good it is. Nobody should be confused about the amount of effort that goes in to selling consumer products, with beer being no exception to that rule. It takes feet on the street and people presenting the product to buyers on a regular basis.

You will have to work hard to get placements, sometimes it will be fun, other times not so much fun. Sometimes you will deal with likeminded folks who are easy to talk to and who respond appropriately to your message, other times it will be different. Sometimes they will call you looking for your stuff but that too will become more unusual as the number of breweries continues to grow. You will have to create demand on your own for your products in a number of different ways (festivals, tastings, entertaining, dinners....).

Self distribution will help you learn this role so that when you turn over your brand to a wholesaler you have a good idea of how to continue to get placements. The wholesaler will do some of the work for you but you will always continue to be responsible for the "hard selling" or "selling hard."

RightEyeBrewing
11-05-2013, 10:51 PM
Thanks for all the insight

Coolhand
09-11-2014, 02:05 PM
Don't underestimate the maintenance side.... cleaning all those hard-fought lines at each account is a (necessary) PITA.

We had to generate our initial accounts with samples in growlers. Obviously not ideal, but it worked well enough.

Also don't underestimate the BMC tactics that will be used against you. Always interesting to find keg couplers uncoupled, etc.

BeerBred
09-12-2014, 02:25 PM
First make exceptional beer that stands out from other comparables. Next go to the best place - keg and/or bottle and take some bottled samples. I generally call ahead and ask who is the person who does their beer buying. If you can get in at the best place the others will follow. We have about 40 accounts so not a ton but there are only 2 of us so that's a good number right now. over half of our accounts called us because either their customers requested it or the owners had it at another place.

However, keep in mind that we are not peddling a blond or amber. if you make something like that you will need a totally different strategy. Hard sell, aggressive, neon signs, glassware give away and other promotional stuff to get you notices and honestly the places that I want to be in don't really go for that. Wisconsin has very little pay to play. I've never had an overt cases of asking for anything but after a while you can tell what's going on. We have no interest in places like that either. as far as the BMC guys they have actually referred some of their customers to us even though they get nothing out of it. I don't know if we'll self-distribute forever but its a great way to learn the business, bond with your accounts and sell yourself as well as the brewery.

oh an done other tip, get to know the bartenders on a first name basis. they are your direct contact with customers and they will hand sell your product.

Andy, As former craft sales manager of a top ten brewer and creator of the country's third best selling craft in the 90's, I would agree with Gungadin. I will agree with Tim that high profile high visibility accounts are good. I will disagree that a blonde or amber requires a macro marketing approach. To say that one has to have neons, glassware and give away kegs to get placements with these two styles is BS. As long as the beer is craft brewed (no adjuncts) and quality tasting, there is nothing wrong with going after that bigger market. Part of what is making craft continue to grow is the macro drinker gravitating to craft. This should be promoted by our industry.

Give some thought to a good brewery name and a cohesive line of brand names. Catchy names are good, stupid ass names are not. My favorite brand names are arrogant bastard and blithering idiot. Think of expansion (if that's your long term plan) when planning your brewery name. No one outside of Richmond will have an interest if you call your brewery "James River Brewing."

Here is a link to an interview with Greg Koch. I would say most craft brewers adhere to the "rules of play" in the marketplace. It is often the distributor who violates them. http://breweryage.com/ If your draft couplers are getting "chicken necked," you likely pissed someone off in the market. Make great beer and play by the rules. Make a flyer describing the beer and category or whatever that can be posted in an account where the servers will see it. Know your competition. We are here to promote our industry and educate our consumers. This starts with account education. Don't let someone tell you what style of beer has merit.

I've sold beer from coast to coast and personally opened 16 new states for my old brewery. Think about getting a distributor. I don't know what market you are in or I would elaborate on the logistics of this... Being a distributor is an expensive pita. You will still be working the market, but let someone else buy the truck. (and gas, insurance, sales force, deliveryman etc.)

Feel free to PM me if you would like further advice.