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By their very nature wine importers and distributors play second fiddle to the brands and wines in their portfolio, often claiming they are only as good as the products they sell. Which is true to some extent, but does not tell the full story. In fact, arguably, the biggest and most successful drinks distributors are as big if not bigger than the brands they sell. It is their reputation as reliable, trustworthy, efficient suppliers that helps those wines get on to the right lists with the right customers. But how do you build your brand as a distributor?
1. What do you stand for
To answer that question you need to be absolutely clear about the kind of business you are and want to be. What sort of wines and brands do you want to sell? What sort of customers do you want? How do you want to manage the relationships you have with them? What are the values that will determine success for your business?
2. Understanding customer needs
But when answering those questions it is important to keep your end customer in mind all the way down the line. You have to understand their concerns, their issues, their ambitions and build your brand around serving those needs. It might come down to the types of wine you are stocking, but it is more likely to be the kind of business you are to deal and work with.
3. More than just a wine distributor
It is why the most successful wine importer and distributor businesses offer far more than just the wines in their warehouse. They offer personal service, reassurance, customer support, staff training, product advice, incentives, and a whole lot more. That is what building a brand for your business is all about. Forging relationships and partnerships with your customers based on trust, service, and support where the quality of your wine range is a given.
4. Training and support
Ask any importer or distributor about the innovative steps they have taken in their businesses and the majority will turn to the huge investments they have made in the quality, depth, and diversity of the training they now offer their customers. Be it product knowledge around wine, helping to develop a wine list, practical advice on serving, opening, pouring and storing wines, training, and support is where the battle lines and points of difference between many of the major operators now lies. Those are the skills that different distributors possess to a larger or less degree. Skills and values that all add to a distributor’s brand image.
5. Technologically driven
For all the touchy feel, hand-holding nature of a distributor’s training and support services, they are ultimately judged on the quality of the wines they provide. Many are now using technology far more to analyze the wines being bought by customers, how well they are doing at which price points and with which styles and what can be done to improve their individual performance. Real-time sales analysis can be shared with customers so that they can much better inform decisions about the wines they are stocking and selling. All powerful brand attributes to have.
6. Channel specific
Each of the respective on, off and online sales channels need a different kind of service from their suppliers and distributors. There is no longer room for a one size fits all operation. So any brand you have for you distributorship has to be strong and flexible enough to mean different things and to be relevant for different customers depending on which sales channel they are in.
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