Designing Incentives for the Craft Beer Distribution Channel: Nichole Gunn Featured in Beverage Master

Like most manufacturers, craft beer producers sell through a distribution channel. Before ever filling the glasses of end-consumers, craft beer manufacturers first have to successfully market their brew to distributors, wholesalers, and other partners in their supply chain.

That’s a tall order when you consider there are over 7,000 beer producers competing for $27.6 billion in sales in the U.S. alone. In the battle for mindshare, small craft beer manufacturers have to go toe to toe against “The Big Five” and import beer.

But before pouring their marketing spend into consumer marketing, there might be a better way. In the latest edition of Beverage Master, Extu CMO Nichole Gunn shares tips on how to design incentives for the beer distribution channel. By incentivizing the distributors and wholesalers who help them go to market, craft beer manufacturers have the ability to differentiate their brand, penetrate new verticals, and maximize their retail and on-premises sales.

Read Nichole Gunn’s Article Online

Beverage Master was kind enough to share an interactive .pdf of their February – March 2020 issue, so you can read Nichole’s article in its entirety below. Or, if you’re looking for the Cliff Notes version, you can find that further down!

Key Takeaways About Incentives for the Craft Beer Distribution Channel

In the article, Nichole Gunn covers a lot of ground. While it’s definitely worth reading in its entirety, if you’re in a hurry, below are a couple key takeaways – for beer manufacturers or any manufacturer who sells into a channel:

  • Craft beer distributors and wholesalers have a major impact on how (or if) customers find your beer. Incentivizing distributors and wholesalers is a more cost-effective approach to marketing that will create more visibility and a greater reach than consumer marketing.
  • Sales reps sell what they know. It’s up to craft beer manufacturers to stay top-of-mind and to provide fun and rewarding engagement and communication through memorable brand interactions.
  • Targeting promotions to specific segments of your channel will make your craft beer distribution channel incentive program more effective and cost-efficient than a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Looking to allocate your channel marketing funds even more effectively? Try setting qualification thresh holds, where your distribution channel partners have to hit certain sales volume or engagement metrics, before qualifying for the promotion.
  • Distribution channel incentive programs include tools that beer manufacturers can use to collect data throughout their channel to inform their sales and marketing strategies.
  • One of the quickest and most sustainable ways to become an indirect sales rep’s go-to supplier is to provide quality sales enablement. Basically, make it really easy for them to sell your beer to vendors! Providing interactive brand education can help you educate channel partners on your brand, while giving them the opportunity to earn millions of exciting rewards!
  • In addition to the new opportunities for engagement and enablement your program creates, the memorable emotional impact of non-cash rewards helps to deepen relationships with your beer distributor and wholesalers sales reps.

How to Pick the Right Incentive Program Provider

Nichole Gunn closes with advice for picking the right incentive program provider. She advises craft beer manufacturers to identify their goals and make a list of the incentive software functionality they would need to achieve them. From there, you can compile a list of incentive program providers who meet these requirements. Make sure they have positive case studies, testimonials, and user reviews to back up their claims!

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, you should reach out to them and enlist their help for planning a program (prior to signing anything!). Use the planning stage to make sure the incentive program provider has a vision for your company and a solid grasp on the craft beer distribution channel. But also make sure that on a relationship-level, the company’s a good fit and aligns with your company culture. After all, your incentive program is an extension of your brand!