Coming to America was a great Eddie Murphy movie from the 80’s. I remember McDavid’s, the premise of money cannot buy love, and all the crazy characters in Harlem. In the movie it was portrayed as easy to come to the states and get what you want. In our world, the Adult Beverage world, it is not easy at all. Between importing, approvals, warehousing, non bond, bond and “other” it is a total pain, and that is all before you sell one bottle. You are thousands of dollars in and not one person has had the pleasure of drinking what you have made.
We are in Europe this week. Spain, Paris, and London working on 4th quarter marketing and sales plans for our clients. We are talking key accounts, importing, COLA and TTB approval, warehousing, selling, marketing and of course depletions. Making it in the USA is the brass ring for brands. BevStrat works with global brands that measure success by making it in America. They sell containers to China, Dubai, Russia, but making it in America is the definition of success for most makers.
Find your importer. End stop. Period. This is a critical part of this process. There are many importers out there, and I hear horror stories of importers stealing money, or goods, or both. This is the 1st step in a long process. Using firms like MHW, Park Street, or American Spirits Exchange, that are credible and have a history of success is your best method. We use MHW for many brands and the success rate is high. There is so much behind the scenes work that goes into this process that any price you pay for services is better than self serving it. We say all the time, that you can spend 3x as much in a self service mistake than in an outsourced success.
Find your distributor. If you are a regular reader of my column you will know that the hunt for distribution is painful at best. We have clients that have distribution and hate them, and we have clients that don’t have distribution and go it alone. Chasing USA distribution is a painful task and it is a needed part of the three tier process. So you have choices.
A) you can use a 3rd party logistics provider and have your importing and distribution rolled into one company. This makes easy market entry as a one stop shop but lacks a sales force.
B) you can use WSWA or the web to find, call, send samples, pitch and otherwise hunt for a distributor partner that will take your goods and importantly buy and sell your goods. This is a harder option. The benefit is that that you are paid. The drawback is that you may not be sold and your goods will spoil, be discounted, and bastardized in the market.
Personally, given the consolidation of the distribution network, I like the 3PL option. You have control and your goods are your goods. Still, you just need to sell.
What would a piece on coming to America be without sales talk. This market, no matter how you got here, is a selling market. It is sales and marketing all day. It takes boots on the ground and marketing support. We work with makers that “phone it in” or visit the market 3x a year to sell. We call that brand suicide. The on and off premise accounts require and frankly beg for time and attention. If you are not in market or do not hire a firm that sells for you, there is a good chance your wine, beer, or spirits will be on the boat back home having not been sold and tens of thousands of dollars being wasted on coming to America.
If the USA is the measure of success for an imported brand, that like all success, takes work. While in Europe we preach this to our clients. Coming to America was a fictional movie with a happy ending. I can assure you that coming to America in real life is costly, risky, and expensive. I can also assure you that a true Hollywood ending awaits you if you invest in the success of your brand.