One afternoon a fox was walking through the forest and spotted a bunch of grapes apples hanging from over a lofty branch.
"Just the thing to quench my thirst," quoth he.
Taking a few steps back, the fox jumped and just missed the hanging grapes apples. Again the fox took a few paces back and tried to reach them but still failed.
Finally, giving up, the fox turned up his nose and said, "They're probably sour anyway," and proceeded to walk away.
I’ve always considered this fable, The Fox and The Grapes Apples, to be about the value of persistence. Some say that the moral is that you despise what you cannot have. Foxes are notoriously clever though. If the story continued, couldn’t it take a turn where the fox uses some object to boost his initial jump and get the grapes apples?
The definition of insanity is the repetition of the same action with the expectation of a different result. How many times must the fox try for the apples before he is declared insane? Well, if the story ends there, the answer is none because he’s just given up. Does that seem likely? All apologies to Aesop, but I disagree.
This time every year, small producers of every kind of alcohol beverage are in the midst of their madness.
They’re prepping for the fall and the holiday season. What’s left of the pumpkin beer movement has already made it’s way to retail and breweries are making sure they have their ingredients lined up for their winter seasonals. Apple growers are in the middle of their harvest; some varieties are already off the tree while others are still ripening.
Cider makers can be anywhere from thinking about their tasting room to deciding on a recipe for the fall. Distilleries are thinking about maximizing the holiday season to get shoppers into their tasting room or targeting key accounts to get on fall cocktail lists. Here’s the insane part.
You’re the fox who’s not getting the grapes apples.
The coveted fruit here is your distributor’s attention. Now you may say that you have their ear now because you’re doing well in a particular market or area and are poised to finish the year strong. That’s an awesome accomplishment and in no way does this thought process diminish that.
The problem is that in your distributor’s mind, this year is already done and gone. They’ve planned out the remainder of 2018 and already have a good idea of how their sales will finish for the year. They’ve already moved on to planning for 2019. The larger producers that command the bulk of your distributor’s time and attention are planning a year ahead. Planning for next year is what the distributor is trained to do between now and October.
Oh! You have a new product that you just put all this time and energy (and MONEY) into and you can have it on the distributor’s dock by October 15!
Have you done this and gotten a tepid response? Well this is exactly why. They’ve already set up the rest of the year. The bonuses/focuses for their sales reps are already scheduled out. Most events with key accounts are already programmed.
Many distributors will not offer you time riding with their sales people in 4th quarter. So now if you really want to get this product into market and on to retailers shelves and in bars before the end of the year, you’ve got to get into the market and do the heavy lifting yourself. That includes getting in front of busy buyers that aren’t going to be as happy to see you as they normally would. Seems like a lot of effort that you ordinarily wouldn’t have to go through, right?
Here’s the worst part. If it sits in the warehouse through year’s end, that puts you BEHIND to start next year! As a small brand, momentum is incredibly important. You can’t afford to make the mistakes that your large competitors can make.
Don’t be the fox and give up on the grapes apples. Start planning for 2019 now, even if you’re not sure what that’s going to look like yet. Supplier-distributor relationships are usually tenuous at best especially with small producers. Showing them that you recognize where they are in their process is a step toward bridging that gap and giving yourself a boost to get the grapes apples.
May you all be foxes that eat well!