“RangeMe is not necessarily the place where you are going to close a deal, though it has happened for us. What it does is move a cold lead into a warm lead and starts to build that buyer relationship.”
With this statement, Sara Delaney, Founder & CEO of beverage brand Sarilla, concisely summarized how best-in-class RangeMe subscribers view the platform, and leverage it as a key part of their overall strategy of moving buyers into and through their sales funnel. And Delaney makes great use of the tools it provides to ensure optimal exposure for her brand and to gain the insights she needs to engage buyers once a dialogue begins.
We’ll get into the “how” shortly, but first, a little about Sarilla.
Sarilla’s origin and introduction to RangeMe
Asheville, N.C.-based Sarilla sells a line of alcohol-free social beverages made with all-organic and mostly regeneratively-farmed ingredients sourced primarily from the brand’s small farm in the African country of Rwanda – with plans to soon be Regenerative Organic Certified. Delaney got her start as an importer selling loose leaf tea in bulk after falling in love with the tea from that region, and started experimenting with various formulations to make her own fresh brewed tea.
Around 2017, she came up with the idea to keg the tea so it could be sold on tap at breweries as a non-alcoholic alternative to beer. “I am now more than 17 years without alcohol, and I always wondered why there are no alcohol-free options on tap outside of a Diet Coke or a seltzer,” says Delaney. “I felt kind of left out. We spend a lot of money on good food at restaurants. Why is there not something better to drink?”
So she took matters into her own hands. She attended the Southeast Beverage Institute to learn how to keg and took her recipe from her kitchen to a local Asheville brewery that sold it on tap. Unfortunately, in 2020 when the pandemic hit, the brewery shut down and she had to pivot. But it was a blessing in disguise, as Delaney had no choice but to scale up to a co-packing facility and offer her beverage in cans. While she is still passionate about the draft product, it’s a much smaller part of her revenue stream these days.
Sarilla’s line of sparkling organic teas come in six flavors: Green Hibiscus, White Ginger, Apple Black, Lemon Black, Tulsi Lime and Rooibos Vanilla (I can personally vouch that each one is amazing). While they can be merchandised in the beverage aisle, Delaney says they are more relevant for other areas.
“We aim to be in the cooler or with the alternative alcohol set, particularly if a store is building a non-alcoholic or mocktail category,” she says. “We’re often put into the RTD tea sets on the shelf in stores, but I’m going to start saying no to that. It’s not the best place for us unless it’s a dream account and we know we’ll have the velocities off the shelf that we need. We want to focus and niche down a bit for marketing and channel strategy purposes.”
Delaney started on RangeMe with a free account back when Sarilla just offered loose leaf teas, but upgraded to Premium after she met RangeMe SVP of Customer Success Vir Satyan at a Flavors of Carolina event, where local brands can meet with regional buyers of major chains as well as community-based retailers. (RangeMe has a Flavors of Carolina collection in which qualifying Premium subscribers like Sarilla can be found). “It’s definitely worth every penny, especially when you think about how it covers 12 months,” says Delaney.
So how does RangeMe turn cold leads into warm leads for Sarilla? Delaney shares some of the ways in which she leverages the platform to accomplish this.
Keeping Sarilla’s RangeMe profile optimized
There are many ways in which a brand can be discovered on RangeMe. A buyer may search by keywords, by category, by certification, they may browse specific collections such as Flavors of NC or they may just simply browse through all of the new items. (Madeleine Yastrow, owner of Maddie’s Market, whom I wrote about in a recent blog post, spends time each morning browsing in this way.)
Because of this, it’s important to make sure your profile is optimized so it can be discovered regardless of how a buyer is searching. “A great thing about being a Premium member is that you can work with one of RangeMe’s customer success managers to do an audit of your profile,” says Delaney. “They will walk through it with you and make sure you have the right type of banner and images, that your certifications are up to date, and to learn how to qualify for various collections.”
The reason why a complete and fully optimized profile is so important, Delaney discovered, is that sometimes it actually does the buyer engagement for you. This past summer, she was at a college and university show in D.C., and met with many university buyers who were interested in her product and said she should be working with Vistar, a foodservice distributor that services universities. So she tracked down the buyer on LinkedIn, who asked her to start doing the vendor paperwork.
“I met her in person a few weeks later, and when I started doing my presentation, she cut me off,” says Delaney. “She told me she already saw me on RangeMe and knew what we’re about, and wanted to work with us, because they were looking for women-owned brands like ours. I don’t know how that would have gone if we weren’t on RangeMe; she may not have even replied to us.”
Tapping into RangeMe profile insights
One powerful way Delaney leverages RangeMe to more effectively engage buyers is by tapping into the profile insights that are available to all RangeMe Premium members. “In the insights section you can learn how a buyer arrived at your profile, and that is very powerful information to have,” says Delaney. “Was it based on a targeted search? Were they browsing a specific collection? Maybe they were looking for specific certifications. I think many brands overlook the insights, but you can get some great information there that can help guide your business.”
These insights help direct Delaney in her interactions with buyers both on and off the platform. “There is a checklist of actions that it triggers,” she says. “For example, this week I noticed that some key retailers we’ve been trying to get in front of have been checking out our profile. So I’ll check to see when they will be reviewing beverages, and I’ll make sure to submit my products to them through RangeMe.”
Offline, these insights give Delaney another reason to reach out to a buyer. As the founder of Sarilla’s nonprofit partner the Africa Healing Exchange, she knows that potential donors must be “touched” an average of seven times before they commit funds to a cause. It’s very similar with retail buyers, she says. Brands often have to engage with them several times before their message sinks in. RangeMe has become a critical part of this for Sarilla.
“I do know that a lot of the relationships we have with retailers and distributors are initiated from RangeMe, which is often our first touch with them,” she says. “I think the ideal scenario is to make that initial contact on RangeMe, reach out when you see buyers looking at your profile, then if there is an event coming up where you can meet them in person, do it because you are still fresh in their mind.”
Indeed, many brands on RangeMe work it in tandem with ECRM Sessions; they will make initial contacts with the buyer via RangeMe, then follow up in person at a category-specific Session with a private, pre scheduled buyer meeting. Premium members also use RangeMe as part of their ECRM followup, sending out a link to their profile following the in-person meeting.
In order to take advantage of the insights in this way, it’s important to check in regularly to see who has been engaging with your profile. Delaney is on RangeMe at least a couple of times each month, and plans to jump on even more frequently so that she’s well-informed and doesn’t miss any opportunities such as buyer reviews.
Practicing patience (it definitely is a virtue!)
The final key component Delaney has learned during her several years as a RangeMe Premium member is patience. While she regularly sees buyer activity on her profile, she knows that the journey from discovery to the shelf is a long one, particularly with mass retailers, and there are a lot of steps in between. In addition, timing and other factors outside of a brand’s control can lengthen this process.
“For first time CPG founders, you give birth to this product and you think it’s going to get right on the shelf,” she says. “But it can be a rude awakening when you realize the sales cycle in this business, particularly grocery. Calendar reviews are typically once a year, maybe twice. Sometimes you’ll get a cut-in, but do you really want a cut in?”
Delaney cites her own brand as an example of this. She has one dream account she’s been dying to get into for years. They have viewed her profile often during that period, but she’s had no bites yet. “They know who we are,” she says. “We submit our products when the opportunity comes up and it will happen when the time is right. You don’t want to rush these things too much.”
Exploring opportunities big and small
In the meantime, she will keep plugging away on RangeMe, slowly and steadily using it to stay front-of-mind with them, and as the launch point for building other buyer relationships as she waits for that dream account. After all, she has already landed 7-Eleven through the Brands with Heart partnership the retailer did with RangeMe, as well as National Grocers, several independent grocers and soon will be entering into the foodservice channel, all from relationships that originated with RangeMe.
“It’s not easy being patient and chipping away at those steps to get to that long-term vision,” she says. “But we have to bring in short-term visions to keep us excited and feeling positive along the way.”
Editor’s note: In the full video interview below, you’ll learn more details about Sarilla’s origin as well as Delaney’s philanthropic efforts and Crop to Cup trips to Rwanda, where you can see first hand what goes into the teas behind the brand. You can also click here to watch it on YouTube.