Once you have selected and developed a unique product or business idea, correctly positioned and targeted it to buyers, and developed your packaging and pricing, the selection of distribution channels and sales representation is key to successful marketing.
It's fairly easy to change many of your marketing tactics and strategies on a periodic basis; pricing, packaging, and product mix are among these flexible choices. However, distribution and sales decisions, once made, are much more difficult to change. And distribution affects the selection and utilization of all other marketing tools.
There is a wide variety of possible distribution channels, including:
- retail outlets owned by your company or by an independent merchant or chain
- wholesale outlets of your own or those of independent distributors or brokers
- sales force compensated by salary, commission, or both
- direct mail via your own catalog or flyers
- telemarketing on your own or through a contract firm
- cybermarketing, join the millions of online businesses
- TV and cable direct marketing and home shopping channels
Distribution choices for a service business follow the same lines as those for a physical product. For example, financial planning services may be offered from printed material, sold at retail by consultants, delivered electronically by computer, or relayed by phone, fax or mail.
Steps for selecting distribution and sales force representation include:
- Identify how competitors' products are sold.
- Analyze strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for your business.
- Examine costs of channels and sales force options.
- Determine which distribution options match your overall marketing strategy.
- Prioritize your distribution choices.
This exercise is applicable for both large and small businesses.