In its most basic form we can think of channel marketing as a path or route that connects companies to its target market end user customer. Marketing Channels may readily be defined as coming in two main forms – one form is to actually deliver the products and services into the hand of the purchaser, now as we just referred to some basic understandings of this topic – this is where things can being to get really complicated; especially when we consider the business fundamental of distribution channel marketing. In short this is where a company or manufacturer delegates the responsibility for the delivery of goods over to third party companies; we mentioned that things can complicated and this is what we refer to.

In some cases the length of the distribution channel can be very long [when we refer to distribution channel lengths we speak of the number of intermediary companies that sit in between the manufacturer and the end user] so if say there are seven [7] layers to be passed through before the purchaser is able to consume the goods then this within itself will [by definition] present the parent company with certain challenges, not just in terms of maintaining product quality but also in relation to …

… making sure that the message of the brand that relates to the products and services remain strong by the time it passes through to the end of the chain. Before we move on, it is worth considering the last point – as there are a classification of company that along with delegating the transportation to intermediaries, the actual marketing collateral will be given to the third party partners and it will be their responsibility to promote awareness down through the distribution chain.

So without going into any more details in terms of channel marketing development using distribution channel partners [this includes value added resellers, wholesalers, retailers & others] this is a factor that needs to be considered for all businesses especially the small business owner who may not have the strength of brand equity that will serve to counteract any dilution of the marketing messages that may occur whilst passing through the various links of the marketing chain.

So we have spoken about the physical act of placing goods and services into the hands of the customer – we have done this in terms of distribution marketing in order to illustrate the point however the principles should be taken through and applied to the reader’s business development situation. One worthwhile exercise is to consider how many links there are in the chain in terms of delivering your company’s services and goods to your chosen target market segment [and here again I am making the assumption that structured processes have been adhered to in order to assist the organisation in adequately defining the profile of their ideal client] and ponder how well the brand is represented whilst being funneled through the distribution chain.

If the customer is in another country and we are dealing with physical goods then this specific aspect of marketing strategy development needs to be carefully examined and appropriate systems and processes put in place in order to deal with any negative impact that may be encountered and experienced both by the end user and the parent company. So this aspect of channel marketing of actually putting the service into the hand of the customer can be considered in multiple forms such as in the case of a life coach that delivers one on one sessions – if the client is in the same town then of course face to face meetings may be entirely possible, if in another country they internet technologies may be considered or; the strategic decision may be made to only deal with clients within a specific geographical location. These are all top level business fundamental decisions that should be considered and made at the outset.

That which fits hand in glove with the delivery of goods and services is that of the promotion of the company, associated brands that relate to that which is being sold into the marketplace at large. Of course – if no one learns of the existence of that which they may be interested in the matters related to distributing goods will not even come into question. So we now refer to the other aspect of channel marketing which deals with the pushing of the message of the company and its brand in terms of the promotion, advertising and marketing of specific products and services. In line with this and in terms of developing a coherent go to market business development plan the next question to answer is “how do we market to the customers” or “which marketing channels shall we use in order to get brand message into the minds of the target market customers” ?

In short – the most appropriate channels to market to utilise in terms of the advertising and promotion of the company will in some shape or form be roughly defined if the structured systematic ideal client profile exercise is carried out as we touched on above. With that said, let’s imagine that we have developed some sort of widget for a particular manufacturing based vertical industry – in this case the choice may be made to concentrate on the industry specific magazine and publications. Placing advertisements in these paper based brochures will serve to reach intended markets and then one may choose to supplement these activities using direct mail as well as flyers and attending trade shows and other industry specific events. This is channel marketing in action – ensuring that the correct message is crafted for the identified client and then that this message is funneled down through the most appropriate path or route in order to fulfill some top level business objective [as defined by the top level company strategy].

Each business type will have to determine the best course of action and most appropriate methods they choose in order to deliver goods and services as well as promotion and marketing. With that said – no matter the business type, market sectors or profile of the identified ideal client – the how to market a business on the internet – question should be factored into the discussions. At this point the decision may be made to work with a full service digital marketing agency which with the appropriate level of expertise will be able to accomplish defining all of the above in terms of the “who” the customers is; “how” we are going to put the products / services into the hand the customer and the necessary steps for getting the message out to the world.

Search Engine Marketing as well as Social Media Advertising has become a critical component in terms of business development due to the fact that so many customers commence their search for news, information, research and general content related to good and services by using the internet. Even in terms of industrial type organisations looking for machinery [for arguments sake] – the research will start with the internet …..

….. and the forward thinking company will look to respond to search engine queries as well as social media discussions in the form of white papers, video content and other technical information that can serve to act as lead generation through educating the customer and carefully and strategically guiding them through the company’s marketing funnel.

Whilst this is not a discussion regarding how to market a business on the internet per se it is worth noting that any ongoing digital marketing strategy implementation plan ought to be based on content; this definition of content [we say] should be based on keyword research – the data gained from such activity will tell us with certainty that which [prospective] clients have been looking for and researching via Google, Yahoo & Bing – when we are in receipt of such information we [in terms of marketing] will be able to develop articles, blog posts, videos, emails [used in lead generation] and articles that may be strategically used throughout any search engine marketing as well as social media marketing strategies development and execution.

Again – it may make sense in terms of the focus of the company and employees to work with a partner search engine social media marketing company that will be able to use the keyword research identified above as a basis for not only creating content but also in using links within the content that will in turn upon being indexed and spidered by the search engine robots that act to rank company websites and pages within those websites. The complex tasks of ranking company related websites along with targeted Web 2.0 blogging platforms along with various other internet properties such as bookmarking sites and social profiles may well be best left to an expert digital marketing agency that is well versed in performing these complex tasks day in and day out and therefore leaving the partner company to focus in providing excellence in terms of customers satisfaction and improving product quality.

Note that in closing it is important to state that the research and content that may be generated and used for search engine marketing and lead generated can be appropriately repurposed and make use of within the various social media channels. So in conclusion – carefully paying attention to the topic of channel marketing and its two main components and; carefully developing go to market business development planning based around these marketing fundamentals will pay the company in question back in dividends in terms of the leads that it generates, the level of customer satisfaction, product / service enhancements which all related to increasing sales of good and the revenue that gets generated by such activities.

Feel free to share this information with marketing professionals, colleagues or business owners if you find it useful and thought provoking – if you’d like to work with me then please view the marketing strategy business development process that I use as a framework for developing top level company strategies as well as the associated digital marketing planning. Also, if you have any questions or simply wish to discuss any of these topics then please do drop me an email. Regards : Stephen C Campbell

In this exerpt from the presentation given at Cass Business School in November 2008. Here I talk about Channel Marketing and the importance of ensuring that you have carefully defined your Channel Marketing Strategies. In particular, businesses should be making full and complete use of the Internet as a Primary Marketing Channel through which they can present their message to the end user customer base at large.

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Key points :-

  • Channel Marketing strategy definition
  • Use the internet as a [primary] marketing channel
  • Adding Innovation into your business model
  • Supply and demand
  • Ideal Client Profiling
  • Pricing Strategies are driven by the amount of uniqueness built into your product
  • Pricing is also drive by the particular Channel to Market that is used by the business
  • Product funnel : developing a range of product and services to offer the end user marketplace

Do let me know if you have any comments, get in touch as I’d be happy to discuss.

Stephen C Cambpell