Channel Marketing for SMEs

Multi-Channel Marketing

What is Channel Marketing?

Many years ago, all trades-folks had to do to sell their products was to bring them to a centralised market where people will come to trade with them. These trades-folk will then return home after a long day of trading with their generated revenue, rinse and repeat the same procedure the next day. Sounds straightforward right? Hold that thought for now.

Before you can properly define channel marketing, you need to know what a marketing channel is. So, what are marketing channels?

Marketing channels refer to the entirety of the ecosystem that is required for the movement of products from their point of production to the point of consumption. Basically, it means the pathway through which products flow from manufacturer to consumer. This usually includes organisations, people and other required activities. Any organisation dealing in online marketing would have to employ channel management strategies to take full advantage of these channels.

Channel marketing involves directing your promotional efforts to specific levels or links in a channel. It is the entirety of your plan for moving your products or services to the end users in the most effective way. It is essential that every business owner develops an efficient channel marketing strategy, as it has numerous business benefits.

Channel Value Flow
How value flows to the customer through direct and indirect channels

Affiliate Channel Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a type of channel marketing strategy. Also known as affiliate programs, affiliate marketing is based on performance. Here, a business rewards its affiliate partners for specific metrics (virtual clicks or sales). This was termed referral marketing before the introduction of the internet. The new features that the internet has brought into referral marketing have provided opportunities for more affiliate partnerships.

Imagine the normal movement of goods from manufacturer to consumer, of course, you don’t expect the consumer to make the purchase straight from the manufacturer. Some of the intermediaries in-between include.

  • Transporter
  • Wholesaler
  • Retailer
  • Consumer

This is a traditional channel marketing strategy, and it isn’t exactly set in stone. There could be different variations of it. Nowadays, there are various “agents” out there that operate in different ways. Some agents make purchases from manufacturers and then distribute them to their network. These agents leverage the resources they have as well as the relationship they have built with retailers, which allows them to agree to an efficient collection and billing process.

Using hybrid distribution channels is another strategy businesses are beginning to adopt. It involves a company using different channels at the same time to distribute to their various users. For example, a company can use its telemarketing facility to distribute its product to medium-sized businesses, use internet sales for its end users, and use its Salesforce to distribute to large accounts.

Factors to consider before choosing a channel marketing strategy

Some of the factors that you need to consider before selecting a channel marketing strategy include.

Time expectation

It is vital that you make your product available as at when needed by the customer. This is the number one rule of marketing, because if there is no good to buy, then all your strategies are for naught.

Size of Order

The channel used for a single order and an order made en masse cannot be the same, so you need to choose a channel that best fits the size of the customer’s order.

Cost Saving

One of the things that affect any transaction at all levels is cost. There are times when consumers and manufacturers alike would make some sacrifices in exchange for saving some cash. Mass-market stores allow for a discount in cost in exchange for certain sacrifices in service.

Tips for Developing a Successful Channel Marketing Strategy

Integrating channel marketing into your business isn’t exactly a piece of cake but with the right knowledge, you will find it a bit easy. Here are some tips to help you develop a channel marketing strategy.

Time it right

It is vital that you know the right time to adopt a new channel marketing strategy. We call it observing the season. How do you know the right time? You know it is time for a new channel strategy when your channel partners contribute up to double-digit contributions to your revenue. Also, it is perhaps a great time when your sales force cannot keep up with marketplace opportunities.

Voice

This is where the importance of speaking the language of your customers comes into play. This means that you employ the right voice, tone and marketing messages that your customers can easily relate with. Some companies have had little success in using their end-user marketing materials relating to their channel partners.

One thing you need to know is that most resellers don’t have the time to create materials about you. They expect that you would show them the pros of selling your products. It is therefore up to you to make them understand why they should deal with you.

Content

Content here also refers to communication for your channel. Your channel marketing strategy is not complete without effective communication for your end user customers and channel partner. It is your duty to equip your content partners with selling tools and content that will help them make smart decisions in your industry.

Easy engagement

Engagement here talks about how easy it is for your customers and channel partners to engage with you or your brand. The easiest to do this is to put yourself in their shoes and answer questions like, “is it easy to find your program?” “How easy is it to sign up as a seller?” “What can the public access easily on your site and what is behind a firewall?” The idea is to make it enticing and easy to engage you and your brand. This will encourage potential customers and partners.

Bringing everything together

Whether you like it or not, channel marketing has come to stay, and it has infiltrated every area of marketing, especially online marketing. It is therefore imperative that you join the trend by incorporating the strategy into your business.

Creating an effective channel marketing strategy might be a bit of a chore but you won’t have too much trouble if you follow a lean roll out system that allows you to test for consequences before going all in. Of course, there are grey areas which defies logic, but always have your eyes on your bottomline and ROI, if a strategy isn’t making you money you have to pull the plug and cut your losses. But, I believe that whichever way you choose to go, you won’t be making a wrong choice with channel marketing.

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