Channel Marketing Basics

8 min read

Any business can benefit from a channel marketing strategy, whether you’re an entrepreneur launching a small startup or a long-established mom-and-pop company that hasn’t kept up with the digital revolution. You can skip the slow, expensive process of growing your company by having a third party do the work for you.

What is Channel Marketing?

Channel marketing is the means you use to bring what you manufacture to consumers. Typically, this involves third-party resellers to market, vend, and distribute your products instead of doing so directly or via in-house staff. Such partnerships allow businesses to supply their goods and services more widely without hiring more customer-facing staff. 

Any exchange between the manufacturer and the consumer that isn’t directly sold through their website, catalog, or storefront uses channel marketing. Basically, if you rely on resellers or digital marketing firms, you use channel marketing.

What are some examples of digital channel marketing? Social media ads, email marketing and SEO (search engine optimization) are all forms of digital channel marketing.

What is B2B channel marketing? B2B (business-to-business) channel marketing is geared toward offering your goods or services to other businesses.

Benefits of Using Channel Marketing

The biggest benefits of channel marketing are: 

  • It reaches more consumers: Channel marketing partnerships allow you to access new markets you couldn’t access previously, making more people aware of your business.

  • It makes distribution easier: Entrusting distributors and resellers to move your merchandise makes it easier for you to circulate your goods. Thus, it’s also easier for consumers to obtain your goods.

  • It’s cost-effective: Paying a reseller or outside channel marketing manager is far less expensive than building an internal sales workforce.

  • It provides market insights: A good channel marketing strategy can yield more customer data. These insights can equip you to improve customer experience or brand positioning.

  • It guides you to more effective channels: A unified, intentional channel strategy will lead you to the platforms and advertising means that can yield better results for your business.

Terms You Should Know

Is channel marketing the same as marketing channels? No. Channel marketing is the system you use to bring your products and services to consumers. Marketing channels are the activities, platforms, or organizations your business uses to communicate with your target audience.

The most common types of marketing channels have changed over the years, evolving from direct mail and billboards to email marketing and targeted web ads. 

You should also know the difference between an advertising channel and a medium. Media are the messages you send to potential customers, while a channel is how you transmit it to their eyes or ears. For example, the medium is the flier while the channel is the email system or the postal service that delivers it.

What is the difference between a marketing channel and a distribution channel? A marketing channel focuses on reaching customers to build awareness of and interest in your goods and services. Distribution channels move your physical products from the manufacturer to the buyer. 

The distribution process often involves wholesalers, distributors, and retailers to bring your goods to store shelves or website inventories.

Common Types of Marketing Channels

Every successful channel marketing strategy should employ multiple marketing channels. In today’s market, you can choose from dozens of different channels to build brand awareness and spark lead generation. Here are some of the most common.

  • Direct sales: You or a sales team interact directly with consumers in person or over the phone.

  • Catalog: Customers order your goods through a printed or digital inventory listing what you provide, though you don’t communicate directly with them when they place their order.

  • Search engine optimization (SEO): Improving your website’s search results ranking in search engines and the on-page user experience. This requires on-page technical configuration, keyword-based content marketing, link building, and other organic optimization.

  • Online advertising: Non-organic digital methods like targeted banner ads, paid search results, and online bumper ads.

  • Offline advertising: This more traditional approach includes direct mail, pamphlets, billboards, flyers, newspaper ads, print directories, trade show appearances, etc. 

  • Social media marketing: Establishing and actively maintaining a business account on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

  • Network marketing:  Also known as multi-level marketing. Relies on independent distributors or consultants to reach customers via personal connections, face-to-face interactions, private events, etc.

  • Email marketing: Distributing emails or digital newsletters periodically to subscribers.

  • Influencer marketing: Using celebrities and leaders with substantial, dedicated follower bases to endorse your product. Their recommendation will impact purchasing decisions and brand reputation through association.

  • Television advertising: Video ads that run between segments of tv shows.

  • Audio advertising: Commercials or spotlights broadcast over the radio, during podcasts, or as bumpers between songs on streaming playlists.

  • Sponsorship advertising: Companies pay to support an event, person, group, or program in exchange for audience visibility, such as a local sports team sponsorship.

Methods vary in cost, effort, reach, frequency, and other factors. Choosing the right one will depend on your business’ resources, products, and goals

Multichannel marketing is usually necessary for success. Multichannel marketing employs a blend of advertisement and communication methods to reach a broad scope of consumers. Often, these involve marketing campaigns to create a consistent, integrated series of messages across different platforms to build unified brand awareness.

Choosing the Right Channel Marketing Strategy

The best channel marketing strategy is rarely obvious, nor is it uniform across every company — even those within the same industry. As a business owner, you must assess many factors before determining your channel strategy and all the marketing efforts it entails. That way, you’ll invest in an approach that aligns with your strengths, opportunities, and goals.

Get to Know Your Target Market

Your business won’t thrive if you don’t give customers what they want. A customer-first mindset is crucial when building a channel marketing strategy.

Otherwise, you’ll face unfulfilled expectations, poor reviews, and a low chance of repeat customers. 

Perform research to familiarize yourself with your existing customers, learning their values, preferences, and why they chose your business or product. 

Then, look outside your existing customer base to the greater marketplace. Which demographics should you target your marketing efforts on? What channels are they more likely to use? What motivates their shopping habits? Remember: different demographics have different desires. Focus groups can provide opportunities for such dissections. 

Look at Your Resources

Just like you gauged your current and potential customer base, take an honest assessment of your company’s situation. A SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat) analysis is a good place to start, as well as building a roadmap outlining your long-term objectives. Conduct stakeholder interviews, examine your assets, and scrutinize your current distribution process.

Gauge how much time, money, and staff you can reasonably contribute to channel marketing efforts. This can verify whether you can build and execute a campaign in-house or need to invest in a partnership.

Determine Your Location and Market Size

Evaluate the limitations and opportunities of your current location and the space you occupy on the market. Consult industry and infrastructure forecasts to determine a need to move to a new location or find a larger market. 

Consider what you’re offering to consumers. Do you only provide in-person services to clients within a close radius? Or can your product be shipped anywhere across the continent?

You need to determine the potential volume of customers you could feasibly reach when planning your distribution and marketing initiatives.

Know You Competitors’ Strategy

An awareness of your competitors’ market tactics can affect the tactics you’ll use — to compete with them or distinguish yourself from them. 

What marketing programs are they implementing? What marketing channels are they using? Do they have an effective distribution strategy that you could imitate? Can you reasonably compete with your rivals in the marketplace, or should you explore other channels for greater visibility? 

It’s easy to be overshadowed by rival companies if you don’t perform this competitor research when building your channel strategy.

Research Channel Partners

Performing all this research is much easier if you contract a marketing firm or use a digital tool to gather information for you. Channel partners can then use that information to shape your marketing channel strategy. 

Many companies offer to oversee and execute these strategies, but you should only choose partners that fit your needs. You may need to outsource to a dedicated marketing team that possesses the latest marketing technology, such as digital marketing automation. Or, you may need an external sales force through a collaborative partner program to get your goods on more shelves. 

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Finding the Right Partners

A channel marketing manager can walk you through the initial research, build a marketing plan, and help you execute it. They can be as hands-on as you want, running your channel strategies day-to-day or or they can just get the ball rolling and step back.

A suitable manager should understand your product, your objectives, and what you uniquely bring to the market. They must be committed to upholding your brand’s image and reputation by maintaining the personas you’ve established across all channels.

Only trust the best partners to help market your business. MVP Match can help you reach more customers by connecting you with skilled IT and marketing experts. Contact us to hire a freelance channel marketing manager to guide your business’ advertising and distribution channels.

If you’re an expert on channel marketing, join the MVP Match freelancer network. We’ll connect you with companies around the world who need your knowledge and skills to take their campaigns to the next level.

About the Author

Match wants to bridge the perspectives of talents and companies, and Marta’s job is to blend all the elements without burning the engine. She translates backstage know-how into practical insights and stories. What can’t be written on a blog will land on socials as a meme. She believes that shaping the #futureofwork is all about transparency and courage in communication. While collaborating with writers and authors from all over the world, she makes sure that everything that ends up on the Match blog makes the bridge stronger than ever.