What Is Distribution Channel Marketing?

H. Terry

An important part of many businesses is the maintenance of good relations within the distribution channel. A distribution channel consists of all the parties involved in getting a product from the original seller or producer to the end consumer. Sales can sometimes be made directly from the product manufacturer to a client, but in most cases there are intermediaries involved. These intermediaries are resellers, typically wholesale distributors or retailers, and they are the backbone of distribution channel marketing. This type of marketing is aimed at researching and meeting the needs of resellers so that merchandise can be moved through them to the consumer more effectively.

Businessman with a briefcase
Businessman with a briefcase

Along with directors of channel sales, distribution channel marketing managers work to build and maintain strong distribution channels. While there is often some overlap between these two roles, directors of channel sales tend to focus more on selling products into the distribution channel, whereas distribution channel marketing managers are primarily concerned with sell-through. The sales director is in charge of initiatives to encourage resellers to buy products from the company in the first place. Distribution channel marketing managers, on the other hand, aim to ensure that resellers can succeed at promoting these products and are able to sell them to the end consumer.

There are many ways that distribution channel marketing managers can promote sell-through. They are responsible for tracking the success of a product in the distribution channel and for recommending promotions and campaigns to help move the product through it. They also frequently provide training or even scripts to help resellers succeed in making their final sales.

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As product marketing reflects the demands of the consumers, distribution channel marketing responds to the needs of the resellers. As much as possible, managers try to tailor packaging and other presentation materials to the needs of the resellers' businesses. A large neon sign, for example, might work to promote the product in one store while clashing with the earth-tone color scheme of another.

Distribution channel marketing seeks to maintain strong communication with resellers so as to provide for their needs. Frequent phone calls and continuous web-based support for resellers are common means to this end. When a conflict arises within the distribution channel, such as between different resellers competing to sell the company's products or between a reseller and the company's own direct sales campaigns, the challenge of negotiating a resolution commonly falls to the distribution channel marketing manager.

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Discussion Comments


@ceilingcat - You are right about that. Good customer relations are the key to success if you are selling a product or service.

I've actually never realized how many steps there are in getting a product to a consumer. I'm kind of glad there are so many steps, because I think this generates a lot of jobs. If you cut out the wholesaler, that would cut a lot of jobs out of the economy.


I think it makes a lot of sense for a distribution channel marketer to help their resellers learn to sell. After all, if the resellers aren't selling the product, they aren't going to keep buying from the wholesaler, right?

Also, maintaining a good relationship with your customers is paramount to success. Whether you customer is another business or the end consumer, anything you do to garner their goodwill will help you in the end.

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