Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Channel Surfer

Of the constantly refined and now largely modified "4Ps of marketing", the one that most often is outside the narrowed authority of a business-to-business marketer is "place" (which addresses channels - distribution... the other Ps, of course, are product, price and promotion).

The new business models introduced in the past decade that have revolutionized the way businesses are managed and products marketed forces companies to change many of their long-held beliefs about the role and influence of marketing, particularly as it impacts decisions regarding distribution and margin management.

The requirement for marketing's involvement in distribution is driven by marketing's understanding of the customer. The role of 'place' in creating differentiation cannot be overlooked strategically, as distribution methods are often difficult to mirror by the competition and can be associated by customers with actual product or service offerings. (Dell, for example, is known more for its website, kiosks and direct to customer model as for its products.)

Customers remain the primary concern, but the way these customers' needs are met have already changed manufacturing practices... today, it changes distribution practices... not only will the products be developed as part of "mass customization", so, in a sense, will the manner in which these customers actually get the product. It is now important to identify and promote the most profitable available customer segments (and with the greatest potential) and to serve them with the most efficient delivery model, be it direct sales, catalog, internet, or any other of the numerous hybrids.

Re-evaluating channels is just one of the challenges that the proliferation of segments, brands, messages, media, and channels poses for marketers. You can uncover unserved markets, lower costs, and increase per customer revenue by guiding customers to the most efficient channels. To do so, companies should try to get a clear understanding of their channels and plan proactively with their channels and channel partners. The expanded role for marketing in distribution strategy has never been more important.

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