Imagine you are about to take a road trip with your best friend.
Your bags are packed, your itinerary is set, and you're ready to hit the road.
As your friend starts the car, you smile and ask them, "Hey, want me to pull up my GPS?"
They smile back. "Oh no. I don't need directions. I've got this."
You shake your head in confusion. "But we don't know how to get there!" "Yeah," they say, rubbing their chin. "I figured I'd just drive around till we find the place."
Ten hours later, you're still driving in circles, nowhere close to your destination.
Does leaving for an adventure without a roadmap in mind sound like lunacy? It's definitely no way to plan a road trip. But that's exactly how you'd sound if you attempted to execute a national or global marketing campaign without a distribution strategy.
Solid distribution strategy marketing acts as your GPS, giving you direction and outlining a no-fluff roadmap to your destination—your destination, in this case, being products that are profitable, consistent, and on-brand.
In this guide, we're going to tell you everything there is to know about distribution in marketing, including insight on how to create an awesome distribution strategy.
Distribution strategy in marketing—A quick overview
Distribution in marketing refers to the practice of working with a third party or local partner to take products or services to market. These local partners then customize these marketing assets to fit their locality and target customers while staying on brand. In other words, distribution empowers you to focus on making your product perfect while others focus on selling it.
Overall, having a solid distribution strategy is incredibly useful for marketing because it:
- Enables companies to cater to their local markets while keeping content consistent and on-brand across all points;
- Combines the power of corporate leadership and resources with partner's invaluable local knowledge in a way that centralized marketing can't;
- Creates a unified, cohesive experience for both existing and potential customers;
- Leads to wide-scale cost savings as a result of increased production;
- Allows companies to retain total control over their brand and marketing strategy.
Distribution channels and methods
Distribution channels are the paths that products take when traveling from the provider or manufacturer to the final consumer. There are three types of distribution channels (direct, indirect, and hybrid), and three methods of choosing distribution channels (exclusive, selective, and intensive).
Types of distribution
- Direct distribution - Here, the producer sells directly to the consumer, with zero parties in between, making it the fastest of all distribution channels.
- Indirect distribution - For a manufacturer or producer, indirect distribution means selling wholesale to local agents or partners so they can distribute the products for you.
- Hybrid distribution - As the name suggests, hybrid distribution channels are a hybrid of direct and indirect distribution. Here, the manufacturer may partner with intermediaries but maintains direct contact with their customers as well.
Methods of distribution
- Intensive distribution - Under the intensive distribution strategy, a company tries to explore all possible outlets to distribute its offering. Intensive distribution is best suited to products that appeal to a large group of people.
- Exclusive distribution - The goal of this distribution model is just one: to generate a high-end product image. As such, products are only distributed in very specific channels and in a limited way. In this model, product scarcity isn't just acceptable—it's expected.
- Selective distribution - Selective distribution is a lot like exclusive distribution. However, unlike the latter, selective distribution allows for a few more retailers or outlets per every geographical area.
How distribution strategy informs your marketing
A distribution strategy is to marketing as wheels to a car. The two are, quite simply, inseparable. It's impossible to run a great local marketing campaign without a concrete distribution strategy in place. After all, distribution is an indispensable member of the marketing mix, or the 4P's (placement).
Let's start from the beginning. The marketing mix has evolved greatly in response to digitization (subscription-based services replacing physical products, for instance), but none have been impacted to the degree that placement has. Now more than ever, marketers have a plethora of distribution channels to consider, with their target audiences spread out across various digital platforms, and physical distribution channels haven't gone anywhere either.
Following this reality, including a distribution strategy in marketing plans shouldn't just be an important consideration for marketers —it should be a no-brainer. Where are people going to find your products and other offerings? When can they purchase them? Where are they going to use them? How are you going to manage inventory? You need to answer these questions in order to have a successful strategy.
Then there's the question of brand messaging and integrity. You'll hear nothing but crickets if you attempt to create a consistent brand experience from the national to the local level without a well-fleshed-out distribution strategy in place. What's more, you need to leverage all of your channel partners to keep content consistent at all points in the distribution flow. Having a distribution strategy is key to making your marketing initiatives tick.
As distribution strategies evolve to meet the needs of a digital world, it's more important than ever for brands to have a clear vision of their distribution tactics for their marketing efforts. Distributed marketing platforms not only allow for a high degree of customization and personalization, but they also ensure brand messaging integrity and a consistent brand experience no matter where customers are engaging with your product.
How a distributed marketing platform can help
A distributed marketing platform enables you to manage your local marketing efforts from a single interface, regardless of where in the world you or your customers are located.
This is extremely valuable for businesses with a widespread customer base, as it enables them to communicate with all of their customers in a culturally relevant and consistent manner. A distributed marketing platform also helps businesses maintain brand integrity across all distribution channels, ensuring that customers have a positive experience no matter where they engage with the company.
While your national marketing team may be the brand experts, it's the local channel partners that know your customers best. Crafting a distribution marketing strategy ensures all of your teams—both national and local—are reading from the script.
At Marvia, we help large national brands market their business on both a large and small scale. Thanks to our dynamic templates, marketing shop, and more, brands like yours can make marketing a team effort and let local partners make on-brand marketing materials in mere minutes. This ultimately gives your national and regional teams to focus on polishing up your brand's mission, identity, and distribution strategy.