Business consultant Jeff Nock, based in Iowa City, Iowa, explains the basics of creating an effective channel strategy
Loosely defined, channel strategy is how a company gets its product or service through their business process to the customer. For example, if a company produces a physical product and sells that product to individual consumers, they have multiple channels to choose from (direct online, direct in their own store, through a retail partner, through Amazon, etc). In the business to business space, channel options can include selling direct, through partners, value added resellers (VARs) and other options explains marketing and product development specialist Jeff Nock.
“Often startups or companies launching new products have to start with a direct channel strategy because it is hard to get on the shelf at bigger stores and initially hard to gain traction on Amazon or other online marketplaces. Thinking through a channel strategy that can help generate much needed cashflow initially but can also scale to optimize potential sales is both an art and a science,” suggests Nock, the founder of a successful business consultancy firm located in Iowa City, Iowa.
From determining the correct target market or individual buyer to outlining so-called ‘value propositions’ of a product, service, or other offerings, creating a successful channel strategy relies on a number of distinct steps, according to Jeff Nock. “First, it’s important to define one-or possibly more-channel or channels,” says the expert. These channels today can involve many different options as partnerships continue to diversify. The challenge is not to bite off too much as managing channel partners can take just as much time as providing great customer service to customers.
“For many firms looking to implement a channel strategy,” Nock continues, “knowing their target market and how that target market prefers to purchase products or services like theirs is huge.”
Doing proper “customer discovery” when choosing a channel strategy is just as important as it is when doing customer discovery when designing the product or service in the first place. It is imperative that companies not only know that what they are offering is wanted by their target market but also how (channel) that target market prefers to buy,” suggests Nock.
Once a company has learned from their target market how that market prefers to purchase products or services like theirs, the company should then conduct a thorough analysis of all the different ways that channel could be implemented. Once this analysis has been conducted and the best, defined as most desirable to the target market, and economically advantageous to the company, channel strategy is determined, a well thought out implementation plan should be executed. “Too often companies go with the easiest channel to enter and suffer long term repercussions for such short sided thinking,” suggests the expert, “conducting good customer discovery, analyzing the best implementation strategy and executing that strategy helps avoid this pitfall.”
Often is necessary to avoid channel conflict, Jeff Nock says, as a company doesn’t want to find itself competing for sales with its own partners. Channel segmentation according to Nock, may see a company target exclusively larger enterprises through its direct sales channel strategy while, when looking to sell to smaller and midsized firms, employing only partners.