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What is a marketing channel?

Article originally published in September 2023 by Stuart Brameld. Most recent update in April 2024.

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Definition of a marketing channel

A marketing channel is a route or a path that a product or service follows from the producer to the final consumer. It’s the way businesses get their products or services in front of the customers. This could be through various means such as retail stores, online platforms, direct sales, or any other method that helps to deliver goods and services to the customer. Understanding and choosing the right marketing channels can greatly enhance a business’s visibility and sales.

“Do not spread yourself too thin. Usually, it takes a solid year to build a channel from scratch.”

Lars Lofgren

Marketing channels also play a crucial role in the customer journey, which is the process customers go through when interacting with a company or brand. They can be direct, where the company sells directly to the customer, or indirect, involving intermediaries like wholesalers or retailers. Each channel has its own unique advantages and challenges. For instance, direct channels allow for better control over brand messaging and customer experience, but may require more resources. On the other hand, indirect channels can help reach a wider audience, but may result in less control over the customer experience. Therefore, businesses must carefully consider their target audience, resources, and overall marketing strategy when selecting their marketing channels.

An example of a marketing channel

Growth Method could utilise social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn to promote their software services. They could create engaging posts about their software’s features, benefits, and user testimonials. They could also use these platforms to run targeted ads, reaching potential customers who are likely to be interested in their services.

How does a marketing channel work?

A marketing channel works by serving as a pathway through which goods and services travel from the producer or manufacturer to the end consumer. It involves a series of interconnected intermediaries, including wholesalers, distributors, and retailers, each playing a crucial role in product promotion, transportation, storage, and selling. The channel helps marketers reach a wider audience, increase market share, and enhance customer satisfaction. It also facilitates the flow of information, enabling marketers to gather customer feedback and adjust their strategies accordingly.

“Think of distribution channels as pokemon characters. They each have a set of rules and a list of superpowers. You can’t change how that distribution channel behaves, the rules, or its superpowers. Instead, find the distribution channels you can enslave with your product’s attributes, your team’s execution, or finding a blue ocean to grow within.”

Kieran Flanagan, SVP Marketing, HubSpot

Questions to ask yourself

As a modern growth marketing or agile marketing professional, ask yourself the following questions with regard to a marketing channel:

  1. What is the target audience for this marketing channel and does it align with our brand’s target demographic?
  2. What is the potential reach of this channel and how does it compare to other available channels?
  3. How cost-effective is this channel in terms of customer acquisition and retention?
  4. What are the metrics available for tracking and measuring the success of our campaigns on this channel?
  5. How flexible is this channel in terms of making quick changes to our marketing strategies based on real-time feedback and data?

“Don’t diversify yourself in too many channels; it’s like a death sentence. You should be focusing on the single and most efficient one.”

Brian Balfour, VP of Growth at Hubspot

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