What Is a Marketing Channel or Channel of Distribution?

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What Is a Marketing Channel or Channel of Distribution?
Trucking is a common form of ground transport. (Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

A marketing channel is a specific medium or means by which to communicate with consumers. A distribution channel is a means or medium by which to transport goods or deliver services to consumers. Comprehensive marketing strategies cover supply chain and distribution issues, linking the concept of distribution channels with that of marketing channels. Understanding these two topics and how they relate to each other can ensure that your supply chain strategies always meet the demand for your products.

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Direct Marketing Channels

Sales, promotions and public relations messages can be transmitted via a variety of media. Sales activities, for example, can take place in person, over the phone or on the Internet. Promotions can similarly take place within a store, over the Internet or through other media. Public relations messages can be sent through news outlets, social media or on product packaging. Each of these methods, or techniques, of sending messages to the marketplace constitutes an individualised marketing channel.

Advertising Channels

As the most visible component of marketing, advertising utilises a wide range of media channels to reach consumers. Traditional advertising media include newspapers, magazines, television, billboards and posters. Newer advertising media includes the Internet and smartphones. Each of these media is a different marketing channel, and each reaches different segments of people with different levels of effectiveness and cost efficiency.

Distribution Channels

Distribution channels can be classified in two distinct ways. First, there are a range of different methods of physically transporting goods, whether over land, through the air or via ship. You also have different ways to deliver services, whether in person, online, over the phone or through the mail. Second, specific strategies for moving products through the pipeline can also be referred to as distribution channels. The term "distribution channel" could refer to a partnership between a manufacturer, a distributor, a third-party warehouse and a retail purchasing agent, for example, through which the manufacturer gets its goods into retail stores.

Channel Strategy

A successful marketing- and distribution-channel strategy utilises a mix of different channels to ensure that the supply chain can always handle the demand stimulated by the messages sent through marketing channels. In the end, sending the right messages to the right people via the right channels is just as important as sending products to the right places on time via the right distribution channels.

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