Place is the third “P” in the traditional 4 Ps Marketing Mix (refer to Marketing 101 section for more details) and refers to the outlets for bringing products together with customers. Those outlets are called Channels of Distribution. Several factors are associated with selecting the best channels of distribution for your product or service. These include:
- Examining how your competitors' products are sold
- Analyzing the strengthens, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats different channels afford your business
- Evaluating the costs of different distribution channels
- Determining which options match your overall marketing strategy.
It’s fairly easy to change any of your marketing tactics and tools periodically. Pricing, promotion, and product mix are fairly flexible choices. However, distribution and sales decisions are much more difficult to change, once set in motion. How you choose to distribute your products affects your overall marketing plan.
The range of distribution channels in the U.S. market is at once vast and yet at the same time restrictive. Some products will thrive in a variety of channels while other products can be successful only when distributed through one particular channel. There is a wide variety of possible distribution channels, including:
- Retail Outlets-Direct sales to the consumer or direct sales to retailers
- Wholesale Outlets-Contracting with independent distributors or brokers
- Mail Order-Selling your product through your own catalog or brochure
- Cyber Marketing-Selling via the Internet
Distribution choices for a service business follow the same lines as those for a physical product. For example, a photographer may offer his services, film, and framing in his own shop, have his services sold by a bridal shop, be part of a group that markets their services as a “package”, or sell his photos as hard-copies by mail or digital photos online.