Channel Management. Yet another sales and marketing phrase that is thrown around like everyone knows what it means. But so few companies really comprehend channel management in a way that really helps them. It’s really no wonder. Sales channels (being the conduits by which we distribute our products to the end-user) come in many shapes-from direct, to the web, to the traditional retail environment. And, we’re just doing whatever we can to get any business from any of them! But is that the most efficient and effective approach?
That’s where Channel Management comes in. Channel management, as a process by which a company creates formalized programs for selling and servicing customers within a specific channel, can really impact your business-and in a positive way! To get started, first segment your channels by like characteristics (their needs, buying patterns, success factors, etc.) and then customize a channel management program that includes:
1. Goals. Define the specific goals you have for each channel segment. Consider your goals for the channel as a whole as well as individual accounts. And, remember to consider your goals for both acquisition and retention.
2. Policies. Construct well-defined polices for administering the accounts within this channel. Be sure to keep the unique characteristics of each segment in mind when defining policies for account set up, order management, product fulfillment, etc.
3. Products. Identify which products in your offering are most suited for each segment and create appropriate messaging. Also, determine where your upsell opportunities lie.
4. Sales/Marketing Programs. Design support programs for your channel that meet THEIR needs, not what your idea of their needs are. To do this, you should start by asking your customers within this segment, “how can we best support you in the selling and marketing of our products?” That being said, the standard considerations are product training, co-op advertising, seasonal promotions, and merchandising. Again, this is not a one-size fits all, so be diligent about addressing this segment’s SPECIFIC needs in these areas.
Defining a channel management strategy for each segment allows you to be more effective within each segment, while gaining efficiency at the same time. Still, maintaining brand consistency across all channel segments is critical to your long-term success. So find a good balance between customization and brand consistency and you’ll be on your way to successful channel management.