Selecting the marketing channels to use is a complex decision – there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for distributing your product. Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been in business for a while, it can be difficult to find effective ways to reach your target market.

One way to make the process simpler is to break down all the factors that play into channel selection. Your customer base, your available resources, and your product itself can all help guide your decision. Take the following factors into consideration as you weigh your options, and you’ll have an easier time choosing the right marketing channels for your business.

What are the physical attributes of your product?

Sometimes the physical attributes of a product dictate how it should be distributed. Not everything can be easily shipped, and some items need to be handled more carefully than others.

If your product is large and heavy, for instance, shipping it across the country may not be practical. And if you sell something perishable – like food or cosmetics – you’ll probably want to get that product into customers’ hands as quickly as possible. In cases like these, it’s best to look for a short marketing channel.

However, if your product is durable and easy to ship, you have more options. In this case, a longer distribution channel with more middlemen may give you certain advantages, like a wider distribution area.

What kind of brand image do you want to create?

Your brand’s overall image is shaped by your customers’ buying experience, from start to finish. Where and how a person buys your product is just as important as the quality of the product itself. As you consider your options for distribution channels, ask which support the kind of brand image you want to cultivate.

For instance, if you want people to associate your brand with uniqueness or exclusivity, you probably wouldn’t want to sell your products at Walmart, even if that meant reaching more customers. Rather, you’d probably want to target more exclusive retailers, or even focus on distributing your product online yourself.

How technical is your product?

The more specialized or difficult your product is to use, the more you’ll benefit from using short marketing channels or selling directly to customers. That’s because people are often reluctant to take a risk on an ‘intimidating’ product unless they’ve built up some trust with the business first. Leads must feel assured that you’ll help them with setup and provide tech support if something goes wrong. For example, if you sell specialized software or complex machinery, you’ll probably want to focus on choosing leads carefully and building relationships with them – not distributing your product as far and wide as possible.

Are you selling to individuals or businesses?

Business to business selling requires a different approach than business to consumer selling. If you’re selling to individuals, retail may be a good option for you, since most B2C businesses don’t need to build personal relationships with customers.

However, if you have a B2B business, retail is out of the picture. It’s too impersonal, and it won’t put your product in front of the right customers when they need it. Direct selling or selling through an agent will likely be your best bet.

How big and geographically diverse is your target market?

Where do you want to sell your product, and how many people do you expect to buy it? Look for marketing channels that can accommodate both the area you want to cover and the volume of customers you’re anticipating. For a small, local business, this could mean setting up your own store or selling your product door-to-door. If you want to reach a wider market, the internet is a good option that’s accessible even to small, new businesses.

Where and how does your target market like to shop?

Do some market research and figure out how your target audience prefers to shop. Do they visit retail stores? Do they place bulk orders online? Are they inclined to make impulse purchases, or do they research products carefully before making a decision? Knowing your market’s shopping habits will make it easier to position your product where buyers can find it.

How much time and effort can you spend on distribution?

Distributing a product takes a lot of resources and organization. Handing the product off to a middleman makes the process easier for many businesses. However, if you have the resources to do your own distribution through direct selling or an ecommerce site, you retain control over how your product gets into customers’ hands. You might also make more profits in the long run.

Which marketing channels do your competitors use?

It’s important to know how your competitors sell their products to customers. If you aren’t sure which channels your competitors are using, do a little research to find out.

You can use this information in a couple of ways. The first way is to adopt the same marketing channels your competitors use, or find very similar ones (and this includes social media). This strategy can work well because you know that your competitors’ channels have a built-in market for the types of products you sell.

Another approach is to avoid your competitors’ marketing channels entirely. Instead, look for different channels where your rivals have no reach, and sell there. This can be a very effective way to cut down on competition. However, it can be hard to find marketing channels that are both effective and untapped in your field. If you’re good at thinking outside the box and you have the resources to do plenty of promotion, this strategy might be worth a try.

Which channels offer you the most advantages?

Some marketing channels will offer you more advantageous partnerships than others. Make a list of the channels you’re considering, and ask yourself the following questions:

Will certain middlemen promote your product more than others?
How will your choice of middlemen affect your bottom line? How can you maximize your profits?
Do any channels have particularly favorable or unfavorable policies? For instance, if a potential partner wants the exclusive rights to distribute your product, that might not be a good deal for you
What kind of reputation does each channel have? Is their business financially sound? Are they known for being reliable and pleasant to work with?

The take-away

There are a lot of moving parts to consider as you select marketing channels for your product. Deciding doesn’t have to be overwhelming, though. Weigh these nine important factors, both on their own and in relation to each other, as you consider your options. By putting plenty of thought and analysis into your decision, you’ll give yourself the best possible odds of selecting marketing channels that benefit your business for years to come.

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for No Risk SEO, an all-in-one reporting platform for agencies. You can connect with Amanda on Twitter and LinkedIn, or check out her content services at