A Product Distribution Strategy Keeps the Wheels in Motion

The phrase “marketing mix” has long been used to talk about the four major tasks assigned to any marketing manager. One of the most important of these tasks is formulating a product distribution strategy. Without this strategy, the other elements of the marketing mix which are price, product, and promotion are irrelevant if there is no effective and efficient product distribution strategy in place. Good prices, quality products, and effective advertising mean nothing if people can’t get the items they want.

Place

Place is one of the 4Ps that make up the marketing mix. It refers to the entire strategy of deciding where to offer a company’s products to customers. For example, products can be distributed traditionally at a brick-and-mortar store where people go to shop for the items the company makes. Another traditional means of product distribution is through warehouse or “big box” retail chains such as Wal-Mart, K-Mart, or Target. These companies distribute items from many other companies, allowing for a single point of distribution by many other businesses, and providing customers with a single place to go to for buying products from many different companies.

Other Means of Access

A product distribution strategy must include traditional stores, but it can’t be limited to those locations. Some products are not distributed chiefly at a “place” in the usual sense, but rather through a virtual place. Online catalogs, outlets, web-based ordering forms, and discount clearing houses are also ways in which companies distribute their products and therefore, customers can access them. Customers can order their products online and then receive them at home through the postal service, UPS, or FedEx.

Transporting Goods for Distribution

Another important piece of product distribution strategy is how to transport goods from the point of production, such as a factory, to the point of distribution. There are major variables to consider when getting goods from one place to another, including how far it is from the factory to the place where items are stored or retailed, what’s the best way to get things across that distance (ship, truck, train, etc), and how much transport costs will add to the final price of the item.

Storage

It is not always possible to get products directly from the factory to the outlet. In some cases, the outlet (the retail store) is waiting for the proper season, such as summer, back to school, or the December holiday selling season, and is not prepared to distribute the items immediately. Other times, if online ordering and delivery is a major part of distribution, items must be kept somewhere until they are ordered and shipped. Storage considerations can add significant expense to an item’s overall cost, thereby increasing the price if it is not part of a well thought out distribution strategy.

Product distribution strategy is the lynchpin of any successful production and marketing campaign. It doesn’t matter what the product is, if there’s no plan in place for getting the items into the hands of customers, all the other work put into the production of a quality item will be wasted. Distribution is the step that holds the whole business process together.