A distribution channel is the the way in which a strategy is implemented through a chain of tactics allowing you gain access to clients. If you have a web site, that is a distribution channel, as are the tradeshows you attend to sell your services; your face to face meeting with a client is another distribution channel. If you have a group leader program, that is a distribution channel, and if you cross-market with a local day spa or clothing store, that is a distribution channel as well.
It is important to recognize distribution channels and the role they play in generating business. Once you understand conceptually what a distribution channel is, decide whether you want to increase the number of channels with which you operate. You want to have more than one or two distribution channels. Some work better than others given the season, economic conditions or other external factors. Look around you and determine where groups of potential clients “pool”: retail stores, clubs, civic groups, media. Each of these outlets have access to people and suggests an alternative distribution channel.
The next step is to focus on the tactics you use to drive business through each of these channels. Develop a set of finely honed tactics for each – marketing collateral, promotions, allies and events. Calendar your efforts to keep them organized and sharp.
Look at each distribution channel you have and fine tune all of the tactics that surround them. Focus on each as a separate opportunity. Then, examine the tactics you use to reach out to each. At times, the distribution tactic to reach a particular audience is almost inherent in the nature of the channel. At other times, less specialized tactics like advertising might be productive.
For purposes of discussion focus on the following distribution channels and determine which are now active and productive for you:
- Direct Contact with Existing Clients – Your current clients continue to provide a source of business on an ongoing basis that you need to continue to cultivate and grow.
- Referrals from Existing Clients, family and friends – Do your clients and close associates know how to recommend you to others, or that you desire referrals?
- Networking activities – To what organizations to you belong or which do you participate with on a civic or social basis?Speaking Opportunities – I offer to speak on travel topics at a number of local organizations
- Cross-marketing – Are there other retailers with which you could work to mutually grow each other’s business?
- Group Leaders – Do you have a group leader program?
- Website -Is your website bringing in business
- Social Media – Do you have a blog, a Facebook account or participate in any online communities?
- Advertising – how do you reach out to those who have never heard of you?
This list is far from exhaustive, but it might help you begin to think about how to segregate and analyze your existing distribution tactics and the ways you reach out to clients. Many agents jump from one group to the other with an inadequate plan for consistently and thoroughly mining the opportunities available in each. Focus on two or three, make sure that you are doing a good job of representing yourself, and then add another.
Exercise – Write down all of your distribution channels. In addition to the ones we have named, you probably have access to others: bridal shows, networking organizations, a yoga class or gym you attend, your social and civic activities. Indicate for each how productive your distribution channels have been in the past. Note how consistently you use the channel and how much you spend on each in terms of both effort and financial resources.