HOW DO I GO TO MARKET?
By Emilio Macasaet III
 
“We have finally launched our product in the food supplement category. We think we have the right brand name, packaging, and the whole nine yards in brand marketing. We would like to find out the best distribution channels where to sell our products without giving away our margins. We have done a series of agonising discussions with our sales team on the subject. I have read some of your articles here on marketing channels. On hindsight, should have shared them with our sales managers. This time, can you share with us some principles or watch-outs to guide us in this journey?” - Mylene, VP Marketing.
 
Did you take your vitamins today?Where did you buy them? Why did you prefer to buy your vitamins from that channel? What benefits in buying there did you enjoy? Is the store nearer your place? Is it faster to purchase there? Is customer service better? Are there valuable information available to help you make a better purchase decision? And why didn't you buy from another channel? You may want to answer these questions before you read on. 
 
How do you go to market?When answering this daunting question, a typical sales manager’s default is to immediately think of direct and indirect channels. In many industries like packaged consumer goods, it’s a common dichotomy of modern trade and general trade segments. I argue that when one begins the discussion from this lens, you will consequently find disjointed and fractured channel strategies in the making. 
 
Product differentiation is not enough!In today’s competitive landscape, it is not enough to leverage on your product’s point of difference alone. Product differentiation can be easily copied, enhanced and surpassed as innovations continue to shake and create great crevices where most fall quite early. Today, building a route to market is not only a potent source of competitive advantage; it is an essential source of survival to many. 
 
So, how do I go to market?Marketing channel strategy deals with a choice, or series of choices, of channel partners, pricing strategies, promotions, intermediaries directed towards making your most dangerous competitors obsolete. But before you design your channel choices, begin with understanding how your target consumers would want to buy your product. 
 
The HOW of buying.Product differentiation deals with WHAT the customers want to buy. Your go to market deals with HOW your target customers or consumers would want to buy. This is where you should begin when crafting your go to market strategy. How would my target consumers want to buy my product? What benefits do they seek from a distribution channel? A major source of value creation is making it easier for customers to find, purchase and return your products (Dr. Anne Coughlan and Dr. Sandy Jap. 2016. A Field Guide to Channel Strategy: Building Routes to Market).
 
Now go back to your answers to the following: Did you take your vitamins today? Where did you buy them? Why did you prefer to buy your vitamins from that channel? What benefits in buying there did you enjoy? Is the store nearer your place? Is it faster to purchase there? Is customer service better? Are there valuable information available to help you make a better purchase decision? And why didn't you buy from another channel? 
 
So you're in a food supplement business. I was told that a typical person takes an average of four kinds of food supplements per day. I counted mine, it’s six. I wish there’s one product that has all the needed vitamins and minerals I can conveniently take every morning. I buy from different sources: two direct selling companies, and one from Healthy Options. For our illustration, I’ll share with you the benefits I perceive to get from these channels. In direct selling companies, I prefer to buy certain types of vitamins because of the following benefits in buying them: Home delivery is on time, information provision from their website, and customer service. They send me text messages as reminders when I should purchase next or if they need to let me know about their upcoming promotions.  I prefer to buy my other vitamins from Healthy Options due to its proximity to my home, convenience in shopping (no or shorter queuing), amiable sales staff who provide me with expert information and customer service. They also give me free monthly magazine where I learn a few things about healthy living. 
 
As a channel marketer, understand those types of benefits in buying that your target consumers look for. Include them in your consumer behaviour research. Then compare how other channels would perform in serving those benefits. The channel(s) with the highest score in providing those benefits should be your priority channels.  
 
Remember, a very powerful marketing strategy is one that combines a strong product and channel service differentiation. 
 
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Emilio Macasaet III is a Partner and the Chief Distribution Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc., the only advocacy-based training and consultancy firm focused on marketing, sales, strategy and innovation. For inquiries, email
info@mansmith.netor call (02) 584-5858.