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Channel Management and Emerging Channels Of Distribution

The term Channel Management is widely used in sales marketing parlance. It is defined as a process where the company develops various marketing techniques as well as sales strategies to reach the widest possible customer base. The channels are nothing but ways or outlets to market and sell products. The ultimate aim of any organization is to develop a better relationship between the customer and the product.

Description: Channel management helps in developing a program for selling and servicing customers within a specific channel. The aim is to streamline communication between a business and the customer. To do this, you need to segment your channels according to the characteristics of your customers: their needs, buying patterns, success factors, etc. and then customize a program that includes goals, policies, products, sales, and marketing program.

The goal of channel management is to establish direct communication with customers in each channel. If the company is able to effectively achieve this goal, the management will have a better idea which marketing channel best suits that particular customer base. The techniques used in each channel could be different, but the overall strategy must always brand the business consistently throughout the communication.

Channel management is a term we use to describe how companies gain control of multi-step, complex distribution channels to maximize revenues and reduce costs and cycle times. Optimizing distribution channels helps you build stronger and more profitable relationships while ensuring that revenue leaks are plugged. Core tenets include:-

  • Aggregate and transform complex multitier channel data into actionable information that can be used by channel sales, marketing and finance to increase revenues and gain channel insight.
  • Streamline online partner collaboration and eliminate ineffective and error-prone manual processes, making it easier for your channel partners to do business with you.
  • Ensure compliance at all levels, from channel partner contracts and licensing agreements to revenue recognition and regulatory requirements from the SEC or the FASB.

Channel-management application areas include:

(1) Channel Data Management – collection, cleansing, enrichment, and normalization of data.

(2) Channel Revenue Management – valuation, channel incentives, inventory reconciliation, and revenue recognition activities.

(3) Sales Performance Management – payment for sales performance, sales credit assignments and commission splits.

(4) Partner Relationship Management – partner opportunity tracking, collaboration, and scorecards.

(5) Channel Business Intelligence and Business Discovery – insights and analysis for reporting and strategic planning.

EMERGING CHANNELS OF DISTRIBUTION

Our industry is one of constant change.  Consumers are using more and more resources to educate themselves on hearing loss and solutions for themselves or a loved one.  We see more caregivers involved in the decision making process.  With new consumers and decision makers beginning the journey towards better hearing, we see demands of purchasing hearing technology changing – new distribution channels are emerging.

In today’s market, for today’s consumers, there are five distribution channels:

  • Retail: This is a traditional channel. Private and clinical practices provide hearing technology from a hearing technology company. You provide personalized service and care for the consumer along with the overall patient experience.
  • Big Box: Large retail stores such as Costco, WalMart and Sam’s Club provide hearing technology via a professional at wholesale cost. The super stores buy large bulk and focus on price to their member/customer.  Service and repair is not a strong focus for this channel.  Private retailers should embrace the opportunity of earning a new customer through service and repairs in your local market to the big box customers.
  • Internet: Focused on three areas of better hearing: 1. Information on hearing loss and solutions. Lead generation for professionals via online companies.   3. Online catalog sales directly to the consumer, bypassing the professional.  As I mentioned in my correspondence last month, you the professional should embrace point 1 and 2.  The Internet is a key strategy for your practice.
  • Managed Care: Like big box, managed care is a growing channel. Insurance companies/providers continue to rollout new hearing plans for their members with an overall bigger objective – to sell health insurance.  Understand your national and local programs – understand which ones will help you yield growth in your practice.
  • Affinity Program: Large companies/organizations such as Ford, National Rifle Association (NRA) and United Mine Workers of America offer their employees and members hearing benefits and special discounts. This appears to be a steady trend for member benefit especially in the active aging organizations.

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