Your marketing plan is the most valuable thing that you’ll produce for your business. A solid plan gives you a map of where you want to take your business and how you are going to reach each goal along the way. Through careful research, you will produce a clear mandate of each step you need to take.

Not only will this give you much more confidence in your business and in your ability to take it forward, but it will also give other people – such as investors – a clear way to evaluate the viability of your business. In other words, a good business plan will help you attract investors and other people (e.g. employees) to your cause.

Our last article explored pricing and positioning, in this article, we look at your distribution plan.

What Is a Distribution Plan?

Your distribution plan outlines the processes you will use to deliver your products and/or services to your customers.

Here, you need to think about the different delivery channels available to you and how well they fit with your target audience. You must also include details about any wholesalers and other middle players you use – this will help you put contingencies in place if there are disruptions in the delivery chain.

The Three Key Considerations: Physical distribution, Marketing Channels, and Product Availability

Physical Distribution

Your first step here is to outline your product’s manufacturing process. Depending on the product, consider the following questions:

• Where will you buy your parts?

• Who will make/assemble the product?

• Where will production take place? Location is important in physical distribution. Your product needs to reach your customers within deadlines and in a cost-effective way.

• Where will you store your product (e.g. warehousing)?

For each answer, make sure that you clearly outline the costs involved.

The next step in your physical distribution plan is to consider the type of services you will use to deliver the products or services to your customer. For example, if you have a physical product, you might want to use a courier or Royal Mail.

When choosing this supplier, you must consider the needs of your customers: can these organisations get your product to your customer on time and in a cost-effective manner?

Marketing Channels

Your marketing channels are effectively the options you choose to communicate with your customers and inform them about the product, including associated marketing, such as offers and promotions. For example, you might decide you want to reach them by email, through your website, social media channels, letter, TV advert and/or any number of other possibilities.

The trick in choosing the best marketing channel is to understand your customer properly. You can use multiple channels too, depending on your budget.

You also need to decide if this is something that you want to keep in-house or pass on to a marketing agency. Businesses with smaller budgets will tend to do much of the work themselves. Businesses with larger budgets will hire public relations specialist, such as Lion Spirit Media.

Your best marketing channels will be those that give you the greatest exposure to the type of people who will buy your products/services. By doing plenty of research into your target audience, you’ll have a good idea about which channels to begin with. In the initial stages, finding the best channels can be a matter of trial and error.

Product Availability

The final consideration is to make sure that your product is available to your customers within a reasonable timeframe and that disruptions to your supply chain are minimised. You need to know exactly how long it takes to produce, store, and deliver your products.

You also need to keep an eye on manufacturing supply chains. Finally, you need to put contingency plans in place should part of your chain fail. For instance, if a parts supplier goes out of business, have a list of alternative suppliers that you can approach.

Outsourcing Your Distribution Strategy

Many businesses choose to outsource their distribution strategies because they can make projects easier to manage. The downside is that you have less control of your product, but given these third party businesses are specialists in distribution, they have the skills and experience to manage distribution projects effectively – these are skills that you don’t necessarily have.

When choosing a distribution specialist, research the following:

• Do they specialise in distribution?

• How do their existing customers rate them?

• Do they have experience with your target audience?

• What contingencies do they have in place for disruptions?

• What are their delivery times?

• Are they competitive?

• Will they manage customer services?

This last question is important because they have access to information that can explain what happened if something goes wrong. The alternative is you providing the customer services yourself, and having to liaise between the distributor and the customer. That can add a level of confusion that can frustrate customers and make them shop elsewhere.