Friday, May 4, 2012

Marketing 101: Microenvironment - Marketing Intermediaries

It's time for Marketing 101.  We're still discussing the Marketing Microenvironment.  This week let's discuss Marketing Intermediaries.

Marketing Intermediaries are businesses that help your company to promote, sell, and distribute your products and services to your customers. They can include resellers, physical distribution firms, marketing service agencies, and financial intermediaries.

Resellers, such as Target or Best Buy, are distribution channel businesses that help your company find customers or make sales to them.  There are now numerous large reseller organizations (think big box such as Target and Amazon) that have enough power to dictate terms, or even shut out other manufacturers (or even you) from larger markets and groups of customers.  It is absolutely important to have great relationships with resellers.  It is a give and take situation.  Often times, especially with larger organizations such as Walmart, you must be willing to follow their pricing or selling guidelines in order to gain access to their customers.  It may cost you money to get your product on their shelves, or be featured in their advertisements.  Unless you have a long, successful relationship with these resellers, you will typically have to supply them product and services on their terms.  In these situations, successful sales of your product in their stores will be what builds leverage for you in the relationship.

Physical Distribution Firms
Physical Distribution Firms help your business stock and move goods to their points of origin and to their destinations, ie: from the factory to a warehouse and then to the stores.  It is often much more economical to rely on these companies, because logistics is their specialty.  To build a logistics team and infrastructure is often very expensive to do from scratch, and is only really necessary when you are moving massive amounts of goods in highly specialized and time critical ways.  If you are manufacturing internationally, make sure you develop a good relationship with a firm that knows the in's and out's and politics of getting product in and out of ports and dealing with customs. 

Marketing Services Agencies
Marketing Services Agencies usually consist of marketing research firms, ad agencies, consultants, and media firms.  These companies exist to help you find and target your customers.  These businesses typically help to fill in the holes in your marketing staff.  Research firms provide you with qualitative and quantitative data on markets and customers.  Ad agencies help provide fresh, outside creative ideas for your campaigns and strategic marketing efforts.  Agencies can bring multiple types of marketing experts to your business without you having to staff people for each discipline.  Consultants can service the role of internal marketing staff on a temporary, campaign or project basis.

The key to using Marketing Services Agencies is to partner with them to help you with your weaknesses.  Whomever you use, make sure they are filling a hole that you haven't filled yourself on staff.  Make sure that they are invested in bringing you results.  You must keep constant tabs on them: are they doing the right work?  Are they investing your dollars properly?  Are they performing at a level that meets your expectations?  Are they truly concerned with achieving success for you?  Do you have a good working relationship with your account executives?

Financial Intermediaries
Financial Intermediaries help you use money.  They typically include banks, credit companies, insurance companies, other businesses that help you conduct financial transactions or insure against the risks associated with the buying and selling of goods and services.

Marketing Intermediaries are a crucial part of the marketing microenvironment.  You must have effective partnerships with these key elements of the microenvironment if you are going to successfully give value to your customers and get value from them.  Now is as good a time as any to evaluate the relationships you have with your marketing intermediaries.