Marketing channel versus a sales channel are they really different?

Why is a marketing channel different from a sales channel?

A marketing channel and a sales channel are very different things. Sales sees a channel as a method for distributing products, while marketing may see it the same or as a communication method. This can create confusion as sales and marketing interact on a daily basis. To help foster a productive dialog we’d like to bring some clarity to how these phrases are used:

Sales Channel

According to, a sales channel is a way of bringing products or services to market so they can be purchased by consumers. A sales channel can be direct if it involves a business selling directly to its customers, or it can be indirect if an intermediary such as a retailer or dealer is involved in selling the product to customers.

Marketing Channel

According to marketing, a channel is a communication method for reaching a customer. Marketing terms like multi-channel or omni-channel refer to using several different communication methods to reach a customer. Common marketing channels are: telemarketing, direct mail, email, blogs, web sites, social media, (see The BIG list of today’s marketing channels for more marketing channels).

Marketing also uses the word channel to mean distribution, which further confuses this topic. You could easily be talking to a marketer using the word channel where one person is talking about a communication method and the other is talking about distribution.

There is no right or wrong here, this is just the way things are today.  One thing to keep in mind when discussing the channel, particularly with marketing, is using the phrase “sales channel” takes away ambiguity. Also, the phrases “market channel” versus “marketing channel” means very different things.

Market Channel

The phrase “market channel” almost always refers to distributing products through some form of distribution network. This is true for both marketing and sales.

The phrase “marketing channel” will be interpreted as talking about a communication method when using it with a marketer. Someone in sales will hear the words “marketing channel” as if it were synonymous to “sales channel.”

Another reason why sales sees the word channel as synonymous with distribution is the primary function of the channel is to drive revenue. Most distribution partners have three or four functions: selling, implementing, supporting, and generating demand. In virtually every instance getting products to customers for the purpose of sales is the primary function of a distribution channel. In most instances marketing is the third or fourth priority of a channel partner.

So remember if you want to cross the channel, change the channel, accelerate the channel or send messages to or through the channel, the word channel can mean many things. Hopefully, this article will help you avoid some of this confusion.

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