You’ve got a great idea for a product. Or maybe you want to sell anything that’ll pay the bills. But who will buy your product? What’s more, who will sell it? Fear not. There are many options at your fingertips. Let me introduce two. They sound stuffy, but they can make you wealthy. These two options are direct and indirect distribution.
With direct distribution, you sell your product or service directly to the customer. Indirect distribution has you selling to a middleman, such as a retail store.
But why do you need a distribution channel? Well, “you have to figure out how to get [your product or service] from you to the person who will actually use it — so you have to decide on one or more distribution channels” (Dagys, Kerr, Kurtz, et al, 2020, 9%).
Let’s explore these two channels:
You’re in Good Hands with Direct Distribution:
A simple definition of direct distribution is this: “The product or service goes from your business to your buyer (most services and products take this route)” (Dagys et al, 2020, 9%).
(If you choose to sell a service, it’s easy sailing. Selling a product is trickier: you’ll need to build something from scratch or resell an existing product. But I digress.)
Here are two ways you can sell your goods directly to your customers, according to Dagys, Kerr, Kurtz, et al. (2020): “ Face-to-face: In your retail store or your office.  Facelessly: Through an order system that uses a website, e-mail, mail, phone, or even fax. If you choose this option, remember that you’ll need a place to keep your inventory, such as a room in a warehouse, and you’ll need a delivery system, such as mail or courier” (9%).
If you want to set up an online e-commerce store, Shopify is easy to learn. If you know WordPress, Shopify is a cinch. If you don’t know WordPress, WordPress, too, is a cinch.
I thought of selling books by building a WordPress Website and printing the books locally. But I had nowhere to store the books. I thought of buying indoor storage space and placing a wooden flat on the floor to elevate the books. Paying for storage seemed a hassle. With that said, if you’ve got a basement, you’ve got a handy, free warehouse.
Direct distribution can be a no-fuss choice.
Indirect Distribution: Another Wise Choice:
Here is a definition of indirect distribution: “The product or service goes from your business to another business to the buyer. Although your target market is the buyer, your customer is the ‘middleman’ business” (Dagys et al, 2020, 9%).
According to Dagys, Kerr, Kurtz, et al. (2020), “Middlemen include retailers, wholesalers, or distributors — who in turn sell to retailers, and sometimes to the general public. [Other middlemen include] re-packagers — who also sell to retailers after — you guessed it — repackaging the products they buy from you” (9%).
Amazon is a great example of indirect distribution. Amazon itself doesn’t buy your product. The customer on Amazon buys it, and Amazon takes care of packaging, shipping, and paying you. That’s if you buy Amazon’s warehousing service, called Fulfillment by Amazon.
But you can ship your Amazon sales yourself if you want. I saw videos on a guy who’d frequent Walmart sales. He’d see what the Walmart sale items cost on Amazon. If he stood to make a decent profit, he’d buy every single item in all the Walmart stores in his city—and in neighboring cities, too. Then he’d list his items on Amazon, package his sales, and make money. He made a decent living.
Amazon is fantastic for selling books, too, of course. I created Kindle books directly through Amazon’s print-on-demand publishing service. Publishing on Amazon was once as simple as uploading a Word file with a table of contents. Now, Amazon offers an easy software to tidy up your book. No sweat!
But who will manufacturer your solid-gold idea? Alibaba!
If you need an easy manufacturer for your company, consider Alibaba. According to Software Advice, you can find a manufacturer on the site Alibaba: “In this forum, anyone can post CAD [computer aided design software] schematics for what they want built. Contract manufacturers willing to make it happen respond with a bid to take it from concept to product.”
I’ve been wanting to design jewelry boxes. But I don’t know how to build with wood. If you like woodwork, electronics, metalwork, or any homebuilder craft, then consider designing a CAD prototype. An Alibaba manufacturer might bid to build your design. You can even design your product so that middlemen can brand them with their own logos. You’ll make a killing.
Some Alibaba manufacturers may even dropship for you. That means, whenever a customer buys from you, the Alibaba manufacturer takes care of shipping and gives you a percentage of the sale. I saw a video where a guy bought watches from Alibaba, slapped his logo on them, built a Shopify website, and boosted the price of the watches. They looked like $5 watches without the logo; $2000 watches with the logo and website. Super sweet!
What software should you use to design your product?
You’ll likely need a computer aided design (CAD) software to design your product.
A list of industrial quality computer aided design (CAD) software can be found at All3DP. For information on what design file formats you need to give your manufacturer, check out QualityInspection.org. For the cheapest (student edition) industrial quality CAD software I could find, look at Clever Bridge.
With industrial quality CAD software, you can design even houses and sports cars. Learn how to design using CAD software, and employers will line up to hire you.
With that said, which path will you choose to sell your goods: direct or indirect distribution—or both? Whichever you choose, I bet you make a decent living.