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Small Business Hub: A Research Guide for Entrepreneurs


If you're looking to market a product or service, then it is crucial to consider both where you want to sell it, and how it is going to get there. Understanding how and where a product or service is going to be distributed and made available means that this process is designed in the most efficient way possible, and that the offering is getting in front of the right potential buyers. Likewise, if you're looking to open a storefront selling goods, you'll need to decide what distribution channels you'll use to receive goods to sell. Some distribution strategies include:

  • Indirect distribution – selling a product to wholesalers or some other form of middleman, who then on sell it.
  • Direct distribution – Selling a product directly to consumers, through a physical or digital storefront
  • Online distribution – selling your product through the internet
  • Exclusive distribution – restricting the number of places where a product is available, in order to create a sense of exclusivity or rarity around a product.

For information about choosing a location for your business, refer to the "Find a Location" section within this guide.


Starting points:

  1. Research your target customer. Where are they most likely to access your product or service, and what distribution strategy will you use to get it to them?
  2. Research and understand the market landscape. How do your competitors get their product to customers? Should you mimic this, or is there opportunity for disruption?
  3. If you’re looking to sell distributed goods, research potential distribution channels and distributors. Who is going to meet the needs of your business? Are they reliable and competitively priced?

Suggested strategies:

  • Use analytics and surveys to determine where customers are mostly likely to access your product or service.
  • If you're looking to get your product indirectly distributed, start by researching and contacting retailers directly. Once you have a build a strong track record, distributors are more likely to take you on.
  • Use state government websites to carefully research local rules and regulations if you are setting up a storefront. Zoning restrictions and other costs vary from location to location.

Select Resources

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are provided when available.

The subscription resources below marked with a padlock  are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

These are freely available online sources provided by government agencies, trade publications, and organizations.

The following guides were created by the Library of Congress to give an in-depth list of resources on a specific topic.