I’d like to do write a short series on Marketing’s 4 P’s if you’re up for it. More specifically, I’d like to look at what they mean today and in the few years to come.
Here’s a brief overview what we’ll look at over the next few Marketing Mondays:
- What are the 4 Ps? That’s what we’ll look at today
- Product. What’s the product or service are you actually marketing?
- Promotion. How are you promoting this product or service (advertising, social media, coupons, etc.)? By Promotion we mean more than discounts and “2 for 1″ deals.
- Price. How much is your product or service going to cost your customer?
- Place (AKA Distribution). Where is this product or service of yours available to purchase?
- Wrap up. In the big scheme of things, where do we stand on each element?
What are the 4 Ps of Marketing
If you’ve taken any type of “Intro to marketing” class, you’ll know that the 4 Ps are: Product, Promotion, Price and Place. The idea is that each element makes up your marketing mix or all the elements of your marketing tool box. In other words, you need to work out each of these four elements when you write or think-up your marketing plan. The thinking goes if you find the right balance, you’ll have success. Together, the 4 Ps kind of make up your company or your brand’s positioning — how others think of or perceive you (Positioning is a topic we’ll look at another time).
Of course “mix” means some companies will be stronger or more dependent on one or more P. In fact, that’s their differentiating factor. For example, I once worked at a distribution company. Pricing was everything in my department. If you had the right Price, you had made the deal — that’s it, that’s all. The components we distributed were commodities. That means the clients could buy from the competition the exact same items they could buy from us. The rest was important, but always secondary to Price.
[Side note: Although we distributed other's products, as a company our Product was distribution, the same exact type our competitors delivered. Can you see the difference?]
Another example would be Apple. It’s more Product-focused. If there’s no iPhone, then nothing else matters.
What about you? Where are you stronger or different from your competition?
Where are we now
I like the simplicity of the model. Some have tried to rework it by adding Ps or changing them altogether. If that works for you, great; but I think they’re as relevant today as ever. In fact they’re probably more so than ever. Granted technology has vastly changed how consumers think about things like Price or Place and we’ll look into some of that in the coming weeks.
Over the years, marketing has became more specialized and divided. Just like the factory worker, marketers experienced deep division of labour. Ad agencies became experts in Promotion, Business Development and Sales became Pricing experts. To some extent logistics became Place experts, and R&D became Product experts. Leaving little room for the marketer. But I think technology is forcing the company to harmonize and integrate once again — a bad Product can’t be saved by a good Promotion and bad Pricing can kill a great Product and so can awful distribution. Maybe the new role of marketing is that of Quarterback? Organizing the play.
If you’re a freelancer or consultant, you should take the time to review where you stand on each quadrant. The great thing is you’ll be able to control each one as you see fit. If you’re an employee, you might not control each (or any) of the Ps, but you’ll be able to see where your strengths and weaknesses are and try to exert influence where needed. You work with experts in the field, so if you do your job well, you can come up with interesting solutions. Granted, that can be easier said than done, so worst case, you’ll gain a better understanding of your company (as was the case for me at the distribution company).
What does it mean for you?
Take some time to look at where you stand. Let’s look at a fictitious example — the business consultant:
- If you’re a business consultant, what’s your Product? I’m a business consultant or more specifically social media consultant. I help companies figure out this social media thing, what it means for them and what they can do with it.
- How will you Promote? I’ll write blog posts that my potential clients will want to read and I’ll be very active on LinkedIn. I’ll do some other things too like guest post and speak at conferences.
- How will you Price it? I want to be the cheapest available — I’d rather have a big client turnover than a few big important clients.
- How will you distribute? Because I’m cheap I need to be able to deliver my consulting (Product) very easily. I’ll do a lot of consulting via Skype and Hangouts. I’ll still see clients in person when that makes sense. I’ll test it out.
Can you see what P is more predominant here? It’s Price. There are a lot of social media consultants out there and they all Promote in similar ways and charge similar Prices for face-to-face meetings. This consultant is smart, she’s decided to differentiate — she’ll be the cheapest. Although we can’t say if that’s sustainable, you can see how that decision affects the other Ps? To be the cheapest, she’ll need to lower expenses, by cutting down on travel (Place) and freeing up as much time as possible to do work (efficient Promotion). If the what differentiates is Price, what will the Product then look like?
(Photo credit: JD Hancock)