The 4ps

I was recently asked to define marketing and the question caught me off guard. I talk about marketing so regularly that I’m accustomed to discussing specifics. It is a complex discipline that is difficult to explain with a short definition.

I thought about the question and replied “marketing is the discipline of developing a solid understanding of what the consumer wants and needs and providing them with solutions that fulfil those wants and needs in the most valuable way possible.”

The most valuable way possible
Value is created in a number of ways. It starts with a product or service that actually answers the consumers’ needs and wants, which are identified through market research. Pricing also influences the consumers’ perception of value. You can further enhance value by making it convenient for the customer to find your product through a strong distribution strategy.

The 4Ps of Marketing
The 4Ps of Marketing is a common guideline used as a checklist to assess if your business is creating value. It is composed of the following elements: product (or service), price, place, and promotion. The 4Ps are often used interchangeably with the term “marketing mix”, but they are actually components of the marketing mix, which is a broader concept.

Product (or service): This part of the marketing mix seems straightforward to most entrepreneurs. Product is what I want to sell, right?

Not exactly.

A product should be defined as what you have to offer that consumers want to buy. The difference is, if you have a product that has been developed without considering consumer wants and needs, it is unlikely you will sell much of it even if it is “revolutionary”.

Product development should be based on inbound messages from your consumer to you, and not solely on outbound messages from your company dictating what they should want. The most forward thinking brands like Apple actually dig so deep into consumer insight that they are able to present their consumers with products they didn’t even know that they want.

Too often, companies develop and then think about marketing. Marketing begins with research, so the development process should begin with information you have about your consumer coupled with the creative idea in your head.

Price: Pricing is a critical part of the marketing mix. It is a reflection of the value of your product. People want to feel they are getting a good deal. This does not necessarily mean prices should be low, but it does mean that to really hit the pricing sweet spot you must provide your buyers with a little bit more than they feel they are paying for.

Prices signal to consumers where you stand in relation to your competitors. Parity pricing would imply a similar offering, whereas a higher price should mean that the consumer can expect a better product or service. Monitoring your competitors’ pricing is key as it is indicative of strategy.

Prices also drive revenue and ultimately profit. Setting prices that don’t generate profit will put you out of business pretty quickly.

Place: Distribution is crucial to getting your product in front of the consumer. Where does your consumer look for your product? Online or offline? In supermarkets or boutiques? Would it be useful to pursue a direct selling approach? These are all questions you must ask yourself so you can create the best distribution strategy.

Where your product is found is also an indication of quality, so be selective with distribution partners.

Promotion: This part of the mix is what people generally think of when they hear “marketing”. Promotion refers to the strategy you use to ensure your brand’s message is heard by your target audience. The tools used can include, but are not limited to, above the line advertising (television, radio, print, outdoor), below the line advertising (in-store), public relations, social media, search engine marketing, and direct marketing.

Fresh techniques should constantly be incorporated into your strategy to see what best persuades customers. As John Hunt said in his book The Art of the Idea, “you don’t know what you don’t know until you do what you don’t normally do.

The 4Ps may seem to simplify marketing, but the guideline actually provides a great tool for marketers and business owners to use to constantly remind themselves of the foundation of a strong marketing strategy.