Small Business Marketing Strategy Guide

1. The Four Ps of the Marketing Mix and How to Use Them

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Small Business Marketing

The Four Ps of the Marketing Mix and How to Use Them

Jul 07, 2023 • 7 min read
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      The Four Ps of the Marketing Mix is a framework to help businesses plan how to engage customers with their products or services. It prompts them to strategize how they will influence buyer behavior by developing an appropriate “mix” of the Four Ps—product, price, place, and promotion.  

      It is a well-established, simple, and memorable tool to help businesses consider their marketing approach at the highest level. Moreover, more recent additions and refinements to the model can further aid your thinking.  

      This article will guide you through the Four Ps of the Marketing Mix, examples of the four Ps of marketing, and how to use them.

      A Brief History

      The idea of a “Marketing Mix” emerged in the 1940s when a Harvard Professor of marketing, James Culliton, talked about marketers as “mixers of ingredients.” Yet there was little agreement about the ingredients of that “mix.”

      The Four Ps emerged in 1960, thanks to another marketing professor, E. Jerome McCarthy. In his book Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach, he detailed how the Four Ps could help businesses find the right Marketing Mix for their target market. His Four Ps gained traction and soon became a widely accepted marketing framework. Nevertheless, over time, many academics began to question McCarthy’s Four Ps. 

      Indeed, many changes in business and society led to new and alternative proposed configurations—offering more nuance and detail. For example, the needs of a brand seeking to promote the best remote desktop for Windows will be markedly different from marketing a bottle of soft drink sold in a supermarket.

      Thus, now you can choose from the Five Ps, the Seven Ps, and the Four Cs—take your pick! That does not make the Four Ps invalid. Far from it, many still use it as a top-level planning framework. But be aware of its evolution: some later suggestions may enrich your thinking.

      What are the Four Ps of Marketing?

      So what are the Four Ps of Marketing that McCarthy proposed? Let’s take a look at each one in turn. 

      1. Product

      The first P, Product, refers to what your business offers to the market. That may be a tangible good, a service, or an experience. 

      This P is about considering how your product targets specific consumer needs or wants. Of course, it is essential to understand your consumers. Thorough and ongoing market research allows businesses to understand consumer preferences and expectations, as well as to identify gaps in the market to find the best products for customers.

      How will your product stand out above competitors? That involves a consideration of its specification (features, benefits, quality, design, and range of options available), branding, and packaging.      

      2. Price

      The second P, Price, refers to the amount of money a customer will pay for that product or service. Business pricing strategies are complex and demand a sensitive balance between business objectives (revenue targets and market penetration) and customer behavior.

      Again, it requires an accurate and informed understanding of your market. How much are customers willing to pay? How much do they think your product is worth? Might discounts or flexible payment terms be persuasive? Beneath what price may consumers start to doubt the quality of your product?

      As well as the financial investment your customer must make, consider the time and effort investment a purchase requires. Are you ensuring that this is sensitive to your market?   

      3. Place

      The third P, Place, focuses on the distribution channels and availability of your product or service to your target market. In other words, how do you make the product purchase easy and convenient for customers? 

      When McCarthy was writing, products tended to be tangible goods. Where is the product available? Which territories? How will you get your product into the right stores? Which catalogs? How will delivery be fulfilled? How can the purchase be simplified for the customer?

      Obviously, times have changed. Products are now more likely to be purchased online or be intangible. That may require different questions. However, the principle is similar. For example, are you easy to find—are you using a “Doing Business As” (DBA) name to increase your findability? What support is in place to support online ordering? What are your delivery logistics?

      4. Promotion

      The final P, Promotion, refers to all the activities undertaken to promote your product to the target audience. How will you create a marketing campaign that persuades consumers to look at and purchase your product?

      It involves the strategic use of advertising, sales teams, public relations, content marketing, SEO, and social media. The aim is to raise awareness, nurture interest, and ultimately convince consumers to invest in your product over competitors’.

      It involves an intimate knowledge of your market. What will work best to convince them? What marketing formats reverberate best with them? 

      An Evolving Model

      While the Four Ps are still a powerful tool to support top-level business decision-making,  the landscape has changed significantly since the 1960s!

      Various alternatives have emerged to help businesses to find their best marketing “mix.”

      The Seven Ps: Three further ingredients appeared in the 1980s:

      • People captured the significance of psychology and relationships to business success. That includes employees and their relationship with your customers. In today’s service-oriented world, that’s more important than ever.
      • Process involves the activities that result in the delivery of the product’s benefit. In other words, it is about facilitating an entire customer journey that is smooth and satisfying.
      • Packaging focuses on capturing the attention of buyers in a crowded marketplace. It also builds brand recognition.

      And other models exist. For example, more recently, the Digital Marketing Mix has comprehensively adapted the Four Ps to address online enterprises. Meanwhile, the 2004 Internet Marketing Mix offers an entirely different set of ingredients.  

      It’s worth looking at these models and seeing which, if any, can further help your business.

      A Convenient Marketing Tool

      While it has morphed into different and alternative formats in recent decades, the Four Ps of the Marketing Mix remains a simple and convenient short-hand tool for planning your business’ marketing strategy. True, there may be additional factors and dynamics that you choose to consider in your decision-making. Nevertheless, whether you’re an established business or just starting up an ecommerce business, the Four Ps will remain crucial ingredients as you seek to find your own ideal marketing mix.

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