The concept of a marketing mix, the major components of a marketing strategy, was first developed in the 1960s by marketing scholar E. Jerome McCarthy. His original concept described the four basic components of every marketing campaign, the Four Ps: Product, Price, Promotion, and Place.
The concept was groundbreaking at the time and was part of a movement to deconstruct and systemize marketing. It still has tremendous relevance today, but what was once considered leading edge, is now prerequisite knowledge.
Oldies but goodies, the original Four Ps are still fundamental concepts that every marketer spends countless hours analyzing and making tough calls on.
Put simply, a product is something that you are selling to satisfy a customer’s needs or wants. It can be physical goods or intangible services, ideas, or experiences. The marketing choices that affect a product include the design of the product itself (such as the features, quality, and style), the assortment (i.e. the types of product lines offered), and the branding, packaging, and labeling. Associated services (such as after-sales help desks), guarantees and warranties, and return policies are also considered elements of the product.
This is the amount you intend to charge for your product as well as the means by which customers can pay (e.g. cash, credit, layaway). The price of a product is important for marketing purposes because the amount a person pays for something affects their perceived value of it.
Promotion refers to communications made to potential customers informing them of your offering. Common sources for that information include advertising, public relations, direct marketing, and sales promotions. The choices to make at this stage include developing a promotional mix (e.g. ad heavy versus PR heavy) and a messaging strategy, a clear idea of what you are saying and the desired response. Other promotional choices include picking the optimal channels to communicate on (e.g. social media versus traditional media) and message frequency.
It’s essential to have a well fleshed out buyer persona when making these decisions. The ideal promotional strategy speaks in the language of the target market, reaches them where they already are, and sends a message they are receptive to.
Last, but not least, place refers to the distribution methodologies employed to get the product into customer’s hands. Choices that need to be made include whether to invest in brick-and-mortar outlets or pursue online, mail-order, or call-center based sales. Place choices also cover your distribution strategy. Are you trying to get your products into the hands of anyone who wants it, or limiting it to an exclusive few?
In sum, the four Ps are really asking some simple questions. What are you selling? How much are you charging for it? How are you informing people of your offering and enticing them to purchase it? And, how are you going to get the product to them if they do make a purchase?
The Next Generation
Today, several additions and alterations are competing to update McCarthy’s original four. Because service industries have grown rapidly since the 1960s an additional three Ps were added to better cover the marketing needs of service-centric companies. The 7Ps model includes the original four but adds: Physical Evidence, People, and Process:
5. PHYSICAL EVIDENCE
Physical evidence (or physical enviorment) refers to the places where services are performed as well as the tangible things that serve as reminders that it took place (e.g. souvenirs, mementos, brochures, photographs, etc.). The place a service happens can have a big impact on how it is perceived. That means special care needs to be taken when considering facility choices such as equipment, furniture, accessibility, as well as signage, and ambient conditions like music, cleanliness, and air temperature.
Because services typically involve a human element ‘people’ are given their own category that covers the human actors that help deliver the service, interact with the customers, and form the public face of the company’s values. Choices in this area include staff recruitment and training practices, uniforms or dress codes, conversational scripts, and customer service procedures.
The seventh P, process, describes how the service is delivered. It requires you to decide on a standardized system or a customizable one. It also involves monitoring and tracking performance (which itself requires developing key performance metrics).
There are numerous other models as well. Some separate the monitoring parts of the process category into its own heading as an eighth P, Performance. The Four Cs system (Consumer, Cost, Communication, and Convenience) is another system that is optimized specifically for B2C operations.
But, regardless of the framework being employed, all it takes is for one miscalculation to ruin the whole thing. It doesn’t matter how easy it is to buy your product if know one knows about it. Likewise, it doesn’t matter how well you promote your product, if no one can find a place to get it. A well thought out and effective campaign is like a cake. You need the right ingredients in the right proportions.
More ingredients means more complexity, but in the 21st century you need to master the time-tested fundamentals and the modern additions.