If you take any marketing course in business school, the Five P's of Marketing are ingrained into you from day one. Collectively these 5 P's (sometimes 4, depending on the text) make up what we as marketers call the Marketing Mix. While there are some variations to the P's, they generally consist of:
Product ' the product or service offered to the customer
Price - pricing strategies with the goal of meeting a desired profit margin or costing structure
Place (Distribution) - distribution of the product/service to your target market
Promotion - communication and endorsement of your product/service to a customer
People - service marketing and the level of customer service you provide to your customer
Marketing managers use this marketing mix to try and engage their customers and convert the sales cycle. Seems simple doesn't it? All you need to do is add a half a cup of Promotion, a dash of Price, and a pinch of Product and you have the recipe for success. Well, not really.
The truth is, marketing has to be customer centric, and although the customer is what completes the adjoining sales cycle, it is also the customer that drives the entire marketing mix. Basically, the entire process starts and stops with the customer - this is the only sure fire recipe for success, anything else is just the "smoke and mirrors" that gives marketing a bad name in the corporate atmosphere. Let's evaluate how this is true for each of the five P's of the marketing mix.
Marketing Mix P1 - Product
The Product P does not simply refer to the actual tangible goods or service; it also refers to the appearance and packaging, the benefit and function, quality, branding, and any associated warranties. It is important to remember that people buy benefits, not products - and the greatest mistake that any marketer can make is to create a product that people don't actually want, never mind need. Products have to satisfy a need or want for some market segment otherwise you will end up with overstocked warehouses and court mandated liquidations.
Marketing Mix P2 - Price
Price not only refers to the actual price that you set for your product or service, but also to any discounts or financing and leasing options available. A product doesn't have to be the cheapest to be successful, what it has to be is the best value for the benefit it gives. In other words, people are willing to pay a premium for a sports car because the benefit of increased social stature, excitement, and maybe even sexual appeal is worth more than the man hours needed to afford the luxury. Too often marketers make the mistake of pricing a good solely on profit margins and costs without consulting the target market premium. By thinking of the customer first, you can effectively price your goods or service equal to the perceived value and generate far greater revenues than any other pricing model.
Marketing Mix P3 - Place (Distribution)
Place deals with the distribution channels and options for getting your product/service to your customer. Depending on the type of product or service you provide, there may be other "middlemen" involved in the distribution or placement of your product. Getting your product/service to your customer is a critical factor if you are to be successful in business. It's more than supply and demand; it's about timing and ensuring that you have the proper resources to efficiently get your product/service to your consumer. It's also about satisfying your customer's needs and wants according to their schedule. With e-business, Place also includes visibility - visibility in search engines, visibility in sponsored campaigns, but more importantly, visibility for the consumer keywords and search behavior of your target market. The Internet is not a cornfield in Iowa, if you build it does not necessarily mean that they will come.
Marketing Mix P4 - Promotion
Dare I say that Promotion could very well be the most important of the five "P"s while an argument can be made for each of the others, the communication of your products benefits, the creation of brand awareness, and the effective resonance of your sales copy with your target market can make or break any business. However, often overlooked is the fact that Promotion also includes public relations and reputation management - customer loyalty is the greatest asset any company can have. It reduces costs by creating a strong customer base, it builds up priceless WOM, and creates an outlet for outside-in communication - customer loyalty allows you to refine the marketing mix so that it is more effective and efficient in the long-term.
Marketing Mix P5 - People
In this case, People refers to your customer service staff and the attitude and appearance that is reflective of your organization, or perceived by your customer. Perception plays a large part in marketing (maybe it's a 6th P), creating a corporate image and maintaining that image can be the most effective marketing tool ever imagined. But you cannot have a strong corporate image without good people; good people that listen to your customers, and good people that communicate those comments, concerns, and needs to your entire organization.
We have all experienced good and bad customer service, and which experience do you tend to remember and tell your neighbors about? That's right, usually the negative experiences. You can see why the fifth "P" is so important. Your people can determine whether your customer will return and what lifetime value you will receive as a result - remember what a businesses greatest asset is?
Do the five "P's" of marketing apply to SEM and online marketing efforts? Of course they do, just not exactly in the manner that you may think. Next week, I will look at how the marketing mix impacts search engine marketing directly, and how although the theories may be the same, the practice is slightly different in the online environment.
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