Marketing mix: How to make the 4 Ps work for your business
Marketing is everything when it comes to growing your business. Whether you’re a one-person show starting out or a thriving company at the top of your game, promotions are a crucial part of business success. They bring in customers, raise awareness of your products or services, and ultimately increase sales. But where do you start? The marketing mix, that’s where.
The four Ps you’re about to learn make up the framework that many companies use to build their reputations.
Related: How to create a catchy slogan
What is a marketing mix?
Introduced in 1948, the concept of a marketing mix has stood the test of time. Countless business owners around the world have used this tool to reach their sales goals.
Initially, the marketing mix comprised four key elements:
These four aspects were each considered a crucial part of any comprehensive marketing strategy.
But over time, the marketing mix has expanded to include the additional elements of:
- Physical evidence
Each element of the marketing mix is critical for success in its own right — but also interdependent on the others.
When preparing to implement a marketing mix, you’ll consider:
- What your consumers want
- How your product or service meets (or doesn’t meet) those needs
- How it is perceived in the market
- How it stands out from other similar products or services
- How your business interacts with its customers
By focusing on the four/seven Ps as part of your overall marketing strategy, you’ll be better able to increase the visibility of your products or services in the eyes of your target audience. Ultimately this will increase sales.
Related: What to include in a marketing brief
The first element of the marketing mix is product. It’s what you sell, and it’s what your customers buy.
The product is more than the end results, it’s everything that is made available to the consumer. According to Mailchimp, the product includes:
- Marketing position
To understand how to make the 4 Ps work for you, you must know what your product is — and more importantly, why people want it.
A good way to start is by thinking about how your product meets customers’ needs and wants. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does your product or service solve an obvious problem?
- Does it provide an easy way for people to accomplish a task they don’t enjoy doing?
- Does it give them something they didn’t know they wanted (until now)?
- Who exactly would be interested in buying this thing?
- What makes your product stand out? How does it differ from what’s already in the market?
If you’re unsure how to answer these questions, it’s time to do some background research.
Do your own digging
There are many ways to do market research on your product.
The team at Hotjar did research early on to work out what their customers really wanted.
The good news is you can too, and you don’t need to fork out big dollars hiring a marketing agency. You can do research on your own by using one or more of these methods:
- Online surveys (the most common method)
- One-on-one interviews (online or face-to-face) with people most likely to buy from you
- Focus groups
- Custom observation sessions
The key to getting useful information boils down to asking the right questions to the right audience.
Open-ended questions are the most effective way to gather detailed responses. Encourage participants to provide their thoughts and feelings without any restrictions.
You can also use ranking questions, multiple choice, single choice, the Likert scale and dichotomous questions (e.g. yes/no, true/false).
Here are six open-ended questions you can use in your product research:
- What is the biggest problem you’re facing or goal you’d like to achieve that I/we can help you with?
- Take us back to when you first decided you needed to solve this problem or achieve this goal; what happened?
- What is your favourite [insert your type of product/service] that you currently use to help solve your problem or reach your goal?
- Does [insert a competitor’s product name] get the job done satisfactorily?
- What don’t you like about [insert a competitor’s product name] product?
- How can we make our product better?
You’ll find the answers to the above question a gold mine when it comes to fully understanding what your product is and why people really need it. You may also get ideas for features you haven’t considered offering.
Research: How to do your own market research
The second element in the marketing mix is price. This refers to how much you charge for your product or service. But it’s much more than that.
Pricing sends an important message to your target market. The price you charge for your product or service says:
- What your brand stands for
- How much it’s worth to consumers
- What consumers can expect from your product or service
As the price of your product or service increases, so does your customer’s perception of the quality they expect to receive.
For example: suppose you’re selling low-priced jewellery on Etsy. In that case, your target market will likely perceive that the jewellery is not as valuable or is of a lesser quality than higher-priced products.
Price is also a promise
Your customers will likely decide to buy your product or service based on its perceived value, rather than what it’s actually costing them.
For example: Let’s say you have two small business coaches offering the same service, but one has more features than the other (extra coaching calls, instant messaging, out-of-business-hours availability).
People will often choose the option that offers greater perceived value despite being more expensive.
There are many types of pricing strategies, like competition-based pricing, cost-plus pricing, hourly pricing, and value-based pricing, to name just a few.
Regardless of what strategy you adopt, it’s worth considering the following points when setting your prices:
- What fixed costs do you pay to produce your product or deliver your service (rent, insurance, wages, utilities)?
- What variable costs do you have (materials, supplies, subscriptions and/or commissions)?
- How does your price compare to that of your competitors?
- How much value will your customers get from the product or service?
- What is your target profit margin? (According to one source, the ideal goal for the net profit margin is 15%)
- What is the lowest price you are willing to sell your product for?
- What is the highest price your target market will likely pay?
Pricing isn’t simply about what you’re selling your product for, but what you’re offering. Again, market research will help inform your pricing.
Related: The beginner’s guide to setting prices for products or services
The third element of the classic marketing mix is place. This is the ‘location’ where you’ll sell your product or service — how you will deliver it to your buyers.
You’ll determine if selling your product or service from a traditional brick-and-mortar store, local farmer’s markets, or online is best.
You’ll also decide if you’ll sell locally, nationally, internationally — or even globally.
Don’t forget the methods or channels (social media, website, print ads, TV or radio) you’ll use to get your product noticed by your ideal customers.
It’s important not to overlook this element when developing your marketing strategy because it affects:
- How many people see your message
- How quickly products move off shelves
- How often people book your service
The starting point is understanding your target market thoroughly. You must be able to answer these five questions:
Where will your ideal customer look for your product or service?
Will they want to physically touch or try on your product before purchasing?
What distribution channel will you use to sell your product (direct to the customer, via an affiliate, or via a wholesaler and retailer)?
Where and how are your competitors selling?
What form of transport will you use to get your product to where you’re selling it?
As with product and pricing, effective market research will provide you with the necessary insights into the best place and way to sell your product or service.
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Now that you’ve worked through the first three Ps of the traditional marketing mix, it’s time to promote your product.
Promotion is the act of getting your product or service noticed in the market and persuading people to buy it.
And it’s not just about advertising. It’s also about encouraging people to talk about your products and services.
When effectively promoting your product or service, you’re building brand awareness and creating demand for what you’re selling by showing people how great it is and why they can’t live without it!
Promotion can be implemented across many channels, and often, you’ll use more than one to get your product and message out there. These promotional channels can include:
- Advertising in print media, television and radio
- Public relations like press releases and news stories
- Social media marketing and advertising
- Search engine marketing like Pay Per Click (e.g. Google Ads)
- Email marketing and other digital strategies
You’ll need to consider timing, consistency and budget when promoting your product or service.
Advertising at a time when people are away from their desks or on holiday could lead to disappointing results. Inconsistencies in your messaging may confuse your target audience and drive them to more recognisable brands.
Finally, without a budget for promotional efforts, you’re limited to free marketing channels, which may limit your reach and chances of success.
Related: How to use retargeting ads to make more sales
But wait! There are 3 more Ps
Now that we’ve touched upon the 4 Ps let’s look at the extra elements that have evolved over time with this marketing tool.
The next element in the expanded marketing mix is people. Impressions count. This is true for your customers’ first impressions and those you build over time.
People refers to anyone who comes in contact with your customer, even indirectly.
Consider all interactions that your customers will have with your people, including:
- Through a contact centre
- Online (live chat) or emails
- Social media
When considering this element of the marketing mix, you’ll work out how to recruit and retain the best people to ensure you’re leaving the right impression and impact on your customers.
Related: 9 customers service skills no business can do without
Streamlined, documented and easy-to-implement processes mean your staff can deliver your products or services consistently and to a high standard.
Processes can be:
- Internal, like how to introduce new clients to your workflow
- External, such as how you package your products for delivery
A great way to get the most out of this marketing mix element is by mapping out the end-to-end journey of getting your product or service into your customer’s hands.
Make sure everything works smoothly, from when it leaves your building to the moment it arrives at their door.
While delivering a consistent level of customer service or product quality is a key consideration in the newer 7P model, you’ll also find that efficient processes improve productivity and save you time and money.
The final element in the expanded marketing mix is physical evidence. This is everything your customers see when interacting with your business, whether it be physical or digital.
It’s within this marketing mix element that you’ll start to think about:
- The way your staff are presented (uniforms) and how they act or engage with customers
- Your branding and logo
- Your online presence via your website, socials or emails
- The packaging of your product
- Customer facing paperwork like forms, invoices and receipts
- Online ratings and reviews
Much like processes, mapping your entire customer journey can help you see ways to improve the customer experience.
Get better results with a mix of marketing tactics
Regardless of whether you follow just four or all seven Ps of marketing, these frameworks can help you create a solid foundation for business promotions. Each element is important in its own right and will give you valuable insights that you can use to improve.
When you bring these tools together, you’ll experience the magic of the marketing mix.
The guidance we’ve shared above will help you decide the best way to reach your customers, persuade them to buy your products or services and keep them coming back year after year.
Image by: Jessica Johnston on Unsplash