The Marketing Mix (The 4 P’s of Marketing)

One of the things I enjoy most about general management and program management is the fact that you get exposure to how all the different parts of an organization fit together and work. When I first started my career, like many people working in a technical capacity I considered that marketing was all about having long liquid lunches, and using those special marketing phrases we all love to hate.

These days however I’ve realised the error of my ways and find marketing both fascinating and an extremely important part of any product lifecycle. Wheather you’re a general manager responsible for 2,000 people, or a project manager responsible for 5, a good understanding of marketing can help you make better decisions day to day.

Let’s begin by looking at what we need to do in order to sell a product.

  • We need to build a product customers are going to want.
  • We need to put it for sale where they will see it.
  • We need to price it so that they are willing to buy it.
  • We need to put it in front of them at the right time.

If you get any one of these elements wrong then you’re product can be a failure in the market. Image we’ve just launched the next generation iPAD. We know that customers will want it, we have access to great retail channels so they will see it, the price point is such that they are wanting to buy it, but because of verious delays we don’t get it to market until mid December. It’s too late! We’ve missed the Christmas market by getting the timing all wrong, and by next Christmas the product will likely be obsolete!

Now that we’re beginning to realize there might be something to marketing, let’s look at a tool we can use to help us avoid these mistakes: The Marketing Mix (often called the 4 P’s of Marketing).

The 4 P’s of Marketing are:

  • Product
  • Place
  • Price
  • Promotion

What we’re trying to do is get the right balance of each of the above to hit a sweet spot and ensure that the product is a success in the market. The following diagram tries to highlight what we’re trying to achieve:

The 4 P's of Marketing | The Marketing Mix

 

To use The Marketing Mix and increase the chances of our product hitting the sweet spot we ask questions within each of the categories.

Product

The questions we ask in this category are related to the product or service we are offering.

  • What functionality does the user want?
  • What is there experience of using the product from the moment they open the box?
  • What is the branding of the product?
  • How should the product make the user feel when using it?
  • How does the product differentiate itself from it’s competitors in the market?
  • What will the name of the product be?
  • What if any add-ons will be sold with the product, either in terms of servicing or add-ons to the product itself?

Place

Questions in this category relate to how we get the product to the consumer.

  • What distribution channels will be used? Another way to ask this is where do customers look for this type of product?
  • How will inventory be managed?
  • What do our competitors do? Of course, you can ask this of all the questions in all categories.
  • If the product needs to be manufactured, where is the best place to do this? Near the end customer or elsewhere?
  • Will the product be sold on the Internet, through shops, through speaking at conferences or trade fairs etc?

Price

Questions in this category help us determine the prices we charge.

  • What is our pricing strategy (penetration vs. maximizing margin etc)?
  • What is our market coverage, for example, might it be beneficial to agree to an exclusive distribution deal?
  • What is the value of the product to the buyer in their eyes?
  • What discounts will be offered to bulk buyers?
  • Will the price change seasonally?
  • Should the seller have any price flexibility?
  • How does the price of this product compare with other products in our portfolio (will we eat into the market share of another product if the prices are too close to each other)?

Promotion

Questions in this category help us determine how we will communicate with the consumer, with the aim of generating a positive response to the product from the consumer.

  • How do we reach customers? TV, radio, cinema, billboards, posters on taxis, word of mount etc.
  • When should promotion happen? Does promotion need to be seasonal, or after people have finished work?
  • How do we want the sales force to engage with customers,what should they say, and in which way should they say it?
  • What publicity should we aim to attract and how?
  • Do we sell directly to customers or through wholesalers/affiliates?

Summary

The 4 P’s of Marketing is one of the most common methods for working out how to bring your product to the customer, so that it is a success in the market, but there are others. It is best to use this model as early as possible in the product development lifecycle to ensure the product can meet customer and market needs. Even if marketing isn’t something you encounter day to day during your job, it can be enlightening to understand the issues and questions marketers are concerned with, and make us better at our job whether we’re a program manager responsible for 1,000 people or a project manager responsible for 10 people.