More than 70 years ago, the American Marketing Association coined a term that has impressively remained one of the most essential marketing fundamentals to this day.
The lasting popularity the marketing mix has earned throughout the years is due to the fact that the “mix” we are speaking of encompasses every type of tactic and technique that a marketer would need to successfully bring an offer to market.
Think of the marketing mix as a tool box, and the 4P’s, 7P’s, and 4C’s of marketing as the tools a marketing team uses to successfully accomplish its marketing objectives.
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If you’ve ever taken an entry level marketing class, you have probably heard the term “marketing mix” come up enough times to recognize it as an essential term to know. The reason it is such a heavily covered topic is because without the marketing mix, marketers would have no guidelines in the strategy or execution of bringing a new product or service to market. It’s basically every marketer’s starting point.
What does the marketing mix mean?
The marketing mix refers to the group of tactics that a company has strategically chosen to take a product or service to market.
With that being said, you may be wondering how the 4P’s (and 7P’s and 4’C’s) of marketing fit into this. These topics are often confused with each other, so let me remind you: the marketing mix and the 4P’s (and 7P’s and 4C’s) of marketing are not the same thing.
The marketing mix is a process that refers to the decisions marketers make throughout the development of bringing their product or service to market. Remember the tool box analogy? Whereas the P’s and C’s of marketing are specific techniques within the marketing mix which a marketing team uses to promote their offering. These are the tools inside your marketing tool box.
The concept of the 4P’s is certainly the most well-known because of its age and near universal strategy. The 7P’s and 4C’s have emerged since the creation of the marketing mix’s first structuring and account for major industry changes and trends. Don’t worry though, this article will cover everything you need to know regarding the go-to-market strategies marketers use everyday.
The 4P’s of marketing in depth
The 4P’s of marketing were first introduced in the book Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach, by E. Jerome McCarthy. Since the concept’s development in the 1960s, they’ve become the gold standard that marketers use while creating their strategies.
The 4P’s, which refer to product, price, place, and promotion, have become the most popular elements that marketing teams choose to implement today. Its extreme popularity explains why so many professionals use the marketing mix and the 4P’s of marketing interchangeably. The 4P’s of marketing have maintained relevant even as the marketing industry itself has evolved.
This phase is about more than what you’re physically selling. In the product stage, you have to determine your audience, test your product, decide where it fits within the marketplace, and so much more.
Before you begin to think about marketing your product, you have to have an extensive understanding of what your product is.
I know – it’s your product! You probably know it like the back of your hand. All products go through a product life cycle, and it’s easy to overlook the simple stages that ask questions like: Who uses it? What need will it satisfy for my customer? How will it differ from your competitors?
Before you dive in any deeper, you’ll want to be sure you’re completely confident on the above.
The next step is to determine if your offering is a new or existing product. If you have an existing product, but you’ve revamped it, it’s crucial to perform a competitive analysis. What makes your product any better from others of its kind? Is it cheaper? Is it better quality? The answers to these questions will help you determine the features you’ll highlight throughout the promotional step.
For example, if you were taking the Hydro Flask water bottle to market for the first time, you’d likely highlight its ability to keep drinks ice cold for more than 24 hours and warm drinks piping hot for six hours. That trait is one of the features that helps this brand stand out against its competitors.
Next, you’ll need to perform market research to identify and locate your target market. Is there a matching market fit with your product? Utilizing a focus group can provide vital feedback. Offer consumers who fit your target market the opportunity to use and test out your product. The insights they provide will guide your decisions when strategizing price.
Now you’ll need to choose how much you want your product to cost. Properly pricing a product is critical to set your business up for success.
It is important not to get your pricing strategy wrong the first time, because too high or low of a price may have an irreversible effect that. Pricing your product too low is a genuine threat that many have made thinking consumers would see it as the best value on the market. While this may work in some cases, more often than not it’ll be considered cheap and poorer quality than its competitors.
However, pricing your product too high can be just as crippling. Especially with a new product, it’s easy to overprice, thinking you have to start seeing profit quickly to balance the high cost of developing and launching a new product. And while that’s true, you won’t see any profit if no one is willing to spend money on your product!
Just as we said in the product stage, research is imperative at this point. Understand what your competitors are offering, administer surveys of your target audience, and conduct general industry research that can help you decide what an appropriate price range is.
When talking about product, we stressed the importance of finding out not just who your customers are, but where they are. However, this time, “place” doesn’t have to refer to a physical location. What this stage is really about is selecting a distribution channel that will allow you to reach your customers, whether it’s an actual format store or not.
When determining place, it is essential to understand where you’re most likely to find your customer. Place can be an e-commerce website, a catalog or magazine, and it can also be selling directly to consumers or relying on a retailer to distribute your product. The market research you previously conducted about your customer’s shopping habits is critical in determining the distribution channel that will work for you.
The final phase, promotion, is what we think of when we think “marketing.” In this stage of your marketing mix, you’ll develop and execute any promotional strategies that will help kick start your product launch and entice your target audience.
The tactics you choose to implement at this stage are dependent on your product, price, and place. For example, if your offering is a convenience good being sold at various grocery stores, coupons could be a successful promotional tactic. On the other hand, if you’re trying to market a luxury handbag, coupons likely won’t cut it. That customer is looking for exclusivity, and promotional coupons make products more accessible to the masses and less expensive, losing the essence of unattainability.
Implementing the 4P’s of marketing
The 4P’s are a tried and true way of covering all of your bases and taking a new product to market. It is also a helpful way to improve your existing marketing strategy. If you think you may have prematurely taken your product to market and are realizing your current marketing mix is not cutting it, the 4P’s can take you back to the basics and allow you to carve a more defined path in a new direction!
Starting with your product, the obvious goal in this stage is to determine whether or not your offering fills your customers’ needs. How does your product compare to its competitors? What makes it so unique? Once you have a firm understanding of what your product is and how it compares to its competitors, then you’re ready to move on to the next stage.
To examine your pricing model, make sure you are putting your profit margins, overhead costs, and anticipated supply and demand into consideration. To make it easy, imagine you are the customer buying your product. Would you, as a customer, consider this to be a fair priced item compared to equal competitors?
Once you’ve determined your product and pricing strategy, you’ll move on to the third P: place. Is your ideal customer able to easily find your product? Think about their typical shopping patterns. Where do you have to place your product to make it easy for a potential customer to become a customer? If you believe you have decided on the best distribution channel, then you are ready to embark on the final P: promotion.
It’s a simple fact – you won’t see any success from your promotional efforts if it never reaches your target market. There are two important questions to answer in this stage: Are you promoting your product through a channel commonly used by the target customer? Do the promotional tactics match the type of product you’re selling?
For example, let’s say you’re trying to sell a trendy new shoe to millennials, buying a full-page newspaper ad will hardly do you any good. Think about how your audience consumes information. Is it through the television, on popular social media sites, listening to the radio, or reading the newspaper? It’s crucial to understand these consumption habits to target your audience effectively.
The best thing about your marketing mix is that it’s flexible. If you are noticing industry or customer changes that are no longer aligning with your strategy, you can always evolve your 4P’s to better suit the fast-paced change. Completing a yearly, or even quarterly touch base can help ensure your marketing strategy remains relevant.
The 7P’s of marketing - A bonus 3!
Although the 4P’s of marketing have long been considered the “gold standard” for marketing mixes, they’ve still had their criticisms. The 7P’s of marketing consists of the original four, plus a bonus three that were introduced in the 1980s.
The 7P’s of marketing were established by Bernard H. Booms and Mary J. Bitner. These two marketers recognized that the 4P’s ignored customer service, which they considered to be an essential aspect of any marketing strategy. The bonus P’s that were added include people, process, and physical evidence.
This element refers to all of the parties present throughout the purchase cycle and the interactions they have together. This is anybody who represents the company in some form or fashion, which can include both employees and customers. The interactions customers have with one another and the employees are important here as well. It is essential to provide excellent customer service skills to ensure all communication surrounding your brand is positive.
The process phase is the flow of activities in which service is delivered. If you’re selling your product in a retail store, this process begins the second your customer steps foot into your store and ends at their last interaction. That may be their purchase, but it also could be a potential return or a future shopping trip. Remember, this is heavily focused on the customer’s experience while shopping for the product and the interactions had with any of the “people”.
Physical evidence refers to the environment in which service occurs. In this case, it’s not just where the product is physically distributed to customers, but also the place where customers and employees interact with one another. If you distribute your product via an e-commerce site, this could be as simple as customer service emails. Or, it could refer to an in-person interaction at the shopping mall.
The 4C’s of marketing
This brings us to the final strategy, the 4C’s of marketing, which were created by Robert F. Lauterborn in 1990. Each of the four elements – consumer wants and needs, cost, convenience, and communication – are an adaptation of their related “P.”
Robert F. Lauterborn created this method as a customer-centric alternative to the 4P’s of marketing. He insisted that, since marketing is about the customer, the marketing mix shouldn’t focus on the brand, but rather the people who buy the product or service.
Consumer wants and needs
This element is very similar to the first P, “product”. The biggest difference here is that Lauterborn believes that extensive consumer research needs to be done to understand if there is a need or demand for this new product, and if there is, how will the product or service best serve it. The wants and needs of customers should drive the creation of a new product or service.
Lauterborn believed the word “cost” should replace price, insisting that the dollar amount isn’t the only cost a consumer worries about when making the purchase. Cost is not just the price of the product, but also the opportunity cost, the loss of a potential gain from an alternative, or even the customer’s time spent to obtain the item.
Choosing the word “convenience” over “place” further emphasizes Lauterborn’s commitment to the customer. The effort a customer should make to purchase a wanted or needed product should be little to none. There should be multiple points of offer visibility to ensure the customer is being catered to in the best way.
In Lauterborn’s opinion, promotion is manipulative while communication is cooperative. An honest dialogue between the brand and consumer was thought to best, as opposed to traditional marketing strategies that only highlight a product’s best qualities which can sometimes be deceiving. This communication promotes constructive feedback, questions, and user generated reviews.
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P’s and C’s oh my!
You should now have a full understanding of what makes the marketing mix and the tools it houses so important. Without it, businesses would not have a foundation to guide the strategy or the execution of bringing a new offering to market. The marketing mix is truly the backbone of every business plan.
Each tool influences the other and plays a crucial part in the mix that deserves a complete understanding before progress can be made. Creating the perfect mix ensures that your offering will be set up perfectly in the market to garner as much success and profit as possible.
It’s important to remember that your marketing mix is unique to your product and customers, and it can always be changed and optimized as the needs of each evolve.
Above all else, you must keep your audience in mind. Marketing is about the customer – reaching them, understanding them, and influencing them. Consider implementing a market segmentation strategy to get a full grasp on your audience.
Hannah is a content manager at WPromote and a former content associate at G2. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in Journalism. In her free time, Hannah enjoys running with her dog, Teddy, traveling to new and exciting places, and capturing the beautiful places she travels to with her DSLR camera. (she/her/hers)