What is a marketing mix? The 4Ps of marketing explained.

The 4Ps of marketing is a model for enhancing the components of your marketing mix. This is the way in which you take a new product or service to the market. It helps you to define your marketing options in terms of price, product, promotion, and place so that your offering meets a specific customer need or demand.

You need to create a product that a particular group of people want, put it on sale where those same people visit regularly, and price it at a level which matches the value they feel they get out of it. All of this needs to be done at a time your target audience will want to buy your product.

There’s a lot of truth in this idea. However, a lot of hard work needs to go into this:

  • You need to find out what customers want
  • Identify where they do their shopping
  • You need to figure out how to produce the item at a price that represents value to them
  • You need to get it all to come together at a precise time

If you get just one element wrong, it can spell disaster. You could be left promoting a car with amazing fuel economy in a country where fuel is very cheap or publishing a textbook after the start of the new school year, or selling an item at a price that’s too high or too low to attract the people you’re targeting.

The marketing mix is a good place to start when you are thinking through your plans for a product or service, and it helps you to avoid these kinds of mistakes. The perfect marketing recipe does not happen overnight so you need to make sure that you take the time to learn how to develop a successful marketing strategy.

Get to know the mix

The marketing mix and the 4Ps of marketing are often used as synonyms for one another. In fact, they are not necessarily the same thing. A marketing mix is a general phrase used to describe the different kinds of choices you have to make in the whole process of bringing a product or service to the market. On the other hand, the 4Ps is one way of defining the marketing mix.

The 4Ps are:

  • Product (or service)
  • Place
  • Price
  • Promotion

Product/Service

A product/service can be a physical object, a group of objects, or a particular niche service. A product/service can also be something that cannot be held or touched, such as a haircut or IT services. In the past, products were created prior to any marketing efforts, and marketers simply worked with what they were given.

In recent decades, the marketing process has become integrated into the production process. For instance, automotive engineers base their designs on company research that tells them what consumers are looking for in a new car. Other decisions that marketers make prior to manufacturing include those having to do with styling, safety, packaging, and naming of the product. Each of these decisions will have a significant effect on who might want to buy your product.

Place

Place refers to the location(s) at which the product will be sold to consumers. No matter how good the company’s other strategy elements are, the product must be in the right place, at the right time in order to capitalise on its target market’s attention. This involves making numerous decisions:

  • You must think about how and where the product will be manufactured
  • How and where the product will be stored after it is made
  • How and where wholesalers will obtain the product
  • How and where retailers will obtain the product from wholesalers

All of these elements of this interdependent channel of distribution must function effectively together, minimising conflict and allowing the product to be ready for purchase when members of the target market are ready to buy it.

Price

Price is another major factor marketers must consider when launching a product. The basic way that a company determines a price is by taking into account the quality of its product/service and determining how much people are generally willing to pay for a product of its type and quality. But the pricing of a good or service sends numerous messages to consumers, and marketers must make sure that they have tailored these messages to their target market. For instance, some goods, such as high-quality Swiss watches, send a message of status because of their high prices.

One of the reasons Rolex watches appeal to their target market is that the high prices they command appear to be evidence of their quality. If Rolex watches were to become cheaper, the target market might not want them anymore. In other cases, a company might intentionally price a product lower than people might expect it to be priced. This so-called market-penetration style of pricing allows the product to find an immediate niche, but it costs the company profits. Alternatively, a company might price an item high when introducing it in order to make up the costs it incurred while researching and developing the product. This is called a price-skimming strategy and its downside is that the company risks lower sales in the attempt to recover its investment.

Promotion

Promotion refers to all the methods a company has when it comes to communicating with consumers. Typically, promotion centers on four different methods of communication. One of these is a company sales force. Salespeople are often the most effective form of promotion, since they can tailor their sales pitches to individual consumers. Salespeople are an expensive way to reach consumers, which means companies cannot rely on them exclusively.

Another chief way of communicating with customers is through advertising and PR. By using the various media platforms, such as television, radio, newspapers, magazines, or the internet, a company can build desire for its products among the target market through emotional and intellectual appeals. Sales promotion is another form of promotion that uses advertising. Sales promotion simply consists of the lowering of prices and then reaching out to the media in order to publish their lowered prices.

The difference between advertising and sales promotion is that advertising tries to give people reasons to buy a product, whereas, sales promotion simply uses the lure of low prices, independent of the product’s quality or image, to convince people to buy it. Sales promotion can be very effective, but its effects are not usually long-lasting, since it provides no reason other than price to buy a product.

Use the 4Ps together

As the 4Ps all need to be considered in relation to one another, you need to always make sure that you are looking at the bigger picture, taking into account all of the 4Ps when doing your marketing. If you focus on one and neglect the other, you may experience a significant loss in sales or decrease in new customer generation.

It is always useful to conduct market research in order to establish where and when your product/service fits into. You need to have all of your facts in order so that you can successfully introduce or reintroduce your product/service to the market. There are many forms of research that you can do, but it is always worthwhile to do both qualitative and quantitative research so that you are analysing your product/service from every possible angle.

Quantitative research can involve anything from looking at market trends, economic statistics, product development, etc. Whereas qualitative research will see you focusing on your target audience more. Try engaging with your target audience by asking them questions. This can be done in person, for instance through focus groups, or online. Getting insight directly from the source will provide you with valuable information and will give you more perspective on who your target audience really is and what they really want. As a bonus, your target audience will appreciate the fact that you as a brand are reaching out and engaging with them, which could promote customer loyalty towards your brand in the long run.

Put the 4Ps of marketing to practice

The model can be used to help you decide how to take a new offer to the market. It can also be used to test your existing marketing strategy. Whether you are considering a new or existing offer, follow the steps below to help you to define and improve your marketing mix:

  1. Start by identifying the product or service that you want to analyse
  2. Compile a list of questions for all of the 4Ps and answer them
  3. Try asking “why” and “what if” questions too, to challenge your offer. For example, ask why your target audience needs a particular feature. What if you drop your price by 5 percent? What if you offer more colours or better quality packaging? Why sell through wholesalers rather than direct channels? What if you improve PR rather than rely on online advertising?
  4. Check through your answers to make sure they are based on sound knowledge and facts. If there are doubts about your assumptions, identify any market research or facts, and figures that you may need to gather

Once you have a well-defined marketing mix, try testing the overall offer from the customer’s perspective, by asking your customer focused questions:

  • Product: Does your product/service meet their needs?
  • Place: Will they find it where they shop?
  • Price: Will they consider that it’s priced favourably?
  • Promotion: Will the marketing communications reach them?

Keep on asking questions and making changes to your mix until you are satisfied that you have optimised your marketing mix, given the information, facts, and figures you have available.

Review your marketing mix regularly as some elements will need to change as the product or service and its market grow, mature, and adapt in an ever-changing, competitive environment.

Go and market your brand

The marketing mix helps you define the marketing elements for successfully positioning your market offer. The 4Ps of marketing helps you define your marketing options in terms of product, place, price, and promotion. Use the model when you are planning a new venture or evaluating an existing offer to optimise the impact with your target market.

If you feel like you are unsure how to approach your marketing mix and are drowning in data and statistics, fret not. We here at Cognite offer brand strategy development, where we explore your current market situation and find out what strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats should be considered. This will allow you to ultimately refine your brand and have a better sense of what you offer and how you differ from your competitors. In no time, you can see your brand talking to the right people, at the right time, at the right place.

Further reading