The New Business Marketing Mix: Revamping the 4 Ps for Modern Times
Business marketing isn't what it used to be. If your middle market company's marketing team is still married to the traditional "four Ps" — product, placement, price and promotion — then you're far from the cutting edge of marketing trends that are shaping the present and future of business. Both the needs of your customers and the way those needs are satisfied have undergone dramatic changes over the last two decades, and traditional business marketing approaches using the four Ps have started to go the way of the dial-up modem and the telephone booth.
Let's take a look at each of the four Ps to see why and how they should be revamped:
Today's customers are looking for adaptable products that meet their specific needs in an innovative way. Remember that innovation means providing something new that customers actually want. And new doesn't always mean whiz-bang technology; it can simply be a basic product at a basic price.
How can your middle market company better understand customers' needs, problems and frustrations? Start by identifying unmet needs or pain points. Market research has never been more accessible, with a wealth of customer data available. If your product doesn't solve their problem or costs too much to do so, your company will likely lose customers to competitors. Communication also goes a long way, whether face to face, via social media or through field observation.
Accessibility is crucial. New product-distribution channels are opening all the time. Today's customers have so many ways to shop and compare what you're selling with your competitors' offerings. If you're not accessible to these tech-savvy customers, then you don't really exist. Obviously, you need a website to make sales, but you also need digital tools to drive your customers toward your offerings, whether through social media or a mobile application.
If your company is still thinking in terms of price, then you're not following trends highlighting the creation and sharing of value between companies and customers. Many business consulting companies, for example, have moved from a fixed-price model to a value-sharing model, where the consultant fronts the money, implements the project and then takes a percentage of the value the project generates. In the vast majority of cases, the profit margin for the consulting firms is higher with the value-sharing arrangement than through fixed-price models. Also, the customer/client assumes less risk, because it doesn't pay if no value is generated.
Technology has radically altered the way products and services are promoted. Today, middle market companies have so many ways to reach customers and share stories about the company and its offerings without spending big money. It's not expensive, for example, to shoot short video testimonials from your satisfied customers and then upload them to YouTube and across social media. Your sales reps can even use the videos when they visit prospective clients.
You should have a clear social media strategy to promote your offerings. If you don't have enough in-house capability, there is a growing number of companies that will do it for you. You need to be wherever your customers are, and the social media realm is a major component of that space. Through social, you get the chance to communicate daily with customers who are already followers of your business. It's a tool that lets you customize your marketing efforts and reach the prospects and customers you want. You can't afford to be off your customers' radar screens, and ignoring social media is the fastest route to irrelevancy.
Though the four Ps aren't completely broken, they certainly need renovations. By considering the technology-driven and customer-centric trends discussed above, you'll be well on your way to better marketing.
In today's marketing environment, which of the four Ps requires the most attention? Let us know what you think by commenting below.
Boston-based Chuck Leddy is an NCMM contributor and a freelance reporter who contributes regularly to The Boston Globe and Harvard Gazette. He also trains Fortune 500 executives in business-communication skills as an instructor for EF Education. Circle him on Google+.