The 4 Ps of the Marketing Mix

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What is the Marketing Mix?

The "Marketing Mix" is a fundamental concept in marketing. It is synonymous with "The Four Ps of Marketing" because it consists of four dimensions that start with the letter P.

What Are the 4 Ps of Marketing?

  1. Product
  2. Price
  3. Place
  4. Promotion

These 4 Ps of the Marketing Mix (sometimes abbreviated as 4Ps) form the strategic combination of all the variables a company or a person controls and adjusts to meet the needs of a target market.

Marketing Mix Introduction

The Marketing Mix is a framework for thinking about your business and marketing goals.

Seeing the same business through multiple different frameworks, like the 4 Ps, or a SWOT, or a PESTEL, etc., can help you find new problems to fix and new ways to grow.

Think of these analyses like looking at your business from every different perspective.

A 4P/Marketing Mix audit can go in-depth in each area, finding you new ways to improve and optimize your marketing and potentially your broader business position.

Due to how widespread the concept of the four Ps is, many articles have been written trying to posit new "5th Ps" or beyond. "The 5th P of the Marketing Mix," "There Are Really 6 Ps of Marketing," etc.

It's a pretty common trope for article writing. So, we'll go over some of the suggested 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, etc. Ps after we cover the foundational 4 in detail.

We'll also take a quick look at what a 4P Marketing Mix Audit looks like, and why it can be useful to grow your business.

And as always, we'll look at how our example businesses can use this concept to succeed.

Let's dive in.

Product: The 1st P of Marketing

Product means, what are you selling? This can be a physical item, a service, or even an idea or experience.

Product encompasses a little more than that, too. It also encompasses factors like the package design, the customer service you offer, even your brand reputation.

In a broad sense, every part of your company that touches the customer in the end is the product in some way.

Product often involves figuring out your unique value propositions and unique selling points, too.

Price: The 2nd P of Marketing

Price is the amount of money, as well as time and anything else, that a customer pays for your product.

If there's a long process of negotiating contracts, price can be thought of to include the time and energy that goes into putting those together, too.

Price can also be information—for example, lead magnets are products that are free for customers in terms of money, but require email addresses for newsletters instead.

Getting someone subscribed to a newsletter can often be more valuable than the couple bucks they'd pay for the product.

So, in this case, the email address is the price—and you could even consider the continued attention to the newsletter in the future as a component of price as well.

Setting the price is a pretty significant concern. It requires a thorough understanding of your market, your competition, and your customers.

Beyond the cost of production, price should represent the perceived value.

Depending on your goals and your market, strategies like penetration pricing, premium pricing, or competitive pricing may be right for you.

Place: The 3rd P of Marketing

Place is how you actually get the product or service to the customer.

If you've got a great product at a great price with great marketing, it's all sort of meaningless if the customer has no actual way of physically getting it.

So place encompasses distribution channels, logistics, inventory management, order processing, and market coverage.

This might mean a physical store, in which case you need to make sure it's there at the right aisle, with the right display, at the right time, in the right quantity, and in the right condition.

In an online marketplace, a digital good needs to be easy to download and available in the formats your audience expects.

For companies that sell software, consulting, or other intangible services at a distance, it can be their website, their phone service, or other things of that nature.

Service industries can think of this as their own store locations, and all that goes into maintaining them. Or, perhaps it's a business that comes out to a customer's house or workplace, in which case their presence is part of place.

In other words, place is however you get your offering to the masses.

Promotion: The 4th P of Marketing

Promotion entails all the ways that you communicate with your target market.

This is usually your marketing communications, advertising, and public relations, and also includes all your content marketing, sales promotions, social media, etc.

The goal of promotion optimization is to use the most effective channels to reach and engage potential customers at the lowest cost.

Promotion varies widely between companies and industry types, but it's important for every last one to get right.

You may think that Hulbert Marketing, as a brand strategy/business marketing company, would be mostly focused on promotion. And it's true, that's top of the list—but in reality, all of these 4 Ps are so closely interrelated that making a change in one will likely ripple through to the rest.

Expansion Ps of the Marketing Mix

Predictably, people purposefully proliferate peculiar P possibilities.

To be candid with you, I think some of these are a little goofy. We could sit here and think of new P words all day and try to see how they apply to your business.

I'm not saying that any are right or wrong. There's no high objective authority that says what's a Marketing P and what isn't. It's just a matter of usefulness.

Still, it's worth listing some of these out.

  • Processes: The systems and procedures (itself another P word) that define how your organization runs. In a restaurant, for example, this might be how you cook and serve the food.
  • People: Depending on which article you read, this can refer to either your own employees, their leadership development, training, and job satisfaction; or it can refer to the people in your target market, in other words, your ideal customers and their wants, needs, and problems.
  • Physical Evidence: This one is more "out there" to me—it's the tangible proof that a service was performed, like the design of a website, the nicely cut grass of a lawn-mowing service, the ambiance and then the fullness you feel in a restaurant, etc. (Also, "Proof" seems like a better word here.)
  • Purpose: The company's mission, values, and the larger goal they're trying to achieve beyond just profits. Purpose-driven brands can be very powerful, but they have to be authentic and committed.
  • Performance: The measurement and evaluation of the company's products, service delivery, marketing efforts, and internal processes.
  • Partnerships: From collaborations up to strategic alliances and mergers, partnerships can expand a brand's reach, increase its resources, and strengthen its reputation.
  • Packaging: Especially relevant in product-driven businesses, and especially for products that might require extra care and attention to how they're packaged. Apple's products are known for being packaged in an experiential way made to show off the brand, perfect for unboxing. Some products, like hard drives or porcelain plates, need to be packaged with extreme care, or else shipping will destroy them.
  • Positioning: How a brand positions itself in the marketplace, compared to its competitors. This is very important, but generally falls under marketing strategy (and thus, promotion).
  • Personalization: Tailoring your products and services—as well as your marketing communications—to meet the individual needs and preferences of each customer. In some industries this would be insane, but for high-end luxury businesses or personal, smaller shops, this is vital.
  • Perception: How customers feel about a brand. This is influenced by all kinds of factors, like advertising, word of mouth, experience, media coverage, and more. Good or bad, do customers feel anything about your brand in the first place?
  • Participation: Notable for social media platforms—how many people are posting and liking and reblogging and retweeting and using all the rest of your social features, and how often?

As you can see, you can stretch the P concept as much as you want (there's another one: Pliability).

Sometimes they're useful, but most of the time, I think people just come up with them for the sake of writing more articles.

I mean, if you're a zoo, maybe your fifth P is Pandas—very important. If you're the Ghost Files YouTube channel, your fifth P might be Paranormal Incidents. If you're a potato chip brand, you might have a "0th P" – the Potatoes themselves!

Now that we've taken care of this professional padding, let's put those 4 original Ps together.

Developing & Optimizing Your Marketing Mix

The 4 Ps should not be thought of in isolation. Each P should inform and reinforce the others.

Any good promotional strategy will reflect the price and value, advertise the product features, and describe the place it's available for purchase.

A higher price can often be justified by a more elite marketing promotion, more (or better) product features, and a widely-spread or more exclusive place.

If you change one, you must reexamine the other three.

Your marketing mix should also not be a static thing, set in stone. It will change as your company changes, as your competitors change, and as the market and the world changes.

Using data and A/B testing, you can find the best mix that works for you.

You're also not limited to one single mix. Different products and service your company offers will naturally have different prices, promotion strategies, etc.

Even the same product can have different mixes for different groups of consumers. Age groups, like Gen Z vs. Baby Boomers, often need different combinations of the 4 Ps.

For more advanced organizations, it's worth analyzing your chief competitors' marketing mixes as well.

A Four P/Marketing Mix Audit

A 4P Marketing Mix Audit analyzes your existing marketing mix, and finds areas to improve on each. And there are almost always ways to improve.

You'll learn the strengths and weaknesses your business or brand has in each area.

You'll learn if your mix is stirred up the way your customers prefer.

You'll learn how your competitors are doing it better (and worse).

This has the potential to get you more business, sales, and exposure, and find cost efficiencies and new strategies you wouldn't have thought of otherwise.

Let's look at how it works for our four example businesses.

Real-World Example Businesses

Our four real-world example businesses as personas.

I've made up four example businesses that represent most of the different types of companies that exist today.

I use these same four companies as my real-world examples across all of my Marketing Info Database and Service pages.

Following these same businesses across each page makes it easier for beginners to understand each topic. And for experts, it makes it more fun to follow along.

My four example businesses are:

  • Joe's Java Joint
    B2C (Business to Consumer)
    A local, non-franchise coffee shop trying to stay trendy.
  • Cassandra Forecasting Technologies
    B2B (Business to Business)
    A large company that sells future-predicting software to other companies.
  • Fortified Federal Security
    B2G (Business to Government)
    A government contractor that provides physical security & defense solutions.
  • Hazel Harmony
    Independent Influencer
    An aspiring musician who plays the harp and makes art on social media.

Joe's, Cassandra Forecasting, Fortified Federal, and Hazel couldn't seem more different in terms of business needs and marketing challenges. But, on every Hulbert Marketing info page, we're going to watch how they each can grow and succeed using the topic at hand.

So how can our friends at each company benefit from a deeper analysis of their 4P Marketing Mix (and beyond)? Let's find out.

B2C Marketing Mix 4 P's: Joe's Java Joint

Joe's Java Joint: 4P Marketing Mix for a B2C

Our friendly local coffee shop can significantly benefit from developing their marketing mix.

A product analysis could reveal that Joe's isn't offering enough pastry options—perhaps it doesn't offer anything vegan or gluten free, or simply doesn't have enough taste variety. Maybe single-origin coffees perform better than blends. Maybe Joe's could benefit from some additional merch, like t-shirts or mugs.

A price analysis could show that they can justify their high prices due to their high quality and the fact that they're communicating their value well. In fact, it may even suggest that Joe's can launch a new line of even higher-quality coffee at a higher price point.

With a place analysis, we could find that Joe's is doing great inside its store location, but that it's very limited to those four walls. How about getting a pop-up stall out at community events, or partnering with other local businesses? Increasing the reach and recognition for Joe's can get more people to check it out.

A promotion analysis might show that Joe's has a potential customer base nearby it doesn't know about—the retirement home a block away. Suppose Joe's places an ad in their weekly newsletter and compares the ROI of that coupon to the ROI of the coupon they place on social media for the same time period. Which will bring in more foot traffic?

And just for fun, let's look at two other Ps here: People and Positioning.

A people analysis could help Joe's ensure that its employees are at their very best. For a customer-centric business, the baristas are very important, so it's good to have them well-trained in both technical tasks (making coffee, serving food, cleaning equipment) as well as soft skills like customer service and communication. Actively putting time and effort into their personal development can make them more effective and less likely to leave.

A positioning analysis is very important for a coffee shop. After all, there's one on every corner these days. So why should someone walk an extra three blocks to Joe's and pass two others on the way? Joe's needs to identify their Unique Selling Propositions and have a thorough understanding of their competitors. We can help Joe's understand why customers keep coming back.

That's your standard B2C – but what about a B2B?

B2B Marketing Mix 4 P's: Cassandra Forecasting Technologies

Cassandra Forecasting Technologies: 4P Marketing Mix for a B2B

Our predictive analytics software service company can also benefit from a 4P Marketing Mix audit.

A product analysis would determine if their tools are as functional, reliable, and customizable as their users demand. How's the software UX, and how's their overall customer experience? Maybe customers are asking for new features that Cassandra Forecasting should fast-track, which could potentially open up new revenue streams.

A price analysis is very important in the B2B space, because these settings can often include negotiations, contracts, and bulk pricing structures. If Cassandra Forecasting's tools are priced a lot higher than the rest, is it showing that it's worth it? Or do we need to add lower pricing tiers for introductory users?

A place analysis for Cassandra Forecasting, unlike in our B2C example above, would mostly focus on digital distribution channels. The website might be difficult to navigate—an extremely common problem that will turn users away long before a sale. Streamlining the online funnel can dramatically increase sales and satisfaction.

And a promotion analysis would delve into all the marketing and communication strategies that Cassandra Forecasting used. For example, we might find that the content marketing strategy isn't reaching its target audience effectively. This would call for a reevaluation, and might include targeting new platforms, creating different types of content, or investing in SEO services.

Let's look at two additional Ps for Cassandra Forecasting, too!

A process analysis would encompass everything from client onboarding to service delivery, support, and even offboarding. We might discover that new customers have issues during setup due to unclear instructions and different software environments, so step-by-step guides, tutorials, or personalized services may be necessary to help.

Meanwhile, a performance analysis would dive deep into how well the Cassandra Forecasting tool was performing in those customer environments. Are the results as accurate and timely as those offered by competing tools? This ties into enhancing that first P, product, and could mean improving algorithms, incorporating more diverse data sources, or speeding up processing times to make the final product have a more effective performance.

For an even more complex case, how might a B2G company utilize a 4P Marketing Mix audit?

B2G Marketing Mix 4 P's: Fortified Federal Security

Fortified Federal Security: 4P Marketing Mix for a B2G

Fortified Federal needs to pay a lot of attention to its product analysis. Their product is security solutions, but that can take the form of many things: cybersecurity, physical security equipment, manpower, and even consulting services. In fact, it might find that clients find their existing physical equipment so valuable that they'd be willing to pay for additional consulting packages too, further enhancing the Fortified Federal brand.

A price analysis would be even more complicated for Fortified Federal, given the complex nature of contracts and government regulations. Tiered pricing may be an option to match competitors with lower prices. However, Fortified Federal may also consider that its services are seen as so superior, they can actually increase prices and enjoy a healthier margin.

A place analysis, on the other hand, would be quite interesting here. We would look at where Fortified Federal is making their services available—and where they aren't. For instance, is there an opportunity to expand from rural to urban, or vice versa? What about other departments or government offices they haven't considered approaching before?

A promotion analysis for a B2G company is generally the least interesting section, since the business relies on bids, proposals, and other more traditional channels for sales. So in this section, we'd look at networking and conference presence. We might also consider proposal writing skills and sales "closing" skills to help seal the deals.

Let's look at two unconventional Ps for Fortified Federal, too.

A partnership analysis would be key for Fortified Federal. Partnering with IT firms for enhanced cybersecurity solutions, or logistics companies to lock down secure transportation, could complete their service offerings and make them a more attractive full-service company. If they have existing partnerships, we'd want to ensure that they're getting the most value out of them, too.

Lastly, a perception analysis would be important for a company like Fortified Federal, because an important security company pretty much lives and dies based on its reputation. If we find that potential customers see Fortified Federal as "strong but slow" or "secure, but old fashioned," we'll need to address the negative aspects and turn them into positives instead.

For a much different look, let's move to our last example, our influencer.

Independent Influencer Marketing Mix 4 P's: Hazel Harmony

Hazel Harmony: 4P Marketing Mix for an Influencer

For an influencer like Hazel, her "product" is her content and persona. A product analysis would involve a comprehensive audit of her posts and personality. A competitive analysis can help here, but Hazel would want to be careful she's not just copying others, too. An analysis of less-related niches may help her adapt her content in more unique ways that her followers might love even more.

A price analysis is also a little different for Hazel, since the "price" of following is really just tapping on a button, or the time it takes for a viewer to watch. Instead, Hazel might look at how much she charges for merch, or how much she might charge for sponsored posts, collaborations, or digital products. Influencers very commonly undersell themselves due to impostor syndrome or plain old inexperience.

A place analysis would look at the channels and apps that Hazel is posting on. Is her time on YouTube videos wasted? Should she focus more on Twitch livestreams? Or will that take away from her brand to the point where it's no longer worth it just for more unqualified traffic? We'd look at engagement rates and how her content leverages each platform uniquely. It's worth trying nearly every platform, but it's not worth staying on platforms that aren't delivering results.

A promotion analysis would look at how Hazel promotes her content. Does she boost posts? Does she do paid collaborations? What hashtags and written content does she use with her posts to help get them seen? Looking at her other channels, like Discord, email newsletters, a Patreon, or other services would also be included here.

Finally, let's look at two unconventional Ps for Hazel, too.

A purpose analysis is vital for Hazel, because as an influencer, it's easy to be seen as someone who only wants attention for themselves, leading to judgements about ego and how in-touch a person might be. Why does Hazel play the harp? What wakes her up in the morning? Alternatively, what are her personal values? What causes does she donate a portion of some of her merch proceeds to, or what groups does she give exposure to on her stories? In other words, it's beyond "who is Hazel" – it's "why is Hazel?"

Lastly, a personalization analysis is important for an influencer, too. Followers appreciate it when influencers don't see themselves as some distant figure, but when they personally interact and respond, at least as much as practical. Is Hazel running Q&As on Instagram, making video replies to comments on TikTok, engaging with her fans on Twitch, and remembering to tune in to her own Discord channel every now and then?

Of course, if Hazel wants to keep going with Ps and analyze her Panda content, her Paranormal melodies, and her use of Potatoes, she's more than welcome to exhaust the dictionary.

4P Marketing Mix Audits for YOUR Business

Have I piqued your interest in the 4 Ps (and beyond)?

Don't let yourself get mixed up in your own marketing mix.

You've seen how this approach can benefit the four examples business above. How can it benefit yours?

Let me show you how.

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