Tackling Your Marketing Plan: Marketing Mix

Tackling Your Marketing Plan: Marketing Mix

[This is the third post in our four-part series on marketing plans. Click here for Post 1 and here for Post 2.]

 

The goal of marketing is to put the right product in front of the right people at the right time and in the right place. This is a simple explanation of something that's actually extremely complex. But through this phrase, we can extrapolate the 4Ps of marketing.

The 4Ps are product, price, place, and promotion. {Despite rumors to the contrary, this granddaddy of marketing frameworks is not dead. The definitions have just evolved and expanded.} We can use the 4Ps to take a marketing objective and create an actual roadmap of concrete tactics which, once implemented, will help attain business goals.

 

DEFINING THE 4Ps

1. PRODUCT – This is the offering you make to your market, which can be a product or service. Your marketing plan considers the features and benefits for the customers, not how the product is produced or its other details. Your concern here is how your market sees the product. You should also be concerned with how the product relates to your unique value proposition.

Question to ask yourself include:

  • What kind of products do your customers want? What features should they include?
  • How will your customers use your product?
  • What does your product physically look like? How is it packaged?
  • What is the name of your product? What are its functions and features?
  • How is your product different from the offerings of your competitors?
  • How will you brand your product?

2. PRICE – Here you consider pricing strategy, which includes price range, high versus low price, payment plans, pricing options, and so on. In a marketing plan, you're not thinking about cost. What you're concerned with is the perceived value the market places on your product or service (e.g. how much your customers are willing to pay).

Questions to ask yourself include:

  • What is the customer's perceived value of your product? (Remember that cost is not an issue in your marketing plan.)
  • How do your customers feel about the price you're offering?
  • How will a small increase or decrease affect sales?
  • What discounts can you offer?
  • What price point are other companies selling similar products? Can you undercut your competition without hurting your bottom line?
  • Can you offer extra value that would allow you to charge more for the product?

3. PLACE – As the word suggests, place refers to where you'll 'place' your products so that your customers can easily buy them. Places include retail stores, online stores, resellers, distributors, websites, and so on.

Questions to ask yourself include:

  • Where do people look for products such as yours?
  • What kind of store sells products such as yours?
  • What distribution channels do you need and how can you access them?
  • Can you sell at trade fairs or other offline events?
  • Where are your competitors selling their products?

4. PROMOTION – Promotion includes the promotional tactics you will use to spread awareness in your market of your products and services. Promotion involves emphasizing benefits and influencing customers to buy from you. It includes advertising, social media campaigns, live events, free seminars, press releases, and anything else that garners exposure.

Questions to ask yourself include:

  • Can you reach your customers through traditional advertising channels such as TV, radio, or billboards? What will your content marketing strategy look like?
  • Are there certain times of year when your customers are more likely to buy?
  • How do your competitors promote their products?
  • What ideas of your competitors’ can you use?
  • How can you promote your products differently than your competitors?

Use the above questions to help you define your 4Ps. These will then help you determine specific marketing strategies and tactics that will resonate with your audience. To help you think of ideas, the following sections contain some popular tactics for each one of the 4Ps.

TACTICS FOR INCORPORATING THE 4Ps INTO YOUR MARKETING MIX

PRODUCT TACTICS

Product tactics involve making changes to your products in order to increase their appeal to customers. Products can be repositioned to meet new customer demands or to attract new customers. They can also be extended to offer more benefits for customers or new segments of the market. New product lines can augment old ones.

One product tactic is to offer special features for your products that other companies don't offer. An extremely simple added feature can make a huge difference to your customers.

Bundling is another good product strategy. Bundling means putting your product together with other complementary products to give it added value. An example would be offering a free anti-virus software program for a web design product.

A product tactic that has been gaining popularity in recent years is gamification. Gamification takes some aspect of using the product and turns it into a game for the user. Apps often do this. They offer a reward system or levels that a user passes through.

Language learning app Duolingo takes learning a new language, something that's hard to do, and makes it fun and entertaining with its game-like level system. Zynga's Farmville grew to great popularity in part because of its gifting feature, which allowed players to give each other gifts and grow their farms together collaboratively.

Offering a reward program is another smart product tactic. You can reward your product's users when they refer others. Probably one of the most successful referral programs is that of Dropbox. Dropbox rewards the user for referring a friend as well as rewarding the friend for being referred.

PRICING TACTICS

There is a wide array of price tactics available. Keep in mind that perceived value is an important factor here. Base your pricing tactics on the expectations of your customers.

You can use competitive pricing or strategic pricing for your products and services. Competitive pricing means undercutting your competitors, like U.K. supermarket chain Aldi. The supermarket industry is extremely competitive, so Aldi made itself known for its low prices.

Strategic pricing means charging more than your competitors, but convincing consumers through your marketing that you offer a higher quality product. A great example of strategic pricing is Starbucks, which got Americans hooked on gourmet coffee. Most people would've never imagined paying $3 or more for a cup of coffee, but Starbucks worked the gourmet angle, offering something much higher in quality than a typical gas station cup of Joe.

There are many more tactics you can use in the domain of pricing, such as tiered pricing that offers customers a variety of options at different prices. This is what Apple does with many of its products which sell at various price points, each with different features and capabilities.

Market penetration is another tactic in which you offer reduced prices for new products to help them spread in the market. The goal is usually to steal customers away from a competitor who already offers similar products. An example of this is the release of Lay's Stacks. Similar product to Pringles, Stacks were sold at $0.69 at first in order to attract Pringles buyers. Once it had penetrated the market, the product price was raised to its regular price.

The opposite tactic is called price skimming. This is where you launch a product at a relatively high price and then gradually lower it. This tactic is used often in tech markets. Serious tech and gadget enthusiasts will buy the product at the high price because they want to be the first to own it. Once the adoption curve of buyers willing to pay at the higher price dips, the price is lowered so that mid- and late-adopters will buy it as well.

PLACEMENT TACTICS

Tactics related to product placement are based on how you get your offering to your customers, either physically or online.

You can have locations with high volumes of traffic, online or offline, or try for fewer locations but in areas where consumers in your demographic are concentrated. Your placement tactics should revolve around making it easy and convenient for your customers to find and visit you. Remember to take into consideration the locations of your competitors and other factors such as your distribution network.

Some placement tactics may help you expand to new areas. If this is part of your strategy, you'll need to consider each of these new locations and whether or not you'll get the same results there. What works well in one location may not necessarily work well in other locations, even if they seem similar. On the other hand, it may make more sense for your goals if rather than adding new locations you instead work to build a stronger distribution network or stronger presence in your single location.

Under the place category also comes distribution. Will you distribute your products directly to consumers, thus giving you total control over the sale of your goods, or sell indirectly through wholesalers and retailers? The advantage of the latter is that you can extend the reach of your product with minimal cost because you don't have to set up your own sales operations.

PROMOTIONAL TACTICS

There are two primary promotion tactics – outbound and inbound. Outbound includes many traditional advertising and marketing methods, like television ads, direct mail and special promotional events. These are tactics where you seek out your market. You may know of this as the push part of the push/pull dichotomy.

Inbound marketing is subtler; it pulls the audience's interest rather than pushing out messages to them. Many types of online tactics are inbound, such as content marketing, SEO, opt-in newsletters, and sharing content on social media.

Outbound tactics can be highly successful depending on your market, your industry and how you carry them out. But in general, there has been a shift to inbound marketing for several reasons.

One reason is that it's cheaper and easier to do. Another reason is that people are inundated with so many marketing messages on a daily basis, many outbound ones get ignored. Finally, it simply fits with today's online world; it’s where people consume content and base their buying decisions.

This doesn't necessarily mean that you should forget about outbound tactics and focus only on inbound. Here's a breakdown of the pros and cons of each:

Inbound marketing is successful because it isn't pushy. People don't feel like they're being marketed to. Instead, they feel that they're simply consuming useful information. The downside of inbound marketing is that inbound alone is usually not enough to attract customers. For example, after posting content, you'll often see a spike in traffic but the longer the content is online, the less traffic will trickle in. Since it's a passive approach, marketers often get more dramatic results using outbound tactics.

Outbound marketing takes a great deal more work and resources. But by reaching out directly to your market, you have an opportunity to build stronger relationships with them through this direct communication. It's more hands-on than inbound marketing. However, it takes a considerable amount of work and is usually much costlier.

Naturally, most marketers choose to use a mix of both types. Using inbound only is like setting up a shop and expecting customers to simply show up. It usually requires some outbound efforts to get the traffic started. On the other hand, even if you focus on only outbound, you'll still need the inbound tactics of good content to help customers understand the value and expertise you provide – especially in highly competitive markets.

ONLINE PROMOTIONAL TACTICS

The most common offline promotional tactic is an advertising campaign. The purpose of which is to make you and your product known to the general public. Decide on the specific aim of the ads – whether to sell, inform, brand, or improve your business – and on what media your ads will be seen by your target market. Advertising is usually costly, but it's a great way to get your message directly in front of your market quickly.

There are many ways to promote your products offline through events. You can hold product demonstrations, host seminars that are both educational and promotional, join and participate in your local Chamber of Commerce, etc. These require a serious time investment but they're great opportunities to communicate face-to-face with your customers.

Another good offline promotional tactic is the free sample campaign. This gives prospective customers a direct taste of the value you have to offer. If your product is truly helpful and valuable to them, they'll become buyers.

Other traditional offline promotion tactics include direct mail campaigns, trade shows, telemarketing, and so on.

OFFLINE PROMOTIONAL TACTICS

There are many online promotional tactics that take less effort and money, and with virtually everyone spending a great deal of time online these days the return on your investment can be positive.

Content marketing is a popular promotional tactic. It involves creating content, which can be text-based, visual, video, interactive, or any other kind of content, and using it to build a relationship with your audience. Content can help, inform, or entertain, but it's non-promotional in nature. When done successfully, it brands your company as an industry leader in the minds of your market, who will then come to you to buy your products and services when they need them.

Email marketing is another good way to promote online, which is often part of a content marketing strategy. The advantage of email marketing is that it's the most personal approach, since you are marketing directly to subscribers.

Social media is another type of online promotion in which you create a profile on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn, and then make connections with your market there. Again, your activities here should promote in a subtle way. Offer help and information, with a little promotion thrown in. In addition to profiles, you can also create pages, groups, communities, interactive content, and other opportunities for engagement through these social channels.

You can also hold online events such as webinars. A webinar is the online version of a seminar where you teach people about something related to your business. Webinars are a great way to establish your authority and build relationships.

MARKETING MIX CONCLUSION

It's best to use a wide variety of promotional tactics. Identify the tactics that you think will work best with your target market and then implement several of them through different marketing channels. Diversification is key because some promotions will fail or lose their efficacy over time, so it's important not to have all of your eggs in one basket.

ACTIVITY >>> Download and use the Tackling Your Marketing Plan: Marketing Mix Worksheet to identify the optimal mix of the 4Ps and associated tactics for your marketing plan.

Posts in this series:

  1. Tackling Your Marketing Plan: Marketing Analysis
  2. Tackling Your Marketing Plan: Marketing Goals
  3. Tackling Your Marketing Plan: Marketing Mix {this post!}
  4. Tackling Your Marketing Plan: Marketing Budget
andrea hubbert

About the Author

Andrea Hubbert, principal at Hub+company, is a versatile integrated marketing communications professional with one primary passion: to empower creative individuals and their companies to design and market the business lives of their dreams.

Leave a Comment