When I first got started in marketing there was great emphasis placed on the marketing mix, the tactical or operational part of a marketing plan, based on the 4 P’s of marketing, namely:
Over the years the 4 P’s expanded to become the 7 x P’s with the inclusion of People, Process and Physical Evidence. Then I remember the 21x R’s of relationship marketing, the 4 x C’s of marketing (not to get confused with Kenichi Ohmae’s 3 x C’s) and a fairly recent (and interesting) reinterpretation of the 4 x P’s framework published in the Harvard Business review called SAVE.
There is no doubt that since I first started marketing in a mainly analogue world, digital technology has revolutionized how we do things and how things get done. So how has digital technology affected the marketing mix? Are the 4 P’s still relevant or is it time to move on to a new marketing mix model? Let’s find out.
When I was involved in product management in the hi-tech sector, development times for new products could be 24 months and market research focused on feedback from visiting the top tier clients. Today that development time is down to 6 months (or far less in some markets) and the internet, social media and digital technology such as Skype and Google Hangouts allow almost immediate feedback from a variety of sources across the globe. Many companies now harness this power to effectively outsource their market development to their end users.
The barriers to entry that we tried hard to maintain through relationships with the key players and brand building activities have fallen as internet access opens up the markets to world wide competition, much of it from new entrants.
Pricing is a major subject on it’s own and in the B2B world it’s still an issue that most businesses keep close to their chests with little transparency. Very few B2B companies publish their price list online. But in the B2C world the advent of the internet and social media has made it much easier to compare pricing between suppliers and there are several industry based comparison websites. This has made it more difficult for key brands to justify premium prices or to have different price lists in different regions of the world.
A strong sales force with a wide geographic spread can still be a powerful tool for managing accounts, opening doors and establishing and building relationships. But relationships are something that a sales team wants to build and may not be something the end user is really interested in. Access to the internet and the growth of ecommerce, offers buyers the opportunity to research their requirements and buy a product or service online with little or no interaction with a salesperson. If further information is required prior to a sale then it’s usually at the stage when the buyer has already researched their options and has narrowed those options down to just a few vendors. This makes your website and your content marketing plan vital for success.
The internet and social media acts as a double edge sword. On the one hand there is far more opportunity to launch and promote your products or services to a wider audience in a much quicker way than was previously possible. However, these channels are also available to all of your competitors with the result that it becomes difficult to maintain customer loyalty or a price premium.
What these tools allow is for smaller, quicker-to-react companies to steal a march on more established suppliers if they have a quicker decision making process, a better understanding of the appropriate social media channels and new routes to market and a more open approach to online advertising.
There is no doubt that the internet has had a massive impact on marketing’s 4 x P’s. However many B2B companies are traditionally conservative in their approach and have been slow to utilize these new channels in a coherent and planned manner. Those businesses that have embraced this change and have been quick to harness the power of these new channels have seen massive success.
The day’s where a dominant player in the market could exhort a premium price solely on brand equity and a strong sales force are long gone as buyers have access to reams of information on that brand and their competitors via the internet and social media channels. Dipping a toe in the water through a staged, geographic pilot launch is more difficult to keep under wraps as online communications has made the world a much smaller place. And woe betide any company that launches a flawed product and expects to keep it under wraps or delivers a poor customer service.
You can find examples of businesses who have successfully bought into and exploited the power of digital marketing on the econsultancy and exact target blogs where you can learn from their activities, extract what’s relevant to you and port them over to your own marketing plans.
From my own perspective the fundamentals of the 4 P’s still resonate but clearly there is a need to consider and integrate the appropriate technology and channels to suit today’s audience. I also believe that the internet is driving an expectation of transparency within the business community and for me that can only be A GOOD THING.
What do you think?
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