7P's of Marketing
Successful marketing depends upon addressing a number of key issues. These include: what a company is going to produce; how much it is going to charge; how it is going to deliver its products or services to the customer; and how it is going to tell its customers about its products and services.
Traditionally, these considerations were known as the 4Ps — Product, Price, Place and Promotion. As marketing became a more sophisticated discipline, a fifth ‘P’ was added — People. And recently, two further ‘P’s were added, mainly for service industries — Process and Physical evidence.
These considerations are now known as the 7Ps of marketing, sometimes referred to as the marketing mix.
There is no point in developing a product or service that no one wants to buy, yet many businesses decide what to offer first, and then hope to find a market for it afterwards. In contrast, the successful company will find out what customers need or want and then develop the right product — with the right level of quality to meet those needs now and in the future.
- The perfect product must provide value for the customer. This value is in the eye of the beholder — we must give our customers what they want, not what we think they want
- A product does not have to be tangible — an insurance policy can be a product
- Ask yourself whether you have a system in place to regularly check what your customers think of your product, your supporting services, etc, what their needs are now and whether they see them changing
- Beware going too far with product quality. Don’t try to sell a Rolls- Royce when the customer really wants a Nissan Micra
A product is only worth what customers are prepared to pay for it. The price also needs to be competitive, but this does not necessarily mean the cheapest; the small business may be able to compete with larger rivals by adding extra services or details that will offer customers better value for money. Your pricing must also provide a profit. It is the only element of the marketing mix that generates revenue — everything else represents a cost.
Thinking of price as ‘cost’ to the customer helps to underscore why it is so important
- Price positions you in the marketplace — the more you charge, the more value or quality your customers will expect for their money
- Existing customers are generally less sensitive about price than new customers — a good reason for looking after them well
- If you decide in favour of a higher priced added-value approach, remember that price ‘positions’ you in the marketplace. This means it gives an indication to potential and existing customers of where to place you in relation to your competitors. Expectations will generally be higher; customers will assume a higher quality product or service. Everything about your dealings with customers must live up to the expectations of this positioning. Anything that can be seen by the customer must be consistent with these higher quality expectations — packaging, environment, promotional materials, letterheads, invoices, etc
The place where customers buy a product, and the means of distributing your product to that place, must be appropriate and convenient for the customer. The product must be available in the right place, at the right time and in the right quantity, while keeping storage, inventory and distribution costs to an acceptable level.
- Customer surveys have shown that delivery performance is one of the most important criteria when choosing a supplier
- Place also means ways of displaying your product to customer groups. This could be in a shop window, but it could also be via the internet
Promotion is the way a company communicates what it does and what it can offer customers. It includes activities such as branding, advertising, PR, corporate identity, sales management, special offers and exhibitions. Promotion must gain attention, be appealing, tell a consistent message and above all else give the customer a reason to choose your product rather than someone else’s.
- Good promotion is not one-way communication — it paves the way for a dialogue with customers
- Promotion should communicate the benefits that a customer obtains from a product, and not just the features of that product
- Whether your promotional material is a single sheet or a complex brochure, folder or catalogue, it must grab the attention of your customers. It should be easy to read and enable the customer to identify why they should buy your product
- A brochure isn’t necessarily the best way of promoting your business, the problem being that once a brochure has been printed, the information is fixed. You can’t change or remove anything should the need arise. A more cost effective and flexible option might be a folder with a professionally designed sheet inside, over a series of your own information sheets produced in-house. These sheets can be customised by varying them to suit the target customers and/or changing them as required
- Promotion does not just mean communicating to your customers. It is just as important to ensure your internal stakeholders are aware of the value and attributes of your products. This means communicating effectively to your staff/fellow employees so that they can be knowledgeable and share expertise with their customers.
Anyone who comes into contact with your customers will make an impression, and that can have a profound effect — positive or negative — on customer satisfaction. The reputation of your brand rests in your people’s hands. They must, therefore, be appropriately trained, well motivated and have the right attitude.
- It is essential to ensure that all employees who have contact with customers are not only properly trained, but also the right kind of people for the job
- Many customers cannot separate the product or service from the staff member who provides it. This shows the importance of your people
- The level of after sales support and advice provided by a business is one way of adding value to what you offer, and can give you an important edge over your competitors. This will probably become more important than price for many customers once they start to use you
- Look regularly at the products that account for the highest percentage of your sales. Do these products have adequate after sales support, or are you being complacent with them? Could you enhance your support without too much additional cost?
- Traditionally, adding the sixth and seventh Ps would be for service industries. However, they are worth considering for products too, especially in B2B.
The process of giving a service, and the behaviour of those who deliver are crucial to customer satisfaction. Issues such as waiting times, the information given to customers and the helpfulness of staff are all vital to keep customers happy.
- Customers are not interested in the detail of how your business runs. What matters to them is that the system works
- Do customers have to wait? Are they kept informed? Are your people helpful? Is your service efficiently carried out? Do your people interact in a manner appropriate to your service?
Process is one of the 'P's that is frequently overlooked. A customer trying to reach your company by phone is a vital source of income and returning value; but so often customers have to stay on hold for several minutes listening to a recorded message before they are able to get through. Many of these customers will give up, go elsewhere and tell their friends not to use your company - just because of the poor process that is in place. Even if they do get through, they will go away with a negative impression of the company.
The reason for this is that the systems are not usually designed by marketers - they are designed for the company's benefit, not the customer's.
This part of the process is the first experience of a company that many customers have. There's no value in making the rest of the company run perfectly if this part is faulty. As a consequence, this 'P' could be a great source of competitive advantage if used wisely.
A service can’t be experienced before it is delivered. This means that choosing to use a service can be perceived as a risky business because you are buying something intangible. This uncertainty can be reduced by helping potential customers to ‘see’ what they are buying. Case studies and testimonials can provide evidence that an organisation keeps its promises. Facilities such as a clean, tidy and well-decorated reception area can also help to reassure. If your premises aren’t up to scratch, why would the customer think your service is?
- The physical evidence demonstrated by an organisation must confirm the assumptions of the customer — a financial services product will need to be delivered in a formal setting, while a children’s birthday entertainment company should adopt a more relaxed approach
Although the customer cannot experience the service before purchase, he or she can talk to other people with experiences of the service. Their testimony is credible, because their views do not come from the company. Some companies engage these customers and ask for their feedback, so that they can develop reference materials. New customers can then see these testimonials and are more likely to purchase with confidence.
Each of the ‘ingredients’ of the marketing mix is a key to success. No one element can be considered in isolation — you cannot, for example, develop a product without considering a price, or how it will reach the customer.