What Are the Four P's of Marketing?


Many people think marketing involves going with your gut feeling and relying solely on intuition. In fact, marketing is as much a science as it is an art. Effective marketers develop detailed strategies based on the four P’s of marketing, carefully selecting the right elements to include in their campaigns.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

The four P’s of marketing are product, price, place and promotion. This is also known as the marketing mix.

The Four P’s of Marketing

Advertising professor Neil Borden developed the term "marketing mix" in 1964, and it is used widely today to encompass the elements on which marketers rely. Marketing professor E. Jerome McCarthy categorized the many elements Borden included in his mix to four essential high-level groups, which are today known as the four P’s of marketing: product, price, place and promotion.

Since that time, many marketers agree that two additional categories are now part of the marketing mix: process and people. Because current-day marketing has changed considerably from the time the term was coined, it’s natural to add to the basic fundamentals. The elements of process and people help businesses to further reach their customers.

Starting with Product

The first element of the four P’s of marketing, product, can be a tangible good or an intangible service offering. Whatever it is that a business is selling, they need to ensure they clearly outline how their product meets a specific customer need or demand. When developing the product, the business needs to understand what the benefits of the product are to consumers and how this product is different from similar products out there. The business needs to establish what problem this product can solve for their target audience and what that audience is looking for in their ideal product.

Deciding on a product for your business involves doing some detailed research on who your consumer is and what they need that they cannot find already. If a small business owner selling home décor items is looking to expand her product offering, for example, she should start by conducting more research on her target audience. She’ll want to know whether they are primarily homeowners or renters, what their income is, what their likes and dislikes are and where they like to shop. This will help her figure out what kind of product they want.

Once the small business owner has conducted her research and decided her consumer wants handcrafted wooden signs for the home, for example, she’ll need to establish how her product is unique from her competitors. The small business owner will need to figure out what makes her, her product and her business different and refer to those points when working on the rest of the elements in the marketing mix.

In addition to the actual good itself, the product also includes the design and packaging, plus peripheral items like warranties and return policies. To successfully market the product, the marketer needs to establish its full value, which is more than just the product itself. The way the product is packaged plays into the brand. For example, if a business is selling environmentally friendly food, packaging it in plastic bags goes against the mission of the company. The consumer, who is likely interested in sustainability, may not be pleased to find the environmentally friendly food wrapped in a material that is widely known to not be environmentally friendly. Instead, that business could choose to package the food in recycled paper bags or simply forgo the bags and let customers use their own reusable bags.

Deciding on Price

Once the business has established what the product is, it’s time to make some decisions on the price. The price is what the end user is expected to pay in exchange for the product. Pricing a product is no easy feat because the way a product is priced affects how it sells.

When establishing the price of a product, businesses need to determine more than just the cost of the materials for the product. Instead, it’s vital to understand what the value of the product is for the consumer. For the business, the price of the product affects their profit margins, supply, demand and budget. The price of a product also affects the distribution plans, markups and the price of competitive products.

Some industries rely on discounting strategies to price their products. Several large online retailers often discount everything they offer by a certain percentage, getting consumers used to receiving a certain discount and refusing to pay full retail prices.

When deciding how to price the handcrafted wooden signs, for example, the small business owner will need to consider the cost of the materials first. Then, she will need to see how competitor stores have priced their similar products. This will give the business an idea of what the consumer is willing to pay for that kind of product. If the small business owner can offer something to truly differentiate herself from her competition, she can charge a premium. For example, if she is the only one in the area who sells handcrafted wooden signs made from recycled barn doors, she can charge significantly more than her competition because what she is offering is of greater value to her consumer. It’s more difficult to find in that particular market, making it more desirable.

Establishing the Place

The four P's of marketing and marketing strategy concepts rely on the business to establish the place where the sale of the product will happen. "Place" refers to making the product accessible for potential customers. Today, online stores play an important role in distribution. Many kinds of products and services are available for purchase online, as that is where many consumers do their shopping.

However, online shopping doesn’t work for all kinds of products or services. The critical factor is understanding where the target audience shops. While placing a product online for sale may be a good way to garner awareness for the business, it may not be suitable for selling what they offer. Products that promise exclusivity, such as designer jewelry brands, may choose to only sell in a store or by appointment. Others that promote local commerce may choose to only offer their products at regional markets. Where the product is sold needs to compliment the rest of the marketing strategy.

In the case of the small business owner who sells handcrafted wooden signs made from recycled barn doors, an online store may not be the primary choice. While some customers may choose to buy online, the majority of her customers will likely need to see the product in person before making a purchasing decision. Because what she sells is tangible and what makes it unique are the materials used to create it, many customers might need to hold it in their hands and feel the texture of the recycled wood. Since she charges a premium price for her product, her consumers will likely need to feel the differentiating factor in order to believe the value of what she has to offer.

If the small business owner has a retail location where she sells other home décor items, selling her new product there is an obvious choice. In addition to her physical store, she may also choose to attend local and regional craft fairs and home décor trade shows where she can show off her product to her target market. As well as dealing directly with her end consumers, the small business owner could also attend interior design and decorating events to build a network of professionals who may use her products in their work. The place where the sale happens can actually refer to multiple places. What is key is determining where the target audience shops and where they will most likely need to be when making the ultimate buying decision.

Creating the Promotions

The last of the four P’s of marketing is promotion, which encompasses a number of different ways to communicate the value of the product to the consumer. Promotion includes advertising, public relations, personal selling, direct mail, sales promotion and sponsorship. The kinds of promotional channels marketers use to spread information about their products depends on the other P’s: the kind of product, the price and place where it’s being sold.

The most visible aspect of promotion is advertising. Traditional advertising mediums include print newspapers and magazines, billboards, television and radio. Online advertising is also prominent, which includes text ads, search ads, remarketing ads and social media ads. While traditional advertising vehicles are often very costly, online advertising is usually much more affordable and can be used to effectively reach consumers. For the small business owner selling wooden signs, online advertising on home décor websites might be a way to reach her target audience without using up the entire marketing budget.

Public relations refers to working with the media to build a complementary brand image for the business. Public relations vehicles include press conferences, press releases and media interviews. In the case of the small business owner, public relations may be the best way to promote her business and her new product. Because what she is offering is unique in that her signs are made from recycled barn doors, she may be able to speak with journalists who cover her local area to discuss the environmental benefits of her product and her business.

Personal selling involves meeting with customers one on one or in small groups and building relationships in order to sell the product. While it can be costly for small businesses, it’s widely used by larger organizations that have a sales staff on board.

Direct mail promotions can be done through postal mail or email. In order to make this kind of promotion effective, businesses need to make sure they have a highly targeted mailing list. The message they send needs to be specifically directed toward that segment of the audience. When promoting the handcrafted signs, the small business owner could target her customer base that has expressed interested in repurposed materials or environmentally friendly décor.

Sales promotions are special offers that are designed to attract customers to buy the product. They can include coupons, free samples, incentives, loyalty programs, rebates, contests and prizes. The result of sales promotions are short-term increases in sales. They are often tied to a seasonal event, such religious or cultural holidays. For example, the small business owner could run a sale on her handcrafted signs directly before Christmas, encouraging customers to purchase them as gifts for their loved ones.

Lastly, sponsorship is a promotional vehicle used by many businesses. This involves offering financial support for an event or organization in exchange for publicizing the business name and logo. Small business owners can sponsor local children’s sports teams, office lunches, picnics and town fairs. The small business owner selling handcrafted signs, for example, could sponsor the annual holiday dinner of a local real estate company. This would be a good way to make connections in that market. Real estate agents speak with homeowners all the time, and they may refer them to the small business owner for their décor needs.

Including Process and People

What are the four basic marketing strategies? They are product, price, place and promotion. However, many marketers also rely on two additional strategies: process and people. Process involves optimizing the logistics side of the business. This lets businesses offer their products at lower prices than their competitors, which results in higher customer satisfaction. "People" refers to hiring the right employees to take the business to the next level. The marketing organization needs people with the right skills in order to best promote, price and place their products.


About the Author

Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.