What Is a Constraint in Marketing?

by Leigh Richards; Updated September 26, 2017
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Marketing professionals use the term "constraints" to refer to factors that hinder their organization's ability to achieve its marketing goals. Constraints can affect any element of the marketing mix -- product, price, place or promotion. Common constraints include budget limitations, products that do not meet the market's needs, prices that do not adequately represent value, lack of access to the product and ineffective promotion.

Limited Budgets

Budget is always the No. 1 constraint in any marketing endeavor. If it weren't, you wouldn't have any problem getting your message or your product in front of your target market: You could send free samples to everyone, buy shelf space in every store you could find, run as many tests and focus groups as you wanted, and promote yourself through as many channels as you could imagine. But marketing budgets are never unlimited, of course. Major constraints tend to flow from that fact itself.

Products That Don't Meet Market Needs

Products cannot be developed in a vacuum. They need to reflect the needs and desires of the marketplace. Products that do not meet market needs represent a marketing constraint that will ultimately impact sales. Even if initial sales are high, negative word-of-mouth can drive future sales downward. Consequently, it is important for marketers to take steps to truly understand what consumers value and to produce products and services that reflect these needs.

Prices That Do Not Adequately Represent Value

Pricing is as much an art as a science. There are a variety of methods that can be used for pricing products and services, from cost-based pricing to pricing what the market will bear. Importantly, low prices are not necessarily the best and will not necessarily lead to higher sales. Prices must reflect value to the target audience and must also align with the organization's brand. Price points for Hyundais and BMWs, for instance, reflect their different brand identities.

Lack of Access to the Product

A key constraint for marketers is the ability to get the product into the hands of the target consumer. A high-quality product at a good price point that is not readily accessible will obviously have a negative impact on sales. Marketers must carefully plan and implement their marketing efforts to ensure that ample product is readily and conveniently available to consumers. This means working closely with all distribution channels, whether traditional bricks and mortar or online.

Ineffective Promotion

Marketers' promotional materials must clearly reflect the attributes of the products and services being sold to consumers both in terms of their content and design. Promotions that are not targeted to the appropriate audience or delivered through communication channels that reach target audiences represent a significant constraint. In addition, promotions that over-promise or inflate brand or product attributes can result in significant dissatisfaction for consumers. The dissatisfaction that results when brand promises do not match product/service attributes results in negative word-of-mouth that can represent a significant constraint.

References

Resources

  • Guerilla Marketing; Jay Conrad Levinson
  • The New Rules of Marketing and PR; David Meerman Scott

About the Author

Leigh Richards has been a writer since 1980. Her work has been published in "Entrepreneur," "Complete Woman" and "Toastmaster," among many other trade and professional publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Wisconsin and a Master of Arts in organizational management from the University of Phoenix.

Photo Credits

  • John Rowley/Photodisc/Getty Images