The 7 Ps And The 4 Pillars: What IS Marketing Anyway?
Many business owners have a fuzzy vision of marketing, even if they run successful companies. A lot of businesses attempt to cover their marketing bases by simply turning their Sales Director into a Sales and Marketing Director and moving on, assuming that the marketing box has been comprehensively ticked.
This is what happens when business owners confuse lead generation with marketing. Lead generation is a part of marketing, but it’s really just the visible bit of an iceberg - the obvious bit that everyone sees. The much bigger picture lies beneath the surface - the activities that happen prior to lead generation. So what does happen below the surface? What is marketing?
Marketing Planning v Marketing Communications
You might have heard of the seven Ps of marketing:
- Product: What are you selling and to who?
- Price: Is the price aligned with the perceived value of the product?
- Promotion: What messaging will you use to describe your product? What is the right combination of words and tone to strike a chord with your target audience?
- Place: What are the most appropriate routes to markets for your product or service?
- People: Have you got the right service delivery and sales teams in place?
- Process: Have you defined and documented your methods for delivering your end product or service?
- Physical Evidence: Have you defined a tangible “thing” that the customer will receive, even if the service is intangible? (An insurance certificate for an insurance policy is a good example, if you’re stuck on this.)
Looking through these, there are some areas that you might not immediately associate with marketing - setting the price of products, sales processes, service delivery. But that is the point; marketing permeates every element of the business. Price, for example, is part of marketing - finding out what people are prepared to pay to have their pain points addressed. This is the crucial difference between marketing comms and marketing strategy: comms is a culmination of a whole host of deeper strategic work.
The Four Pillars
To explain the key functions of marketing, The Marketing Centre has developed a strategy which simplifies these ideas down to four key areas.
Here are the four pillars of marketing:
- Define: Know what your potential customers look like, and what your product or service can do for them.
- Find: Identify ways to target them, based on their behaviour and habits.
- Win: Devise strategies to close sales and create customers.
- Keep: Monitor customer churn (loss) and create retention activities to remedy it.
Whether you’re talking about seven Ps or four pillars, the message is the same. Clearly define who you are, what you sell and how you sell it. Know who you sell to and ascertain the best methods for reaching them. Have the processes in place to nurture leads and convert sales, then keep these customers on board, or have a plan to win repeat business.
A note on leads
The key objective of marketing is to help increase sales and grow the business, but a lack of leads is rarely the problem. Very few business owners want to hear that the problem lies in the product or the planning, but this is more than often the case. And sales teams can be especially reluctant to accept that message, who often prefer to have more leads than do a decent job with the ones they’ve got. Revisiting what was assumed to be a successful formula is never a welcome task for those who created it. This investment of time and effort in the status quo means those people often struggle to be objective about any shortcomings. This is when a fresh pair of eyes – like those of a part-time Marketing Director – can make a difference.
Back to Basics
Success often comes down to fundamentals. In marketing, the fundamentals are not the channels you choose. They are not social media, PR, direct mail, advertising or content. The building blocks for success come from understanding what you are selling, who you are selling it to and why they should buy it. That is why marketing is rarely a case of ‘he who shouts loudest’. It’s a nuanced, agile and measured approach that factors in every element of the business. Generating leads is an important part of this process, but not the only one; not by a long shot.
Image credit: By Mohsinbl (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons