Marketing 101. Chapter 3: The Marketing Mix and the Four Ps

8 years ago

One of the core fundamentals of marketing is the marketing mix also known as the "four Ps." The marketing mix is used to determine your target market and to guide development of your strategic marketing plan. While additional elements have been added and the original ones renamed by those trying to make their stamp and in efforts to update the model for new markets and means of marketing, the classic framework has proven durable and still useful.

1. Product

Your product is whatever you sell or offer. This could be a physical thing, such as handmade jewelry; it could be your writing; or it could be a service like coaching, consulting or photography.

Form is an integral consideration of the product element. Writing could be offered in a bound book or a downloadable e-book; it could be a service you offer, such as copywriting; or it could take the form of speeches that you or others deliver. If it is a tangible item, then things like packaging are part of the product element. Other considerations include the product name, features, quality of materials and more.

2. Price

Decisions about how to price your product include choosing basics like the suggested or list price (including zero or free). Beyond that, additional considerations include discounts, such as for volume -- buy three, get one free -- or price drops with every 10 units purchased -- e.g. the per-hour cost of your time is lower if a client purchases 10-20 hours vs. 1-9 hours -- or giving a discount if you receive an early payment.

3. Place (Distribution)

Distribution is called "place" so that it neatly fits the framework without disrupting the alliteration and because it refers to the place(s) where you sell your product. If you are selling a tangible product, you might sell it in a brick-and-mortar store or at an online store. Let's think about the example of shoes from Chapter 1. Shoes are sold in many places, including department stores, boutiques, shoe stores, online via sites like Zappos or through auction at sites like eBay.

Considerations for distribution include delivery and logistics and questions of whether to send products to a retailer's warehouse, use drop-shipping or ship from your inventory to customers. Do customers buy your services directly from you or through a broker (such as an agency)? Do you restrict (exclusive dealers) or expand (affiliates) sales? Do you take returns?

4. Promotion

This is the stuff many people think of when they think marketing. Promotion includes advertising, public relations (PR), giveaways, events and coupons.


Define your four Ps and list every relevant element you can think of. Then define your target market accordingly.

For example, one episode of CNN's late show The Turnaround, in which small-business owners were mentored by successful business people at large companies -- featured a small bakery. The baker had a small shop but offered a wide range of baked goods. Using a 4P framework, brand managers from Dreyer's ice cream showed her how they used it to help guide the marketing of Dibs as a new product. Applying this framework to her baked goods, the bakery owner, Denise, was able to see that weddings cakes were her most promising target market, and she could focus accordingly.

Previous Chapters

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Setting Goals and Creating a P&L Statement

Additional Resources

How to Write a Strategic Marketing Plan

NetMBA: The Marketing Mix (The 4P's of Marketing)

QuickMBA: The Marketing Mix (The 4 P's of Marketing)

Laura Lake at Marketing: Articles about the Four P's of Marketing

Jenn Lazaros at The Canadian Business Blog: Your Marketing Mix - The 4 P's

The SBA Project Jumpstreet: Marketing Plans

TheGoodeMaria at Social Wine: What comes first: promotion or distribution? The 4Ps of goode marketing

I see two reinforcing issues here: poor presence at retail level and
absence of consumer pull (consumer not asking for it by name). Poor distribution could be caused by several factors, such as: wine distributor politics (which I don’t know much about – but hope to learn – right now, I just know it’s a 3-tier system) and lack of field sales focus on the East Coast market (which can probably be attributed to distribution politics as well). Since the wine is not in the store, and most consumers haven’t been exposed to MG’s messaging in NYC, consumers lack the awareness to ask for it by name. In turn, because consumers aren’t asking for it, and sales don’t justify carrying the item, the stores just don’t carry it.

Maria Niles blogs about marketing to consumers at Fizz from ConsumerPop.

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