What Are the 4 Ps of Marketing? A Beginner’s Guide to the Marketing Mix

Afoma Umesi, Contributor to the CareerFoundry blog

If you’re a largely self-taught marketer, you’ve likely never heard of the 4 Ps of marketing—or the marketing mix as they’re also called. Marketing-trained professionals use various models to do their job efficiently. One of these foundational models is the marketing mix (or 4 Ps of marketing).

In this article, we’ll consider what these 4 Ps are, how they work in the real world, how you can use them as a digital marketer, and other alternative marketing models you can use.

You can use the clickable menu to skip ahead to any section, if you’d like. 

  1. What is the marketing mix? A definition
  2. What are the 4 Ps of marketing?
  3. An example of the 4 Ps of marketing
  4. What are some alternative marketing models?
  5. Key takeaways 

1. What is the marketing mix? A definition

The term marketing mix refers to a set of tools, actions, or strategies a company uses to promote and sell its products or services. Although the term “marketing mix” was first coined by Professor Neil Borden, it was popularized by Edmund Jerome McCarthy, who first developed the 4 Ps of marketing. 

This concept is more than just stale theory; the marketing mix is still useful for marketers today. It provides a big picture look at the main elements of marketing a product or service, and helps marketers understand how these elements can affect the success of their marketing efforts.

Knowledge of the marketing mix helps marketers highlight their product’s strengths and learn how best to promote it. Understanding the marketing mix can also make it easier for stakeholders to make decisions about how to price their product or service and position it in the market.

What is the digital marketing mix?

The digital marketing mix is the marketing mix as it applies to the sphere of digital marketing. Unlike the marketing mix—which is focused in its inception on physical goods and services—the digital marketing mix may include digital products and services, including things like software, for example.

Still, both forms of the marketing mix perform the same function: helping companies promote and sell products or services.

What exactly does the (digital) marketing mix entail? Let’s find out.

2. What are the 4 Ps of marketing?

After Professor Neil Borden developed the term marketing mix, fellow marketing professor, Edmund Jerome McCarthy proposed the idea of the 4 Ps of marketing. 

In his book Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach (first published in 1960), McCarthy proposed that marketers could use the 4 Ps (four variables beginning with the letter “P”) to create effective marketing plans and reach their goals. These 4 Ps are:

  • Product: The product or service the company is offering. This product should meet the customers’ needs in a unique way to be worthy of purchase.
  • Price: This refers to how much the product or service sells for. Marketers must consider the product’s value, as well as the general market situation as they price a product or service.
  • Place: Where will this product be sold to reach its target audience?
  • Promotion: How will marketers get the word out about their product or service? Which marketing channels will they use?

Let’s use an example to see how the 4 Ps apply to marketing a real-life product.

3. An example of the 4 Ps of marketing 

Ready to try using this classic marketing model? We’ll break down how each element works for a fictional software-as-a-service (SaaS) company trying to market its tool. For this exercise, let’s make it a human resource (HR) software tool for HR leaders.

1. Product

To successfully market this product, the 4 Ps theory demands that the marketing team closely examine its product, noting its strengths and possible weaknesses. The marketers need to ask themselves:

  • What does our software do? It helps HR leads manage employees, build team culture, and manage payroll.
  • Who is it for? It’s for HR team leads in the tech industry.
  • What pain points does it solve? This makes it easier to onboard new employees, add them to the payroll, run employee performance evaluations, et cetera.
  • What is it’s unique selling point (USP)? It’s an all-in-one management tool (compared to other tools which only manage one aspect) 

As you look into your product, it’s also wise to see how it measures up with competitors and what its stand-out features are. The goal of this element is to help marketers get a closer look at their offering so they can find the best way to sell it to their target audience.

2. Price

Understanding all that your product or service offers will help a great deal in this section. Pricing your product requires strategic thinking. Here are some things to keep in mind as you do so:

  • Your desired profit margin
  • Your audience’s budget
  • Your brand positioning (do you want to be a budget or premium option?)
  • Your competitors’ prices
  • Your pricing strategy (will you offer pricing tiers, dynamic pricing, one-time pricing, or monthly/annual pricing?)

Whatever you decide, keep in mind that pricing affects the marketing of your product, as well as general perception. Make sure that you’re striking the right notes with your target audience.

3. Place

A crucial part of your marketing strategy is choosing the right marketing channel. With a bevy of options ranging from SEO to paid search, email marketing, and social media, you need to choose carefully.

Think about where your target audience hangs out, where they go to learn or find resources. That’s where you should market to them. For a HR SaaS company, social networking sites like LinkedIn and Twitter may yield more leads than Facebook or Instagram, due to their reputations as professional social media networking channels.

Another valuable channel for SaaS tools is the company website. Use a high-converting landing page and effective calls-to-action, such as a free trial offer or a demo request. 

4. Promotion

Where place refers to your main marketing channel, promotion involves your main distribution channels. Granted, most marketing channels can also serve the purpose of distribution. But typically, it’s wise to have the main selling station, then support that channel with other distribution channels.

Distribution channels help to create more brand awareness, provide an opportunity to repurpose valuable content, and ensure that your audience never forgets about you or your offering.

Back to our SaaS example. Some great distribution/promotion channels for this product are podcasts, video marketing, and email newsletters. For example, if you decide to create SEO blog content, using distribution channels such as an email newsletter or a YouTube account will help get more eyes on your content.

4. What are some alternative marketing models?

The marketing mix is just one marketing model. There are a few other effective models—some old and others new. Here are a few:

The 7 Ps

In 1981, Booms and Bitner expanded the scope of the marketing mix by adding three new elements. That’s why you might see some people refer to it as the 7 Ps. The three additional elements are people, processes, and physical evidence. To implement the 7 Ps, marketers would need to use these seven parameters (including the 4 Ps) to craft a marketing plan that works.

Loyalty ladder

In this marketing model, brands depend on customer advocacy to promote their business. Marketers nurture leads into customers, prioritize customer retention, and eventually turn customers into brand advocates who, in turn, market the product at no cost to the brand.

Segmentation, targeting, and positioning

This model involves marketers harnessing the differences in their audience and providing personalized marketing to each group. Marketers may segment or group their audience using their demographics, geography, lifestyle, or other parameters. They then create specific marketing techniques to reach out to each group, while positioning the brand in a way that appeals to them.

AIDA

AIDA stands for attention, interest, desire, and action, and refers to the way marketers draw in potential customers. It starts with getting leads by catching their attention, nurturing their interest, stoking the desire to purchase, and finally leading them to take action by purchasing.

For example, to get a potential customer’s attention, ads, landing pages, and SEO articles work. On the other hand, to stimulate interest, more will likely be needed. Think nurturing newsletters. To fan the flames of purchase desire and move customers to action, brands may need to use testimonials, share demos, or use other bottom-of-the-funnel content.

5. Key takeaways

Marketing is an exciting field and, with so many models available, there are plenty of ways to approach your marketing strategy. The marketing mix (or the 4 Ps) are four elements that marketers must consider while planning their marketing strategy, which are: product, price, place, and promotion.

To make the most of this model, you’ll need to:

  1. Examine what makes your product unique to your target audience
  2. How best to price your product or service
  3. Where to sell your product and which marketing channels to use
  4. Decide on the best ways to promote and distribute your product or service

Want to learn more about digital marketing? You could check out CareerFoundry’s free 5-day course. You may also be interested in these articles:

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