Marketing is complicated. People have written hundreds of books on it, from social media branding to consumer psychology, and it can easily get overwhelming. That’s why you’ll often hear marketers talk about the 4 Ps of marketing.
The four Ps is a list of the simple marketing concepts that lie at the heart of all business. They’re like the law of gravity: easy to understand, but with a massive impact.
What are the 4 Ps of marketing?
Product, price, place and promotion. These four Ps, also known as the Marketing Mix, are the key elements of a successful marketing strategy.
It’s impossible to plan an effective marketing strategy without these 4 Ps of marketing. That’s why this article will give you real-world examples of how each point affects your business—and how you can use it to your own benefit.
Let’s dive right in.
No prizes for guessing this one. If you don’t have a good product, you don’t have a business.
You can sell things for a while based on novelty or clever marketing, but it won’t last. If you want to build a business that’ll last for years, you need a product that’s high-quality.
It’s tempting to save a few pennies by cutting corners on quality, but you’ll lose dollars in the long run.
Investing in quality control, whether that’s better ingredients for a recipe or more training for staff, is what turns normal customers into life-long fans. Don’t neglect it.
But, in turn, quality isn’t everything. Someone already in the market will always have more resources than you, and that means they can afford higher quality, too. What do you do?
Every product has to have a unique selling point, also called a USP. Human beings have needs, and fulfilling a need no-one else can is what sets you up for life. These can be physical—food, clothing—or psychological, like a sense of community or purpose.
Maybe it doesn’t feel like you have a USP. But that usually means you’re looking at your product the wrong way. Either there’s a niche you’ve not found yet, or there’s a gap in the market where you can create a niche. An example?
Nobody in 1994 thought you could sell books online. It took Amazon to prove otherwise.
Maybe you can cater to specific markets, like meat-free alternatives for vegans. Maybe you use cutting-edge technology—that’s the pitch behind every Tesla product. Even a unique history can make you stand out, like the label on Jack Daniel’s whiskey, that calls back to the company’s roots in the 1800s.
Finding a USP and improving your product is one of the best ways to invest your business profits. Your marketing strategy should highlight the best parts of your product and clearly communicate why it’s the best at what it does.
As a marketing concept, this first of the 4 Ps of marketing is the star of the show. Make sure you treat it that way.
“If you build it, they will come.” We’ve all heard the saying, but it’s not a hard and fast law. Where you sell your product is as important as how you do it, and should be step one of any marketing strategy.
Of the 4 Ps of marketing, this is the least obvious. That’s because it depends massively on what kind of business you’re running.
If you sell a service, where your shop is physically located matters most. Would you rather go to a restaurant that’s in a field two miles away, or the one ten minutes from your house? Prime real estate is expensive for a reason—it comes with a built-in audience.
Companies that sell products have to think about place in a different way. Where are people going to see your products? A powerful example of this are the small goods you see by supermarket registers: candy, soda, batteries. Not essentials, but nice-to-haves.
Because you’re at the register, the supermarket knows you’re already committed to spending money. That makes it psychologically easier to make those little purchases at the end, and they can get free sales just by where they place their stock.
That’s the power of place.
The internet, of course, is like the world’s biggest supermarket. When you buy something on Amazon, it doesn’t just take your money and say thanks – it always serves up more offers.
Another fact of business online is that you still need to worry about prime real estate. It just goes by a different name: page one of Google. Getting your website there is so important to marketing strategy planning that it has its own name, Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Never neglect your place. It’s how customers find you, and you want that to be as easy as possible. Moving a brick-and-mortar shop isn’t easy, and SEO takes time, so it pays to get it right the first time around.
Want to learn SEO? Check out our SEO courses.
Everybody knows how prices work. The cheaper something is, the more people want to buy it. So as long as you’re making a profit, setting the price as low as you can is the best way to get lots of business. That’s just common sense, right?
But the real world, of course, doesn’t have to make sense. Here’s how it really works.
There’s lots of products that get bought more as the price increases. They’re called Veblen goods, and economists have studied them for years.
To give a completely ridiculous example, imagine a plain white t-shirt for $120 selling out, just because it was being offered by a celebrity.
Well, you don’t have to imagine it: that actually happened with Kanye West.
Veblen goods exist because people don’t want to just buy a product. They want to buy a brand, a name, a prestige. When we see something has a high price, we naturally assume that it also has a high value: low prices, in turn, make us worry it’s a rip-off.
And things get even more complicated than that.
Consider loss-leaders. These are things sold so cheaply that they don’t even turn a profit. But they’re not meant to make one: their goal is to get people into the shop (or on the website), so that they’re exposed to the other products, which do make money. It’s a balancing act.
What’s the takeaway from all this?
You can’t just use a calculator to find the best price for your products. You need to plan a marketing strategy for what image you want to send out.
If that’s being elite and exclusive, raise the price.
If you want to feel normal and everyday, bring it back down.
Time to bring it all together. Promotion is the last of the 4 Ps, and the hardest to get right.
It’s easy to forget how important promotion is for a successful business. That’s because nobody remembers the businesses who failed at it – they simply went bust. But if you’ve read this far, you already have a winning marketing strategy set out for you.
Almost all promotion relies on the other 4 Ps of marketing, and that’s both a blessing and a curse. If you’ve invested in your price, place and product, you’ll have an easy time selling yourself. If you haven’t, well,let’s just say that it’s hard to put lipstick on a pig.
It’s useful to think of promotion as similar to product, because quality and uniqueness matter here as well. Getting a spot in the SuperBowl ad break is fantastic, but if you don’t have a spare million dollars lying around, unique and creative marketing can be just as effective.
(You’ll get there some day.)
As for price, it appears in every advert for a reason. Customers want to know what they stand to lose, and hiding that feels shady or deceptive. Putting prices front and center makes your corporate image clear, whether that’s low-cost bargains or high-class luxuries.
Your place in the market is related to promotion, but the two are different. The place is a way to passively bring in customers without any effort—waiting for them to come to you. But promotion is proactively going to customers to sell them the product.
That means it’s your responsibility to do it right. Every message a company sends out should reflect its image and connect with its audience. And get on as many different channels as you can, from the radio to social media marketing.
Wherever there’s people, there’s customers.
Start using the 4 Ps of marketing
Learning the 4 Ps of marketing is like learning your ABCs. In other words, it’s just the start. There’s a wide world of techniques out there to learn and bring into your marketing strategy.
But where this marketing concept shines is as a way to bring yourself back to basics. They let you ask yourself at any time if you’re hitting each point, and if not, you know something’s gone wrong.
Now that you know what the four Ps are and how they can be used, you’re ready to take your marketing to the next level. Start by looking at how other businesses promote their products. How do they hit each of the four points? What could they do better on?
After that, turn to one of your own projects. You’ll have a new way of seeing it that makes marketing strategy planning easier and more effective. Nail down your product, price, place and promotion and you’ll be set for making the most successful business you can imagine.