Back to the Basics of Marketing: The Secret of the 4Ps

P SecretSometimes it’s good to get back to the basics of marketing. Are the 4Ps  just Marketing 101 drudgery? Or do they hold your secret to  better business? Perhaps the following exercise will help you decide. First a ditty to help you remember the 4Ps:

Put the right Product in the right Place, at the right Price, at the right time (Promotion.)

Simple, right? Create a product that a particular group wants, put it on sale some place that they visit regularly, price it so they feel it’s a good value; oh, and do it when they want to buy.

Can you get those elements to work together? Get one wrong—like publishing  book on luxury living as a recession strikes– and you court disaster.

So how do the 4Ps actually help you avoid pitfalls and boost business ?

The Ingredients of Successful Basic Marketing: The 4 Ps 

Here’s the secret and how to use it. The marketing mix, which most of us have heard of, and the 4Ps are often considered one and the same, but they are not.

The “marketing mix” is actually the way a business or organization “mixes them up,” or combines the 4Ps over time. The mix is the ongoing variable combination of choices you make to bring a product or service to market. That mix should be tracked, reviewed frequently and updated. (The concept was introduced in 1960 by E J McCarthy.)

So try thinking of the 4Ps as ingredients that you can track and change to keep improving your tasty marketing strategy.  Following are the Ps and a survey to create a marketing mix. The exercise can help bring a new product or service to market or review one you currently offer.

  • Product (or Service)
  • Place
  • Price
  • Promotion

Recipe for a Successful Basic Marketing Mix

First, read 1-4 completely. Follow the steps below to help you define each P and clarify your marketing mix. Writing out the answers takes a little time. Essentially you are both brainstorming and doing marketing research. A couple of hours may suggest a new direction,  or a possibility you hadn’t considered.

  1. Identify the product or service that you want to analyze.
  2. Answer the  questions below under The 4P Survey.  Make sure your answers are based on fact. Specifically note those items you typically skip! Note any specific research you have to gather and where you can find it.
  3. As you answer the questions, challenge your own offer with some Ws.
    For example, ask why your target audience needs a particular feature. What if you drop your price by 5%? What if you offer more colors? Why sell through wholesalers rather than direct channels? What if you improve PR rather than rely on TV advertising?

4. All finished? Now, try this simple test. Review your completed mix from the customer’s perspective. Or ask a focus group if you have one.

  • Does it meet their needs? (product)
  • Will they find it where they shop? (place)
  • Will they consider it’s priced favorably? (price)
  • And will the marketing communications reach them? (promotion)

Remix until you are satisfied with your client-focused answers.


The Four P Survey: Choose your Ingredients


  • What does the customer want from the product/service? What needs does it satisfy?
  • What features does it have to meet these needs?
    • Are there any features you’ve missed?
    • Are you including costly features that the customer won’t actually use?
  • How and where will the customer use it?
  • What does it look like? How will customers experience it?
  • What size(s), color(s), and so on, should it be?
  • What is it to be called?
  • How is it branded?
  • How is it different than your competitors?
  • What is the most it can cost to provide, and still be sold at a sufficient profit? (See also Price, below).


  • Where do buyers look for your product or service?
  • If they look in a store, what kind? A specialist boutique or in a supermarket, or both? Or online? Or direct, via a catalogue?
  • How can you access the right distribution channels?
  • Do you need to use a sales force? Or attend trade fairs? Or make online submissions? Or send samples to catalogue companies?
  • What do your competitors do, and how can you learn from that and/or differentiate?


  • What is the value of the product or service to the buyer?
  • Are there established price points for products or services in this area?
  • Is the customer price sensitive? Will a small decrease in price gain you extra market share? Or will a small increase be indiscernible, and so gain you extra profit margin?
  • What discounts should be offered to trade customers, or to other specific segments of your market?
  • How will your price compare with your competitors?


  • Where and when can you get across your marketing messages to your target market?
  • Will you reach your audience by advertising in the press, or on TV, or radio, or on billboards? By using direct marketing mailshot? Through PR? On the Internet?
  • When is the best time to promote? Is there seasonality in the market? Are there any wider environmental issues that suggest or dictate the timing of your market launch, or the timing of subsequent promotions?
  • How do your competitors do their promotions? And how does that influence your choice of promotional activity?

(After completing this survey, return to Step 3 to complete the exercise.)


Another secret.  Try not to be overwhelmed as you answer the questions. Remember, you are attempting small changes to your mix to see what happens. As the 4Ps become an integral part of your thinking, you will possess the true secret to doing better business.

For more info on the 4Ps, the basics of marketing, and the marketing mix, try these resources. And stay tuned to delve deeper in to ways you can review, track and use the Ps in your marketing calendar. And, a new  P, Personality, and how it plays into enjoying and successfully marketing your product.

Notre Dame Online :Effective Marketing

Choosing a Pricing Strategy for Your Business

How do you create your basic marketing mix? Do you use the 4 Ps or other methods?

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