The Four Ps of Marketing (Hint: “Prayer” is not one of them)

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Knowing the 4 Ps of your business can unlock doors

It seems that things are looking down, or so we think.  In a recent article by the Orange County Register, a survey of small-business owners reflected that their optimism was down to a staggering 47%, from 67% the month before.  A Wells Fargo Bank economist explained the drop, saying, “sales and demand clearly remain challenged.”

With worries that seem beyond their realm of solving, what can business owners and entrepreneurs do to ensure their livelihood will succeed in such trying times?

Reinforce your marketing strategy. Marketing is about satisfying needs and wants. When you don’t do that, your business can spiral out of your hands and into failure.

So where does someone who has limited time and resources even begin to tackle the subject? By double-checking their basic Ps: Price, Product, Placement, and Promotion.

Have you noticed that (almost) everything you buy always ends in 99 cents? Your gallon of milk isn’t four dollars, it’s 3.99. Your carton of eggs isn’t three dollars, it’s 2.99. Why?

That’s marketing.

People are more willing to buy something with a smaller number. Even though it’s a penny away from five dollars, it feels like I’m only paying four.

The price you put on a product can open a lot of doors. If you lower it just enough it can bring in new customers who are willing to try your product (or service). Introductory offers are not new, but they are an effective way to build a customer base.

In this case, we mean products and services, but what it really boils down to is a solution. What will your product solve for the customers? Will they think that your product (or service) will make them smarter, skinnier, richer, and/or happier?

Once you understand what the concept of your product is, ask yourself what makes it different from all the other competitors with the same products or services? Answer the question all your potential customers ask, which is, why should I go with you? If you don’t know or can’t think of a reason, find one. If you do know, congratulations. You’ve unlocked the Unique Selling Proposition to your business. This will be the mantra that all your marketing will revolve around, the edge over your competitors.

The sign forgot to include...."unless you're under six!" (image via

A great demonstration of this is a restaurant called McDain’s in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, that has recently announced they will be banning kids under the age of six from their place. Banning kids! And what about the loss in potential income, not to mention customer loyalty of families that used to dine there?

If the owner, Mike Vuick, did his homework, there may be more reward than punishment. If he noticed that there was a lot of patrons complaining about the unruly children  at his place (he did), and knew that his establishment’s USP is that it’s geared towards adults (it was), then this was a smart choice to make in order to set his restaurant apart from all the surrounding ones. If his market is saturated with Denny’s, or IHOPs or T.G.I. Fridays, then how perfect is it to serve up a quiet, upscale place to lure in the singletons for a little mix and mingle?

This is where you’re selling your product, whether in a fixed location or online. It can be mobile, as in you sell door-to-door, but the neighborhood and the city falls under placement. And besides, you can’t limit yourself to physical location. Placement can be presence as well.

Expanding your placement requires some imagination but I’m sure you’ve seen it. When you go into a store and see business cards for another business? I consider that placement. When Burger King sells Seattle’s Best Coffee? That’s a couple types of marketing, and placement is one of them. There are great ways to sell your product and create visibility for your product. A world of caution, just sticking your business cards in any store won’t be effective if the store does not reach the same customers you do. A hair stylist that leaves her business cards in a 24-hour doughnut shop by the freeway won’t get much notice from the truckers that frequent the place (at least not the kind of attention she’s looking for). But what about a beauty supply place? What about offering a discount (remember Price?) for those who bring the card. Even better, offer a free service to the associate (price again!) and let them be a living advertisement. The ideas are endless, and the limit’s only your imagination.

There are books written about this P.  Promotion is the most popular one and is often confused for the term marketing itself. But it’s a cog in the wheel, and while it is important, it’s useless if you don’t have the other Ps greased and working.

Promotion includes all of your advertising efforts to give your business visibility in the public: ads, press releases, Facebook, Twitter, TV. commercials, radio commercials,  billboards, bench signs, flyers, the list goes on and on. All of these are designed to get your business out there so the customers can find you.

Unfortunately, all the promotion in the world will be money thrown away if you haven’t done your homework and checked your other Ps. Customers might see you and come check you out, but if you’re way too expensive, you won’t sell anything. Or if someone hears your jingle on the radio, then hears your business is in the next county, they might say forget it. Your promotion is only as strong as your other Ps.

The good and bad about starting a new business or venture is that you’re your own boss. Suddenly, you have multiple hats to wear, but you still have only one head. Marketing is a particularly complex hat, and it requires some effort and understanding. It would be so easy to just shortcut this aspect of business by just placing an ad here or there. But if you do your research and get to know its fundamentals, marketing can be a powerful weapon to protect your business in today’s perilous times.

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