The 7Ps of marketing are often misunderstood. In this article, we help you understand the context in which they were developed, then invite you to consider each of the 7Ps of the marketing mix in turn so that you can ensure your company truly has an integrated marketing mix. This leads to improved performance and greater success.
So, what the integrated marketing mix is and how you can use it?
In the beginning…
Before we look at the integrated marketing mix and how you can use it, we need to get some context.
In the 1950s, business experts began to realise that marketing was more than an adjunct to Sales. Philip Kotler published his principles of marketing, and the idea of marketing began to take off.
It was Kotler et al who first coined the idea of the ‘marketing mix’. Back then, marketing was about selling ‘stuff’ – manufactured or produced physical goods that you could touch, see, smell, hold—all very tangible.
This context explains why the first integrated marketing mix had only 4Ps – because they were about marketing ‘stuff’.
The first 4Ps of the Marketing Mix
Even at its beginnings, many mistakenly thought marketing was all about Promotion – the getting out there, raising awareness, getting known. Marketing has been, and always will be, much broader than this. This is neatly summed up in the first four Ps of marketing:
All elements of the integrated marketing mix have to work together to perfectly create the right impression in your audience’s mind – known as your competitive market position.
Let’s look at those first four Ps and how you can use them in your organisation.
As well as being crucial to cash flow and organisational survival, the price you set conveys:
- The perceived value of your goods – ‘cheap and nasty’ versus ‘expensive and luxurious.’
- How your organisation is seen by its audience – ‘common-place’, ‘different’.
What do your prices say about:
- The quality of your goods or services?
- The type of organisation you are?
- Where does your organisation sit in relation to its competitors?
Your product has to also match your desired competitive market positioning. If your organisation wants to be thought of as cutting edge, then a high price isn’t enough. The product (or service) itself has to meet that expectation.
Some organisations (especially smaller ones) often over-engineer or over-service their products. As a result, they give more than is expected and often wanted to their customers.
This can be seen as a good thing, but if your clients don’t want widget C and are only paying for widgets A and B, what is it costing you to give them more? Is this contributing to your business being less successful than it should be?
- Does your product match the desired market position your organisation wants to occupy?
- Why? Can you make improvements?
- Are you giving your audience what is expected for the price they are paying?
- Why? Can you make improvements?
Ah, promotion. Sigh. This is what everyone thinks marketing is – even some marketers. It’s the ‘going out there and making people aware our organisation and products exist’—the fun, sexy stuff with glitz, new tech, creatives, and new ideas.
It encompasses using tactical marketing tools such as social media, advertising, digital out of home, freebies, gifts, flash sales, tempting upgrades, PR and news coverage.
It’s essential to marketing, but it is not all of marketing. It is one of the 7Ps of marketing. Not the only one.
The mistake many organisations make with Promotion is to focus on it too much. To forget that it has to work with the other Ps to create that unique and robust, competitive market positioning.
- Do all your ‘promotional’ marketing activities reflect your desired market positioning?
- Do they fit in with what your price and product are conveying?
- Are your promotional marketing tactics fully integrated, so you come across as one organisation no matter how someone finds you, or do they jar?
Kotler realised that how and where you sold your products/services could really impact the marketplace’s perception of them.
Sometimes known as ‘distribution networks’, where you choose to sell your goods or services conveys your market position. A place can be extended to the digital world, where websites are our shops and places that people buy from.
- What type of goods would you expect if you went to an outdoor, weekly market in a run-down part of town? Cheap and cheerful? Expensive and exclusive?
- There’s a law firm in a modern, city-centre building made of glass and steel. What do you think the quality of their work and their prices will be?
- One company has a homemade website with glitches and poor branding; another sells similar products that are well-designed, easy to use and look great. Which company would you expect to have the more expensive and better services?
For your organisation, consider:
- Where are the ‘places’ from which people can buy your goods or services?
- What do these ‘places’ convey about the type of company you are and the quality of your goods or services?
- Where can you make improvements?
I have seen Place used imaginatively. A surprisingly professional office located in a ‘rough’ part of the town entered via an unimpressive door. This company was reinforcing their market position of being a gem of a service that only those in the know – and with budget – use. This neatly shows that even on the smallest of budgets, ‘Place’ can be made to work for you.
But there are 7Ps of marketing…
As the world moved on, gurus like Kotler saw that there were services to market. People offering things like legal advice, insurance, and financial services. You can’t hold, touch, or see these things – advice, consultancy, charitable donations – you hand your cash over and get something in return.
Those original 4Ps needed something that addressed this. And so three more were added:
- Physical Evidence
All of these Ps are about making the intangible tangible. For example, helping prospective customers understand what they are getting when they will never get to physically see or hold what they have bought. Inevitably though, these additional 3Ps are incredibly helpful for those organisations selling something tangible.
Remember: they still have to work together to create and reinforce your organisation’s desired competitive positioning.
Have you ever wondered why some firms send you letters on heavyweight paper with embossed logos (this was huge in the 1980s!). Why do some people have thicker business cards that look more luxurious?
Why do certain businesses ensure their people always wear certain clothes – whether these are tailored suits or the black trousers and white shirts favoured by certain restaurants. Or why are banks starting to use friendly ‘regional’ accents on their call centre wait queues? It’s because physical evidence counts.
Everything you touch, see or hear builds up an impression of a brand. From the business card being handed out to the exhibition stand material to the clothes, you and your colleagues wear to the packaging you send your items out in. They all tell people what type of organisation you are and what to expect.
These are real conversations I have had with people:
“I love buying an Apple product. When that thick, heavy white box arrives, you have to unwrap it, and you know that inside is exactly what you want – the box itself reinforces how special and exciting it all is.”
“When we went to X solicitors firm, they served us tea in proper cups with saucers. It sounds silly, but it reinforced for me that this firm pays attention to detail and offers a high quality of service.”
- What does your organisation have that is physical that prospective and current customers see/hear / smell/touch?
- Does it convey the market position you want to occupy?
- Where can you make improvements?
People matter. We all remember poor service. We all remember excellent service. People buy people.
“It was so weird. We’d exchanged emails, and they were so helpful, pleasant and chatty. Then, when we got to their office, they barely looked us in the eye, mumbled and were clearly uncomfortable about making small talk. I think that it was a quiet office full of quiet people, and that’s fine – but I wish they hadn’t conveyed in an email that they were friendly. It just felt off.”
- How do your people come across: in person, on the phone, via email, on social media?
- Is it consistent?
- Does it convey the market position your organisation wishes to be known for?
The queue that never ends. The slow website. The slowness in replying to emails. The way your order takes three weeks to arrive. The disjointed marketing emails, getting asked to fill in a satisfaction survey after you have filed a complaint…
Processes make a massive difference in an organisation. They can make you look efficient and effective or unprofessional. Processes are the way your organisation does things.
They play a crucial role in building an impression of an organisation.
- Do your organisation’s processes reflect the quality of your product or service?
- Do they reflect your desired market positioning?
- How can they be improved?
Understanding how the 7Ps of marketing need to be integrated and work together is essential to business success. If one is out of line with the others, it can impact your business.
We invite you to make space to look at each of the 7Ps in your organisation, check that they are all working together, and tweak and improve them, so you create a truly integrated marketing mix for your business.