The Power of the 4Ps
Updated: Jul 26
It’s been 60 years since the 4Ps were first proposed as a marketing concept by Jerome McCarthy. And despite all this time and all the changes in the world, they’re still an important part of any marketing plan today. While marketing fads come and go, the core of marketing principles always stay constant. But why is that the case and how can you use this to your advantage?
Before we look at what the 4Ps are, let’s first take a look at how such a concept has stood the test of time. I believe it’s quite simply because any marketing plan needs a firm foundation. You need to have a grasp on the key components of your business, your products and your services before you are able to make any sound decisions on marketing.
I have worked with a number of businesses who have never stood back and reviewed things properly. So often we plough on trying different things, hoping eventually something will work. The 4P principle is the complete opposite. It allows you to take a step back, consider a broad range of areas and then make informed decisions on how to move forward. And it’s these informed decisions that will always give you a much better chance of success.
So let’s breakdown the 4Ps:
First of all, take a look at your range of products, or services if that’s what you do. Literally list everything you sell or offer. What are the distinctions between them all? How do they help your customers? What is their lifecycle? What are the pros and cons of each? It’s not about commenting and making decisions at this point, it’s about writing as many facts as possible to give you a true holistic picture of your offering.
What is your pricing structure? And how does that fit into your market? Are you cheap, in the middle ground or expensive? It’s also good to reflect upon perception. If you’ve deliberately made things more expensive as you don’t want to come across as too cheap, write all of your reasoning here. Similarly, if you’ve dropped your prices in an attempt to increase sales, detail it in this section. Get all of the facts down so that you can properly evaluate them later.
What you sell and how much you sell it for are very important factors, but so is where you sell it. This is the element where we start to consider the customer journey. Do you sell online or do you have a shop? What makes purchasing from you easy and what are the barriers? Are you trying to do it all and is it making it hard to manage, or are you not selling in enough places and so you’re limiting your own sales? Be as honest as you can.
This is the area that everyone considers when it comes to marketing, but the 4Ps prove it’s only one part of the mix. Here it’s about looking at how you’ve been promoting yourself to date and, more importantly, what the results of that promotion have been. This isn’t about looking at what you have planned in, this is detailing the work you’ve already done. I recommend going back about three years if you can. Detail all campaigns and their results, Google Analytics stats, social media activity, adverts, PR and so on. But also look at your database, target audience, the tools you use. How effective have they been? Are there training issues, funding issues? What has the return on investment been and how have things ended up compared to your plans? Or has it all been ad hoc?
After you’ve listed all your facts and you’ve been as honest as you can, the next step is to evaluate it. If you’ve put in enough detail then trends, gaps, positives and issues should become clear. Be as critical as you can. I find translating it into a SWOT sometimes helps, so you can lay out the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This is the time to reflect upon what you’ve done and make the right decisions about how to move forward.
Marketing plans will often have a lot more detail in them, but breaking down the 4Ps and reviewing activity to date more objectively is an easy and valuable way to start. If you did nothing else, you’d still get vast advantages from this single task.
My advice for anyone who is working on marketing their business is not to worry about the small details first, like what platforms to be on, what time of day to be doing stuff and how often to post things. Instead, write out the 4Ps, evaluate your work honestly and objectively, and make a plan based on informed decisions. All your questions will be answered by looking at more than just promotion. And your approach will be far more wide reaching and will give you a better chance of achieving your goals.
It’s not just fortunate that McCarthy’s concept is still widely used 60 years on. It’s because it works and it’s easy for anyone to use. Forget about the latest trends, marketing is about building a solid foundation. Once you understand that, you’ll be sure of more success.
For any more advice, why not take a look at my book "How to Write an Effective Marketing Plan" which guides you through how to put together a marketing strategy and plan that should work for your business.