Its not about P’s or mix – Marketing for beginners

Many books have been written about Marketing, some with 4P’s others with 7P’s and some talking about the mix. Then there is above the line, below the line, direct, indirect, inbound and optimal! What can it all mean?
Perhaps a better way is to consider what it is not!

Its not sales, as in taking a prospect through to delivery. Its not operations, as in the make it to deliver it and its not engineering or finance. However, it needs all of them to function well.

Marketing, in its rawest form, is that which makes it easier for sales to sell. The baseline assumption is that somewhere, out there in the big wide world, someone has a need, a need for something that will help them solve a problem they need solving.

Lets start with an example. A sales trainer is facilitating a sales training activity to a group of sales people and asks them to write a list of their present opportunities. While each of them are writing a list she walks up to one of the class and asks everyone to stop writing, turning to the chosen person she asks them to sell her the pen they are using. The sales trainee starts with the colour, the feel, the ease of use, the features of the pen.

The facilitator then asks for them to change their pitch to align more with need than features, aim to provide a solution to a problem that the facilitator may have. The sales trainee switches to the benefit of owning a pen enabling them to write when they want rather than have to borrow one from someone else and adds the fact that the cost is so reasonable that loss of the pen will not be a major concern. The trainee has addressed the features and the benefits, but has still not grasped the idea of questioning to find a need.

The facilitator then offers to show the trainee another way, and offers to sell the pen to the trainee. The facilitator takes the pen and immediately snaps it into two pieces while asking the trainee how they intend to write their list of prospects for this part of their training course. She then suggests they need a pen.

Now that is selling, not marketing. Building a set of questions that determine the customers need and that the need is clear. The solution to the need is known then the customers understands alignment with need and solution and as long as its within budget then a sale will occur.

Now, it is possible for sales people to meet many possible prospects and ask each of them if they need a pen, however they will spend a huge amount of time travelling and talking and receive a crazy number of rejections where the majority already have a pen, or do not have budget for a pen or and not in a position to agree a pen purchase.

I am sure there are sales people reading this that have been compensated on the number of compliments slips they managed to collect during the week, usually from door to door prospecting on industrial estates. If your a pen sales person that is one way to find prospects, however the time spent prospecting and the margin on the pen would suggest far better use would be made of the sales person closing qualified prospects than finding new ones.

Another example can be see from watches. The Casio calculator watch is less than $20, while a Rolex Milgauss is around $10k yet both tell the time, in fact the Rolex only tells the time!! As has been noted in many books on the subject, selling anything as a list of features has the effect of significantly reducing the price. I suspect you may be wondering what the need is in each of the watch examples and why would anyone buy a Rolex.  The challenge for sales is to determine need, if they have a need and you have the solution then its sold. The challenge of marketing is to engage the market mix and feed a qualified prospect into the sales pipeline.

The role of marketing, making it easier to sell. That led to the P’s to try and break the challenge into pieces that can be addressed. The initial set was defined by McCarthy as 4P’s namely Price, Product, Promotion and Place, however in the Digital age of the 21st Century its been expanded to 11 P’s (Price, Product, Promotion, Placement, People, Process, Physical Evidence, Privacy, Personal Interests, Personal Networks & Public Commentary)

Now, of course, many of the 11 can be wrapped up into the original 4, although public commentary such as that on Trip Advisor, struggles to fit into them easily. By the way, if someone references “the marketing mix” they are usually referring to the 4P’s or even the 11P’s with above the line, below the line and PR being folded into Promotion.

Perhaps I should raise the question of PR, the relationship building with journalists in the media. PR is indeed an activity that is often engaged with Promoting a solution but can also be engaged in defending a company or product from damaging scrutiny. Where is the latter placed, some sort of inverted negative Promotion avoidance??

I would suggest that the theory is wonderful, the fact is that marketing is all about making it easier for the sales personnel to sell. How its sliced and diced is a matter or preference, a matter of where the budget might be spent more effectively. However, the overall goal is to make it easy to sell.

Perhaps another example may help. In a recent role the organisation had sales people on the ground in the UK, France and BeNeLux but no salesperson in Germany. A board member had heard that Turkey was a huge growth area and requested that Turkey was given immediate attention. Sales immediately started to engage, to determine how to capitalize on this great growth opportunity. A quick check on Wikipedia provided German GDP €2,600,800 million and Turkey GDP €554,000 million, over 4.5x different with Germany at 81m people and Turkey at 71m people. No matter what the growth is like in Turkey to have zero business in Germany and address that will clearly deliver significantly more sooner. The determination of Place to “help sales to sell” can be a tough one but one that is core to success, more so than Price .. reference Rolex and Casio earlier. (In case you are still wondering, the Rolex is not bought as a watch but as a demonstration of status, the brand equity developed through imagery and marketing owners success has placed the Rolex is the aspirational dream space. The Casio may have had techie status when it first appeared, but that dissipated quickly as newer technology appeared).

I recommend that if you have been building a business and have been selling direct, finding customers through all and any means you have, and yet the struggle continues; consider spending some planning time on Marketing.

My personal belief is that it needs to be 12 P’s as PR is so important and is bi-directional and as such does need a place on its own. So, to start yourself a marketing plan why not write out the 12P’s in a list and  ask yourself if you had $12 where would you spend each $1 and why. Where have you seen success already, and failure already, its not all about Price, in fact many professionals in marketing will tell you that you often sell more with a higher price; in fact it depends on what the customer need and for certain if you do not value your offer then nobody else will.

Of course, the other way to significantly increase your qualified prospects list is to call in a sales and marketing consultant as your guiding mentor, your expert to talk through what has worked and what has not and to help you draw up a clear, concise and company wide understood sales and marketing plan. I may know someone who can help there…..




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s