What you’ll be able to do: describe the marketing mix
The value proposition explains why a consumer should buy a product or use a service and how the product or service will add more value, or better solve a problem, than other similar offerings. Once you get the value proposition right, you still have to actually deliver value to your target customer. The marketing mix describes the tools that marketers use to create value for customers.
Reaching Customers through the Marketing Mix
The value proposition is a simple, powerful statement of value, but it is only the tip of the iceberg. How do marketing professionals ensure that they are reaching and delivering value to the target customer?
Take yourself, as a “target customer.” Think about your cell phone. What would make you want to buy a new one? How might the following issues affect your purchasing decision? Factors that might influence your decision include the following:
- Features: A company has just released a new phone with amazing features that appeal to you.
- Price: You’re concerned about the price—is this phone a good deal? Too expensive? So cheap that you suspect there’s a “catch”?
- Information: How did you find out about this phone? Did you see an ad? Hear about it from a friend? See pictures and comments about it online?
- Customer service: Is your cell service provider making it easier for you to buy this phone with a new plan or an upgrade?
- Convenience: Could you easily buy it online in a moment of indulgence?
You can see there are multiple factors that might influence your thinking and decision about what to buy—a mix of factors. Taken together, these factors are all part of the “marketing mix.”
Organizations must find the right combination of factors that allow them to gain an advantage over their competitors. This combination—the marketing mix—is the combination of factors that a company controls to provide value to its target customers.
The following video illustrates how the marketing mix changes depending on the target customer:
Evolving Definitions of the Marketing Mix
There are a few different ways the marketing mix is presented. During the 1950s the components of the marketing mix were conceived as the “four Ps” and were defined as follows:
- Product: the goods and services offered
- Promotion: communication and information
- Place: distribution or delivery
- Price: ensuring fair value in the transaction
Today, this categorization continues to be useful in understanding the basic activities associated with marketing. The marketing mix represents the way an organization’s broad marketing strategies are translated into marketing programs for action.
Over time, new categories of the marketing mix have been proposed. Most are more consumer oriented and attempt to better fit the movement toward a marketing orientation and a greater emphasis on customer value. One example is the four Cs, proposed by Robert F Lauterborn in 1990:
- Customer solution: what the customer wants and needs
- Communication: a two-way dialogue with the customer
- Convenience: an easy process to act or buy
- Cost: the customer’s cost to satisfy that want or need
The four Cs include a greater focus on the customer but align nicely with the older four Ps. They also enable one to think about the marketing mix for services, not just products. While it is difficult to think about hotel accommodations as a distinct product, it is much easier to think about a hotel creating a customer solution. You can see how the four Ps compare with the four Cs in the chart below.
The Four Ps Alignment with the Four Cs
|Four Ps||Four Cs||Definition|
|Product||Consumer solution||A company will only sell what the consumer specifically wants to buy. So, marketers should study consumer wants and needs in order to attract them one by one with something he/she wants to purchase.|
|Price||Cost||Price is only a part of the total cost to satisfy a want or a need. For example, the total cost might be the cost of time in acquiring a good or a service, along with the cost of conscience in consuming it. It reflects the total cost of ownership. Many factors affect cost, including but not limited to the customer’s cost to change or implement the new product or service and the customer’s cost for not selecting a competitor’s product or service.|
|Promotion||Communication||Communications can include advertising, public relations, personal selling, viral advertising, and any form of communication between the organization and the consumer.|
|Place||Convenience||In the era of Internet, catalogs, credit cards, and smartphones, often people don’t have to go to a particular place to satisfy a want or a need, nor are they limited to a few places to satisfy them. Marketers should know how the target market prefers to buy, how to be there and be ubiquitous, in order to provide convenience of buying. With the rise of Internet and hybrid models of purchasing, “place” is becoming less relevant. Convenience takes into account the ease of buying the product, finding the product, finding information about the product, and several other factors.|
Whether we reference the four Ps or the four Cs, it is important to recognize that marketing requires attention to a range of different approaches and variables that influence customer behavior. Getting the right mix of activities is essential for marketing success.
Competitors and the Marketing Mix
The challenge of getting the right marketing mix is magnified by the existence of competitors, who exert market pressures using strategies defined by their marketing mix alternatives. Remember, the purpose of the marketing mix is to find the right combination of product, price, promotion, and distribution (place) so that a company can gain and maintain advantage over competitors.
In the marketing mix, the term “product” means the solution that the customer wants and needs. In this context, we focus on the solution rather than only on the physical product. Examples of the product include:
- The Tesla Model S, a premium electric car
- A Stay at a Holiday Inn Express, a low-price national hotel chain
- Doritos Nachos Cheese, a snack food
- Simple, an online banking service
Each of these products has a unique set of features, design, name, and brand that are focused on a target customer. The characteristics of the products are different from competitors’ products.
In the marketing mix, the term “promotion” refers to the communications that occur between the company and the customer. Promotion includes both the messages sent by the company and messages that customers send to the public about their experience. Examples of promotion include:
- An advertisement in Cooking Light magazine
- A customer’s review of the product on Tumblr
- A newspaper article in the local paper quoting a company employee as an expert
- A test message sent to a list of customers or prospects
Marketing professionals have an increasingly difficult job influencing promotions that cannot be controlled by the company. The company’s formal messages and advertising are only one part of promotions.
In the marketing mix, the term “place” refers to the distribution of the product. Where does the customer buy the product? “Place” might be a traditional brick-and-mortar store, or it could be online. Examples include:
- Distribution through an online retailer such as Amazon.com
- Use of a direct sales force that sells directly to buyers
- Sales through the company’s Web site, such as the shoe purchases at Nike.com
- Sales by a distributor or partner, such as the purchase of a Samsung phone from Best Buy or from a Verizon store
In today’s world, the concept of “place” in the marketing mix rarely refers to a specific physical address. It takes into account the broad range of distribution channels that make it easy for the target customer to buy.
STARBUCKS ONLINE ORDERING
How did a company like Starbucks that sells hot drinks from a storefront use mobile technology to improve distribution? Watch the video, below, to find out:
In the marketing mix, the term “price” refers to the cost to the customer. This requires the company to analyze the product’s value for the target customer. Examples of price include:
- The price of a used college textbook in the campus bookstore
- Promotional pricing such as Sonic Drive-In’s half-price cheeseburgers on Tuesdays
- Discounts to trade customers, such as furniture discounts for interior designers
Marketing professionals must analyze what buyers are willing to pay, what competitors are charging, and what the price means to the target customer when calculating the product’s value. Determining price is almost always a complicated analysis that brings together many variables.
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