In Marketing Strategy

4ps

Last year I was recommended for an adjunct teaching position at a local community college. They were looking for a marketing professor to teach a course called “Modern Marketing” as part of their Bachelor’s in Business program. During the interview, I asked to see the course description and was shocked to learn that the course would cover the Four P’s – meaning Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

Really? I can’t even remember the last time someone mentioned these Ps and I am not sure how far this dated approach would take a new graduate in the real world. I didn’t get the job – turns out I didn’t have enough Master-level marketing credits under my belt, only 25-years of experience – but it did give me a chance to consider what I think business students ought to know about marketing today.

In the spirit of tradition, here are my Four Ps Revisited: 

1.    Publish.

We used to closely guard trade secrets, afraid that our competitors would steal our ideas and our customers. Instead we would tell people that we had a “proprietary” process, system, equipment, or other advantage that made our products and services superior. We might share those secrets with a prospect or partner considering a purchase, but often we took the added step of getting someone to sign a NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) to ease our fears that our intellectual property would be compromised.

But the Internet, blogging and social media forums have flipped the equation, providing huge advantages to individuals and businesses that share their thinking. Telling everyone what you are doing and how is now the best way to gain exposure, build organic search, promote your expertise and attract new leads.

If competitive businesses learn something new by reading your slides, watching your video or participating in your webinar – you are on record as being out there talking about it first.

Your content can take many forms – from informational white papers or infographics to videos, slide shares and more. And publishing good educational and “sticky” content gives you own-able assets that will support your inbound marketing efforts over time.  Last week, I talked to a new lead who found our company via a pre-recorded webinar from 2010! Talk about staying power!

2.    Platform.

As you get ready to publish your ideas, you’ll need the right platform to help you spread the word. Your platform will most certainly include a responsive website and/or blog that becomes the center point of your communications and storehouse for your content.

Other communication channels should be prioritized based on your target audiences and business goals. For example, which social media channels will give you the best opportunity to engage with prospects, customers, potential partners, the media or other audiences? Will you also need traditional channels like print advertising or trade shows? Whatever channels you choose, everything will have a digital angle and all roads will lead back to your website.

An integrated and inbound platform gives you multiple opportunities to engage audiences and bring them to your website for more information. An integrated and inbound platform gives you the best opportunity to turn prospects into leads, leads into customers and customers into ambassadors.

3.    Process.

Marketing is a process, not an event. One hit wonders don’t work here, nor does the mantra “If you build it, they will come.” Your prospects and customers are busy people with full lives. Seeing your message or campaign once, doesn’t mean they will remember it when they need you. You need to lead them to the water, over and over again.

Your marketing strategy should consider the thought process that prospects go through when they need your products and services. It should also consider your sales process and what it takes to move people through it. The goal of your marketing strategy is marry up their needs and your solutions by delivering bite-sized and relevant pieces of content that address a prospect’s point of pain and add to their understanding at each point along the way.

For example, if your company builds websites, prospective customers who are beginning to research a new website may have big picture concerns about open-source technologies, content management systems and responsive designs, before they get to questions about their own web requirements. So your marketing strategy should follow, offering the high level content give-ways for those at the top of the sales funnel, but more detailed content offers – maybe a webinar on “how to spec your website” – for prospects who are further into the buying cycle.

4.    Performance.

Plus Practice, Patience and Persistence. Okay, that’s 4 Ps in 1, but they all carry a similar message: Rome wasn’t built in a day. The same applies to your marketing program.

Tried to promote a webinar and no one signed up? So what. Change the title, change the date, or find a partner who can expand your reach; don’t give up too easily. A disappointing click-through on your last email campaign? How about A/B testing subject lines and offers? Facebook ad campaign not performing? Fine tune your target audience on the fly or change the call to action button.

Whether you outsource your marketing program to an agency or have taken a do-it-yourself approach, there are so many ways to deliver your message today, its going to take some time to figure out what works best for your business.

The great news is that today’s marketer has more tools than ever (some of them free) to evaluate the performance of every piece of content, every part of a platform, and each campaign. Marketers can tie initiatives to goals such as increasing web traffic, qualified leads or new business, clearly demonstrating ROI or refining the approach as needed. And each effort builds on the last, so that over time you are creating a clearer message about what you offer through a consistent, cohesive effort.

It’s time for colleges and universities to revisit the traditional 4Ps so they can teach students how to build dynamic marketing programs that elevate their brand and engage prospects and customers in conversations about their products and services.

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