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What Are the 4 Ps of Marketing and Are They Relevant?

The traditional four Ps of marketing include product, people, price and place — but many veteran marketers are rethinking everything in the digital age.

Members of a marketing team discussing a product campaign.

The four Ps of marketing refer to the traditional elements surrounding a service or product that a business owner or marketer has to consider and evaluate to succeed. They include:

  1. People: Who are you selling your service or product to?
  2. Place: Where will you distribute your product?
  3. Price: How much value do they place on your product or service - how much will they pay for it?
  4. Product: What is it your customers want or need to buy?

But there’s a lot more to a successful marketing plan than these pillars. As a modern marketing professional, you also have to consider two additional Ps at the very least  — promotion and performance — to advertise your product or service correctly and measure the effectiveness of your efforts.

Which of the Four Ps is Most Important?

People, place, price and product are all integral considerations in marketing. It's difficult to determine the most important of these essential components, as they all interact and work in tandem.

Alana Burns with the text Alana BurnsYou need a product, or you would have nothing to market. Without people, you wouldn't have any customers to purchase your product. Businesses need to make money to stay afloat, so price is a vital consideration. And even if you have people who want your product and a well-thought price point, consumers still need a place to purchase the product, whether online or in person. In this way, none of the four Ps of marketing can really be deemed the most important, as they are all crucial considerations in any marketing strategy.

Going a little deeper, some marketing experts have shifted their perspective on the four Ps over the years, mainly in response to the internet's seismic effects on so many parts of daily life, including consumerism and marketing. Alana Burns, the chief marketing officer at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), said that the traditional four Ps of marketing are too focused on a brand.

“They still matter, but they’re a singular way of looking at things,” Burns said. “What they don’t consider is the audience. They’re very brand-centric, not customer-centric," she said. "The four Ps are still relevant. They’re just not the most relevant.”

There are other ways to think about marketing when you're coming up with a marketing strategy, too.

What is the Best Marketing Strategy?

Because marketing in the digital age is immensely complex, there isn't a simple one-size-fits-all solution to developing an effective marketing strategy. Traditional print advertising and broadcast commercials are no longer your only options — the internet and new media have added so many options to a marketer’s toolbox.

Susan Bogle with the text Susan BogleConsumers can be reached 24 hours a day via traditional methods, but also online through banner and video ads on websites, for example, like the ones you see before and during YouTube videos. Digital marketing can also reach consumers through text messaging, email and so many  other methods. All of that digital traffic has given marketers thousands of new data points to track and evaluate the most effective mode and message, creating new marketing career paths.

"A good strategy needs to incorporate the mission and core values of the organization as a whole,” said Susan Bogle, vice president of product marketing at SNHU. “You need to know the end goal … “Strategy helps guide your initiatives to reach your goals throughout your marketing plan. It all needs to be actionable and measurable along the way.”

There are several popular modes of thinking about marketing strategies and how companies and consumers interact. Here are a few.

What are Moments of Truth in Marketing?

One of the key ways Burns said she thinks about different aspects of marketing strategies she oversees are called moments of truth. Author and marketing guru Robert Rose, writing for the Content Marketing Institute, defined the moments of truth as:

  • First Moment of Truth (FMOT): The moment that a customer is confronted with a choice of product or service to buy.
  • Second Moment of Truth (SMOT): The moment a customer has a positive or negative experience with a product or company.
  • Third Moment of Truth (TMOT): The moment a customer decides to give feedback or reacts in some way to their experience.

Beginning with the First Moment of Truth seems to make sense, but there’s an even earlier moment, “made famous by Google,” according to Rose, called the Zero Moment of Truth - or ZMOT. That's the moment a person is confronted with a problem of some sort and turns to their laptop or phone to look for a product or service to help them.

AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire and Action

Another framework to think about marketing strategy, goals and a company or product’s connection with consumers is AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Clifford Chi, a marketing manager, broke down the terms in a Hubspot blog post.

  • Attention: Your customers have to be paying attention to your product or brand if they are to think of you when they have a problem to solve. A presence on social media sites is one way companies can gain users' attention.
  • Interest:  Attention won’t necessarily mean much if your customers aren’t interested in your product or service. Companies can explain their services and mission on their website to enable consumers to learn more.
  • Desire: When your customers are interested, your content will - hopefully - inspire a desire to consume it and develop a level of trust. Many companies provide content on social media, blogs and more.
  • Action: Finally, spurring action is the final step. The specific action a consumer takes can be varied depending on your goals, from downloading a trial of your product or service or inquiring about making a purchase.

A well-executed marketing plan that considers all of these elements.

What are the Four Es of Marketing?

Dr. Dionne Boyd with the text Dr. Dionne BoydAnother prism through which you can view a customer’s journey from awareness to purchase is called the four Es of marketing. Dr. Dionne Boyd, an adjunct marketing professor at SNHU and CEO of Image Architects & Management based in Atlanta, said she finds this method of thinking about products and talking about marketing with her clients more relevant.

“That’s the new language of how marketing has changed,” she said.

Kleber & Associates, a building materials marketing and public relations firm expounded on this method and how each E is a direct replacement – or at least a different way of thinking about – each of the Ps of marketing.

  1. Evangelism: Evangelism replaces promotion and, according to the Kleber & Associate blog, this element has changed drastically as individuals’ voices have gained such reach through the internet. Developing loyal customers who praise your product or services – and giving them the means to spread their experiences with your company – can be an incredibly powerful word of mouth value for your company.
  2. Everyplace: Everyplace replaces, of course, place and is the recognition that in the digital age, consumers have nearly unlimited choices to interact with companies. Yours has to have a robust presence in the online world.
  3. Exchange: Exchange replaces price. Price is important, but perhaps it’s less vital than what a consumer perceives he or she is getting in exchange for their money. What is the value of your product or service compared to the money exchanged during a purchase?
  4. Experience: Replacing product from the four Ps of marketing, this is the concept that a customer’s experience matters most to them — even more than your product or service.

Creating Consumer-Focused Marketing

While marketing has undergone a sea of change with digital media development, many of the fundamental concepts remain just that, according to Bogle — fundamental.

Framing those original concepts through the consumer's perspective can help you understand how to market your product. "Every product must have value. Place matters but has become a lot more complex in a digital world,” she said. “Price is always top of mind to a consumer, but I think value is really where it is at in our industry."

She's taken note of these patterns by listening to prospective students and what they're looking for in their degree programs. "They want to know there will be a good return on their investment when it comes to a college degree. Earning a degree takes both precious time and money. We often hear prospects ask, 'How much and how long will it take?'" Bogle said.

Boyd stressed the importance of flexibility and integration of your marketing efforts into a cohesive and strategic whole. Integrated marketing communications take advantage of as many vehicles as possible. A great website isn’t enough. Consumers have to be able to reach you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more, and see you through mobile ads, sponsorships and in person.

“Gone are the days where you can be a one-trick pony,” she said. “It’s not going to work. You have to be integrated.”

Although it may seem like everything's changed, according to Burns, the foundations of marketing and building a strategic marketing plan remain the same. Modern marketing just uses different tactics, and prevailing perspectives within the industry have shifted.

“Many of the tenets of marketing haven’t changed. The audience, the offer, message, where you reach them. Those haven’t changed,” she said. “It’s the way we reach customers that’s changed. And, their requirement of us, of their customer experience, is for simplicity and ease. We have pivoted from being more brand-focused to being consumer-focused.”

A degree can change your life. Discover more about SNHU's bachelor's in marketing: Find out what courses you'll take, skills you'll learn and how to request information about the program.

Joe Cote is a staff writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Follow him on Twitter @JoeCo2323.

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Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.