The Four Ps were long regarded as the most important parts of marketing, but has the emergence of a customer-centric world supplanted that idea? Has digital changed the way that the sales funnel works? The 4 Ps – Product/Price/Promotion/Place – were a key part of marketing for the bulk of the 20th century.
They were a good way for marketers to reach audiences when they lacked a direct communication channel and they were unable to get meaningful feedback about their efforts. Print media, radio and TV were the only real effective and wide-reaching ways that 20th century buyers would learn about products and services, current events, and trends.
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The Customer-Centric World
As early as 1990, Bob Lauterborn argued in an article in Advertising Age that the 4 Ps were old fashioned and that marketers needed to directly address actual issues. He was ahead of his time. Markets were becoming increasingly competitive and customers were getting more choosy, more knowledgeable, and less likely to just accept anything that was pushed in their direction.
Brand owners like Stopgap needed to realise that putting the customer first was an important part of their service and product development, and that if they wanted long term success that was the way to go. The 4 Cs became a better marketing strategy, one that helped to attract customers, and to ensure that communications and marketing efforts were more closely aligned with the buying habits of the average customer. The goal should be to understand their needs, habits, the result they want from the product, and what they are willing to pay.
Embracing the Digital Funnel
The funnel is the term used to describe the flow of customers as they go from being a suspect to becoming a prospect, and then a customer. Suspects are unaware of your organisation, prospects have a connection to the company but are not yet buyers, and customers are the people that you should try to retain because remarketing to them is easier, and because they can become advocates for your brand.
What Does the Journey Look Like?
The customer journey has changed a lot in the last 15 years, but marketers do not fully understand the changes yet, nor does the average customer. Think about how the gamer, gambler or holidaymaker of yesteryear would have gone on their buying journey, from shortlisting and comparing their potential purchases to handing over money:
- A holidaymaker would have needed to go to several travel agents to shop around.
- Buying games would have needed to spend time getting to know the assistant at the local computer game store.
- Gambling would have been done at the local bookmaker, but even 15 years ago there were online bookmakers that used aggressive promotions and opaque combinations of odds and perks.
The Way That Shopping Is Done Now Has Changed a Lot
The direction of travel is obvious, too. Consumers have more control now than ever before and they want even more knowledge and control when they bargain hunt. The concept of consumers doing research and price comparison online is well ingrained, and brands and suppliers must find ways to re-engineer the top end of their funnel to reflect the new reality of online marketing.
Sales and Marketing Have Evolved
Traditionally, marketing people have tried to avoid being responsible for sales because offering a good brand experience and delivering ROI don’t go hand in hand. While that’s a fair point, creativity has value and digital marketing and sales are important. Today, the lines are far more blurry than they were even as recently as 15 years ago when the conflict of interest was more of a problem.
Marketers Generate Leads
Digital marketing has pushed the influence of the customer much further down the funnel, to the point that sales and marketing are converging. Ecommerce businesses rely on leads, and some of those leads come from customers themselves, while others come from lead generation articles, brand awareness, and other activities. It is hard to effectively measure what it is that is generating conversions, so the issue is far more complex than it used to be. One thing is clear, though. The customer comes first.