The 4 P’s of Marketing No Longer Apply in B2B Today

The term “4 P’s of Marketing” as part of the ‘marketing mix’ was first coined in the early 1950s. The concept is that marketers must recognize and utilize four interwoven components when determining a product or brand’s offering — Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

For many years this concept has been the foundation for most sales and marketing plans. Recently, I’ve seen suggestions of adding more P’s such as People and Process to the mix. I’ve also seen new concepts introducing 4 C’s as a more customer-driven replacement — Consumer, Cost, Communication and Convenience. I would argue that in today’s B2B environment, a new approach is required.

In the most recent issue of Harvard Business Review, I came across an interesting viewpoint on rethinking the 4 P’s for today’s B2B reality. Although the original concept has served consumer marketers for six decades, the same no longer holds true in B2B. As the article states, “they often yield narrow, product-focused strategies that are increasingly at odds with the imperative to deliver solutions.” The authors did a five-year study with more than 500 managers across the globe and multiple industries. The findings revealed insights that can benefit B2B companies, their executive management, sales and marketing teams. Our own experience confirms they are on the right track with the following shift.

Instead of Product, Focus on Solutions
Although most good marketers know to focus on benefits and not features, the reality is that benefits don’t go far enough. The bottom line comes down to only one thing — solutions. Many B2B companies and especially those whose leaders come from a background in engineering or technology should realize these claims of technological superior products are not long-term differentiators, but mostly just an ante into the game. The reality is that they should build an internal culture focused on offering a customer-centric perspective instead.

Instead of Place, Focus on Access
Understanding and determining the right channels of distribution are critical for any B2B company. There are many complexities and options to consider and the rules have changed considerably over the last decade, especially with online purchasing. An integrated, cross-channel system can benefit the organization by offering customers access to a rich experience, open communication and the opportunity to buy in their preferred manner. One of these new added benefits is that companies can now develop a direct relationship with the end user in ways never before available.

Instead of Price, Focus on Value
Rather than emphasizing price compared to your competitors, the entire focus should be on the unique value of the product or service. This approach clearly relates back to focusing on solutions. People make decisions based on emotions, not rational facts. A strong value proposition with a compelling emotional component can paint a beautiful scenario of lasting value resulting in a smart buying decision.

Instead of Promotion, Focus on Education
People are influenced differently today. Although advertising and PR still have their place in the marketing tool kit, they are no longer as effective. It is far more beneficial to provide relevant information specific to the customer’s needs throughout their purchasing cycle. Becoming an industry “thought leader” is a very powerful position to achieve and this is only possible when you place the customer’s needs ahead of your desire to sell them something. It’s a big time commitment to continually educate the customer (and your industry), but the rewards are significant. It doesn’t happen overnight, but the concept builds a strong and collaborative internal culture as well.

In summary, I believe this new mindset is far more effective than the one developed half a century ago. This solution-based strategy will be far more relevant to your customers and result in sustainable growth for B2B companies. What do you think?

Different thought, Different time. Remember, the bitter taste of poor quality lasts far longer than the sweet taste of low price.