Designing Your Marketing Program
A marketing program is a coordinated, thoughtfully designed set of activities that help you achieve your marketing objectives. Your marketing objectives are strategic sales goals that fit your strengths and are a good way to stretch your business in its current situation. In order to build strong customer relationships and maximize your sales, you need to put every possible marketing tool to work for you. Marketing is a broad field, encompassing elements as diverse as advertising, brand and logo design, sales calls, Web sites, brochures, packaging, shows, conferences and other events, and so on. The more tools, the better. But the variety and complexity of choices makes getting organized and focused hard.
The Five Ps stand for the five broad areas (product, price, placement, promotion, and people) you can look to find ways to boost sales or accomplish other marketing goals as you build customer commitment to your brilliant products, services, or brands.
To marketers, product is what you sell, whether it's a physical product or a service, idea, or even another person (like in politics) or yourself (like when you search for a new job). When you think about ways of changing your product offering to boost sales, you can look at anything from new or upgraded products to different packaging to added extras like services or warranties. And you can also think about ways to improve the quality of your product. After all, people want the best quality they can get, so any improvements in quality usually translate into gains in sales as well.
To marketers, price is not only the list price or sticker price of a product, but it's also any adjustments to that price, such as discounts and any price-oriented inducements to buy, including coupons, frequency rewards, quantity discounts, and free samples. Any such offers adjust the price the customer pays, with the goal of boosting sales. Price-based inducements to buy are generally termed sales promotions by marketers, just to confuse the issue hopelessly.
Placement is where and when you present your product to customers. You have many options as to how you place the product in both time and space. Whether you're dealing with retail stores, catalogs, sales calls, Web pages, or 24-hour-a-day telephone services that can process customer orders, you're dealing with that placement P.
If you want a feel as to how valuable this P is to the marketing mix, just think about how valuable shelf placement at your local grocery store is to, say, Coke or Pepsi. Imagine what that placement is worth to the marketing of those products! Oh, by the way, marketers stretch a point by calling this third P "placement" because it's more conventional to call it "distribution." But that starts with a d, so it doesn't sound as good. However, just remember that when people talk about distribution, they're talking about placement, and vice versa.
You'll hear one more term that relates to placement: logistics. Logistics is the physical distribution of products — shipping and taking inventory, and all the fancy transportation and information technologies that can be harnessed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your distribution processes. So logistics is another useful path to go down when you want to think about where products should be placed for easy purchase.
Distribution concerns where and when products are offered for sale, whereas logistics addresses how they get there. These are related concerns, of course, and so they both fall under the list of options when you want to think hard about placement. You can play around with either or both in your efforts to build stronger customer commitment. For example, if you add distributors and enhance your Web site to offer online ordering, you're boosting placement by enhancing both distribution and logistics to create more ways to get the product to customers.
Promotion is all the sales activities, advertising, publicity, special events, displays, signs, Web pages, and other communications designed to inform and persuade people about your product. (Remember, please, that "product" simply means whatever you have to sell, be it an actual product, service, idea, or candidate.) Promotion is the face of marketing because it's the part that reaches out to ask customers for their business. It ought to be a visible and friendly face because you can't just tell people what to do and expect them to obey. Instead, promotion must find ways to attract prospective customers' attention long enough to communicate something appealing about the product.
The goal of all promotions is to stimulate people to want to buy. Promotions need to be motivational. They also need to move people closer to purchase.
Sometimes a promotion's goal is to move people all the way to purchase. That's what a so-called direct-response ad is supposed to do. A direct-response ad invites people to call, e-mail, fax, or mail in their orders right away. Many catalogs use this strategy. Readers are supposed to select some items, fill in their order forms, and mail them in with their credit card numbers, for example.
Other promotions do less. For instance, a 30-second television spot may be designed only to make people remember and like a brand so that they'll be a little more likely to buy it the next time they're in a store where it's sold. But all promotions work toward that ultimate sale in some way, and when you think about all the creative options for communicating with prospective customers, you should always be clear about what part of the customer's movement toward purchase your promotion is supposed to accomplish.
In most businesses, people are responsible for many aspects of product or service quality. Help them work better, and you improve the product. In fact, the personal connection between your people and your customers and clients may do the most for referral marketing — a powerful marketing force where your customers serve as a sort of "mini" sales force for you. They refer others to you because they've had a positive relationship with your people. In many businesses, people are directly responsible for the customer contacts through personal sales and service.
And in all businesses, people are responsible for performing the many behind-the-scenes tasks and jobs that make offering products to customers possible. Businesses and other organizations are simply groups of people. Sure, sometimes they use lots of fancy machinery or computer equipment, but no organizations exist without people. Not a one. And so when you're looking for ways to improve your offerings or otherwise boost your sales, turning your attention to your own people is often profitable.
There are many and, often surprising, connections between how employees feel and how customers feel. Sometimes, salespeople or service people say that they're frustrated because they have to deal with angry, uninformed, or otherwise difficult customers. If the employees feel this way about the customers, they tend to be negative (impatient, curt) with customers, which makes the customers even more difficult.
The people side of marketing is certainly the least visible — that's why people aren't traditionally included in the list of marketing Ps. But adding people to the list offers you another powerful lever for achieving your sales and marketing goals.