Lara Mulawka

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Marketing communications before marketing: A key business error

Many small businesses believe marketing is advertising, public relations, social media, promotions and other messaging methods.

Those are examples of marketing communications (marcom), the “Fourth P” of the Four Ps of Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

If your messaging team doesn’t understand your first three Ps, or if you haven’t created your overall marketing strategy around the first three Ps, your marcom efforts (the fourth P) might actually hurt you.

That’s because if your marketing messages don’t focus on your customers’ needs, your unique selling differential and the benefit your product or service delivers, you’ll simply turn off readers and listeners with hype, smoke and mirrors that don’t provide the information buyers are searching for.

Review the four Ps to create an effective marketing communications strategy

Making sure you review all of the Four Ps will ensure you create the most effective marketing communications strategies.

  1. Product

    Sure, you know you make and sell widgets, but why do you make them the way you do? Ask yourself the following:

    • Why did we leave certain features off the product that our competitors offer?
    • Why do we offer certain features our competitors don’t?
    • What is the benefit of using our product, or one like it?
    • Who is our target customer who is looking for that benefit?
    • Who are our direct competitors  (i.e. they sell the same product)?
    • Who are our indirect competitors?

    These questions will be easier to answer if you know your target customer. Are you targeting males age 25-45? Do you target women or specifically women with children under a certain age? Maybe it’s affluent seniors or retirees on a budget.

    Some businesses thrive because of their customer service, warranties and money-back guarantees. One way to target buyers who aren’t that knowledgeable about using a complicated purchase (such as software or electronic devices), or a type of product that, if it breaks, isn’t easy to repair (such as a lawn mower or kitchen appliance) is to offer a strong warranty or replacement policy. The more reliable your product, the better warranty you can offer since you won’t be repairing or replacing that many. A strong warranty sends a message to consumers that you are a high-quality company.

    You can’t craft effective marketing messages simply describing your product or service. You have to describe it in a way that solves a problem, presents an opportunity or provides a specific benefit for a specific target demographic.

    Avoid writing generic marketing copy about products and their features. Write about people and their needs.

    Work with your sales team members to learn what they have heard from customers about why they buy your product or don’t buy a competitor’s product.

  2. Price

    Companies set price points on products for a variety of reasons that go beyond just ensuring a profit.

    Some companies make profits on volume, making lower margins (a smaller profit on each item), but generating a higher volume of sales. Some companies do the opposite, making their profits off fewer sales, but with a higher profit on each items. What guides these strategies?

    Pricing is a big part of a brand strategy.

    Your company might be selling at a low price because it wants to attract customers who shop based on low prices. They want bargain brands.

    Other consumers want the best quality and assume the higher-priced products are the best. This is an example of creative perceived value.

    Some companies lower their prices to make it more difficult for competitors to enter the marketplace. New companies have higher startup costs, such as marketing, and won’t have high sales until they’ve been in business for a while. They often can’t compete with established companies on price. If a mature company keeps its prices low, this makes it difficult, if not impossible for a new competitor to enter the space and make a profit. This is known as creating a barrier to entry. As long as the mature company does not purposely take a loss to drive out competition and then raise prices later (known as predatory pricing), this is legal.

    In some cases, businesses offer high-end and bargain-basement products to attract both types of customers. This can lead to damaging your high-end brand, so businesses might offer two competing brands. Honda makes both Honda and Acura cars to generate sales among affluent and bargain vehicle buyers.

    Knowing your target customer and how they feel about price will help you create better ads, social media posts and other marketing communications.

  3. Place

    Where you sell your product or deliver your service says a lot about your brand. Some products are only sold in boutique stores. If they sold in big box stores, they’d ruin their brand (perceived value). Other companies sell only in big box stores to attract bargain conscious shoppers. Companies like tennis manufacturers sell their premium products in tennis pro shops, and their cheaper racquets, shoes and balls in big boxes.

    If your customers are older, you might rely more on brick and mortar and direct mail as your distribution channels. If most of your customers purchase online, you might sell products on your website, use third-party e-commerce solutions or sell via some other digital platform.

    Examples of distribution channels include:

    • Brick and mortar stores
    • Third-party e-commerce sites
    • Manufacturer’s websites
    • Catalogs
    • Direct mail flyers and brochures
    • Direct response broadcast ads (you call a toll-free number and order)
    • Trade shows, festivals and fairs
    • Door-to-door selling (including nonprofit groups selling your product as fundraisers)
  4. Let the first 3 Ps guide you when creating the fourth

    As you create ad copy, press releases, tweets, Facebook and blog posts, YouTube videos and other marketing communications, address your company’s Product, Price and Place strategies. Don’t simply focus on talking about your product or service.

    Think about the age, gender, income or education level of your target customer.

    Tell your customers about the benefits you offer.

    Let them know how convenient it is to make a purchase.

    Make sure they know if you’re a bargain brand or high-end item.

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