Whatever business you run, you’ll need a marketing strategy—and it’s likely to be informed by the principles of marketing. Whether you’re a high street shop, an online retailer, or a service provider, marketing is the one and only way that prospective customers will know what you do. You might not think you have any marketing in place right now, but even having a live website or social media presence that explains or advertises your business is a form of marketing.
Marketing is important because it allows your business to develop a relationship with its existing customers, and expand that audience to reach new and prospective clients. Developing a strategy that covers all departments and aspects of your business will help to ensure that you stick to the best marketing practices for you, as well as keeping on top of new and emerging marketing techniques that can help progress your business. And at the core of this strategy should be the foundational marketing principles that any business, in any industry or sector, can apply to ensure the most strong and effective marketing strategy.
What are the principles of marketing?
The original principles of marketing, best known as the 4 Ps, were first published in a book by a renowned marketing professor E. Jerome McCarthy called Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach. Although the origins of the framework can be traced back as early as the 1940s. These principles form the blueprint for running and marketing your business successfully, and you’d be remiss to turn your nose up at them just because they’re over 60 years old.
The 4 Ps not only offer the key points to focus on when launching your brand, but also the elements that are vital to consider when it comes to the wider marketing of that brand. The first four principles of marketing to consider are:
- Product: the tangible goods or services your business provides, and whether that meets the requirements and expectations of your audience.
- Price: understanding the sweet spot that nails your profit margins without being too high for your customer, or so low that you risk going out of business.
- Place: the ways (and places) in which your product or service is sold or delivered.
- Promotion: the most obvious element of marketing refers to tactics like discounts, advertising and other ways to reach and expand your target market.
Just as your marketing strategy should, the 4 Ps evolved over time. Since the 1980s, the 7 Ps have been recognized as an extended version of the principles that suit the modern age. The three extra Ps were developed by marketers Boom and Bitner as a way to approach the less tangible elements of marketing, inspired in part by the modern move to digital sales and services. The three new Ps were:
- People: how customers connect with real people throughout the business process—an important aspect to consider if your business mostly operates digitally.
- Process: how smoothly a customer’s journey moves from discovering your brand to receiving the product or service.
- Physical evidence: the number of physical results or, for digital service companies, the way physical attributes like a website or adverts support your brand and its overall marketing.
The 7 principles of marketing explained
It makes sense that product heads up the four original principles of marketing, as without a great product you don’t have a business. The product section of your marketing strategy should focus not only on the quality of the product itself, but also its market fit and how high the demand is for it. You can start with market research such as interviews, surveys and audits. As you come to understand the relevance of and demand for your product—as well as what your customers like or would change about it—you can adapt your marketing strategy accordingly each year.
Pricing is almost, if not just as crucial to your business as a well-thought-out product. Without a clear pricing strategy to help you optimize costs, you could end up going out of business, no matter how great your product or service might be. There will always be unpredictable elements that affect your pricing, like new developments in the ever-evolving digital landscape or impressive new competitors emerging, but when it comes to your marketing there is more to consider than the literal price of your product.
As well as covering your overheads and recouping any investments you’ve made, your pricing strategy should account for promotions and sales aimed at garnering new customers. Starting out at a lower price point, or periodically lowering prices in line with market trends can help to entice customers. However, if you’ve planned your profit margins around selling exclusively at full price you could find yourself in a sticky situation.
Remember to always research profit margins and the expected mark-ups in your industry—the key to pricing your product appropriately is in understanding the value your customer perceives it should cost.
Though the “place” where your business takes place is more of a concern for businesses with brick and mortar stores, it’s not something that should be overlooked by digital brands. Of course, your website is your “place,” but your marketing strategy should consider the ways in which you can expand that to reach a wider audience, whether you look into selling through social media affiliate links or third-party retailers like Etsy or Wayfare.
Even physical businesses should have an online presence to help expand their audience. But they also have the advantage of putting their product in front of customers at events, trade shows, in marketplaces, or even in partnership with other local businesses. This can help to reduce overheads, as positioning your physical product in places you know your target audience will find means you’ll spend less time competing with other sellers and more time making sales.
Last but certainly not least of the original list of principles, promotions are the aspect that most people think of when they think of “marketing.” In physical stores, this can include displays, flyers, events, and your general position not just in the market but in your local area—in this way, promotion is closely linked with the principle of place.
But, as the 7 Ps remind us, strategies are there to be built on. So whether you’re online-only or brick and mortar, digital marketing tactics are key when it comes to your promotion. As well as sales, discounts and other offers that get new customers through the door you need to consider the “business as usual” elements that will keep your existing customers interested and your prospective customers coming in.
This could include specialist content like blogs, podcasts and videos; social media channels for engaging content and influencer partnerships (and now advertising and selling, too); paid advertising through Google Ads and other bidding platforms; and email marketing to maintain a sense of community for your engaged customers.
The “people” to consider in your marketing aren’t just your customers—although they’re certainly some of the most important. However, the people principle actually refers to the human side of your business that lets your customers know that there is a real person behind the digital or corporate face of your brand.
For independent brands, customer service can come easily as one person is likely to be the owner, founder, maker and promoter of the business—the “people” behind their business will feel accessible. This also makes it easier for the independent brand owner to make their customers feel cared for—and that’s not something you should let go of as your brand expands.
A McKinsey report has shown that the way customers are treated by a brand can dictate up to 70% of the customer’s overall experience—that’s regardless of the quality of your product, your social media presence, or how quickly their item arrives. In fact, 65% of consumers say they have ditched a business based on poor customer service, and since it’s 5 to 25 times cheaper to retain existing customers than it is to acquire new ones, the cost of bad service can be painfully expensive.
Perfecting your business’ process will reduce costs: it’s as simple as that. Optimizing the way in which your business runs—from simplifying the production process to streamlining all departments—a standardized workflow that is integrated across your whole business will make things easier for your existing employees to follow. It will also make your onboarding process smoother and easier for new team members.
This can include anything from developing training to ensure all employees handle tasks in the same way or adopting new interfaces and software—for example, using Shopify if you’re a digital retailer will make running your business smoother and more intuitive.
7. Physical evidence
Your brand doesn’t have to produce physical products or have a brick-and-mortar storefront to rely on physical evidence. For example, physical evidence for a software developer might be a functioning piece of code. For a writer, it could be a piece of copy that’s signed off ahead of the deadline. For a taxi driver, it may be a happy passenger who’s dropped safely at their destination.
But even before the physical evidence of a successfully completed transaction, there are the pieces of evidence that lead your customer to you in the first place. Strong branding that your customer relates to, such as a website that provides a good user experience, customer service that responds quickly, and policies and promises that help build trust between your business and its audience are all evidence that your company enhances customer experience at every touchpoint.
Which principles of marketing are most important for me?
The purpose of the principles of marketing is that any business can—and should—apply them to their marketing strategy. Because of this, you’ll find that each of the Ps is broad, so it can be applied universally and molded to fit the needs of any kind of business. This makes it easier to adapt to your own unique brand.
Of course, without a crystal ball, we can’t tell you which of the 7 Ps applies best to your brand specifically—but you can! Though all 7 of the Ps are applicable to the marketing of any brand, it’s likely that one or two of the principles stood out as feeling especially relevant to you while reading this.
In this sense, they are a great starting point for any business in need of guidance when developing a marketing strategy—and you might even have started brainstorming the ways in which you can apply them. So why not work through the 7 principles of marketing in the order in which they apply to you? Reordering the 7 Ps based on how relevant they are to your business will help your team get to know them in order of priority, providing a focus that could make your whole marketing strategy seem more achievable.
How the principles of marketing can lead to success
Though all 7 of the principles of marketing can apply to any business—and should all be considered when developing your marketing strategy—some will be clearer and easier to implement than others. A thoughtfully planned marketing strategy that’s based on the 7 key principles of marketing will help you make more informed choices and work smarter when it comes to building the brand your customers want.
Despite constantly changing market conditions, coming back to these long-term principles can guide you through anything that marketing a business might throw at you. Who knows: you might even come up with some more of your own.