Why the 4 Ps of marketing do not work on the Web

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

Worst Practices  |  Marketing  |  Advertising

P The four Ps of marketing -- product, place, price, and promotion – used to describe the marketing mix, was coined way back in the 1960s.

Business school curricula still frequently include a discussion of the 4 Ps of marketing and I see the 4 Ps pop up frequently in marketing books to this day.

For marketing on the Web, I think focusing on the traditional Ps lead directly to failure because the concepts force marketers into a marketing paradigm that just isn't effective in a social world.

Others, with sly smiles, have commented on the outdated nature of the Ps before me.

My good friend Steve Johnson, author of the excellent Product Marketing blog, insists that PowerPoint should be added as a P. Ha Ha, good one Steve!

At a recent speaking gig as I was walking the tradeshow floor, I had a conversation with a company representative in their booth. Somehow we got onto the 4 Ps and he says: "Oh, we've got Marketing Barbie in our booth. She's expert in the four Ps: perfume, polish, peroxide, and Prada." I about keeled over with laughter! (Yes, there are still companies who hire models to appear in booths in a strange attempt to draw men in. Which P is that? Promotion I guess.)

I did search for the 5th P with my friend Tim Washer. We found a few.

I thought about redefining the 4 Ps but couldn't take myself seriously. The best I got was: Psychobabble, Puffing, Poseur, and Permalink. Lame, I know.

Why the 4 Ps of marketing don’t work on the Web

A focus on Product means you create web content about the wrong things.

Let's be honest, OK?

Nobody cares about your products and services except you and the others in your organization.

What your buyers do care about are themselves. And they care a great deal about solving their problems (and are always on the lookout for a company that can help them do so). The good news for smart marketers is that this knowledge has the potential to make you many times more successful. It may quite literally transform your business (that's not just my opinion; many people write me to tell me so).

The best way to market on the Web is to create valuable information for the people you are trying to reach. That usually means not talking about your products.

A focus on Promotion gets you into a campaign mentality.

Promotion usually means advertising campaigns that "target" a specific market within a fixed time period (note the war metaphors).

I've seen a large increase in the number of advertising people who have contacted me in the hopes that I would talk up the "social media campaign" that they developed for a client.

In particular, the ad agencies love to tell me about the contests and games they've created as part of the campaign. And frequently, the pitch they send me includes talk of some award they've won.

However, I think there is a huge difference between a sustained development to creating valuable information online -- YouTube videos, blogs, photographs, infographics, ebooks, Twitter feeds, Webinars, and the like -- vs. promotions via a one-off Facebook game in the hopes that people will "like" you.

For many companies, social media and content on the web is a check box in the promotion category. Direct mail? Check. Tradeshows? Check. Magazine ads? Check. Social media? Check.

Place and price imply that all that matters in creating content on the web is driving people to purchase.

While making a sale is always the ultimate goal of Web marketing, true success comes from educating and informing and entertaining so that people are eager to do business with you.

Get away from the Ps if you want success on the Web.

What do you think?