Time for A Better B2B Marketing Mix?

Time to Redefine the B2B Marketing MixMany marketing jobs require that candidates have experience of the ‘full marketing mix’. But how relevant is the marketing mix model for today’s b2b marketer? The traditional 4Ps marketing mix (consisting of product, price, place, promotion) has been used by marketers since the 1960s, but the Harvard Business Review recently carried out a five-year study of more than 500 managers and customers in multiple countries across a wide range of B2B industries, and found that the 4 Ps model undercuts B2B marketers and needs to be redefined to be useful again.

The concept was last updated in the 1980s in response to the growth of services marketing, and three further Ps (people, physical evidence and processes) were added. Arguably, it’s about time the marketing mix was redefined for modern B2B marketers.

How many marketers do you know who are in control of all seven aspects of the marketing mix?

In all but the smallest start-ups, many of the seven Ps would be outside the remit and responsibility of the marketing manager, no matter how senior he or she is.

Product warranties and design, for example, are typically owned by the product manager, who is usually a technically oriented person with no marketing experience. The product manager consults the product marketing manager when it comes to branding, icons and other visual experience related elements of the product, but the actual functionality, technology and associated user guarantees are determined and managed by the product manager, supported and executed by developers.

Similarly, in smaller firms pricing and distribution channels (Place) are firmly within the remit of sales and commercial directors, if not the CEO himself. Service levels (People) fall within the responsibility of the customer services team or account managers, who look to marketing to provide tools and templates to help shape the conversation, but I have yet to hear of a marketing director who is actually in charge of drawing up service level agreements and managing the delivery of client service.

If the 7Ps do not reflect the actual work of marketers at the more complex end of the b2b spectrum, does the concept at least cover all important elements of the marketing mix? I don’t think so, as three key aspects are not explicitly covered:

1) Positioning – competitive, in market
2) Proposition – value to customer
3) Presentation – the visual and brand experience

Product positioning and the product’s value proposition are important and distinct element of the marketing mix. While the value proposition articulates the added value that the product or service delivers to customers (e.g. freshly baked bread delivered to your door every morning by 7am), the product’s positioning is often formulated in relation to competitors and taking into account organizational strengths (Jones & Sons – Springfield’s family bakery. Every loaf handmade and delivered to your door, since 1832).

The value proposition needs to be clear. Getting this right is particularly important when products have multiple target audiences and uses. For example, the same product could be positioned differently for small and large firms in a b2b context. Good product positioning creates differentiation and customer mindshare through carefully crafted messages which resonate with target audiences.

The final P relates to presentation. This does not just relate to formatting of PowerPoints, but the overall visual brand experience and identity across different elements of the marketing mix and customer touchpoints. A brand that is consistent across different presentation channels (think web, social media, brochureware, events etc.) enables prospects and customers to recognise products and services easily – and the consistency of presentation will convey the values of dependability and professionalism.

These three points are especially important when dealing with sophisticated consumers, such as b2b buyers, who will experience brands and products in a variety of settings before making a decision. Neither physical evidence nor promotion cover these concepts, as a proposition is not physical, while promotion usually only covers marketing communication channels and not the actual messaging that should be at the heart of all marketing campaigns.

The traditional 7Ps model of the marketing mix does modern marketers a disservice: B2B marketers add most value through producing unique  positioning, proposition and presentation, as these are important aspects of what marketing guru Kotler called the ‘augmented product’. In a competitive global market such as the b2b technology industry, marketers can create a difficult-to-copy differentiated and enhanced value proposition through the use of an extended marketing mix that includes the additional 3Ps.

It would be interesting to hear your thoughts: To what extent do you use the marketing mix as a business tool?

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