Thursday, January 31, 2008


Last week, I described how the "4 P's" of the marketing mix (product, place, price and promotion) work together like the ingredients of a good cheese and sausage pizza.

There's a huge difference between the quality and balance of the ingredients Domino’s uses vs. Chicago's Pizzeria Uno.

Today, I'll focus on the first of the P's: Product.

Research & Development may not be part of your Marketing Department, but in the strictest sense it should be. Marketing is really about meeting a customer's wants and needs. So, it all starts with the product.

(You may be thinking it's not relevant to you since you sell a service, but in marketing we often call both products and services "products". So read on.)

This may lead you to believe that marketing’s goal should be to develop the best possible product. It's not. The goal is to develop the best product to meet your customer's wants and needs at the price they're willing to pay. For instance, since we've already mentioned pizza, in my humble opinion, Domino's is not the best -tasting pizza on the market. (I think most people agree.) So how do they stay in business? Actually, their product isn't really pizza. It's fast delivery at a fair price. The pizza is secondary. Little Caesar's, on the other hand, is selling inexpensive ready-made pizzas for pick up. Compare those to my favorite local pizzeria, Sorrento's, which is selling a better quality product, with a longer wait, for a higher price: delivery, pick-up or dine-in.

As you see, you can be selling what appears to be the same product as your competitor, but actually each customer is buying something very different.

Another quick example. This week Beth and I bought a new office chair at Office Max for my home office. We chose Office Max because they were close to our home -- and we had a coupon. When we got there we found about 2 dozen chairs to choose from -- except the one we wanted to see. When we talked to the sales clerk, he told us that customers often would buy the floor sample at full price -- and he got stuck assembling a new demo chair. So, Office Max decided to charge a fee for this service. Now you can buy a Ready-To-Assemble chair or pay a little more to have it assembled for you. Now, they actually sell two different products - even though the actual product is identical!

One more point: If you're in sales rather than marketing, you are part of the product. Your product knowledge, availability and service are what separate you from the competition.

So, whether you're in marketing or sales, what are you doing to differentiate your product or yourself to meet your customer's needs? How can you "improve" your product (or service)?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

4 P's - Part One

"What did you say?" Beth asked over dinner one night.

"Pass the corn chips -- please?" I said, adding "please" this time, assuming I'd forgotten my manners.

"No, before that," she said holding the chips ransom. "About the P's..."

"Peas?" I asked staring at the chips. "Oh, P's! Yeah I think people forget there are 4 P's in Marketing."

"I've never heard you say that before. It needs to be a marketing tip."

"If I promise to make it a tip, can I get the chips?"

And so this four-part marketing tip series was inspired by Beth.

In Marketing 101 you may have learned the four P's of Marketing: Product, Place, Price, and Promotion.

Advertising is only part of Promotion. And Promotion is only part of the Marketing Mix. But marketers sometimes lose sight of that fact.

Over the next four weeks I'll give you my unusual perspective on each P and some practical applications.

Let's start with an overview:

Think of Marketing as a cheese and sausage pizza. (A food analogy -- It must be nearly mealtime)

The pizza has four essential ingredients: crust, sauce, cheese and sausage. The quality and quantity of those ingredients will change from recipe to recipe and region to region. You can add other ingredients like herbs and spices, but without the basic ingredients, you don't have a traditional cheese and sausage pizza.

In the same way, a marketing program has four essential ingredients: a product (or service), a place (some method of distribution) a price (everything has a cost, even if it's just your time), and some type of promotion (advertising, direct mail, public relations, email, website, door-to-door, word of mouth, etc.) Combined, these four elements (commonly known as the "Four P's") are the Marketing Mix. You can add other ingredients like people, politics, and positioning, but without some mix of these ingredients, you don't have a traditional marketing program.

Just like with pizza, there's an art to choosing and mixing the right ingredients in just the right amount. It can make the difference between Dominos and Chicago's Pizzeria Uno. There are a myriad of different ways to mix your ingredients to get a good result. But there are also a myriad of different ways to fail.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm getting a little hungry.

Friday, January 18, 2008


A decade ago, I taught a two-session business communications seminar at a local college.

Using my captive audience, I ran a field study. I made one small change in my presentation: I dressed differently.

One day I wore a sports coat and tie. Another I wore an open collar shirt and Dockers.

For about 3 semesters I changed which day I wore what. The last day of the class I polled my students: Which class was best?

It didn't matter what I talked about, the best day was the day I dressed up.

Did dressing up change my performance or just their perception? I don't know. And it doesn't matter.

For some reason, the tie made a difference. The impact of the content was effected by how it was presented. The content itself never changed.

The same is true for your marketing materials. You may think it doesn't matters how your sales message in presented in your advertising.

But the presentation can affect your prospect's perception of your company and/or your staff's self-perception of your company.

In reality, it matters.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Goal Getting...

Having written goals is one of the greatest keys to success.

Having written goals that you refer to often, even if no one else ever sees them, has a certain power of keeping you focused.

In 1953, researchers polled the Yale University graduating class and found 3% had written goals. In 1973, researchers polled the class again and found that the 3% with written goals had "amassed more fortune than the other 97% combined!"

Powerful story, but my research indicates it may be just that: a story. An urban legend.

So let me reinforce the power of goal setting with a personal anecdote... More than a decade ago a girl I was dating attended a seminar on personal goal setting. When we met that night for dinner she was all fired-up. She pressed me to write down my goals and objectives for the next year in several key areas: personal, spiritual, social, career, etc.

That night, I did, Goal number one: Marry this girl.

The rest, as they say, is history.