There are four famous Ps in marketing strategy: product, price, place and promotion.
Product. What do you offer? This also includes service.
Price. How much do you charge? Are you a low-cost or premium provider?
Place. This denotes distribution model. For example, do you sell at retailers or online?
Promotion. How do you spread the word about your products and services?
The four Ps are the stalwarts of marketing strategy. They've been around since 1960. I learned them in school just like most business and marketing students do. They serve a good role, particularly when defining a strategy for a start-up or new product. I call them excellent thin-air operators—really good at 30,000 feet.
But the four Ps aren't that useful at ground level, which is where most small and mid-sized B2B companies operate in marketing. SMBs need practical approaches and practical tools, and the four Ps don't serve us well.
For small and mid-sized companies, I propose a different approach to marketing strategy. This framework lacks a cool name, but it's practical and focuses on the three components that really do matter for small and mid-sized B2B companies operating in the real world:
- Target Market(s): Who are the target markets that you're going to pursue? This is usually defined by segments, not an entire industry or geography. Which segment(s) best fit your company's capabilities, strengths and goals? Which segment will you pursue first, and then next? You can't pursue them all, so this activity is all about prioritizing where you're going to commit resources.
- Value Proposition: Why should buyers buy from you instead of the competition? What are the specific, objective and quantified competitive advantages for each of your target markets? It's important that companies be very clear here—vague statements about great customer service are useless.
- Messaging: What words do you use to spark interest among your target market? Your messaging will be based on your value proposition. The key point here is pain points. Your messaging needs to address your target market's pains, which means you need to understand your target market(s) inside out.
When small and mid-sized B2B companies define these three things in their marketing strategy, they're more effective in choosing the right tactics and get much better results from their marketing activities. So give the four Ps a rest and focus instead on the TM, VP and M.
Lisa Shepherd is author of Market Smart: How to Gain Customers and Increase Profits with B2B Marketing and president of The Mezzanine Group, a business-to-business strategy and marketing company based in Toronto. She was the youngest female CEO of a PROFIT 200 company in 2007 and 2008 and is a frequent public speaker on B2B marketing strategy and execution.
More columns by Lisa Shepherd