Marketing is one of those words that people blithely toss around, usually without really understanding what it means for their business.   Some think of marketing as promotion; others think of it as selling (and don’t want to do that!). Still others consider it to be one’s business identity, usually expressed as their brand.  All of these are essential.

Then there are those who were trained on the 4 Ps of Price, Product, Promotion and Place as the basis for a marketing plan.  This has been, and remains, a very helpful basis on which to prepare a marketing plan, but I’d like to explore another approach which you might find useful.  

I first came across this approach, which comes from Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing, when researching for a presentation on marketing to a business group.  I found it a useful and practical way of rethinking the traditional way of developing a marketing plan.   

He called it “The 5 Ps of Marketing” and I find they simply make sense out of all of the traditional elements and put them into a logical order.

Positioning comes first

This is about knowing exactly what you’re marketing and selling and who you’re selling it to.  Sounds simple, but many businesses have a real problem with this one.  It is about clearly determining how you want to be perceived in the market place.  This is a critical step, because it will determine the rest of your marketing plan.  

You might have a great product or service but if you can’t successfully articulate why anyone should be interested in what you have to offer, all the promotion and selling skills in the world won’t help you much.

Positioning revolves around a “Core Marketing Message” that clearly states who you work with, what problems you solve, what solutions you provide, what benefits you offer, what results you produce, what guarantee you give and what is unique and special about your particular product or service.

Positioning is the foundation that you build the rest of marketing upon.

Packaging is second

Packaging is how you take your positioning strategy and put it into words, both verbally and in the written form.  As soon as you open your mouth to tell someone what you do, you are packaging yourself. Your business card, brochure and web site are physical, tangible ways you package yourself, mostly through the written word.

And until you have that packaging together, you’re going to have a hard time communicating to anyone about why they should use you.  Packaging is the tangible side of Positioning.  It’s taking a concept or your Core Marketing Message and making it real.

Packaging your services is about crystal clear communication.  It needs to transmit directly why your products or services are of value, as well as generate attention, interest, desire and action (AIDA) from your prospective clients.

Promotion is third

The purpose of promotion is to get highly qualified prospective customers through the door, or on the phone.  Once you know what you’re selling and it’s in a form that people can understand, you can start getting the word out.

But what works to promote your products or services? There are dozens, if not hundreds of ways you can promote yourself, but ultimately the key is to use the information and knowledge you possess, the same information and knowledge you sell to your clients, to market your business.  This is a key point.  Your knowledge and skill enables you to solve customer’s problems.  Ultimately all sales are about solving problems in one form or another.

Promotion is all about visibility and credibility. People like to do business with companies and people who are familiar to them. No matter what promotional methods you use, you need to ask if you have enough ongoing visibility to build that feeling of familiarity and trust. If you’re invisible, nobody is thinking of you, let alone calling you.

Persuasion is fourth

The job of persuasion is to turn prospects who have responded to your marketing into paying clients. And here’s where sales or persuasion strategies and skills are essential. If you can master the art of converting a large percentage of those who call  or visit into paying customers, you’ll have a very successful business.

Persuasion is not so much about convincing people how great your products or services are; that’s more the job of packaging and promotion.  Persuasion starts when people call you in response to your marketing.

Persuasion is mastering the art of listening and focusing on the needs and objectives of your customers. Then it’s finding creative ways to meet those needs and objectives, that is, solving their problems in a way that’s agreeable to both parties.

Performance comes last

But it is definitely not least. After all, if you don’t perform, meet customer’s expectations, go the extra mile and ultimately create “Raving Fans,” you’re not going to have much luck in growing your business. It’s word-of-mouth marketing that finally determines most small businesses success or failure. So your job is to deliver the goods – in spades – and keep those referrals coming in.

Performance is much more than getting the job done at a high level. It’s about paying attention to every single thing that impacts the customer relationship.

Performance is about perception – the perception of the client and their expectations. When you understand those perceptions and expectations and can deliver what they truly want, you’ve mastered performance.

Now as I mentioned above there are a lot of other Ps in marketing!   To those I could add Process, People, Presentation, but all that are important in marketing your business can be contained in these 5 Ps.