Back to basics: how the four Ps of marketing fit into content marketing
Too often, we forget the marketing part of content marketing. And what is marketing? It’s the business of promoting and selling products or services. There are whole fields of study devoted to marketing. So we thought we’d go back to basics to see how the OG principles —the four Ps of marketing—can help us better understand content marketing and focus our efforts.
First things first:
What are the four Ps of marketing?
It’s time for a quick history lesson! Back in the day (the 1960s), marketer Neil H. Borden published the article, “The Concept of the Marketing Mix,” which describes marketing managers as a “mixer of ingredients.” The marketing mix is composed of plenty of ingredients, including branding, distribution channels, advertising, packaging, display, and even the four Ps. What are the four Ps of marketing, you ask?
Defined by marketing scholar E. Jerome McCarthy, the four Ps are:
- Product: a product can either be a tangible good or an intangible service as long as it fulfills a desire or need of consumers. The scope of a product generally includes supporting elements such as branding, packaging, warranties, guarantees, and support. It’s imperative that brands have clear grasps of exactly what the product is and what makes it unique to market.
- Price: if a brand has a product, they’ll want to sell it at a price (with discounts in mind!). Determining price impacts profit margins, supply, demand, and marketing strategy. Pricing can also vary because of the next two Ps.
- Place: place, or distribution, refers to how to get the right product, at the right place, at the right price, and at the right time. In yesteryears, place often referred to physical locations and regions. Today, we have expanded upon the term by using place to describe distribution channels (online vs. retail); geographic regions and industries; and how environmental factors can affect sales.
- Promotion: after a product has been priced and placed, it’s time to promote it. Promotion includes many elements, like advertising, sales promotion, publicity, PR, direct marketing, digital marketing, sponsorship, social media marketing, email marketing, search engine marketing, video marketing, and of course content marketing.
These four Ps of marketing are kind of like the four horsemen of the apocalypse—you need all of four of them to get things done. And they’ll help you take over the world! Here’s how they fit into your content marketing.
How the four Ps of fit into content marketing
The four Ps of marketing were designed in the 1960s, when computers were the size of buildings instead of a small block that can fit into your hand. Today, the four Ps don’t exactly fit with content marketing (how do you price something that’s meant to be free?), but these ingredients are still important for brands to use to strengthen their content marketing efforts.
Whether you are a B2B or B2C brand, you’ll have a product of some kind. It could be sunglasses, stickers, software—whatever. You know it backwards and forwards, and have (hopefully) perfected it. With content marketing, your product is your content.
The best way to incorporate this P into your content marketing is to treat your content as a product, the same way you would market your brand’s sunglasses or stickers or software. The content your brand produces—blog posts, whitepapers, podcasts, videos, listicles, etc.—needs to fulfill a need of your consumers. For consumers of content, that need is to be informed, educated, or at the very least, entertained. So the product (re: content) must speak to your audience(s).
Naturally, when creating and planning this product, your brand will have completed plenty of market research around your product, including buyer and audience personas. It should extend to branding and packaging. Packaging often refers to web and mobile design as well as user experience (UX) and is key to building a product people want to use. In this case, the design and UX must be appealing to a consumer who will want to read, listen, or watch the content.
Price is probably the most difficult P to translate to content marketing because the product in content marketing (re: content) is supposed to be (or almost always) free. The whole point of brands producing content is so that they are providing additional value to their consumers; to charge them $9.99 plus shipping is antithetical to this. So how can a brand incorporate this P into content marketing?
The most common way is to use content as an incentive to complete other business or content goals. For example, many B2B brands offer exclusive content in the form of whitepapers and e-books as a way to gain email newsletter signups. The same goes for B2C brands who may offer free prizes or lotteries so that readers will grab their catalog/branded publication. This is the “cost” of entry to the product that costs nothing to your audience but allows for brands to gain something else in return.
It’s also worth mentioning that the “price” of your content is often measured by the return on investment of it. Often, content’s main goal is to drive conversions from content to purchasing a brand’s main product.
In a world where your consumers don’t actively buy your product, where you offer your product and how could be a big problem. Luckily, the question of “where does your content live and die?” is an easy one to solve. Distributing content both online and off has never been easier. We’ve already written up a pretty extensive series on this here. But to recap: your content should be distributed on two types of online channels: owned and earned. Owned channels refer to sites you have complete control of. Your website, for example, or your blog—a place in which you have complete ownership. But also experimenting with platforms like Medium, Facebook Ads, and Pinterest to name a few.
To understand the best market for your content, brands will need to use plenty of that product research to determine the best platforms, sites, and mediums to deliver content to their audiences. Some brands, like Airbnb, have chosen printed branded publications to do this; others like Reddit know that the best place to distribute their content is on their site, instead of some third-party publisher.
Wherever your content is placed, it obviously needs to be at the right time. The frequency of publishing and distributing content plays a big part in your content’s success. Ideally, a brand should create enough content to keep your brand top of mind while also not overwhelming readers with so much material they can’t keep up. It’s a fine line to balance for any brand.
Promotion is the P that fits easily between the worlds of traditional marketing and content marketing. Promotion directs relevant information about the product and or brand to consumers. Promotion for any product generally includes elements like advertising, public relations, social media marketing, email marketing, outdoor advertising, and more.
In the case of content, we tend to promote it a bit differently because the promotion of content generally stays online. There are many ways to promote content, both organically and inorganically. Social media platforms, email marketing, paid search and guest posts are just a few. Today, content marketers need to use both organic and inorganic means to promote their content online. Essentially, they must “pay to play” online using Facebook Ads and other paid platform ads.
Of course, sometimes the four Ps of do not clearly fit into content marketing, but the principles of marketing help us understand our content better. Not only that, it helps us create better content. If you treat your content like another product—that has a price, place, and promotion—instead of just a marketing tool, you’ll begin to see real results in your content marketing investment.
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