The Basics

Evidently, I’ve written about the basics before in a different context.

I was thinking about the basics of marketing, the 4 P’s as they’re sometimes called:


I think most people spend a lot of time on promotion. I think lots of people fall back into price when they fail at promotion. I worry that people don’t think much about place. I’m not alone in knowing that we don’t often work hard enough on product, and we try to make up for it in promotion (and customer service).

The Basics Matter

To me, place is a huge one. Distribution matters. I’m about to launch some tests of some sales channels that I’ve never used before and I’m more excited than anything, because I suspect (and my working hypothesis) is that I will be really successful in using this channel. (Remember, it’s an educated guess, so who knows, and no I won’t tell you, because it relates to me, and it’s not very amazing and earth-shattering.)

Place is a basic that we don’t think nearly enough about. Distribution, moving things to weblocal, thinking through the variants on partnerships, all that kind of stuff really matters. I noticed a sub shop had partnered with a bunch of gas station convenience stores up in Maine recently. The shop is good. Their product is good. But the distribution and branding of being paired with these stores means that there are many more units selling more product than their closest competitors.

Product matters, but I’m not smart enough to write about it, except to say that I work hard at stuffing value into the products I create. If we don’t shoot to deliver more value than is expected, we’re already down 1/4 of the basics, such as it were.

Promotion is Great. Do More.

I think promotion is where we spend a lot of our time on marketing, but as time goes on, I’m thinking harder about two of the other three Ps in that old, worn model. Why? Because I think there’s a lot more magic left in that old silk hat.

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  • Steve Evans

    An old boss of mine used to say the key to online retailing and merchandising was getting the right product in front of the right customer at the right price and at the right time. This provides a great framework for any work I do with e-commerce stores and is easily transferrable to non-commerce web experiences too.

    The basics matter so much. I keep meeting clients who’ve been sold amazingly cutting edge tech or methods to improve their marketing/conversion and yet the ‘experts’ who sell them this have neglected to even take a look at the basics… Some of the biggest gains (in conversion, traffic, UX, customer loyalty etc) are to be had by getting the basics right!

  • Mr.Ven

    I want to simply say, Right “Product” with Reasonable “Price” and “Promotion” at Right “Place”…

  • Thomas

    add a fifth p for people: in delivering services, this one is crucial. And: use those p’s like Lego in delivering to the market: which part of which p can I add or change to differentiate my offerings from competitors. the p’s are also a great tool to check your uniqueness. basics, but essentials.

  • Anonymous

    Respectfully, it is not an old worn model. It still works, even in the digital age. The proper mix of these factors will be determined by your competitive environment, which is unique to each company, sometimes to each product, and perhaps to each customer. I once had the pleasure of working closely with the CMO of Coca Cola. In a presentation, he was asked how many marketing strategies a company should have and he responded, “How many customers do you have?”

  • Marjorie Clayman

    If you’re in the right place, people will be more apt to pay the price you want them to pay. I gladly pay a couple more dollars to go local when I can.

    On the other hand, if I pay a bit more to go local and my experience totally stinks, I’m going to be pretty unhappy. The product has to be good.

    Promotion is what it is. I think we might be entering an era where promotion is kind of taboo. That would rock my 2 socks, yes, even in advertising, because I think ads can be used to educate and would go over a lot better if that was the focus.

    That’s as sensible as I can be before my coffee. I hope this is in English.

  • Amy McCloskey Tobin

    Love it. My two cents?: Promotion isn’t taboo, but Old School In Your Face Promotion is suspect. SMM is ALL about Promotion in a new language. I’ve seen tons of great ideas fail where they got the PRODUCT right but overlooked or didn’t budget for the other 3 Ps.

  • johnfhunt

    I believe the 4 P’s of marketing can be used a little differently. These “p’s” help you develop your U.S.P. (Unique Selling Proposition). What makes your product or service different from your competitors?

    Everyone needs to “Promote” (use the 4th P) in some form or another, but what message do you convey? Is it the uniqueness of your Product, Price, Place, or Promotion?

    Some companies use the 4th P, “Promotion,” as the catlyst for describing how they are unique. Could be their branding, their sell-line, the use of a specific media tool, or a combination.


  • Jim Shamlin

    My sense is that the companies that get UX right are not considering the value of their experience not as a mere Place to get a Product at a cheap Price, or even as a method of Promotion – but recognize that the essence of their customer experience, and their strongest source of competitive advantage, is to consider the elements of their experience that are related to Person.

  • Rod Watkins

    I’ve always been a big proponent of distribution, or “place”. One of my favorite examples is Frito-Lay. They’re a case study of how distribution can be use for competitive advantage. Wal-Mart is of course another.

    However the Internet the equation changes. With the Internet just about anybody can establish a worldwide distribution system. But I think it is unwise to simply assume that because the Internet eliminates most barriers that distribution it is no longer important. In my opinion it still is, it’s just that we need to think about it differently.

  • Jim Shamlin

    Looks like the first paragraph of my comment got chopped off somehow …

    Retail marketing considers a fifth “P” in marketing: “People.” While manufacturers seek to manage the traditional four “P”s because they have no human interface to the customer, retailers recognize that the forgotten fifth “P” has the greatest impact on customer experience: the clerks, cashiers, sales representatives, and other People you encounter in shopping a brick-and-mortar store have a far more significant impact on customer experience than the other four.

  • TrafficColeman

    Well some people are just out for the big pay day so their focus is mainly price, but I focus on customer service and putting out the best product for my client to use.

    “TrafficColeman “Signing Off”

  • Roy Scribner

    Place is also about knowing your niche and owning it. I know a small company that competes with much larger competitors, in a very competitive market, by sticking to what it does best. Their larger competitors are always trying to move upstream, many times in competition with their own customers. The benefactor, of course, is the smaller company that focuses on serving their customers and solving problems.

  • Ryan Hanley


    At my insurance agency we preach all day long Value Over Price, Value Over Price, VALUE OVER PRICE… Anyone who says that in their industry Price is the only thing that matters is kidding themselves. Value may be harder to sell, but the client you obtain from providing serious value is going to be more profitable…

    Good article,

    Ryan H.

  • MaKenzie Birchell

    Great post, Chris! I agree, many businesses fall back on price a lot–too much, in fact. The fact of the matter is that even in a less-than-desirable economy, customers will pay more for quality and value. This can make the “Promotion” part of the 3 P’s more challenging, as we have to continue to find new ways to make our products’ value and quality self-evident!

  • Terry C

    Being both a marketer and purchaser of various insurance products, for me, everything is always in the context of commodities. Ryan mentions value over price, and while I don’t disagree conceptually, my experience from both sides of the table is price is still king.

    I don’t care how many variations of GEICO billboards/commercials/print ads I see a day (at least a dozen), if Allstate is 1% cheaper on quote, I’m going Allstate.

    Of course, one miserable service incident and I’m likely back out shopping come renewal time, but I’ve found that these days it takes a REALLY big difference in service quality to persuade someone to pay an even slightly higher premium – again, all this in the context of insurance.

    So coming back on topic, at least in my area, the priority order goes as follows:


    (huge gap)


  • Anonymous

    Great points, and I think you’re 100% correct. When I was studying my marketing classes (last year) so much of the focus lacks in the Place. Especially with the web industries the main aspects are always focused on promotion, product and price, but we don’t necessarily think of place (outside of just “being online”).
    Place isn’t just the where, but when and why we choose to place a product in a particular location and more importantly how we get it there.

  • Ron Richardson

    Good post Chris…I totally believe that the money you make is in direct proportion to the value you bring to others, and with the advent of social media marketing, people are able to stay current, and provide a ton more value then ever before.

  • Realseocom

    I read your post, I hope you better then future.

  • Alex Casteel

    Thanks Chris. I appreciate the reminder of the four Ps. I know I’m guilty of focusing more on the promotion than the other three, mostly because it’s the fun and creative side of marketing. I’m going to have to think about the other three Ps today and see how I can make them more fun and creative.

    Good luck with your upcoming new “Place.” I’m looking forward to hearing how it goes for you.

  • Jorge Mendoza

    I think that people (read marketers) often have a “if you build it they will come” mentality. Therefore, they think that if they create a good enough product, the demand will automatically be created and their problems will be resolved. This shifts the attention to Product, Promotion and Price leaving Place behind. What they fail to recognize is that even if the demand is there, if you are NOT (Place) you will not convert those sales.

  • Karl Craig-West

    At last, someone else ranting about the other 3 P’s in marketing!

    Having spent several years as a business adviser, I’m sick of being asked about promotion techniques and little else. Sadly many are promoting poor products into the wrong markets at inappropriate prices.

  • MikeCassidy

    I believe we are now witnesses the birth of a “5th P”. Permission.

    Permission may fall under promotion, yet it is rarely mentioned but is gold when you receive it.

    • Noah Fleming

      This is what Seth said years ago in “permission marketing”… Man, he was ahead of his time with that book. The theory of permission marketing is stronger today than ever before..

      Let’s not forget his other p… The purple cow.

      • MikeCassidy

        AH! Noah you are right! When did he write that 1999? So ahead of his time. Thanks so much for giving proper credit where it was due. Time to paint the cows.

      • MikeCassidy

        AH! Noah you are right! When did he write that 1999? So ahead of his time. Thanks so much for giving proper credit where it was due. Time to paint the cows.

        • Noah Fleming

          But important, more now than ever right?

  • Seiji Kato

    People have to realise that it’s not just promotion but the other three p’s. They are just as important, more if not.
    I cant make much comment, given that I am a novice in these things, but it should be obvious that in order to succeed in marketing that you must have a strong basis in all 4 of the P’s, otherwise you will fall short.

  • Noah Fleming

    I would say the model is worn and dated like a solid pair of jeans… The beauty is, the jeans might be even better now. You love them that much more.. The concepts, the underlying ideas, of what each model might be old and worn….this is where an upgrade is needed.

    It’s all about the new and unique ways to use the model… And like was mentioned below … The purple cows and the permission ….

    I’m also entering areas I’ve never worked in and its scary, but exciting at the same time. Best of luck Chris.

  • Charliesaidthat

    I completely agree – Far too many people forget the basics!! Just because something is cheaper doesn’t mean it is better. And just because you shouted loudest doesn’t mean you have a product anyone wants.

    There are other ‘P’s like – Partnerships, People (Customer Service), & Permission which are all relevant. The Focus should be on finding the right (dare I say it targeted) channels and making a GREAT product.

  • Kyle Lacy

    As a rule stick to the basics. Oldies but goodies:)

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  • Bobby

    I have always promoted (no pun intended!) promotion, price, place, and product. I know it is a seemingly tired formula, but there are fundamental realities that will never die and this, I believe, is one of them. That being said, it would also be shortsighted not to realize that the world of marketing has evolved dramatically in the last twenty (thirty?!) years. For those of us raised on three TV channels, snail mail, and the tyranny of interruption marketing, the dazzling bells and whistles of social media, digital everything, and the World Wide Web can be not only disorienting, but deceptive. Who was it that said, “The more things change the more things stay the same”? I, for one, believe that “The Basics” still rule.

  • Alex Dumitru

    You’re right, CHris. Usually people forget about the basics and that’s why they fail.

  • NikeShoes

    Product matters, but I’m not smart enough to write about it, except to say that I work hard at stuffing value into the products I create.

  • William Hushburn

    I am amazed that you can still manage your web page no matter how busy your life is.

  • William Hushburn

    Of course, I absolutely agree with you. We should start from the basics because if we won’t then everything won’t follow as what we expected it to be.