The Marketing Mix’s Missing Link: The Fifth “P”
By P. Max Le Pera

For ages, marketing basics have centered around the “Marketing Mix,” or what is known as the 4 P’s. Generally speaking, the four P’s of marketing — price, product, promotion and place — are a strategy used to improve your marketing efforts and take products or services to market in a way that meets specific needs or wants of customers.

High school and college textbooks devote a significant amount of time to the development and analysis of these concepts. It is perhaps universally accepted that these elements are indeed compulsory in optimizing the probability of success of a new product brand, product or service launch.

While I concur on the theoretical and fundamental integrity of the traditional 4 P Model, I believe it has been and remains significantly incomplete in its efficacy to yield an optimizing framework. A comprehensive marketing plan to optimize the success and sustainable traction of a product launch requires one additional “degree of freedom” or pillar to the old model. We need to add one more “P” and forever change the marketing mix to, the 5 P’s. Let me explain.

Having helped manage countless product launches over the past two decades, the commonalities among them are many. Financial, competitive landscape, features and benefits and demographic analyses are essential and yet, applying the historical 4 P Marketing Mix Model neglects the one P that is the anchor to the whole framework. That fifth and most critical P is “People.”

The 4 P’s are essentially purely theoretical and while purporting to optimize product launch success — it neglects the dynamic that may not ensure success but does mitigate certain failure.

All the analysis in the world can make you a theoretical billionaire and yet, if your message is not delivered in the right way, even your best analyses could yield dismal or even failing results. Indeed, some might say, “Well, that’s sales and that’s a different discipline and they address that separately.” Not so fast. Sales and marketing may be distinctly different executables, but the truth remains that the umbilical cord between them can never be cut if the hopes of long-term survival and sustainability are to be retained.

I forecast that the art of sales will only assume more dynamics of marketing, and its representatives will align themselves closer to the marketing department as they personalize and customize their delivery.

Sales and marketing efforts need to be aligned to facilitate acceptance, trust and synergy.

While it is true that a good salesperson does not necessarily make a good marketing person and vice versa, there needs to be a bond in spirit and understanding between them — a sort of invisible link that the salesperson has the appropriate emotional intelligence to deliver the message. Quite simply: If the 4 P’s are perfectly designed but neglect the execution protocol considering credence, integrity and alignment, how could the Marketing Mix ever effectively optimize the probability of success? Without considering the fifth P, the calculable projections are tenuous at best.

As the famed sales coach and motivational speaker Zig Zigler asserted, “If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, then they’ll do business with you.” Essentially, people buy from people. Indeed the product, price, promotion and position must be there — this is compulsory — but if the representative(s) do not understand the message and how it solves their customer’s constraints and furthermore, use the 4 P’s to create a value proposition, then the optimization formula has failed before it got started. This is why I assert that the historical 4 P model is incomplete and one that inevitably must include the elements of people and, accordingly, execution.

Lining up the right people to execute and be accountable for the plan is critical — so much so, it needs to be part of the planning mix. Essentially, Marketing Mix Theory needs to be redefined to encompass the totality of product launch protocol. If NASA can substantiate the rewriting of every textbook that references Pluto as the ninth planet, then we can substantiate the writing and reformulation of the Comprehensive Marketing Mix to include the fifth P.

We can further understand the need to include people as the fifth P by invoking the old axiom: “You are only as strong as your weakest link.” The 4 P’s are essentially purely theoretical and while purporting to optimize product launch success — it neglects the dynamic that may not ensure success but does mitigate certain failure. Therefore the traditional 4 P’s model has a missing link, which means the old “chain” is unsustainable as a complete model.

The traditional marketing mix is useful and imperative — it has been a strong theoretical framework that is undeniable. However, 21st century business is evolving in complexity in which interdepartmental and cross-functional teams tease etiquette and norms. I challenge the world of marketing professionals to consider that the traditional 4 P model is incomplete, limiting and not optimized because it neglects the aligned execution component.

Much as the discipline of corporate finance is considered applied economics, sales is, or should be considered, applied marketing. The strongest sales teams are marketing foot soldiers; they must understand the brand message, the position, the price and the product. They are like fraternal twins, in as much as they may look different within the company, but they are truly united in a unique way — more so than any other two disciplines in business.

There seems to be an inexorable trend that sees corporate disciplines, especially sales and marketing, spiraling closer to dynamics of alignment and synergy. Why? Because alignment and synergy are additive in nature — self-leveraging if you will. They utilize momentum as free energy by reducing inconsistencies and redundancies; it is a natural and intuitive path. Input from diverse teams across various departments acts as the annealing process in establishing strong alignment and synergy within a company.

The original 4 P’s all need to be considered in relation to each other. It doesn’t really matter in what order they are defined. That said, the fifth and critical P, people, should be considered once the framework around the primary 4 is constructed. The model will take on a personality, if you will, and from there, you can best define the specific assets needed and develop the execution strategies for an effective comprehensive marketing mix.

The only thing we can ever know for certain is that things can and will change. They must, as pure stagnancy is not allowed by the laws of physics (specifically: The Law of Entropy and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principal of Quantum Mechanics). In fact, I think that Charles Darwin and John Maynard Keynes would have agreed that natural selection is embedded in the fabric of capitalism. The traditional way in which you take a new product or service to market needs to change so that it incorporates people.

People buy from people and people buy trust and integrity. As part of the Comprehensive Marketing Mix Plan to optimize a product launch, both people and the execution strategies must be considered. The old 4 P model is useful, just incomplete, especially when considering that sales and marketing departments are drawing nearer in mission and alignment.

Given these few examples, fabricators should start by intentionally as well as intuitively considering the marketing mix if they are looking to launch any of the following: a new brand; product line; custom-developed product; new service; and/or an expansion plan. Only by doing so can they properly combine the ingredients to capture and promote a brand or product’s unique selling points that differentiate it from its competitors.

These are the traditional considerations:

Product — A product can be either a tangible good or an intangible service that fulfills a need or want of consumers. It’s imperative that you have a clear grasp of exactly what your product/brand/service is and what makes it unique before you can successfully market it.

Price — Once a concrete understanding of the product offering is established, you can start making some pricing decisions. Price determinations will impact profit margins, supply, demand and marketing strategy. Similar products and brands may need to be positioned differently based on varying price points.

Promotion — Promotion looks at the many ways marketing agencies disseminate relevant product information to consumers and differentiate a particular product or service. Promotion includes elements like advertising, public relations, social media marketing, email marketing, search engine marketing, video marketing and more.

Place — Often you will hear marketers saying that marketing is about putting the right product, at the right price, at the right place, at the right time. It’s critical then, to evaluate what the ideal locations are to convert potential clients into actual clients. Today, even in situations where the actual transaction doesn’t happen on the web, the initial place many potential clients are engaged and converted is online.

And this is where traditional marketing textbooks end. With the 4 P’s analyzed and strategized, it is imperative, in fact, absolutely required that consideration now be given to who is your execution team and what are the actual execution strategies. This is where the fifth P comes in and will essentially complete the marketing mix framework.

Good people are hard to find. Human resource departments employ interviewing techniques to evaluate authenticity, sincerity, cognitive ability and, in a way, psycho-emotional stability. Once you have determined the ideal sales candidates’ qualifications, you need to plan a way and leave ample time to recruit the optimal team.

While recruiting, analyses and discussions can center around how and when to execute the product launch. You will have to consider time of year, locations, with whom, what point of purchases are required, is a grand or soft opening needed, etc. when coming up with the optimal product launch. These are just some of the many executables requiring consideration to ensure the highest probability of success.

Starting today, give yourself, your team and your company every chance to succeed. The historical marketing model of the 4 P’s defining the marketing mix should be replaced by the 5 P’s defining the Comprehensive Marketing Mix. People and execution strategies are equally important as any other part of the launch analysis and planning. Sales and marketing may appear as different as chimpanzees and humans but always remember, we share 96 percent of the same genetic make-up; such is the bond of sales and marketing and why it is the dawn of a new understanding of the true and comprehensive 5 P Marketing Mix.

About the Author

Paul Max Le Pera is the Global Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Hirsch Glass & Spectrum Quartz, with 20 years’ experience in business and marketing strategy for the building materials industry. He can be reached at (908) 358-5252 or [email protected]