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Are the Four Ps of Marketing Obsolete in the Digital Age?

The Four Ps: Price, Product, Place and Promotion are the foundation of traditional marketing.  They have endured for decades. However, if the authors of a recent article found in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) are to be believed, their time has passed.  While many people might read the article and say that all they’ve done is reworded the concepts to create a new acronym, they have in fact, created the new paradigm for the Digital Age: SAVE.

The HBR article focuses on the ‘SAVE’ concept as it applies to the B2B environment.  However, I propose that their idea works for all types of businesses and is extremely applicable to social media.  Consider for a moment how people apply social media to their marketing efforts. Mel Campbell, who has taught thousands of people worldwide, including me, about social media, was asked if companies should take advantage of social media marketing. His reply was to take ‘social media’ out of the question and ask people if they should take advantage of ‘marketing’ in general.  The answer, in every case, was ‘yes’.

Of the four components of the SAVE concept, ‘Access’ and ‘Education’ are the most affected by the Digital Age.  Let’s start with ‘Access’.  There are almost as many cell phones in the U.S., as there are people, with more of those phones being smart phones. Consumers now have the ability to compare prices, check store inventory levels and even place orders using their phone.  Anyone with a bar code scanner app can easily scan a product’s UPC code and see how much it’s selling for at different retailers.  This played a part in Best Buy’s recent decline. Shoppers (not customers) went to Best Buy to speak with a Best Buy Associate. They learned what they needed and decided which product was best suited for them. Except, they did not make their purchase at Best Buy. They went to buy it elsewhere at a lower price.  That is why these people were not truly customers, only shoppers – they had no real intention of making their purchase at Best Buy.  As a result, Best Buy has changed their policy to match lower prices offered by online competitors.  Coincidence?  I think not.

‘Education’, rather than ‘Promotion’, allows consumers to make an informed decision.  One key way that companies educate is by using blogs/social media.  Blogs for Fortune 200 companies are up significantly in recent years, as reported by Shea Bennet on Media Bistro.  Blogs provide awareness and education to an audience that is most likely very open to the company’s message.  This is especially true about consumers that subscribe to a company’s RSS feed. They check their favorite companies’ sites regularly or use Google Alerts to be informed about keyword occurrences.  Clearly, the Digital Age is having an impact on how consumers become informed.

The concept of ‘Price’ as it relates to marketing and the Four P’s is being replaced by emphasizing the ‘Value’ that a company can provide to a customer.  The focus is not on the company itself, but on what value the customer will realize and how he/she will benefit.  Blogging gives companies more time to explain the benefits/values (of using their products) than is possible through traditional marketing vehicles, such as television ads or printed brochures.  Blogs can provide virtually unlimited content to consumers. They can embed links to their YouTube channel. They can even include links to third party sites that may have positively commented on their products.

Saving the best for last, ‘Solution’ replaces ‘Product’.  This is the absolute core of what blogging is about.  Blogs help business in numerous ways.  First and foremost, they provide valuable content to people that need it.  Secondly, they help create SEO results for the companies that use blogs. This helps direct people to the company websites where they can learn even more about the business.  Social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and the rest allow consumers to see how well an unfamiliar products helped other customers, introducing products to new and existing customers alike.

According to an article by Lee Odden from TopRank Marketing, “94% of bloggers reported seeing measurable SEO benefits from blogging within 12 months.”  Companies that take advantage of blogging see the results in their bottom line.  SocialStatCenter reports that more than half of the businesses that use blogs have acquired a customer because of it.  They further report that over 80% of businesses that use blogs rated them as ‘useful’, ‘important’ or ‘critical’ to their business.  With results like that, it is no wonder that more companies are using blogs to drive their business.

Owners of a hair salon in Seattle, Matt Buchan and Alex Garcia, began using social media in a big way to re-invent their business. Within only a few years, they state that 75% of their business can be traced back directly to their Facebook, Twitter and blogging efforts. Curbside Cupcakes, located in Washington D.C., uses social media to let their fans know where they will be each day with their mobile cupcake truck.  They have over 24,000 fans on Facebook alone.  When they use social media to let people know where the truck (called Pinky) will be, people often flock to the area to get their confectionary fix.  That’s a great example of using social media to provide Access, as well as Education (awareness).

This new ‘SAVE’ model brings a new way of thinking to business.  While some of the ideas are already in use by some companies, it will be awhile until it fully reaches its potential.  However, companies that have begun to use marketing, especially marketing avenues that take advantage of newer technologies, have found the results to be impressive.

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