Traditional marketing theory has for years been based on a fundamental principle known as the 4P’s. It was all something to do with Product, Place, and the Price of fish if I remember correctly. We’re in a different world from the one when they emerged. It’s now the ‘age of abundance’, massive customer choice, overcapacity, 24/7 connectivity, multi-media, global competition, rapid change, information overload, and significantly greater market transparency – the customer now has much more control.

I honestly think that it’s time to forget those 4 P’s – In my humble opinion, the original 4 P’s are Passe, Past it, ‘kaPut’ and Pointless. So I offer you a new set of P’s for the ‘age of customer control’, and conveniently, I’ve come up with 4 (pity this isn’t a podcast, because you’d have 4P’s in an iPod!). Anyway, here they are:

Permission

As consumers we’re constantly bombarded with advertising messages – one estimate I came across the other day suggests we see, hear, feel or touch over 1500 a day! Many are irrelevant and irritating- is it only me who’s tired of seeing a fat opera singer going on about insurance on the TV? We’re also putting up more barriers to stop them getting through: apparently 72% of adverts are skipped by people with PVR’s like Sky+ in the UK, record numbers of people are ‘opting out’ from receiving ‘junk mail’ through mail preference schemes, preventing ‘cold calls’ by being ex directory, and enabling ‘Spam Filters’ that block unwanted emails are common place.

Today’s successful marketeers recognise that it means getting ‘permission’ from prospects and customers. This means making stuff relevant and interesting, it means targeting and building relationships with people who WANT to do business with you. Forget unwanted intrusive, mass marketing to huge databases or frantically giving out and collecting as many business cards as possible at your next networking meeting to build a huge mailing list. Remember, size isn’t everything! Better to develop relationships with smaller groups of people who are genuinely interested and have bought in to what you have to offer. ‘Blogs’ and ‘social media’ are real evidence of this, as are websites like this – people choose to engage when it suits them.

Participation

Today’s customers want dialogue, not diatribes. 76% of people don’t believe companies tell the truth in advertisements. Forward thinking businesses are having ‘conversations’ with their customers and prospects. When was the last time you actually had a ‘conversation’ with your customers (about the things that count, not just the weather, TV celebrities or the outstanding invoice!). Research suggests that over half of business leaders believe that they do not engage in true dialogue with their customers. Why not give your customers a ‘damn good listening to’? Build feedback mechanisms into your business, get customers to give you their opinions and ideas, ‘test’ things out with them, set up networks, user groups and forums, and collaborate. Break down the barriers and make it easy to have two way conversations in ways that suit your customers, not just you.

Performance

This is the real ‘battle ground’ for competitiveness. 49% of customers say that their customer experiences are ‘bland’. ‘Performing’ means creating a ‘remarkable’ customer experience (that’s ‘remarkable’ as in worth remarking about). It’s not about a ‘one off’, it means ‘performing’ consistently and continually looking at ways of doing it better. What are the key elements that make up your company’s ‘performance’? It could be your products, your pricing, your service, anything in fact that gives you the ‘edge’. It’s vital that it’s the stuff that your customers say is important.

Winning businesses think in 3D – they are Dramatically and Demonstrably Different. In this world of endless choice, being the ‘same as’ gets you nowhere. It’s not just about being different, but letting people know you are different. What does your business do to demonstrate your ‘Dramatic Difference’? Do you actually have a ‘Dramatic Difference’? Consistency in ‘Performance’ develops ‘trust’ and ‘trust’ creates a bond. This not only means improved customer retention and loyalty, it also produces greater referrals and recommendations. How does your ‘performance’ build trust with your customers?

Proliferation

‘Proliferation’ happens when people start talking about what you do. Word of mouth is rapidly becoming more and more important in reaching customers and potential customers. 93% of people claim that ‘word of mouth’ is one of the most reliable sources of information (up from 50% in 1977), and texts, mobile phones, email, websites and ‘social media’ are making this easier.

Good news (and bad) spreads quickly. Remember, word of mouth only works if there’s something worth talking about. Today’s successful marketeers have a strategy for maximising ‘proliferation’ – not by overt ‘marketing hype’ but by energising their market place, becoming part of the community, by standing out from the crowd, and creating that buzz – a lot of it comes back to that ‘Demonstrable Dramatic Difference’!

As customers, we’re becoming more prone to trusting our peers, friends and colleagues when it comes to buying decisions rather than the adverts we read, see or hear. Think about your own recent purchasing decisions – how many of those were prompted or influenced by word of mouth? So how do you measure up? When it comes to marketing, are you in the old world or the new one? Why not revisit your approach to winning and retaining business and work out what the new 4P’s mean for you? In the meantime, may P’s be with you.

Andy Hanselman is a recognised expert in improving business competitiveness. He writes, speaks and consults on business competitiveness, sales, marketing and customer care issues. For more information visit: http://www.andyhanselman.com

Author: Andy Hanselman

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