Articles

Rethinking the four P's

By Richard Ettenson, Ph.D., Eduardo Conrado ’92 and Jonathan Knowles

It’s time to retool the four P’s of marketing for today’s business-to-business reality. As a framework for fine-tuning the marketing mix, the P’s — product, place, price, and promotion — have served consumer marketers well for half a century. But in the B2B world, they yield narrow, product-focused strategies that are increasingly at odds with the imperative to deliver solutions.

In a five-year study involving more than 500 managers and customers in multiple countries and across a wide range of B2B industries, we found that the four P’s model undercuts B2B marketers in three important ways: It leads their marketing and sales teams to stress product technology and quality even though these are no longer differentiators but are simply the cost of entry. It underemphasizes the need to build a robust case for the superior value of their solutions. And it distracts them from leveraging their advantage as a trusted source of diagnostics, advice, and problem solving.

It’s not that the four P’s are irrelevant, just that they need to be reinterpreted to serve B2B marketers. Our model shifts the emphasis from products to solutions, place to access, price to value, and promotion to education. Just remember the acronym SAVE.

To learn more, read our full article in the January-February 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review at hbr.org.

Richard Ettenson, Ph.D., is a professor and Thelma H. Kieckhefer Fellow in Global Marketing and Brand Strategy at Thunderbird. Eduardo Conrado ’92 is Senior Vice President, Marketing & IT at Motorola Solutions. Jonathan Knowles is the CEO of Type 2 Consulting.