Back in the 1960s, marketing guru E. Jerome McCarthy introduced the "4Ps" of marketing to drive revenue growth: product, price, promotion, and place. That formula was later expanded to "7Ps," and while they remain a sound starting point for any organization analyzing its growth strategy, the rules for implementing them have changed.
Digital communication technologies are altering consumer behavior in ways McCarthy and his adherents could never have imagined. Here's my own take on three new pieces of the puzzle that every growth-minded company needs to bear in mind.
Purpose: In the digital age, consumers' social conscience has never been stronger. They now want to know where their products and services come from and how they impact society, culture, and the environment.
Businesses that appeal meaningfully to this new conscientiousness can thrive. That's one reason why the recent uproar and lawsuit over alleged product flaws regarding Jessica Alba's The Honest Company has been so damaging. Consumers thought they were getting nontoxic, sustainably sourced products, but some claim that hasn't been the case, and that certain products are ineffective—contentions that The Honest Company disputes. While there's arguably never been so great an opportunity to cultivate a loyal following around a purpose-driven business, the pressure to deliver on it likewise has never been higher.
Personality: Social media now offers unprecedentedly immediate connections with celebrities and once-distant brands. Consumer engagement is now a more crucial and multifaceted game than ever before. Taken together, the wide variety of interactions customers can have with their favorite brands shapes a company's perceived personality, which lives and evolves in real time. For instance, Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer may appeal to a certain demographic, and for those fans he may add his own unique personality to the Rolex brand.
Of course, celebrity spokespeople have been around for a long time, but they're now being deployed with greater precision, targeting more carefully segmented "tribes" of customers who have deeper relationships with certain figures, thanks to social media. It's those relationships that brands want to tap into. Friends are more likely to recommend friends.
Picture: Given the modern consumer's limited attention span, the images that spring to mind when we think of a product are arguably now more important than any catchphrase. Marketing is becoming more visual, making imagery—in the most literal sense—more integral to a company's growth strategy than ever. Here, too, social media platforms are contributing. According to Mashable, more than half of all daily Facebook visitors in the U.S. watch at least one video a day on the platform. In fact, the number of video posts per person increased 94% in the U.S. over the past year. Further, 76% of American Facebook users say they use the social network to discover videos. The power of "pictures"—not taglines—is going to be a key battleground in the fight for consumers' perceptions.
It's worth reviewing the original "7Ps" to determine how these three new elements intersect with them when it comes to 21st-century growth hacking. Here's a quick crash course, geared to the modern consumer landscape.
Product: Understand your customers' needs and create products with benefits that exceed, not just fulfill them. If you sell the benefits, you can create demand. Present the product in the best possible way and ensure that the quality lives up to the expectations.
Price: What is your product "worth" in every sense of the term? Make sure it's positioned competitively, not just relative to competitors, but also with an eye to your intangible "brand value." As ever, your product is worth what your customer is willing to pay for it, but there may now be more factors impacting that willingness than before that need attending to.
Place: In many cases, physical location now matters less, but where you display and deliver your product still has an impact. For some businesses, digital technology has actually put a fresh emphasis on real-world experiences, even while opening the door wider to virtual ones. Whichever tools you use (now that there are more of them), be sure to put yourself in front of the customer at the right time with the right product in the right segment.
Promotion: Work out where your customers are hanging out, and choose the most efficient method of targeting them. The Internet has transformed this area, and every sales organization needs a carefully considered social selling strategy. And authenticity is key. With more platforms for making your company's voice heard, it's crucial to consider the tone it strikes, then listen for how customers respond to it. Promotion is now a conversation.
People: Your people are the ambassadors of your product, and your culture is often a mirror of the customer experience. Service is one of the key differentiators on this score: If you aren't taking care of your customer, your competitors will.
Process: Some of the biggest gains can come from improving or streamlining the sales process. Ensuring that it's designed for the customer’s convenience (not the company’s) is the starting point here. This "P" is often neglected, but it can be a source of huge competitive advantage. Just think of what Uber has managed to accomplish by building a process around customers' needs.
Proof: It's not always easy to help customers experience a product before they choose whether to purchase it, but it's usually possible to show them evidence of its benefits. Conversely, social media can generate helpful proxies for consumer interest. If a company sees huge engagement, it's at least likely that something about their product is worth talking about.
Serial entrepreneur Faisal Hoque is the founder of Shadoka. He is the author of Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation, and Sustainability (McGraw-Hill) and other books. Use the Everything Connects leadership app for free.
Copyright (c) 2015 by Faisal Hoque. All rights reserved.