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4 P's + 2 C's

Marketing in the New Millennium

By Theo Muller


When the marketing concept was developed in the fifties, the marketing guru's and academics of the day argued that an effective marketing plan should centre on what became known as the 4 P's: Product, Price, Place (Distribution) and Promotion. Even some modern marketing texts mention the 4 P's, hopefully only to demonstrate that the marketing concept as it first saw daylight is now hopelessly out of date.

If a marketing strategy based on the 4 P's is not placing major emphasis on the 2C's, the product or service will almost certainly fail in today's competitive environment. The 2 C'' of course are the Customer and the Competitor.

As a marketer, what do you know about your Customer? Who are the people who buy your products and services? Why do they buy these type of products and why do they buy your products and not the competitors' or vice versa? How often do they buy? Where do they live and work and do you have their contact details?

A lot of these questions were not relevant 10 or 20 years ago, simply because we did not have the means of getting answers. However, that has changed with the development of technology and marketers now have access to all sorts of contact management packages that allow them to segment the market very accurately. Database marketing and relationship marketing shifted the goal posts significantly and companies who early recognised the power of customerisation - developing a marketing strategy based on customer needs and wants - developed an early competitive advantage.

That brings me to the second C in the equation, the Competitor. We live in a competitive world with an oversupply situation in just about every product or service category. Thousands of restaurants are competing for the eating-out dollar which can only be spent once. There is an oversupply of supermarkets, lawyers, dentists, petrol stations, plumbers and builders. There is choice galore if we are in the market for a new or used car. Want something printed? The Wellington Yellow Pages has seven pages of them - take you pick. Funeral Directors - 3 pages. Competition is everywhere and it is tough.

Don't think that your product or service is better because it is not! Discerning customers of the nineties are ruthless - if a product or service is not at least up to scratch, the customer will kill it off very quickly by not buying. To have a good quality product simply provides the vendor with a drivers' licence to stay in business - nothing more. If as a vendor you want to achieve more than that i.e. make a profit on a sustained basis, you will have to do something your competitors are not doing. Your competitors have good products and services too (if not, they would not still be in business) and since a customer can only spend his/her dollar on any particular product or service once, you will have to find out how you are going to convince the customer to spend his/her money with you and not with your competitor.

So it figures that you need to know what your competitors are up to. They may be doing something that you should be doing! And don't wait with this till your have lost all your customers - that's probably too late!

Sam Walton, the founder of Walt-Mart Stores in the USA spent a considerable amount of time visiting competitor stores throughout the country to learn what they were up to - not to see what they were doing wrong, but to learn what they were doing different and whether that brought in the customers.

What do you know about your competitors? What is the service like they give to their (and your) customers? What are they doing in terms of promotion and advertising? How much are they spending on promotion? How many sales people do they have? What distribution arrangements do they have? Again, a thousand and one questions about your competitors and the way they do business.

Effective marketing is all about having a good product or service, looking after your customers better than anybody else does, having a sound understanding of what your competitors are up to and keeping that knowledge up to date. Develop systems and processes that allow you to log this information and be prepared to use this intelligence to develop a competitive advantage.

Superior service delivery (customer focus) and outwitting your competitors has the potential to earn you a slot in the hall of business fame.

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