Lipsticking the Pig

Marketing is a way to work on both your product and your business model

Ask a surgeon about the 4 P’s, they might tell you: pancreas, placenta, prostate, pulmonary. When operating, surgeons must take care with these organs, in particular, to avoid triggering blood clotting.

But ask a business writer, they’ll you about the 4 P’s of Marketing, also known as the marketing mix: promotion, product, price, place.

Today, 9 million people on LinkedIn have marketing in their profile. But when the marketing mix was coined in the 1960s, marketing was in-house research and analytical work at large companies like Proctor & Gamble. 

To sell Dove soap, there was work to be done on the product itself, its pricing, how and where it was placed, and promotion. 

This mix works today for consumer goods firms, though place now encompasses the Internet as well as offline retail locations. Promotion is what we think of as marketing – branding, advertising, PR, and marketing.

Or should I say over-think? Or over-emphasize.

That’s because it’s also important for marketers to think product – marketing tells the business how to shape the product to better solve the problems its audience has.

Marketing work that doesn’t revise the product risks being an exercise in lipsticking the pig.

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Let’s switch from the grocery-aisle world to our world, where niche B2B expertise is priced, positioned, productized, and promoted.

In our world, marketing is still a matter of product. And by product I mean your “standardized products & services plus content assets & resources”. Working on your product is much more important than worrying about place, in this world.

The other P that matters more than place in our Internet-world is positioning, which is embedding what you provide in the mind of your audience so it’s clear why it’s unique and compelling. Positioning is both a way of making decisions as well as something you do on an ongoing basis.

When I wrote about Business Models vs Marketing Plans, a business model innovation maestro on this list responded with a valuable insight – the marketing plan is the business model in action.

I think that’s correct, especially when product and positioning is part of what I’d call the expertise-firm marketing mix:

  • Positioning
  • Pricing
  • Product
  • Promotion

You can go backward too.

First, you create a strategic marketing plan that gets you clear on what you’re going to do about each of these 4 P’s.

Then you ask yourself, what does my business need to do to make this work? What core practices, core assets, partnerships, employees, contractors, positioning, value proposition, and financial planning need to be in place so that this marketing plan makes a profit?

Now you have the makings of a viable business model, instead of a lipstick-wearing pig.

Love you guys, have a fun week