In both B2B and B2C, the marketing mix is the set of operational areas in which to develop a strategy. While in B2C, the initial marketing mix (known as the 4P), gradually expanded to 9 or 10 P, in B2B, the marketing mix is limited to only 3 P’s:  price, performance, and proximity.

Defining the Marketing Mix in B2B

Définition du Marketing Mix en B2B

In 1964, the American academic Neil H. Borden coined the term “Marketing Mix” in an article entitled “The concept of Marketing Mix” and published in the Journal of Advertising Research. The Marketing Mix serves to operationally define your marketing strategy.

In the 1960s, the Marketing Mix was based on 4 areas (the “4Ps”):

  • Product:  the product policy:  which product range, which packaging, which associated services.
  • Price:  the pricing policy.
  • Place:  the distribution policy:  what network distribution which strength span data-contrast=”auto”>sales, the e-commerce.
  • Promotion:  the communication policy:  what marketing actions, what campaigns, what press/public relationships.

The B2B marketing mix

In B2B, the marketing mix can be broken down into the following 3 P’s: Price / Performance / Proximity.

  • The price: B2B products are most often complex products (physical goods or services). The price is an essential element. It is calculated according to many criteria: the quantities purchased, contractual clauses (late deliveries can, for example, lead to penalties for the supplier), the history of the relationship (buyer loyalty), the payment terms… The price is the result of a global solution personalized for a given customer. It is unique and has a direct impact on the buyer’s return on investment (ROI), hence its very sensitive nature.
  • Performance: in a B2B relationship, we are generally talking about goods or equipment (industrial or not) with services (maintenance, supervision, security…). It is therefore in most cases a package. The intrinsic quality of the product but also of the associated services directly or indirectly determines the quality of the services that the buyer will deliver to his customers. The notion of ROI is, once again, very present.
  • Proximity: business-to-business relationships create close relationships between a buyer and its supplier. Advice and support are decisive in the choice of a partner company. If the supplier wants to be retained by one of its prospects, he/she must, therefore, set up teams dedicated to the relationship and follow-up with its future customer.

The limitations of theoretical approaches to the Marketing Mix

One of the first criticisms that can be made of the “4P” Marketing Mix is that, in the supermarket sector, it is above all the supermarkets that set prices. Producers have less and less control over the “Price” variable.

What’s more, the Marketing Mix conceived during the thirty glorious years has evolved a lot since its invention. In the 1990s, some marketing experts wanted to rename the “4P” Marketing Mix to the “4C” Marketing Mix.

The “P” in Product has become the “C” in Consumer because it is indeed the consumer who should be the focus of marketing.

The “P” in Price has become the “C” in Cost. This cost variable can have two meanings: it is the total cost of the product or service (beyond its simple facial) but also the cost to the consumer of buying a product or service from a particular manufacturer or supplier:  the cost in terms of time spent to make the purchase, or the psychological and/or moral cost if you buy a product that you consider more or less in line with your values (fair trade, organic product…).

The “P” in Place has become the “C” of “Commodity” (convenience of purchase). The point of sale is important, but convenience of purchase is even more important: can the consumer buy by phone and/or order by mail?

Finally, the”P” in Promotion has become the “C” span data-contrast=”auto” > of Communication which also takes much more account of consumer inputs and is no longer conceived as a solely top-down message.

In the 2000s, a “5P” Marketing Mix emerged. Depending on the source, the fifth P can have several meanings. For some, it means ‘People’ i.e. the people you employ who will ensure the quality of your customer relations and your brand image. ‘People’ can also refer to your company’s customers with whom you need to interact at the highest quality level.

For some others, the fifth “P” stands for simply ‘Payment’, in order to take into account all issues related to payment, especially on e-commerce sites. But the most commonly accepted meaning for the fifth “P” is that of “People“.

Trends and innovations

In 2009, the Chartered Institute of Marketing validated the concept of a “7P” Marketing Mix. In addition to ‘People’ already present in the ‘5P’, the Process (the buying process, the processes within the company) and “Physical Evidence” (the physical proof).

The “P” in Process relates firstly to the study of the buying process of consumers. It can also refer to the company’s internal processes enabling it to offer an equivalent level of quality whatever itself int the contact points between the company and its prospects/customers.

The “P” in “Physical Evidence” consists of reassuring customers and prospects and giving them evidence relating to the legitimacy of the proposed offer:  testimonials and customer reviews, zoom on products (on an e-commerce site) or, for services, publication of studies or reports helping to provide tangible evidence of the quality of the services offered.

Also in 2009, Brian Fetherstonhaugh, the CEO of the agency Ogilvy & Mather, launched the Marketing Mix “4E” to : Emotion, Experience, Exclusivity and Engagement. These “4Es” also put the consumer back at the center of the marketing approach:

  • The “E” in Emotion refers to the motivations that drive a consumer to buy, the meaning of their act, the emotion they feel beyond the product or service itself;
  • The “E” in Experience concerns, on the other hand, what the customers will retain from their purchase: what they learned, what entertained them, what amazed them and what allowed them to escape;
  • The “E” in Exclusivity reflects consumers’ desire to feel unique in their relationship with a brand: personalization of messages but also of products, one-to-one approach, tailor-made customer relationship;
  • The “E” of engagement touches on the notion of meaning and utility for clients, to their desire to be able to express their creativity to co-build a brand by contributing to certain projects with it.

Other “P “s have been added over the years. For example, there is the eighth “P” for Partnership which encompasses all companies with which one forms close relationships that enhance a particular offering. The ninth “P” corresponds to “Permission Marketing.” In this approach, it is about ensuring that consumers have given their consent to receive emails, SMS, and commercial solicitations.

Finally the tenth “P” is that of the ‘Purple‘ cow. This phrase, coined by Seth Godinn author, speaker and former Yahoo direct marketing manager, emphasizes the need to stand out, to stand out in an ocean of more enticing propositions than the next.

Tools and methods

For each of the “Ps” in your marketing mix, describe precisely what actions you intend to implement. This will allow de structure your strategy, making it a coherent and effective whole.

Online resources about the marketing mix

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