Monthly Archives: July 2009

When 4 “Ps” are not enough – part 2

In my previous post I wrote about the limitation of the traditional textbook “4Ps” approach to building marketing mixes in particular in the field I’m the most familiar with: the B2B high-tech one.

The other Ps one can find in the literature, for most of them, I believe don’t really apply in this market. (see this same previous post on these other Ps).

So, what’s needed then?

In my experience, I found that 2 more “Ps” were needed: Partners and Projects. Let me elaborate a bit on these.

Most B2B high-tech solutions seldom works in a vacuum. A solution offer by a company almost always requires third-parties companies to step in and complete the solution. Therefore, unless your company is in the business of providing these additional functionalities or the integration or customization needed (think “IBM” or “HP” for instance, although those still use numerous partners), you must enroll one or several partners to make a sale happen and satisfy a customer need.

Examples of the need for such ecosystem are plentiful so let me just give a few examples…

  • A “box” vendor will need companies to install and integrate the box into a broader system:
    • A router to an network infrastructure
    • An MPEG2 encoder to a satellite broadcasting system
  • A software vendor will need partners to integrate the software
    • A system integrator to integrate a CRM system into an existing backend
    • An embedded device OS vendor to port the OS on a specific hardware
  • A system vendor will need third-parties to complement their solution
    • A media-server software vendor for a digital signage solution vendor
    • A storage solution vendor for a hosting solution provider

As you can see the examples are endless. However there are a few key dimension one can think of while thinking through this mix:

  1. What is the type of ecosystem engagement and structure needed?
    • Depth: a few key partners?
    • Breadth: a large ecosystem, for instance located close to the end-customer across the globe?
    • Tiered: a limited set of key partners and a much larger set of breadth ones (such as the tiered Microsoft Partner Network, formerly known as Microsoft Partner Program)
  2. When will partner impact our product sales cycle:
    • Before the sale: need to offer this 3rd party solution as part of our total solution (and quote to customer)
    • With the sale: the customer will simultaneously purchase our solution and products from one or more partners
    • After the sale: one the customer has initiated the purchase, he will use this partner’s products or services to install, integrate, support or expand our solution
    • All of the above?
  3. Do we need one type of partners or are they various categories of partners?
    • Software vendors, hardware vendors, system integrators, trainers…
    • Small, medium or large companies?
    • multinationals, regional players or small local players?
  4. What type of partner marketing activities will I be having?
    • Depths or Breadth partner marketing activities?
      • Depth:  1:1, such as face to face meetings, partner-level partner account planning…
      • Breadth: 1 to many partners, such as a webcast, partner summits, newsletters, websites…
      • Or a combination or both?
    • What type of partner marketing activities: to, through or with partner marketing?
      • To Partner marketing: Targeting partners to inform and train them, influence their management chain and sales force, integrate your messaging into theirs,etc.
      • Through partner marketing: Providing partner the tools to promote your solution through their sales channels.
        • Customer-ready collateral such as customizable leaflets, PowerPoint presentations, product demos…
        • Below the line marketing support: company co-branded email campaigns templates, banners for shows or websites, branded swag (stuff we all get)…
      • With/Co Partner marketing: when activities are done together such as:
        • Your company present on a partner booth at a trade show (or vice versa)
        • A combined technical seminar or webcast, each company presenting its own part of a total solution
        • Promo offer combined both products for a better price
      • All of those 3?

This framework, integrated into the process of developing a marketing mix can help ensure this critical part of the puzzle is not overlooked.

The last “"P” I use is Projects, or the impact a few key projects or customers can have on the overall business. This will be the topic of my next post.

When 4 “P”s are not enough for good marketing – part 1

Amongst the numerous tools that every marketer should have in his or her toolbox, the famous “4Ps” are surely the most well known (with the BCG matrix probably).

If you don’t know what this refer to, well you probably don’t need to read this post. If you do I won’t insult you by explaining them in details.

Although this Product-Place-Promotion-Price quartet seems to cover most of the aspects of a traditional marketing mix, I found that in B2B high-tech markets this was too limited.

First let’s look at a few extensions already proposed:

  1. People
  2. Processes
  3. Physical Evidence
  4. Packaging
  5. Public Opinion
  6. Political Power

plus many other random ones, that could in most cases be folded into the initial 4Ps such as principle, purpose, perception….

My take on this is that although I understand the thinking behind these, I believe they are mostly subset of others or tactical/support issues. Not core marketing mix aspects especially in a B2B high-tech market.

The first 3 are more detail implementation level aspects of products and promotions for Service industries for instance:

1. People

This P is all about the various people in your organization that will interact with your customers. You want them to do the right things (to oversimplify my understanding of this). Duh! Of course! You also want the light to stay on, the email system to work, etc. This is not to me a mix element per se but a fall-out of the the overall strategy.

For instance, if you release a new product or service but your customer support does not know the products, or how to react to specific expectations (think of a “gold level” customer, say for a credit card or a hotel chain, not being aware of this new tier of customer or not treating them better than the average customer), this launch is poised to fail. But, this is more a “must-have” infrastructure adjustment, not a mix element per se.

2. Process

As per People, this is more about infrastructure than market mix per se. It’s about implementing the product promise the way it should be nothing more. It’s intrinsically part of the “product” “P”. Or it should be.

3. Physical Evidence

Once again this is to me more an extension of a product or service feature.

4. Packaging

This one is straight forward: Packaging is part of the “Product” or the “Promotion”, depending on what your do (default packaging or special one linked with a specific promotional activity). And in the B2B high-tech world, it’s really so minor that’s calling this out separately is not worth it. Especially when talking about products like industrial devices, software…

5. Public Opinion

Public opinion is nothing more that the result of our promotion overall tactics. Be it press relations, analyst, community, social networking (such as my new Twitter feed, LinkedIn, Viadeo, plaxo…)…

6. Political Power

I would agree that is some situations, lobbying with the governments, unions… could be a key element of success. However, although it’s good to keep this in mind, I would argue that, in most cases, this is not critical to a product launch.

The one big exception would be, in the B2B high-tech space, or in the high-tech space in general, the power or standardization bodies (such as the ones that built the various MPEG standards, OpenCable, GSM…). This could be a critical part of the mix in some cases… or completely irrelevant in other cases.

However, this is often very strategic, long term and involve much more investments that a traditional, regular, product launch. If this is not fixed by the product launch it is probably too late. One exceptions are products that could be “field upgraded” as needed, such as Wireless draft-n routers to final versions ones.

One can find more about those extra “Ps” on those sites:

In conclusion for now….

In the next blog post I’ll move to the 2 extrat “P”s that I believe, based on my experience, are often very important within a B2B High-tech environment: Partner and Project.