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The Lost 5th “P” of Marketing: People

I stepped into my first Marketing 101 class at San Francisco State University almost 10 years ago. I remember choosing Business Marketing as my area of study because I didn’t know what that meant. Business, I thought to myself, isn’t that everything and nothing? How can you possibly study something so vague? Then, I met McCarthy and his four P’s. 

Product, Price, Promotion, Place. Like a proud child learning her ABC’s I’d recite the four P’s of marketing and try to put them into context. Product, like a pair of shoes. Price, like the difference between Rite-Aid brand ice cream and Dreyer's Rocky Road. Promotion, like coupons from Albertsons in my mailbox. Place, like the iPod Billboard at Stonetown on my way to campus (all these examples are sooo 2007). OK, that makes sense. I aced all the tests.

Really, you just need 4 P's? 

Then, real life came around. After a couple internships with amazing companies (shout out to Little Passports and Attack! Marketing) I landed my first marketing position at - the “GrubHub of the UK”, as I explained to my American friends. There, as the social media manager, I tried to put the 4 P’s into action and found myself getting stuck. Where are the people in this equation? Why don’t they get a P in McCarthy’s mix?

Turns out, they do get a P. The 7 P’s of service marketing, defined by Booms and Bitner, built upon the original 4 to include People, Process and Physical Evidence. But those People don’t refer to customers they refer to customer service agents, or the “people who are directly or indirectly involved in the trade of the product or service. They deliver a physical service with a visible result and are unique to the marketing of services”. This still didn’t satisfy me.

Customer service isn't just for the service industry 

Customer service is an intrinsic part of marketing - and not just for services, for products too. Marketing without customer service is like being invited to a free buffet and then not being able to eat because nobody will give you plate (I mean … I’ve got two hands, but it’s a classy affair). Customers don’t want to hear about your brilliant offer if all they want is a reply to their email, a response to their tweet or for someone to pick-up the blasted phone!!!  

Don't bullshit a bullshiter

Marketing can’t live - not for long - without customer service. Especially in our digital age. Customers are smart, they’re connected. As the saying goes, you can’t bullshit a bullshiter. And today’s impatient, mobile, socially savvy (I actually hate that word, but it’s accurate) customers are most definetly bullshiters. Social media and the internet at large have turned us all into consumer pros. We’re informed, we know our rights and we have the power to influence brands just as much as they influence us.

So the next time you’re putting together a marketing strategy, don’t forget the People - your customers. They put the P, quite literally, in VIP. Want to find out how to put people into your customer service offering? Check out The Innovator’s Guide to Social Customer Care and tell me you don’t find that little bee irresistible.