When you finish a marketing piece and prepare to send it out into the world, how do you know if it’s going to influence prospects and make them more likely to buy your stuff? There are million variables and a fair bit of art in amongst the science. Whether we’re doing B2C or B2B web design, writing client copy, or running ads at JMarketing, we’ve found that a good check to perform is whether we’ve covered the 4 C’s of Marketing. 

The 4 C’s Marketing model came into existence in 1990 when Bob Lauterborn wrote an article outlining them and declared the 4 P’s ‘dead.’ 

Why? Because as you’ll see below, the 4 C’s are a customer-centric marketing approach, while the 4 P’s tend to focus more on how marketers view their product. 

So what are the 4 C’s? And why are they better than the 4 P’s? And what’s with marketing consultants and their obsession with 4 letter acronyms? All will be revealed below…

4 Cs of Marketing

The 4 P’s vs the 4 C’s

Let’s start with the original framework: the 4Ps. These are: 

  • Product (or Service)
  • Price
  • Place
  • Promotion.

These marketing objectives are all labelled from the business’s perspective rather than the potential customer’s. This is a common problem in business. 

Many businesses already market in a way that’s all about them and their products or services. They’re like the egotist at a party who talks about themselves for ages, and while you’re edging for a quick escape, rein you in with: ‘so enough about me, let’s hear about you. What do you think of me?’

When businesses are enamored by how great their products & services are, they forget to market from their customers’ perspective. This means their marketing campaigns don’t sell as much because the offers they make don’t grab the target audience’s attention. 

Consumers are always tuned to WII FM – what’s in it for me. Online, they’re even more distracted, meaning businesses have about 3 seconds to make an offer that’ll capture their target market’s imagination and fire up customers’ self-interest. 

In contrast to the 4 P’S, the 4 C’s are focused on what your ideal customer cares about. Here they are:

  • Customer (Wants and Needs) 
  • Cost  
  • Convenience
  • Communication  

Let’s look at how these two frameworks match up, and where they differ. 

Product vs. Customer Wants & Needs

The first two elements in the marketing mix are the Product vs. Customer Wants & Needs. Putting the product before the customer wants is top deadly sin of marketing. (Second only to being boring). Your target market doesn’t care about your product. They care about their wants and needs, and they care about how your product may (or may not) solve their problem. 

Putting this at the center of all promotions is a great start to creating marketing material that converts. 

For example, have a look at these two headlines: 

‘The Best Hairdressing Service in Alberta’

‘Get at Haircut that Makes You Look 5 Years Younger’

The first headline is about the service and the company. The second focuses on what the customer wants and what they will get. We’d be happy to put money on the second headline converting better. 

Price vs. Cost

At a first glance, these two considerations appear to be identical. However, the price is a simple dollar amount, while the cost can be studied more in depth. 

For instance, buying your service may mean the customer has to cancel another, competing service. This cost could be measured in anxiety (will your service truly replace the canceled one) or uncomfortableness. (For instance, if they have a strong relationship with their existing suppliers.)  

There’s also the cost of ownership to consider. Maybe the product you sell is cheaper but costs more to maintain. Customers will take this into account when they evaluate the initial price you charge. 

Evaluating the cost to the customer of buying from you is a valuable exercise. When you understand all the costs, whether in money, time, emotion or opportunity, then you can remove those costs to create a compelling offer. 

Marketing mix

Place vs. Convenience

‘Place’ refers to where the product is sold – online, offline, retail, wholesale, in person, through partners. Convenience approaches this same question from the perspective of the customer. 

How convenient is it for your customer to purchase your product or service? Do they have to drive across town, fill out a complicated order form, provide documentation, pay for expensive shipping…or can they do a one-click purchase with free shipping and have it show up on their doorstep the next day?

Making your product or service convenient to your customer is a powerful way to increase conversion. However, in order to deliver on this, you need to understand what true convenience means to your customer, and this can be different for each customer segment.

Promotion vs Communication

Promotion is how you get the word out to your prospects about the stuff you want to sell. Communication is broader. It encompasses all the communication a customer experiences when they interact with your brand. 

Under this paradigm, how your helpdesk chats with customers is just as important as the latest online campaign or media buy. Making communication consistent across all your business’s channels is a far more effective way to build long-lasting customer relationships. 

From the customers’ perspective, the best promotion in the world won’t alleviate the impact of a poor customer service experience, or product packaging that is off-brand. Once again, the 4 C’s focus on marketing from the customers’ perspective. 

In practice, this approach leads to better conversion and healthy business growth.

How to Use the 4 C’s of Marketing in Your Promotions 

Both the 4 C’s and the 4 P’s frameworks are ways to evaluate your marketing against the decision-making process of your potential customers.  

In every buying decision, customers run through a series of evaluations, assessing the risk of buying vs. the benefits of owning. Successful marketing removes friction from this assessment, giving prospects all the ammo they need to remove anxiety from the buying process.

Customer Decision-Making Formula

There’s a formula, developed by Marketing Experiments, that does a pretty good job of describing this decision-making process. 

C = 4m + 3v + 2(I-F) -2a

In this formula, the different elements are divided into attractors (motivation of the visitor, proposition clarity, and Incentive to take action,) and frictions: (friction elements of process, anxiety about entering information.)

Most marketing material centers on attractors. However, we’ve found that removing friction is incredibly powerful, and this practice is included in the 4 C’s. When you clearly address customer wants and needs, have a low cost, a convenient ordering process, and great communication, sales happen without effort. 

At JMarketing, we use a marketing strategy that carefully crafts messaging to appeal to customers. This strategy takes into account the 4 C’s and addresses all the frictions and anxieties which stop prospects from turning into customers.

If you’d like to find out more, have a chat with JMarketing and find out how we can help your marketing convert more customers.

Joshua Strawczynski

An expert in influencing consumer behaviour online. Josh is an award-winning digital marketer, business manager and best selling author. He regularly appears in the media, providing insights into using influence tactics to enhance marketing strategy effectiveness.

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