The 5th “P” in marketing: people


I am teaching an introduction to marketing honours class at Rutgers Business School.

On the first day of class I addressed my students as follows:

“You will be tested on the course material in this class not because it represents immutable truths that will last you a lifetime; rather you will be tested to demonstrate your ability to learn and to apply what you learn. The most significant aspect of a college degree is not that you graduate knowing everything you need to know, but that you are ready for the continual learning curve that will be your career.

Employment is just another form of graduate school, albeit a preferable one. In college, you pay tuition for the privilege of learning. When you are employed, someone will pay you to learn, apply what you learn, and then continue to learn and grow.

Stop learning in today’s business world and your skills and knowledge will be obsolete in three years.”

In classic textbook theory, the four Ps of the marketing mix are:

  1. Price.

  2. Product.

  3. Promotion.

  4. Placement.

In the real world today, the 5th “P” in the marketing mix is people: your people, your team, the staff that makes it happen for you, your audience, and your advertisers. Many INMA bloggers have referenced the reality that, in the digital world, capitalising presses, infrastructure, and distribution networks no longer represent the barrier to entry that once limited the competitive field.

So what sets us apart when we are competing on a comparatively level playing field? Faster, fancier computers? Hardly. I have seen plenty of under-utilised hardware in the hands of people who haven’t been properly oriented on how to use it effectively.

Legacy media companies certainly have enormous brand equity and plenty of other advantages to bring to bear on today’s marketplace challenges. But truthfully it all boils down to how good your people are. And I have news for you: It isn’t just about so-called “marketing” people.

It is time to recognise that marketing needs to be concerned with everyone involved in the enterprise, and that everyone in the enterprise needs to be concerned with marketing.

Marketing has a major role to play in the acquisition, management, and ongoing professional development of all the human resources of the enterprise. From IT tech to journalist, account executive to accounting clerk, they all need to contribute to your competitive edge.

As I referenced in my October 2014 blog post, that also means they all need to share a common purpose, understand the direction you’re heading in, and have the necessary skill sets to get the job done. As I referenced in my June 2013 blog post, it also means you must have culture of constant learning and constructive change.

And as Steve Gray references in his current blog post “How to change behaviour in your disrupted organisation,” you are one of the most critical people of all if you are in a position of leadership. You have to set the course, communicate common purpose, and foster that learning environment.

My next blog will address the 6th “P” in marketing. Anyone want to guess my topic?

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