The sixth “P” in marketing: partners


Many media companies today have addressed the traditional four Ps of the marketing mix.

They have developed a robust array of digital and traditional solutions for both advertisers and content consumers (products). For the most part, they have priced them competitively. And they have communicated their availability comprehensively (promotion and placement).

Yet success eludes them.

In today’s media environment, there are too many competitors offering comparable solutions. Successful differentiation and positioning relies on an expanded definition of the marketing mix, one where you must embrace a new role as a partner.

My December blog post presented the first installment of an expanded vision of the traditional four Ps of the marketing mix (price, product, promotion, and placement) taught internationally at colleges and universities.

In that blog post, I urged marketers to recognise that success today and in the future is based more so on the human resources and talent (the fifth “P” – people) of your organisation than on your IT infrastructure or capital assets.

Too often, marketing strategists overlook the acquisition, retention, and currency of the strategic human resources necessary to make all the other parts work. This time around, as promised, I will discuss the sixth “P” – partners.

Let me begin with an anecdote: A fellow executive once asked me why he and I were in conflict on many professional issues. We certainly got along well enough socially, but we fundamentally disagreed on many business decisions.

I had realised this and already had given the situation thought, so I had a reply ready: “It’s simple. I am a marketer and you are a marine.”

Not unexpectedly, he didn’t understand, so I explained, “You bring military training to what you view as the business battlefield. You do not feel that you have achieved a win until you are sure that the other party has lost.”

He acknowledged with some pride his ability to wring the most out every negotiation, and I continued:

“I bring marketing training to the business marketplace. I am oriented to achieve a win-win. I want long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with advertisers, vendors, subscribers, and members of the community. I want them to finish each transaction or engagement satisfied enough that they not only want to come back and repeat the experience, they prefer to work with us instead of a competitor.

Too often, you win the short-term negotiation but sacrifice the long-term relationship because one wants to do business with you a second time. You don’t know how to be a good partner.”

To his credit, he thought it over and acknowledged the truth in my observation. 

Early in my career I learned that sustainable marketing most often involves creating and maintaining mutually successful relationships with other members of your external value chain. I stopped thinking in terms of vendors, subscribers, readers, and advertisers and started thinking in terms of partners.

When you think about it, all of the members of your value chain — whether they are suppliers, contractors, employees, customers, or just neighbours — contribute to your success. Building on this realisation, you have to recognise the value in reciprocation; you also need to think and act like a partner.

In every engagement, you should consciously ask yourself how you are contributing to the other party’s success while pursuing your own objectives. This will differentiate you from other like organisations and products. It will position you as their partner.

When each client, vendor, or reader recognises you as part of their success formula, as a preferred and enduring relationship, you have secured another piece of your future.

In closing, I will quote from my November 2012 blog post: “Here is the paradox we need to understand and embrace: If we focus on maximising our clients’ success rather than our own, we will become more successful ourselves.”

Interesting perspective? Please comment on how you have achieved “partner” status. My next blog post will address the seventh “P” in the expanded marketing mix.

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