The first lesson any marketing student learns is that of Kotler’s 4Ps of marketing. There have been more Ps added with time, but the first 4Ps have remained fundamental to any marketing lesson.
The advent of Internet as a medium, however, has challenged the traditional paradigm. The medium is extremely powerful and dynamic. Unlike the print and electronic media, Internet packs many marketing functions into one. It’s the medium for promotion, the channel for sales and the window for customer service. The era of Internet and digital marketing requires us to create new theories and learn new lessons. In this article, I would like to talk about the new 4Ps relevant for digital marketing. These 4 Ps are- people, process, platform, and period.
Let’ understand what each of these 4Ps means.
The competencies and attitude required to play in the digital arena are different from the traditional marketing skills. The latter is based upon long cycles of designing and implementing the marketing program, conducting research and feeding back into the program from possible changes. The cycle of feedback and changes is reduced considerably in the digital arena and hence it requires people to be inquisitive, constantly alert to ‘trends’ and acting upon the visible trends.
The ability to discern trends from the data, generate query based insights, ability to use analytics tools and take course corrective actions are important skills people need for digital marketing. They are not required to be hard core data scientists but should have a very inquisitive and alert mind and fitting skills.
Another people aspect is that of ‘collaborative’ attitude. As the lines between functions and departments blur and an integrated play is the need, collaboration between various teams assume increased importance. Apart from building the attitude, the structures, roles & responsibilities need to be designed for increasing collaboration between people across functions.
Process assumes great importance in the digital arena from an integration perspective. As Internet is a medium, which packs too much into one, the marketing processes need to be ideally integrated with other enterprise processes like sales, logistics, production, procurement and customer service. Unlike the traditional view of standalone ‘functions’ structure of an organization, which is integrated by people and intermediate practices, the digital view requires IT to integrate the various processes. Without an appropriate level of back end integration, the digital view may remain grossly ineffective and inefficient.
Since, the core underpinning in the digital view is speed; the lack of automated integration may put all the investment in digital marketing into the drain. For example, a customer acquisition process may find a disgruntled customer venting her frustration, which needs to be forwarded to the customer service team for an adequate resolution. Such acts cannot be done manually, new processes need to be defined for handling them and they need to be integrated by IT. The lines between sales, marketing, customer service blur in the digital space and they all need to play an integrated play.
Process integration is possible when the underlying technology platform is agile and integrated. A lot is being talked about SMAC + now a day, which represent the range of new technologies, which make digital marketing possible. But many do not realize that a well oiled IT platform is required for SMAC +to deliver its true value. The platform needs to be ready in terms of the six foundation layers- (people) experience, document management, process, applications, data and IT infrastructure.
Digital marketing, for this very reason, has to be a joint play by marketing and the IT. A functional relationship between the two is a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for success of digital marketing. Many digital marketing initiatives are being run alone by the marketing function, but for a deeper play, the relational, structural and technological integration is a must with the IT function (as explained above for people and process). Clarity of roles and responsibilities and appropriate structures to promote the integration between the two must be identified and put in place.
Nothing is constant in the digital world. Social media platforms build up fast and go out equally fast. Unlike the traditional marketing, where a media remains relevant relatively for a longer period of time and knowledge is available for the media managers to take decisions, any such thing is difficult in the digital arena (if not completely impossible).
Platforms are built, changed, acquired, integrated and even killed by the owners depending on their own business aspirations. The available options need to be understood, utilized and exploited very fast, all done together. Those who can create the relevant knowledge and practice shall emerge as the winners (refer to the first P- people).
These 4Ps do not replace Kotler’s 4Ps but they support them to become effective in the digital arena. Any meaningful digital marketing initiative must focus on these new 4Ps apart from the traditional ones. Without them the desired objectives may remain unfulfilled.