The Marketing Mix
The marketing mix is an important set of parameters that can be adjusted to create an ideal marketing strategy. Every product has a unique set of marketing needs which can be broadly placed into four categories: product, price, place, and promotion (Jolly 2007). Each of these categories is variable and marketers must make decisions to control their effect on the overall marketing strategy. Finding the optimal blend of each variable will contribute to a successful marketing campaign. A company with which I am familiar, Microsoft, provides many examples of how the marketing mix can be used to impact a marketing plan. The software giant has been able to use a wide range of advertising mediums to advance their products to public. As with any company, Microsoft has adjusted some aspects of the marketing mix more drastically than others. Every industry has unique needs will ultimately influence the decisions of the company in its marketing strategy.
The product category refers to the marketer’s ability to make changes to the product’s style, name, packaging, quality, etc. Changes to the physical product can be used to make the product more attractive to the targeted customer base. Competitive markets have caused businesses to make decisions that affected the look and appearance of a product in order to draw the attention of customers. Most products require some degree of marketing input, regardless of quality or condition (Mind Tools2008). In the case of Microsoft, the appearance of their software products is important to the overall marketing strategy. The software market demands that the software interface is atheistically pleasing, regardless of the overall functionality (DeGroot 2005). Microsoft has recognized this need from its customer base and made an effort to improve the look of the graphical user interface. Decisions about the look and feel of a product are directly related to needs uncovered from marketing research. Throughout the years the company has developed features in response to the request of customers. In addition, many features have been added to improve the customer’s experience with the product. For example, on their latest release of Vista operating system software, Microsoft added features that improve the overall appearance of the program. Although this does not add greater functionality to the software, it grabs the customer’s attention and increases the desire to purchase the product. Overall, product is the first and in many cases the most important component of the marketing mix.
Price is the second component of the marketing mix and plays an important role in the marketing strategy. When shopping for similar products, price is often the factor that determines the customer’s purchasing decision. Both consumers and businesses place a high level of importance on the price of a product. Marketers look at the prices of competitors and make pricing decisions based on the demand of the market. Many companies lay out a strategy to price their products below those of competitors, although this is not always the case (Mind Tools 2008). Microsoft has adapted a strategy that targets pricing to specific customers. For example, the Microsoft Office software suite has been targeted to students at a discounted price. The company has made their product available to students at a lower price to increase their sales volume and build brand loyalty. Pricing the product lower allows students access to otherwise expensive product that could be replaced by less expensive competitors. This pricing decision will ultimately lead to long term sales because young customers will develop a certain degree of loyalty and familiarity to the software. Pricing is a critical aspect of the marketing mix and can have substantial impact on a customer’s purchasing decision.
Place refers to the availability of a product in a location or geographical region. Some products are available worldwide, whereas others can only be purchased in a very specific region. Many products are available only through an individual store front, while others can be purchased in thousands of different locations (Mind Tools 2008). The internet has greatly expanded the visibility of many products by allowing customers to place orders over the web. Many businesses have recognized the value that the internet has in marketing and have produced websites that help sell their products. A store can amplify their customer base with a relatively low investment by promoting their products over the internet. Microsoft has created a global strategy for product availability. Their software products can be purchased in a wide variety of locations that include both physical and virtual locations. Furthermore, the company has contracted with personal computer manufacturers to exclusively carry their operating system (DeGroot 2005). There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding this strategy and some say that it violates antitrust laws. Essentially, a customer that buys a personal computer cannot avoid the purchase of the Microsoft software that is included as part of the purchase. In general, greater access to a product will increase sales volume; however exclusivity can be beneficial and increase the perceived quality of a product.
The final step in the marketing mix is promotion, which refers to the way a business publicizes its product offerings. There are many approaches to this step and it is often referred to as advertising. Some of the most common advertising mediums include television, radio, print, and the internet. Ultimately, the advertising medium will be dependent upon the needs of the business and the strategy outlined in the marketing plan. The primary goal of this step is to educate the target customers and give them a compelling reason to purchase the product. In addition, the promotion step also includes sales and public relations. Sales are an important part of nearly every business and can have a significant impact on the marketing plan of a company. A salesperson has direct contact with the customer and has the responsibility of displaying a positive image of the product and building a relationship with the customer. Most marketing strategies will contain a combination of both advertising and sales. The advertising efforts will initially draw the attention of the customer and the sales effort will close a deal. Sales can be conducted in person, over the phone, and even online. New internet technologies have been supplementing and in some cases replacing the duties that have been traditionally handled by sales reps. A balanced combination of sales and advertising will lead the healthy promotion of a product.
Microsoft utilizes both advertising and sales techniques to promote their products. Some of their most visible marketing campaigns have been conducted over the internet and television (DeGroot 2005). Advertisements over these mediums are primarily targeted at the end users of the software. The majority of computer users are already familiar with Microsoft products so much of the advertising is focused on upgrades and product enhancements. The majority of salesmanship is directed towards computer manufacturers. By developing relationships with computer manufacturers Microsoft has been able to sell their product to consumers as part of a package. This strategy has proved to be very successful and has established the company as the market leader in the software industry.
The basic marketing mix, which includes product, price, place, and promotion, is a concept for marketers to consider when developing a marketing plan. Finding the optimal blend between the four components is the primary objective of the marketing mix. Each component has a certain level of significance to a product; the level of which is unique for each individual product and the goals of the company. In my experience, promotion has been the most important part of the marketing mix and provides the most visible impact on sales volume. In addition, the promotion stage allows for a high degree of creativity through many available advertising mediums. Microsoft has utilized the marketing mix to become the market leader in personal computer software. They have established their leadership position by marketing their products to both businesses and consumers. Over the years their efforts have created a high level of brand loyalty, and in some cases dependency. In brief, the marketing mix serves as a robust guideline from which a business can develop a marketing plan.