The 4 Cs of Marketing are a newer marketing model that helps us to understand the “set of marketing tools that a firm uses to pursue its marketing objectives in the target.” You may also hear this refer to as the “marketing mix.” This is not just some exercise for out-of-touch academics, though. Like the 7 Ps of Marketing, the 4 Cs of Marketing represent different ways you can make your small business customers feel comfortable.
It’s one thing to understand marketing, but it’s another thing entirely to apply it well. Once you set your small business marketing strategy, you need a way to measure your performance. The 4 Cs of Marketing provide another model which we can use to do that.
First, let’s cover a little background. The 4 Cs of Marketing were proposed by Robert F. Lauterborn. His goal was to create a new model that was more relevant in the modern era of niche marketing, believing the original 4 Ps and 7 Ps models were too focused on mass marketing. I tend to agree that the 4 Cs of Marketing is better adapted to our modern business environment where it is quite literally you vs. the world.
What are the 4 Cs of Marketing and Why Do They Matter?
What are the 4 Cs of Marketing and Why Do They Matter?
An Introduction to the 4 Cs of Marketing
The 4 Cs of Marketing were created as a direct response to the original 4 Ps of Marketing. The original 4 Ps were Product, Price, Promotion, and Place. The 4 Cs, by comparison, are Consumer wants and needs, Cost, Communication, and Convenience. You can imagine how this maps out…
Product turns into Consumer wants and needs. Instead of focusing on what the business can create – an outdated philosophy – the focus is on what the customer needs. In short, “Consumer wants and needs” pushes you toward the concept of product-market fit: making the perfect product for a specific person based on what they most desire.
Price turns into Cost. Instead of factoring in only the monetary cost, Cost factors in other lost opportunities. That includes the time taken to acquire a good or service, switching costs, and even the guilt of using a service.
Promotion turns into Communication. This includes advertising, public relations, personal selling, and more. The concepts of Promotion and Communication are very similar, but Communication focuses on having a back-and-forth conversation. Promotion is focused on push, push, push.
Place turns into Convenience. Though the 4 Cs were conceived in 1990, there were still ways to order goods remotely before the internet – catalogs, credit cards, phones, and more. Essentially, Lauterborn correctly predicted that people would no longer need to go to a physical location to buy a good. That makes Convenience far more important.
Customer (Wants and Needs)
In the modern world, there is seemingly a product or a service for every conceivable want or need. Finding the right niche can seem time-consuming and difficult, but it’s absolutely necessary if you want to be able to succeed in the long run. The best way to do this, of course, is to identify a want or a need that your customer has and find a way to satisfy it.
Understanding the nature of customers’ needs is not always intuitive. The way we use the word “need” in marketing is pretty different than the way it is used in everyday life. Needs in marketing refer to anything that can drive desired consumer behavior.
In the stock photo above, we see a man in a coffee shop. It’s possible that he just walked in and it’s also possible he frequents the place. Let’s imagine both scenarios and how they would play out.
If this man were to simply walk into the coffee shop for the first time at random, it’s likely because he just really needs a hot, caffeinated beverage. He needs the beverage, yes, but he also needs the convenience of simply walking into the shop, buying one, and either sitting down or going about his business. In short, he has multiple different needs which he is meeting simultaneously.
On the flip side, if he were a frequent customer, he may need the camaraderie of the people he knows there. He may need the comfort of a familiar-tasting beverage in a familiar environment. Alternatively, he may just need the simplicity of getting a good drink near his work where the coffee pot always produces scorched and stale Folgers.
No matter what, the lesson of this C is simple: “build it and they will come” is false. Something drives your customers to you. Figure out what it is and cater to it.
If you talk to an economist about “cost” they’ll approach the subject differently than most people. It’s not just about receipts and the exchange of dollars – it’s about the spending of any resource to acquire another. That could be money, yes, but also time, opportunities, and so on. This is how Cost is used within the context of the 4 Cs of Marketing.
My fiancee and I recently started using a grocery delivery service. The monetary cost is around 15% more on average. However, we save – conservatively – 5 hours per month simply by doing this. They deliver to our door and we are able to spend our time on the weekends in the way that we wish to. It’s a really great arrangement.
I’m going to run with this example. Yes, the groceries are marked up slightly, there is an annual fee, a slight upcharge, and an expectation that you tip the driver. However, we don’t need to drive to the store, deal with all the terrible things that people do in stores, wait in line, burn gas, get stuck in traffic. It costs more money but is far more convenient and less emotionally taxing.
In addition to money, customers consider a variety of other factors. Customers weigh into their decision-making the annoyance of driving or walking to a restaurant. Some customers feel guilty when they eat meat or use a gas-guzzling vehicle. Think of the intangible factors and come up with ways to address them. By doing so, you don’t have to compete on price – an extremely vulnerable position for small businesses!
People can be lazy sometimes. Many people order the vast majority of their products through Amazon because the cost is acceptably low and they don’t have to get off the couch. Many people drop off of shopping sites if the interface is even slightly complex. Convenience, as you can likely see, has a lot of dimensions to it.
Focusing on convenience is not a sin as many make it out to be. Choosing convenient products is a natural consequence of your customers having busy lives! When creating your products or services, you want to have an empathetic mindset. Ask yourself if you would want to go through your purchasing process.
When creating a business, you need to focus on neat service design. Even if you’re selling products, there is at least a hint of service design in your work – if only by selling products online or in person! You want customers to know exactly where to go, what to click on, and what they’re getting themselves into. The whole process needs to feel clear and predictable.
At the same time, you don’t want to overwhelm customers with decisions. It is possible to give people decision fatigue. The mental calculations that go into making day-to-day purchasing decisions are very complex. Figure out what your customers like and make it very easy for them to pick commonly liked choices. Good package design or bundling can help with this.
Finally, you need to consider user experience for digital products. Your online communications must be clear, understandable, accessible, and pleasurable to use. Otherwise, you’ll lose potential customers!
Nothing can build or destroy trust like communication. There are two broad categories of communication that you will have with your customers. The first is what draws customers to your business in the first place. The second form of communication is what keeps them engaged, shows them what to do, and leaves them satisfied enough to come back to your business.
Pulling Customers in with Communication
First, let’s talk about communication as it relates to pulling customers in. The classic approach to marketing is to push out various forms of promotion to manipulate customers into buying from you. Obviously, in an interconnected world where all your good qualities and bad qualities are on public display, old-school manipulative techniques don’t work anymore. You need to consider your customers’ real needs before you create an advertisement, start a sale, or do any other form of promotion.
Ideally, Communication as it is imagined in the 4 Cs of Marketing is a two-way street. You initiate contact with the customer, yes, but you use different methods to gauge their interest. This could be a simple as tracking metrics on your website traffic or advertisements. It could be as robust as directly asking questions on social media and taking that into account next time you start creating products. As a general rule of thumb, the more interactive your brand is, the more people will care about you.
Keeping Customers Engaged with Communication
Once somebody has decided to purchase a product or service from you, it’s up to you to keep their trust. You need to consider all the factors associated with Customer needs and wants, Cost, and Convenience before you determine the nature of your Communication. Once you get a good sense of what your customers value, be sure they always know where to go, what to click, which product is ideal for them, and how you plan to meet their needs. If customers need customer service, you need to be able to respond in a timely manner.
The ultimately goes back to trust. While the Internet didn’t introduce trust issues with business, it definitely accelerated them. When a company is physically far away from you and conversation is entirely digital, you need to feel like you have actual power to change things when they go wrong. This is so important. As an example, I left a bank that I was a fan of in about 10 minutes because they forced all customers to change their routing and checking numbers. I first found out by text message with two weeks to go before the change became effective.
The above, of course, is a horror story. Still, it goes to show how bad communication can sink a small business. Likewise, good communication can make a business feel extraordinary.
The 4 Cs of Marketing provide a new framework for small businesses to review their marketing strategies. By going over them here, you can ask yourself really poignant questions. Are you meeting customer needs? Have you considered everything they give up by shopping with you? Is the process you put people through convenient? Finally, are you being a good communicator?
With all this in mind, what’s the one C that you need to work on the most right now? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!