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How many P's in Profit?

If you took Marketing 101 back in the day, you learned the four P's of marketing: product, price, promotion and place. What are you selling? What are you charging? How will you get the word out? Where can it be bought? Get those right, and your marketing is tight. But we moved from manufacturing to a service economy, so a fifth P was added: people. Who is going to provide or service what you sell? That started new P's popping up like rabbits; our favorite pair from this new crop are packaging and positioning. How is your product or service presented? And what unique position does it hold in the minds of consumers? So much for theory -- how can all this help your company market more effectively? It starts by answering a few questions.

Product

Do people need what you're selling? Do they want it? What do they want or need that you're not selling? Are you the only source, or can it be found anywhere? The bottom line: The more unique your product is, the more you can charge -- and the higher your profit margin.

Price

Are you competing on price alone? That's a race to the bottom. Someone will always sell what you're selling for less. Can you charge more and become the premium choice? Nobody buys Starbucks or an iPhone or locally sourced, organic food because it's cheapest. The bottom line: Work hard to create a higher-end experience, and become the premium provider.

Promotion

Who's your target market? How are you reaching out to them? How are you making yourself heard above all the noise? The problem with most marketing can be found here: "me too" messages that blend in rather than stand out. The bottom line: Target your best prospects relentlessly with a voice that's uniquely yours.

Place

Where do you sell what you offer? Is it the place (or places) where people want to buy? Are your hours and locations set for your convenience or theirs? Is your online experience satisfying or frustrating? The key word here is convenience. The bottom line: Make it as easy to buy your product or service as possible, and more people will buy it.

People

Do your employees -- the ones who talk to customers, the ones on the phone, the tech support folks, the back office -- provide a customer experience that sets you apart? Try this test. Look at every person on your team. Knowing what you know now, if each of them was applying for a job today, would you still hire them? If the answer for some people is "no," those are exactly the people who are undermining your brand. The bottom line: Be ruthless in hiring and promoting people who live your values every day -- and ditch the ones who don't.

Packaging

You can now get everything for your business designed and printed at ridiculously low prices. But that doesn't mean you should. Every outward manifestation of what you sell -- the way your people dress, your business cards and signage, the appearance of your facilities, the literal packaging you use -- either reinforces your marketing or undercuts it. The bottom line: Cut corners here, and you pay for it.

Positioning

What unique position do you hold in the prospect's mind? Often, the answer is "none." That makes you a commodity, and your only choice is to be the low-cost provider. Here's a test. Complete this sentence: "Ours is the only company that offers customers ______________________." If you can't finish that sentence, you have no brand. If you have no brand, no one has any incentive to choose you over your competition. None. The bottom line: Invest the time to identify or decide who you are and how you're different. Then infuse that difference into all of the other P's. The impact on the biggest P of all -- your profit -- will be startling.

Allen Howie is president and creative director of Idealogy Marketing + Design. Idealogy provides marketing, branding and design services focused on increasing clients' brand recognition and profitability. Howie's newest book, "The Marketing Minute," was published in April.

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