Using the eight ‘P’s of marketing – Product, Place, Price, Promotion…

Olof Williamson was a Senior Consultant at NCVO, looking at the latest thinking on funding, finance and public services. Olof has left NCVO and his posts have been retained for here for reference.

Since I have been working in the voluntary sector I have learned that it can be a lot more competitive than it looks. The reality is that when resources are scarce voluntary and community organisations work really hard to attract and retain supporters, funders and customers. Good marketing is essential, and it is a lot more than just shouting about why you’re the best!

As part of our work at the Sustainable Funding Project, we help people access resources on marketing. One useful tool is The Eight ‘P’s of marketing, the first four of which are below (I’ll post the next four on here soon). This is the model we use in our training workshops and in our publications, and by using the ‘P’s together you can strengthen your marketing approach.

Watch your Ps and Qs

So what are the eight Ps? Below are the first four: Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

1. Product (or service)

We don’t always think about what we do in the voluntary sector as ‘products’, but it can be helpful to do so. You can also consider your user, supporter or beneficiary as a customer.  This can help to match up what your customer wants or needs with what you offer: your products.

So how does your product or service meet needs? What are its key features? How do you describe the product in a way that gets these across? The answer to these questions will help you communicate about your product.

E.g. Oxfam created new gift products that offered the customer the chance to buy an item (such as a goat) to donate to someone in a developing country, and then give this product to a friend as a present.

E.g. charity shops get in donated items and sell them on to customers, but they need to ensure there is demand for the products otherwise they will just take up space.

2. Price

You should think about how much your customer is able and willing to pay, and your answer will help determine the price.

You might be aiming to reach people who couldn’t otherwise access a similar service by offering something free, for example free meals at a homeless shelter. Or you may have a range of prices to make sure that those who can pay do, without excluding people who can’t.

E.g. Kids City in London offer places at their after school clubs at a range of prices. Many working parents are happy to pay a market price to have their children in a safe environment after school. For those who can’t pay anything they can help the organisation in other ways, such as by volunteering at the after school club.

Remember that price can promote an appreciation of quality – in other words people often value something more if they have paid for it than if it was free of charge. Also remember that your price might be for a purchaser such as a Local Authority commissioner.

3. Place

Consider where your product will be available to the customer. Do you need to have a physical space such as a community centre or office? Could you use somebody else’s space or go directly to the customer?  Or can you provide the service virtually?

Place is an important consideration because it needs to be convenient to your customer. If they can’t find you or access what you offer you will not be able to make the connection.

E.g. many social enterprises are making innovative use of space, letting out rooms to different organisations while creating a hub for social innovation.

E.g. Youth Net is a charity providing support to young people, who they reach through the internet. As well as providing information they also create a safe space online where young people can discuss issues affecting them.

4. Promotion

We often think of promotion first when we are planning our marketing, but it is one part of a bigger marketing picture.  Public Relations (PR) and advertising are essential to let people know what you offer and persuade them to buy it (or access it). If you are offering a service in a competitive field it is vital to be creative and use word of mouth.

Routes for promotion include: your website; posters and flyers; an article in a magazine or newsletter; advertising; word of mouth; a phone call or an exhibition.

E.g. many of the big UK charities have learned from the commercial world of marketing.  You might not have the budget for poster campaigns like ActionAid’s but you can learn from them good ways to communicate with a wide audience.

Well, this has given you the starting point. I will post the next four ‘P’s here soon, covering:

5. People 6. Physical Evidence 7. Process 8. Philosophy

Further Resources on Marketing

If you are interested in learning more about voluntary sector marketing, there are three useful NCVO resources available.

And don’t forget Ian Bruce’s guest blog post on marketing from 25 October 2010.

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