Marketing mix part three: Place

So we are into our third week of the marketing mix which means it’s time to talk about ‘place’. If you missed product and price, well you know what to do.

Like the other Ps, place is critically important to selling more of your product or service to more of the customers you want to reach.

I was talking to a client the other day about this issue and we were considering place in terms of his business, manufacturing. In his case we need to be thinking about where the buyer might be when making the choice to work with my client.

One thing we know is that they are not: in a shop, browsing a website (they might be, I’ll come back to this) or in my client’s place of business. They are most likely in their office, possibly with other people, when they make that decision. The job for me is to work out what could possibly influence that decision in the place where they make it.

The other element of place in this example is distribution. For my client this is all about his ability to get the finished product to the client in a timely way. This also relies on supply chain.

So let’s broaden this out and, by the way, come back to websites.

When thinking about place, you are putting yourself in the minds of your customers (we always seem to be doing that don’t we? good!) and thinking about where they are when they buy your product.

Let’s say you are a manufacturer of jelly beans. Where do customers buy jelly beans?

  • supermarkets
  • sweet shops
  • cinemas
  • tourist attractions
  • corner shops
  • newsagents

So basically, a range of retail outlets.

Now let’s imagine that you make jelly beans with unusual flavours and colours, or maybe even personalised mixes of jelly beans. So add to your retail outlets:

  • luxury department stores such as Harrods and Selfridges
  • your own website
  • reseller websites (eg speciality sweet sellers)

The place in fact is going to have a huge impact on the product in terms of the variations you will offer and the packaging as you will begin thinking about how to make your beans stand out against all the other competing beans - and sweets in general - that you will be sharing a space with.

How can you make it easy for customers to buy your beans?

In the case of general retail outlets the promotion of your product and its packaging will be vitally important: customers may feel better about buying your product if they’ve heard about it already or seen an advert somewhere; the packing will need to tell them something about what they are buying and appeal to them as a buyer of sweets.

You also need to be considering carefully the product placement and point of sale. Where will your beans be in the shop? Are there other brands of jelly bean also for sale? How close will your product be to them? What opportunities are there for point of sale marketing such as shelf labels or promotional areas?

Also, are your buyers just looking for anything sweet to eat and they just happen to buy your beans? Or will they be seeking out your beans as a special treat? How often are they likely to buy them and will they expect them to be for sale in every one of the first list of outlets?

Onto your extra special beans.

Both Harrods and Selfridges do in fact stock jelly beans and quite a big fuss they make of them too. Customers here are not casual shoppers just buying any old sweet that catches their eye. They are in the food hall and they are making a bee line for the huge branded display that shouts JELLY BEANS. They are buying into a concept, an idea, maybe nostalgia or a particular culture they want to be part of. This is far more than sugar and flavouring!

So, I promised to talk about websites and here we are at last.

As a manufacturer of ordinary jelly beans you might have a website. It could be to help with brand building, it could be aimed at the retailer who is considering stocking your beans. 

But, for those extra special beans, it becomes a whole buying experience in itself.

Those same avid customers that buy your product in Harrods will fall over themselves to participate in a customer-focused interactive website. Just imagine it: they can mix their own flavour combinations, they can suggest new recipes, they can get their jelly bean gifts personalised, they can tweet about jelly beans, take photos of themselves eating jelly beans and upload the pictures to your website. There’s no limit to the fun that can be had with jelly beans (or maybe that’s just me)…

Anyway, you get the idea.

Back to my real life client (who, sadly, does not make jelly beans or even baked beans). He does have a website and the decision-making process will definitely be influenced by what’s on there but the process of buying does not take place online so the role it plays is very different.

The job here is get inside the mind of the customer and figure out how to make it easy as possible for them to make that decision through understanding where they are when they make it. It is of course, more difficult. There’s no point of sale (although they might have a brochure on their desk) and the product is not a take home item: casual purchase or otherwise. But, chances are that there won’t be a hundred other suppliers competing at that point of decision.

We’re still working on it and, if we hit a brick wall, we’re going to give up and set up a fantastic interactive jelly bean website!

I mentioned promotion earlier on in this article and here’s my trailer for next week’s blog. Promotion has many more strands to it so I will be breaking it down into its constituent parts and writing about those. So expect to see a whole lot more about websites - I’ll try to tone down the jelly bean references - plus public relations, advertising, events, publications, campaigns and more.