Why the 4 Ps of Marketing DON’T Work Online – DO THIS Instead

When I was in business school in the early 2000’s, every single marketing class I took seemed to focus on the 4 Ps of Marketing…Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. That’s what had always worked, so that’s what they taught. But over time we’ve slowly realized the 4 Ps of Marketing don’t work online.

It’s strange to think that not so long ago nothing was being taught about online marketing. It existed, but was just ignored. I can remember selling a variety of things on Ebay back in 2001 and people thinking I was crazy. They just didn’t get how selling online worked and just how powerful it could be.

Likewise today, for anyone struggling to sell online, or who just can’t seem to get any traction with their online marketing, the same may be true. You need to understand how selling online really works. So that’s what we’ll cover here.

Why the 4Ps of Marketing Don’t Work Online

Let’s get right to the point. The 4 Ps of Marketing don’t work online because leading with a product doesn’t work online. Focusing on your audience, not the product, is how you succeed online.

Now let’s go into a little more detail. Important to note in this discussion is the difference between Marketing and Promotion (they are not the same) and that we’re talking about online marketing here. Which to me must include leveraging the power of the internet to scale up your business..BIG TIME.


The first of the 4 Ps. Product FRONT & CENTER. Of course your product is important. But leading with it just doesn’t work online. Read this article of mine for more on that, but the long and short of it is, you must focus on your audience first when marketing online.

Putting your product on the back burner early on in your online marketing process may not make sense to you. That’s OK. It didn’t for me at first, and doesn’t for many others as well. It’s one of the main reasons people struggle online. So if you’re in that boat definitely read my detailed article about that. But we’ll cover that here in a bit as well.

Now, to the specifics…the 4 Ps of Marketing and why they don’t work online…


I’m not saying price is irrelevant. Just that conventionally taught pricing strategies and tactics don’t work on most consumers anymore, especially online. Price becomes a lot less important when you’re attracting loyal customers who already know from your marketing that you are going to help them. That perfect price point just isn’t as important. You’ve already predisposed them with your marketing to want to buy. So long as your price isn’t totally ridiculous, they will. A couple quick google searches will give you a good idea of what market prices are for whatever you are trying to sell. (that’s not to say we don’t continually test pricing to improve our results)

In fact, an interesting trend that I see more and more these days is a lack of sales because an item is priced too low. Perceived value is often highly tied to price. If you have an awesome sales presentation showing how much value your product or service offers and then the price seems too good to be true, that scares away buyers.

The beauty of selling online is the ability to offer value at sometimes very low prices due to the digital nature of many products and your ability to sell in high volumes. Just keep in mind that if you have a super intensive and detailed course with many hours of training, and then you try to sell if for $29, many buyers aren’t going to see the value in it. You may end up doing much better at $299 than $29.


This refers to providing customer access and convenience. From where on the shelf to place an item, to how to distribute it and manage inventory. Almost irrelevant for physical online products and pretty much completely irrelevant for digital products. We’re living in a time where inherent customer access is at all time highs. An online marketer need not put a lot of time into customer access.


We’re talking about the advertising message used to make the offer known to potential customers and to get them to want to learn more about the product.

The LAST of the 4Ps of Marketing, but the most important one online. However, if all you ever do it promote online you’re going to see very little results. That would mean just running ads, or dropping links on your social media. That type of low value stuff. That’s what I call promotion. It often looks a lot like straight up spam.

What To Do Instead

Thanks to the internet, promoting has never been easier. We have access to very targeted audiences at very reasonable ad costs. We can all shoot our own television commercials on our cell phones and place them in the pockets of our ideal customers. The entrance barriers (costs) to producing great promotions just don’t exist in the online marketing world.

So instead of focusing on promotion, we focus on real marketing. Boiled down to a simple structure that anyone can use to sell anything online. Any product, program, or opportunity.

And that doesn’t start with focusing on your product, or it’s price, or in what place you’re going to sell it, or even how you are going to promote it.

Here’s Where to Start

The online selling process needs to start with identifying your audience. Figure out what their problems and needs are. Show them how you can solve those problems through your marketing, without selling to them. Later on, present them an offer that addresses those problems. This is how you attract loyal customers.

Then tap into the tools available to you to leverage the internet and scale up. Applying the same online success strategy every successful online marketer uses.

My Final Thoughts

So, in the end, am I happy I learned about the 4 Ps of marketing in business school? Sure. I’m not saying they have no value. And for me the biggest benefit of school was to learn how to think, more so than remembering specific information. But I’m more happy that I’ve realized the 4 Ps of Marketing Don’t Work Online.

The question really is, do you need a formal education to succeed as an online marketer? My answer is definitely not. In fact, if you hold on too tightly to conventional wisdom, with the 4Ps of Marketing being a perfect example, you will most likely end up at a significant disadvantage.

Look at what other successful people online are doing. You’ll probably see that you don’t even know what they are selling until you’ve already learned how that person can help you with something.

That’s what works online. The “P” you should be focused on is your ideal PROSPECT and how you can let them know you can help them. Focus your online marketing on that and you will attract loyal customers wanting to buy from you over and over again.

-Chris Cunningham

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