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Long before the Internet, E. Jerome McCarthy developed the 4 P's of Marketing as a “global managerial approach.” Product, Price, Place and Promotion provided a useful system for marketing in the physical world.

However, in today's virtual world—a world that could barely have been conceived when the 4 P's were developed—the dynamics of the 4 P's have changed:

  • Products are as much defined by the Internet, as they are available to purchase through online stores.

  • Price can be set dynamically based on customer demand and behavior captured using Internet technology.

  • Place, for many companies, involves hundreds or even thousands of connecting links and order channels all flowing through the invisible network of the Internet.

  • Promotions can be personalized and customized to reach millions of individual micro-markets at the click of a mouse.

Do you still rely on the 4 P's in your organization? Have you replaced them with Web or customer-centric principles of your own? This issue's dilemma asks, With the Internet fast approaching the 10th anniversary of commercial use, do the 4 P's still hold relevance in your world today?

Not one for analyzing management theory? Let us know what keeps you up at night. What dilemma do you take with you when you leave the office? Your peers would love to help. Write to us and ask our SWOT Team about your dilemma. Tap into the collective strength, wisdom and experience of this group. It works, and you could win a free copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.

Revisit our previous dilemma—read below for your peers' best advice on the use of visitor data for your web marketing initiatives.

Unite and make a difference!

This Issue's Dilemma

SWOT Category: Internal Weakness

Our leadership team disagrees on the best approach to marketing.

Our team is divided on the relevance of the 4 P's of marketing in executing our business model. We describe ourselves as an Internet company, in that our products are sold entirely over the Internet. Our leadership consists of both traditional management thinkers and a small group of modern-day managers, whose experience in marketing is almost entirely Internet based.

I am one of the modern-day managers who feels that for our business model, using the 4 P's approach is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

How can I present a case for moving beyond the 4 P's to a more relevant approach for our business? Can your readers help?

—Anonymous, Internet Marketing Manager

Previous Dilemma

SWOT Category: Internal Strength

We plan on using newly gleaned metrics from our Web site to create targeted emails and sales campaigns. Is it better to have more detailed data or less?

I have been charged with revamping my company's Web site and learning more about Web visitors' click behavior. We will be using a commercially available Web-building tool that uses cookies and voluntary registration to log visitor clicks. My boss would like to track clicks by three categories: Products, Applications, and Sales Cycle. There are only about 20 applications and sales cycle categories, but potentially thousands of product categories.

I am concerned that if we use too many categories for products, we may create a database that will be overloaded with data and too cumbersome to use. My boss and I disagree on the appropriate number of categories.

Is it better to have more data or less? Can the SWOT Team help?


Summary of Advice Received

The SWOT Team has weighed in almost unanimously, preferring to err on the side of too much data rather than too little. We did hear a still small voice from an anonymous SWOT Team member who votes for “keeping it simple,” and notes:

We marketers are notorious for wanting more data points than we can or will ever be able to effectively use or benefit from. Crawl, walk, run…. You can always add more complexity, but see if you can actually build a working first loop of customer data back into your org in a revenue-meaningful way.

Those who think that more data is better offered their views on how to manage the details, keep it meaningful and avoid getting buried. The SWOT Team's data management experts offered the following:

1. Investigate your site from the user's perspective.

2. Gather insight into the specific needs of your report audiences.

3. Use effective categorization to streamline results.

4. Database design is the key to performance.

1. Investigate your site from the user's perspective

Jack Kontney, Director of Marketing Communications at Shure Incorporated, offered his wisdom on basing database design on the use of the site and reading between the clicks for valuable information:

While there is a definite danger of having too much data to sift through, don't use that as an excuse not to gather it. Go ahead and create a complete, robust database. It's in how you utilize it that you make your mark.

If you are revamping a large site, be more concerned with what's missing than what's there. I strongly urge you to consider some user research to determine your site's strengths and weaknesses. When you already have a wealth of good content (which appears to be the case), intuitive user access through navigation, fast load time, and information architecture considerations should be your primary concern.

2. Gather insight into the specific needs of your report audiences

“Consider how these reports will be used,” notes Crystal Bueno, Director of Corporate Communications for DTCC. She offers a quick method for determining database structure by assessing the reporting needs of your varied audiences:

Work from the basic premise that Web metrics should help you glean information invaluable to three key audiences: 1. Marketing staff (who's coming to the site, where are they going, how long are they staying, is traffic going to the areas where we want to grow the business?) 2. Web design/management staff (how can we tweak the design and navigation of the site to ensure that traffic is flowing easily through the site, finding the areas we want to promote? How is traffic actually finding our site—and do we need to update key search words to ensure that audiences are finding us?) 3. IT management (is traffic at a volume where we need to be concerned about data transfer rates, or storage?).

3. Use effective categorization to streamline results

Senior Consultant Ted Silverman of Braun Consulting notes, “More data is better than less, as it allows you to aggregate products into different groupings as time goes on.” He adds:

You may originally believe that certain products go together, but the data on Web site visitor behavior may reveal otherwise. If you capture and store data at a low (micro) level, you have complete flexibility now and in the future to alter your categorization. That said, this is not always practical or cost efficient (I'm sure the technical folks in the crowd are screaming as they read this).

If there are logical categories of products, in terms of how your business handles its marketing, you may want to start there. I'd guess that over time, you may find those categories change based on what you learn from your customers. Then you'll have to restructure your data and either trash your legacy data or create imperfect linkages to your new structures.

Crystal Bueno offers this insight:

Do you really need to have metrics by individual product, or are there logical groupings of product categories that will make the data more relevant or more meaningful? (For example, think of a large bookseller. They don't necessarily need to track click-throughs to individual book titles, but to categories, such as fiction, children's titles, biographies, etc.) Consider what has more impact in terms of reports for senior management—that the site had a 0.001% growth in individual product x, or a 22% growth in product category Y.

4. Database design is the key to performance

An anonymous SWOT Team member reminds us that proper design can make the difference between effective data management and performance or floundering in a sea of useless data:

Databases, it seems, are only cumbersome when poorly designed. With a background in the life sciences market and some 10,000 products with a worldwide database of scientists, we did not have an overloaded database. Provided you separate out the details common to all areas (potential customers not clicks, sorry) and make subgroups for all interrelated products (or product groups), it should be relatively easy moving around in such a database. Design is the key to any database performance. Hope this helps.

SWOt Team, you've come through with the details—thanks again!

We did our best to provide a thorough overview of your responses to this timely topic. All of the advice we received was insightful. Thanks for your participation. We appreciate it!

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Hank Stroll ( is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.

Yvonne is a “customer engagement coach” and President of EVE Consulting, helping companies achieve sustainable market leadership through the power of customer engagement.