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What are the 4Cs of marketing?

They were first coined in 1990, as a natural evolution from the original 4Ps that you probably learned about in business studies, at school. The 4Cs of marketing are communication, customers, which includes their wants and needs, convenience and cost. You may know them as products, place, price and promotion.

This is a slightly different approach in that the 4Cs are focused on the customer, at least that’s what I’ve found when examining my target audience. 

Head to head: the 4Cs Vs the 4Ps

You can still use the 4Ps, the traditional marketing mix, nobody will hold it against you. They’re essentially the same thing anyway, this is the alternative marketing mix, a bit like Grunge in the 90s while Brit pop was mainstream.

I like the approach because it focuses your attention on your customers instead of you. If you ask me, which you didn’t, customer-centricity is far superior to egocentricity. There’s nothing worse than a list of reasons you think you’re great but there’s not a lot better than being the answer to a customer’s prayers.

You can see this egocentricity across social media, where individuals talk about themselves and describe their products instead of effectively communicating in a way that resonates with their potential customers – those guys they want to win over.

The 4Cs Marketing Model

Like the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse, blocking out the sun while you scramble for dear life, circling, circling, circling…. These 4 aren’t quite as sinister but provide a great guideline and one of my preferred models for building a marketing strategy.

The 4Cs of marketing are each dealt with in more detail below. As a complete model, implemented the right way, they could take your service from mediocre to high levels of customer satisfaction and the edge over your competitors. Remember, everything they’re not prepared to do, is an advantage you can make the most of to develop your marketing strategy.

4Cs of marketing 4Ps of marketing
Customer wants and needs
What do they want? What does it answer and does it match research?
What is it? Is it quality? Is there a unique selling point?
Are there financial, ethical and time related costs? Do these meet expectations? What about effort to acquire your services?
What's the RRP? Gross profit? How is the competition priced?
How easy is it to purchase? Is this what the customer expects? Where and how is it delivered? Customer experience is key.
Where are you going to sell your product or service? What's the messaging? Where are your customers?
How and where will the product be promoted? What strategies will this involve?
How will it be promoted and where and why?

Marketing Communications

When we talk about communication, in terms of business, we often imagine methods of promotion. I don’t just mean emails or that sort of thing, I’m talking about what we write on ads, posts on social media and how we describe products or services, publicly.

There’s a much more important side to communication than that, which you’ll be familiar with and understand but it’s very easy to overlook; listening. Listening forms an important part of any marketing mix and it all starts with market research.

It’s amazing how often business owners and marketers forget that it’s not just about talking but more about listening and responding effectively than anything else.

Imagine being at a party. You meet a guy by the beer fridge and grab yourself a Heini, he quickly details every aspect of his life from his Duckling Swimming Awards through to a long list of achievements at work. It’s so dull. He thinks he’s incredible but you don’t share that opinion or those thoughts especially when you’re stood there an hour later. I’d take a guess and say you probably wouldn’t want to talk to him much after that?

Your customer voice

Communicate with your audiences in their language in the places they’re most likely to look for your services. It’s all too easy to get caught up in abbreviations, code words and terminology that massages your ego. As much as you might think it demonstrates that you know what you’re talking about, you might want to be aware that it has the opposite effect on potential customers. 

Where should you communicate?

It’s all well and good to know that you want to communicate but yelling from your car, probably isn’t going to work for everyone, if anyone at all…Anyone? As part of your customer profiling, you need to identify the best places to get your message across to your customers.

In order to do a great job of this, you need to think about marketing channels and the various platforms you’ll be using. I’d recommend trying a few different channels at first and auditing success over time. Rather than jump in at the deep end, with something far too complex to manage, you could make it a lot easier on yourself and focus on what you know and as you start to see success. 

Lots of marketing related icons like Facebook and email.

Customer wants and needs

Consumers aren’t always right, despite the cliché. When you’re thinking about their wants and needs, you can look beyond the obvious, not everyone knows they need a product before they buy it so there’s got to be a use case or some supportive research..

A great example of this is in cyber security, where almost every product or service exists as a potential protective measure, there are no guarantees. If you’re going to be hacked, the truth is you probably will be, regardless of what services you’ve purchased so it becomes a matter of reducing the likelihood of that happening.

Many years ago, nobody knew they needed DropBox or WeTransfer, now almost everyone needs some form of cloud sharing so we have to keep our minds open to innovation as well as obvious wants and needs.

Market research can help you clear this up, talk to your customers and find out what their problems are. You’ll build a solid product if you can focus and fix them.



Rather than place, which was the equivalent from the 4Ps of marketing, convenience is about how easy it is to actually acquire the product or services you’re offering, access the service and the team behind it if there’s ever a problem.

Think about when you visit a website, 27 pop ups appear, it loads incredibly slowly. You struggle to find the product you’re looking for but eventually do, not that you could repeat it. When you finally get to the checkout you realise they only take pesetas through PayPal and incur a 12% exchange rate…It’s not a good experience and if they pull the trigger on the order, they’re not likely to return.

Another dimension to convenience is how accessible your customer support options are, accounts department and all aspects of the user experience. 


Also known as price, cost from the perspective of your consumer. This could be time, currency, cost of conscience, total cost of ownership, what it costs to move to a different vendor of similar products or services.

Cost to satisfaction is a consideration placed on all dimensions of cost. We’re in an age where consumers are often thinking about sustainability, ethics and principles. These are costs too. As time goes on, we’re adding more dimensions all the time. Cash isn’t king as we’re no longer such easily satisfied creatures.

When you’re looking at building a pricing model, it’s fundamental that you analyse for any other costs alongside that aren’t expressed in financial terms.

Think about veganism, sustainability, health and the environment. What happens when they’ve had enough of your services because something has gone wrong? A convenient termination can be the difference between a customer considering buying in the future or telling their friends and peers how much of a terrible operation you’re running.

How to use the 4Cs of marketing:

The main goal is building insight into your customers, developing concepts to answer and fulfil their needs and clarity around buying habits, barriers and pretty much everything between too.

Launching new businesses or services

The 4Cs of marketing can help you to build an effective market research (see why is market research important for businesses) campaign for launching a new product or business.

It takes away the challenge and helps you launch your services in a way that really hits home and has the highest potential for success.

I’ve found it helpful to use each ‘C’ to build a set of questions to ask potential prospects then we know where we’re going and whether or not we were on the right lines to begin with.

Product development

As part of ongoing analysis, it’s a great idea to consistently monitor and understand your customers and move in the direction they are too. Open dialogue is a great starting point with regular opportunities for feedback. These could include survey pop ups, customer success calls and face to face discussions or focus groups.

This is particularly relevant if you’re working in SaaS marketing as you need to be continuously developing your product, adding new features and making sure you’re meeting customer requirements.

In customer satisfaction

It’s always a good idea to run customer satisfaction surveys or focus groups from your existing customer base. It can give you clues about untapped markets, add depth to your target customer personas and improve your strategy. From there, you’ll keep on top of new marketing channels, approaches, identify new needs and a lot more too, which can only benefit companies for the long term.

Emphasis should be placed on a deeper understanding of your prospects and not on affirmation that you’re already fantastic.

Every negative or area you’re performing badly is an incredibly valuable insight and opportunity. Acting on it can help you hone and develop your strategy for years to come, reduce customer churn and increase the likelihood of customer loyalty.

What are the 4cs of marketing?

They’re 4 little golden eggs that you can use to improve all aspects of your business. Of all the models, this one places the consumer at the centre of your approach, which is how it should have been from the start.

Most companies would do well to employ this strategy, consider all factors and use them to improve on all forms of communication. It can help you drive content, business marketing, connect with customers as people, rather than transactions and give you a complete profile of your target market.


Rather than struggling to build these models for you business, click the button below and we can talk about the 4Cs of marketing in the context your company.

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