The 4Ps of a Fully Alive Business

Back in the early 1960’s the American Marketing Association coined the term the “Four ‘P’s” as a way to describe the essential elements of the marketing mix. Since that time every first year marketing student has been taught to think in terms of product, price, place and promotion as they analyze case studies of companies real and imagined.

Much has changed in the last 50 years, including what product really is, what place entails, how package plays a role and, well, pretty much everything about what promotion looks like.

In fact, the very definition of marketing has changed dramatically enough to render the original Four P’s somewhat useless as a foundational marketing and business strategy concept.

Today’s most important business and marketing directive is one of building trust. Engagement, connection and story are the new forms of promotional art. Price is a function of value and place has become bytes and ether more often than a shelf or an office.

There is a home for the Four P’s in today’s business but it’s in the very mortar of the business and the story of its people rather than in a department on an org chart.

The Four P’s are now more about how a business is experienced than what it sells. They reside in the expression of human characteristics that turn commitment into culture and culture into customer.

The following elements make up a redefinition of the Four P’s for the fully alive business and further make the case that marketing is everything you do and every business is really a marketing business.

The Four P's of Business


The first element of the Four P’s in a fully alive business is the passion for living that the owner of the business brings. When the founder of a business can serve their own personal passion and purpose by growing the business, good things can evolve.

The leader of a business must have a great sense of passion for the business, but they also must be able to connect that passion with purpose in order to bring out the desire to commit in others. Leading with passion is how you put yourself out there and do what you were meant to do.

“A ship in port is safe but that’s not what ships are built for.” ~ Grace Murray Hopper


Purpose is how a business defines why it does what it does. It is the reason people are drawn to work in a business, it’s the reason they come to life inside the business and it’s the reason customers voluntarily become loyal ambassadors of the brand.

Purpose builds trust because it allows people to see their own values in action in support of something they strongly believe. A regular paycheck, important sounding title, or great deal on a cool product, probably doesn’t invoke much in the way of purpose.

Joining a business that is on an epic journey to create joy, change an age old industry, innovate under the nose of a Goliath, or just do a great deal more of the right thing – that’s purpose, that’s not simply a business it’s a cause and people will do some remarkable things inside and around the support of their cause.


Organizations that understand the power of purpose also understand that purpose is what they need to package as their reason for being, core difference and position in the market. They lead with why and let those attracted to that why create their own definition of what.

In fact, brands that start with purpose over product can effectively enter most any market with the same positioning and compete with entrenched category leaders. I know it’s become cliché to cite Apple as an example, but this computer company routinely blows competitors away in any market they enter. Think mp3 players and mobile devices – two categories they entered and dominate even though they’re a computer company.

Apple’s sense of why is so prevalent in their positioning that it wouldn’t surprise me if they entered the coffee market and became the category darling.


The final P is how a business uses desirable human traits or personality characteristics as a vehicle to allow all that encounter the business to actually experience purpose.

It’s one thing to state your purpose on a plaque or marketing brochure, it’s another thing entirely to live by a tangible set of daily habits and processes that offer proof of purpose.

We are drawn to people and experience that are simple, inspirational, convenient, innovative, playful, community oriented and filled with surprise. These are the personality traits that a fully alive business uses as the everyday creative language of the business.

These traits act as the filter for every decision and make up how the business is run internally and the brand is experienced externally.

Imagine what would occur if every college student today were taught these Four P’s. Imagine if every business were started with this framework. Imagine if everyone could go to work for a company built with this way of thinking at its core. Imagine if we could experience these Four P’s by simply becoming a customer of your business? What would that be like?

I don’t know, I think it would be pretty great.

Your Playing Small Doesn’t Serve Anyone

The single behavior that prevents business owners, or really anyone for that matter, from realizing the incredible potential that lies in their business is playing small.

Small is easy, small doesn’t attract attention, small is comfortable, small doesn’t offend, small doesn’t raise eyebrows, small keeps that little voice in your head quiet, small doesn’t hurt as much when you fall – and small keeps you right where you are.

Thinking small robs you and your business of the art of serving your own personal purpose in life and building a business that inspires others to do the same.

Now, don’t confuse what I saying with the idea of growing a big business – what I’m talking about is thinking bigger about what you’re capable of, about your role as the inspirational leader of your big idea.

Allowing yourself to think and act much bigger is one of the greatest ways to tap your own individual potential and build a bigger you.

The problem with thinking small about things like the higher purpose of your business, the real vision for what’s possible in your business or the audacious brand you know is achievable is that it you won’t be inspired in ways that requires you to take massive action.

Think about a goal you’ve set. Oh, and just for fun, pick one you didn’t achieve. So, why is it you didn’t achieve it? My guess is because it was a little goal. It was likely something you had little trouble imagining you could accomplish, but also something that didn’t require you to change much – and so nothing happened.

In order for a goal, or more to the point, the building a business that inspires you and all that come into contact with it, to come about it needs to stir up doubt. In fact, it needs to create enough doubt that you have no idea how it would come to pass. You need to connect with a feeling of purpose that excites and inspires while at the same time makes you uneasy about stating it publicly.

I’m not suggesting that you make up some audacious, pie in the sky, dream that you quickly dismiss. I am, however, suggesting that if your idea about the higher purpose your business is to serve, the place in the market you know is waiting for you to fill, or the obvious innovation that will inspire others to follow isn’t big enough it won’t force you to change your behavior in ways that would make it true.

Let me give you a simple illustration. Let’s say you have a business and you commit to increasing revenue by 10%. Now, you may not know how you’re going to get all that new business, but maybe a little tweak here or there to your website might produce enough increased conversion to get it done.

What if, on the other hand, you committed to double your business or take it up three times the revenue you generated this year? You may have no idea how you’re going do this, but would it be safe to say you might start rethinking everything about your business?

What if starting today you looked out three years from now and saw something totally bigger? What if you dared, not to dream, but to accept the awesome potential locked up in you and serving your ultimate purpose in life?

In order for you to think bigger it’s important that you believe you want it to be so, that you can glimpse it being so, and that its pull is strong enough to make you question all that you need to change in order to make it so.

Go ahead, I dare you.

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