The 5 C's of Marketing Explained

Each company that wants to engage in meaningful marketing attempts needs to understand the market it operates in. There are other frameworks for the actual components of marketing campaigns. But before you can get there, you need to understand environmental factors that can create or limit your opportunities. The 5 C’s of marketing provide the analytical framework needed to do so. 

What are the 5 c’s of marketing?

1. Company 

The company is the starting point of the analysis. This is the most internal of all the aspects covered in the 5 C’s. However, it is the necessary starting point because it provides the foundation for the other aspects of marketing.

You can get started with the basics. Everything here is about what your company provides on the market right now. The idea is to understand all of your market advantages. You also can’t ignore your company’s shortcomings, as those are the aspects that limit current performance in your market. So, companies start their analysis with the points that paint a picture of their current competitive position.

  • What your company sells
  • In which ways your products or services vary from industry norms (your competition in the broadest sense)
  • All present competitive advantages
  • Your brand’s unique features within your industry
  • How customers view your company (the best service, the cheap option, etc.)
  • How your company is spending its money
  • Your current budgeting priorities
  • Long-term marketing plans and goals

These simple factors can be used to plan for the future and to understand your business’s capacity to engage with the other C’s of marketing.

2. Collaborators

This umbrella C covers all outside entities that determine any level of your company’s performance. It may take some thought to create a complete list of all the parties that have such a direct influence on your company. So, you can start by outlining every factor that contributes to how you provide customers with their goods or services. 

The exact context through which you analyze collaborators depends on your industry. For retail businesses, the supply chain they exist within will play the most apparent and influential role. The company’s higher-ups on the supply chain are collaborators because of their influence on your provision of products. If a company’s suppliers are late or delivery is subpar or damaged, the impact on the company and its brand is direct. But then there is an additional layer to collaboration; who do you call when supply chain issues arise?

When listing out entities and individuals in your collaborative web, you can think of it as your company’s directory. It is essentially a list of all outside entities you work with. That includes those you refer to or contact when there’s a company emergency. It can thus include repair and maintenance professionals, financing sources, CPAs, warehouses, website domain providers, and much more. 

Remember to include individuals and entities of all kinds in your outline. Other businesses, freelancers, and others may all play a part, depending on your company’s industry and circumstances. If you work with them on a regular basis, even if only twice a year, they’re worth noting down.

While it’s a simple concept, it can be easy to forget some collaborators. Here’s a list of potential collaborators common across many industries:

  • Contractors 
  • Maintenance providers
  • Outsourced management
  • Outsourced marketing 
  • Outside salespeople
  • Manufacturers
  • Distributors
  • Shipping companies
  • Creative professionals (not full-time)
  • Domain registration
  • Credit providers (includes business credit cards)
  • eCommerce platforms
  • Investors
  • Any other stakeholders
  • Partners
  • Management services or software companies
  • Security (cyber security, companies, etc.)

3. Customers

Your company’s success rests in the hands of your customers. Even with your company and collaborators working like clockwork, you need a certain number of customers to meet any business goals.

In terms of marketing, it’s a business’s responsibility to learn as much about their customers as much as possible. For that purpose, companies do extensive research, culminating in the creation of customer personas.

Customer personas are descriptions of people. Those “people” are examples of what your typical customer would look like. Most of the time, businesses will have multiple personas they use when drafting any marketing plans. Coming up with personas, and every aspect of this C of marketing is intended to help your business speak the same language as your customers.  

In the same way, knowing what your customers want to buy is as important. That’s why many brands take the extra effort to get customer feedback. Customer surveys, when created and delivered professionally and tactfully, are highly effective.

So, knowing who your average customer is, and the exact version of your products or services your customers prefer, offer a lot to your business.

When it comes to ads and marketing materials, language is a critical part of this C of marketing. Understanding customer personas is a part of using the vocabulary and tone that your customers can best relate to. Speaking directly to the needs of customers is the goal.

To get started, ask the following questions about how your customers:

  • Who are my customers?
  • What are the typical personas I’m trying to sell to?
  • What about our products and services makes customers come back for more?
  • What marketing efforts do customers react best to?
  • Which products and services have bad reviews, and which ones have good reviews?
  • How are customers finding out about my business in the first place?
  • What is the average age and gender of my customers?
  • Where do my customers give their attention(TV, social media, etc.)?
  • Do my customers buy on impulse?
  • If my customers aren’t impulse buyers, what goes into their decision-making process?
  • What do my customers value about my products and services (high quality, low cost, unique value proposition, etc.)? 

4. Competitors

This C of marketing covers all externalities you are competing with for your market share. If your market share is undercut by the products and services offered by another company, they are your competitors. 

Defining competitors can be more complicated than meets the eye. With online business, you may be competing with a number of large companies from different regions. Increasingly, you may be competing with international businesses for customers in your locality. 

Overall, most marketing projects will take into account their company’s industry. In this case, the industry would be defined by relevant bodies such as the North American Industry Classification System. These bodies offer the standardized method for defining industries that financial professionals use for various purposes. For your purposes, it simply helps you pinpoint who you are competing with. 

After you break down industries, you need to consider your customer base. Where are you selling your goods and services? Who else is selling the same classification of goods and services in the same place? For large companies with the right research infrastructure, you can roughly calculate the market share held within an industry. 

Unfortunately, this C of marketing has become one of the more difficult ones to define. There are a few reasons why:

  • Traditional industry classification systems may not adequately cover the diversity of goods and services within each industry, or some categories may be far too broad.
  • Some companies may operate across several industries at the same time.
  • Market share calculations may be muddied by global supply chains where businesses may be competing with firms across the globe.
  • Many niche markets are not easily defined by traditional classifications.

However, this C of marketing is still critically important. Also, there are fortunately many new analytical tools that businesses can use to gather information on the scope of their competition.

In order to make sure this C of marketing is adequately covered, marketing teams take inventory of their competitor’s activities. This involves:

  • Identifying all competitors.
  • Classifying competition (emerging competition, established competitors, etc.)
  • Investigating marketing strengths and weaknesses relative to the competition.
  • Learning about competitive marketing practices
  • Knowing which market segments you are competing for
  • Knowing what your most serious competitors are outcompeting you at
  • Knowing what your most serious competitors are falling behind you at

Understanding your competition is important for understanding your business’s own position in the market. Competing requires you to understand your competition, after all. Aiming at the wrong targets can cause businesses to become uncompetitive to their own detriment and waste resources. Instead, it’s better to win where you can and to know how to react to the competitive edge of other businesses.

Lastly, this C is necessary for your business due to the simple fact that your competitors are watching you. Your successes and failures provide valuable lessons to companies of similar sizes to your own. However, large companies with larger marketing infrastructures than your own can also recreate your successes by implementing your most successful efforts.

5. Context 

This C of marketing is meant to identify the context in which your business operates. It may also be listed as “climate”, or “conditions” within the marketing profession. The end goal is still the same; taking inventory of the broad ecosystem your business exists in and relies on.

This C takes businesses beyond the basics of their market. It covers the many external factors that spill over into your business. Those factors include:

  • Legal trends such as new laws proposed laws and other legal activity that may affect your business.
  • Economic trends such as economic downturns, market instability, and anything else that affects businesses and consumers.
  • Social trends such as consumer concerns, fads, and more which affect the way people interact with brands and industries.
  • Tech trends of all kinds, which are prone to be either disruptive or enhance efficiency within your industry.
  • News trends that may develop into any of the above, or which simply affect your industry’s PR.

Understanding the full context of your business is about planning for the present and future. Trends of any kind can cause a boom in your business or can disrupt your entire industry. Considering the above as a part of this C of marketing serves to give you a sense of where the market is moving. 

There are almost unlimited potential case studies for context. For example, if you run a chain restaurant and serve take-out, environmental concerns can affect your marketing in many ways. More specifically, the trend of consumers rejecting single-use plastics may prompt your marketing team to suggest renewable bags and straws. While this example is simple and readily apparent in the take-out industry, there are possibly many other individual trends that affect the context your business exists in. 

Marketing teams are encouraged to pay close attention to context. As technological innovation continues to speed up, there are likely to be many more reasons to remain more vigilant. This can serve to help businesses adapt to both positive and negative changes. It can help your business capitalize on new opportunities while avoiding the kinds of calamities Blockbuster went through.

The bottom line

The 5 C’s of marketing are all critical to your bottom line. Forgoing on the 5 C’s won’t usually lead to immediate ruin. However, they are about the big picture. They enable you to confront your market and capture your maximum market share more effectively. Then, they also enable you to better react to changes and avoid the mistakes that cause so many businesses to fall behind or fail.

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