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Make Sense of Marketing: The 4 Ps of Marketing for Writers

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

Updated 4.19.2024

Writers don’t need to understand marketing. Unless you want to get paid to write. Or if you want to acquire blog readers or sell your books or have copywriting clients. 

So just in case no one has told you … it’s okay to get paid for your words. And why not? You spend hours at the screen crafting them.

Maybe you know you need to understand marketing, but you have zero background in sales. That’s me. When I started my freelance writing journey, I had spent 25 years as a classical musician. I didn’t know the first thing about selling.

The good news is that you can acquire a simple understanding of marketing. You don’t need an MBA to do so. And you don’t need to be creeped out by selling either. 

In fact, all those MBAs that have gone before us have created a simple selling framework. It’s called the 4 Ps of Marketing. You can use it to create your very own marketing plan for your writing. Then, just work your plan.

The 4 Ps of Marketing for Writers with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips #FreelanceWriting #ChristianWriting

What are the 4 Ps of Marketing?

It was Michigan State University professor E. Jerome McCarthy (1928-2015) who first suggested four variables that are key in successful selling. The four variables became known as the 4 Ps of Marketing. They are product, price, place, and promotion

The 4 Ps can apply to any product or service you want to sell. And you can apply the 4 Ps of marketing over and over to different projects you write or as you approach different prospects that may hire you.

Let’s take a look at how the 4 Ps help you sell your writing services or a piece of content that you want to write. 

1. Product: what you sell

Any marketing plan needs a product or service to sell. But you may make a well-intentioned mistake – as I did – when you start marketing your writing. You assume the people want to read what you have already written.

The truth is that people want to read content that answers their questions or solves their problem. Marketing your writing starts with knowing what questions your readers have and then answering them. 

For instance, if you want to get hired to write for businesses or organizations, then ask, “How will my writing services help this business owner? Why does this leader need a freelance writer?”

If you want to sell an article or a book, ask, “What problem will this piece solve for a reader?” Answer those questions and you’ll have the beginnings of good promotional content. And you’ll have the foundation to your marketing plan.

Ask: what problem will your writing (your product) solve for your readers?

2. Price: what you charge

If you sell a product or service, you need a price. The price for your writing skills or your book or article should reflect what you’re worth. But you also need to keep in mind your prospect’s ability to pay. That price may vary widely when it comes to selling your words. 

Your fee for a specific project may be predetermined. A publisher usually has a set payment schedule for articles and royalties.

But if you sell your writing services, you can choose work-for-hire fee schedule. If you self-publish a book, you can choose your price on Amazon. If you create an online course, you can select a price point. In doing so, consider your content and your prospective reader. A course for CEOs can be priced higher than a course for a college student who is living on a shoestring. 

Ask: what are readers willing to pay?

3. Place: where you sell

You need a place for the exchange. Where will you (the seller) find the consumer (the reader)? That location can be physical or virtual. Regardless, you need to go to where the consumers are.

  • If you’re looking for people to read your blog or your book, you’ll find them online in chat rooms and Facebook groups and on Pinterest boards with a shared interest.
  • If you’re looking for publications, you’ll find them online and in writer’s guides.
  • If you’re looking for clients who will hire you to write for them, then you’ll find them on association lists or LinkedIn.

In your marketing plan, record where to look for prospects for your particular project. Then you can create steps to reach them.

Ask: where are your readers?

Target Audience Finder

Use this fillable, reusable Target Audience Finder to identify the ideal reader for a piece of content.

4. Promotion: how you reach prospects

Using the first 3 Ps, you tell your reader what problem you’ll solve. Offer a price point that fits the product. And find the places that you can meet up with your reader to make your offer. Now, this final variable – promotion – pulls the other three together. Use these questions will help you drill down specifics to reach your prospect.

  • Who is your audience?
  • What channels do they use the most? 
  • How can they find out about you on those channels?
  • What message promotes your solution the best?
  • How can you engage those prospects more than once or even long-term?

Answer those questions, and POOF! You have a marketing plan. It may be simple. It may need to be tweaked. But it’s an excellent starting point. 

Ask: what steps will you take to reach readers who have a problem you can solve at an appropriate price?

What the 4 Ps of Marketing mean for writers

You can formulate and change up those variables, of course. You can mix them together to fit your circumstances and your goals, much like you tweak a recipe. That’s how the term “marketing mix” came about.

And you can fine-tune your marketing plan regularly to reach more readers and generate more sales.

“The 4 Ps of marketing,” says digital strategy guru Neil Patel, “Summarize the four basic pillars of any marketing strategy.”

That means the 4 Ps strategy can work for large corporations and mid-sized businesses and small start-ups and sole proprietors. And that means the 4 Ps of Marketing can work for you, too. 

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