Promotion – 7 Steps To A Successful Promotion

Promotion Is Part Of Marketing

Promotion Tag

Many forget that promotion is part of marketing.  It is often viewed as a poor, unsophisticated step-sister to those actively engaged in the fine art of marketing, but it is and should be a critical part of your marketing efforts be they online or offline, for B2B or B2C businesses. Some very large industries, such as liquor and tobacco, are completely dependent upon in-store and event promotions to market their products.

Unfortunately, many don’t take the necessary steps to ensure their promotions pack the desired punch.  Often a business owner simply decides one day they’ll run a promotion that week and they’re off to the races.

When the desired results don’t materialize they wonder why or they decide the promotion wasn’t such a hot idea after all.

The truth is that for a promotion to be successful and produce bottom line results, it requires the same kind of planning and attention to detail that any marketing campaign does.

So, how does one create a good promotion? Here are seven steps that will guide you in creating a promotion that delivers results.

1. Define “Success”

Perhaps the most important part of any promotion is to know exactly how you will measure success.  There is no sense going to all of the extra effort of creating a promotion, if you haven’t determined what defines “success”.

How many products need to be sold or distributed?  How many additional customers, email subscribers, etc. do you want to  deem this promotion a success?

2.  Determine a Promotional Theme

The easiest themes are often around the holidays (e.g. 4th of July, Easter, etc.).  But this is also when everyone else does promotions.  You want your promotion to stand out and get noticed.  So think more creatively.

One creative example is a B2B company that decided to skip Christmas presents, but to send a box of very fine chocolates at Valentine’s Day along with a note expressing their ‘love’ for the client’s business.  No other vendor was doing the same thing.

Think about the seasonality of how your target audience uses or when they are most aware of your products.  Every business has some seasonality or rhythm to it.  What is the seasonality of your product or service?

Ask yourself if there are life-style happenings (e.g. getting married, national month for a charity or cause, annual community events, etc.) that could be used as an effective promotional theme and that fits your target audience.

I strongly suggest that once you’ve identified the ideal promotional times for your business, you include them in your Communications Calendar.  That way, you won’t miss a golden opportunity to promote your products and you’ll give yourself plenty of time to do the necessary planning and preparation.

3.  Determine the Promotional Offer

It should come as no surprise that for a promotion to work, the offer has to be perceived as having ‘value’.  What would your Promotion - Special Offertarget audience find of ‘true’ value?

Don’t just assume they want a discount. Often you can offer something of far greater value than dollars off.  Think free audits, free consultation, free trial – anything that will help your target audience be more successful in achieving their desires.

If you’re having trouble with this step, you may want to read more about how to define your target audience.  You can also conduct a little informal mini-research among a few of your best customers to find out what they would really like to see you offer.

Another option is to explore partnerships with other business owners.  Perhaps they would be interested in joining your promotion and they have a product or service that will enhance your promotional offering.

4. Determine the Mechanics

Will your promotion be an in-store event or an online event?  Will it include a noted personality?  What type of displays, signage will be needed?   What is your budget?  What type of communications will be needed to get the word out?

The communications work of a promotion is probably the one area that is often overlooked.  Remember your promotion needs sufficient time to be seen, considered and acted upon by the marketplace.  Your target audience is NOT waiting for your promotion.  You have to get their attention and that often requires repeated exposures.  Promotions won’t deliver results if you don’t do the necessary work to stimulate interest and to build awareness.

5.  Reverse Engineer The Timing 

Determine exactly when you want your promotion to begin and when you want it to end.

Then reverse engineer how long it will take to get all of the pieces into place (e.g. signage, art work, displays, web landing pages, etc.) AND to do your publicity, email marketing, social media announcements and/or advertising around your promotion.

6.  Study Results and Tweak

Great news.  Your promotion has been a block-buster success.

But you don’t want to stop there.  You want to leverage the results to help create more promotional successes.

Study the timelines. Did you give yourself enough time to get all of the pieces in place?  Could you have used another day or another week?

Which media channel performed the best – offline advertising, PR, website, social media, etc.?

Did you meet your measure of success?  What could you have done that would have made your promotion more successful?

Is it worthy of a repeat?

You want to use this experience to make your promotions better.  So spend the time necessary to evaluate and learn.

7.  Rinse and Repeat

Now that you know what works with your audience, you are ready to repeat the process.

Can you think of any other steps that will ensure your promotion will be a success?  If so, or if you have some experiences with promotions, share them in the comments section below.


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Sheila Hibbard

Sheila Hibbard takes the fluff, hype and confusion out of marketing and social media. She provides small business owners with straight forward, no nonsense marketing guidance and techniques that produce results based on her 35 plus years in advertising, communications, research, strategic planning and social media. Author of Marketing Online Made Simple - WHO.

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