Most of the time people consider promotion to be part and parcel of marketing and advertising, and it is, but it’s also so much more than that. To simply group it in with everything else means that you’ll never give it your full attention, and thus your promotional efforts may simply fall flat.
So let’s take it back to basics. What does promoting your business actually mean? Well, at its very core it’s about getting and being noticed by as many people as possible. When done well, those people are your ideal customers or clients.
Turn Promotion on Its Head
Instead of thinking about promotion as one of the last stops on the production line, move it earlier. It’s about being seen and getting noticed – but to only think about how and why customers should see and notice you right before you roll the product out is a mistake many businesses make.
Start by identifying what it is your business, service or product does for your customer. List all the ways in which it solves their problem and pain points. The earlier you do this in the creation of your business, product or service, the better.
Of course, there is no “golden ticket” or guaranteed repeatable formula to promotion that would cater for all businesses and all industries, because when promotion is done right it caters very specifically to your ideal client or customer.
Focus your promotional energy on assessment, planning, defining your messaging, content production, mechanism and testing. Don’t just test once but send it through testing again and again until you really know what mix of mechanisms work for your audience.
The Promotional Mix
It’s called a mix for a reason – a business’s success results in seeking out the right approaches, finding the right time to use each one, to the right people, with the right offer and pricing. You will only find what works for your individual company and customers through testing. There are very few shortcuts.
The Promotional Mix varies, but usually includes the following:
- One-to-One Networking and Selling
- Sales Promotion
- Public Relations, and/or Publicity
- Direct Marketing
- Social Selling
- Corporate Promotional Campaigns
- Guerrilla Promotion
- Product or Service Placement
- Joint Ventures and Partnerships
The list can be lengthy and overwhelming, especially if you are a small business or if you aren’t exactly sure what you should use and when. Many forms of promotion involve a financial investment, so it’s important that you spend some time figuring out exactly what outcomes you require of your promotional efforts.
Break It Down
What Do You Want to Gain?
Start with the why. What do you want to gain from your promotional activity? Try not to have a general, sweeping, multipurpose aim, such as “to be gain awareness, engagement and sales”. While we often want the world of our promotional and marketing efforts, the campaigns with the most focus are the ones that produce the best results.
Audience – Who?
Who is your audience for this promotion? If you have quite a wide swath of customers from different lifestyles, figure out how you can cater your message directly to them. Some of the best promotion campaigns are those that figured out that though their product was ideal to anyone with, say, a bike who needed to see their phone navigation at all times, the actual cyclist who needs their product will be very different, and will respond differently when they see themselves represented (or not) in promotional materials. For example, if one person only ever commutes to work on their bike, their eyes will likely glaze past images of a high-level road cyclist.
Audience – Where?
It’s also a good idea to figure out where these people are already at. Are they aware of your company and brand? If not, jumping straight in with promotions to drive sales isn’t going to build the trust and awareness you need before people are ready to purchase. Consider whether you need to make them aware of you for the first time, if they already know and like you, or if they need to have their perception of you changed.
Where do they spend their time? Do they commute on the train and spend a lot of time looking at social media or watching YouTube videos, or are they listening to podcasts? You’ve got to know where your customer spends their time, online and off, in order to effectively promote to them. If they never watch YouTube videos, using influencers on that platform isn’t going to give you the results you wanted, if any at all.
If your promotional activity doesn’t include CTAs (call-to-action) you might as well throw your money in the bin instead. You need your prospects to know what to do next, now they know who you are, that you are offering a new or different product, or that you have the exact thing that will solve their problem ready to order.
Don’t leave them hanging. Tell them what to do next. Give them a website to visit, a phone number to call, someone to email, somewhere to enter their email or phone number for a callback, or somewhere to go where they can actually purchase the product.
One of the biggest issues businesses face with their promotional activity is that often, the effects become hard to quantify. It’s important that you define what you want to measure and how you are going to. If you are promoting a product for sales then the numbers will speak for themselves, however for promotional activities that increase awareness and where leads come to you in a number of different ways, it will be important to define parameters for which leads count as having come in via your promotional efforts.
If you don’t do this, you’ll have no idea of your ROI (return-on-investment) or what you can test further in future promotional efforts.
As mentioned above, once you know what results your promotional activity produced you can tweak and test again. This should be a constant effort of fine-tuning until you can reliably role out the promotion and get predictable results.
Don’t Forget (Or Underestimate) Word-of-Mouth
It doesn’t matter what industry or sector you work in, one key aspect of organic promotion is simply your reputation; when you do great work for your clients, customers and employees, word of mouth about you will inevitably spread. Word of mouth is, and will forever remain, one of the very best ways to get new clients.
When you carefully plan and test your promotional efforts, your organic promotion will increase, and you will predictably be able to bring in more leads. If this all seems overwhelming you can outsource your promotional efforts to other businesses, and many will tell you they can solve it all easily. Remember to take this with a pinch of salt and choose a company or agency who has worked with businesses like yours in the past, and who have a better grasp of your ideal customer and industry. Remember that their cost should and will be in addition to your overall budget.