Using a promotional activity can help your small business boost sales, gain brand awareness, reach new customers and build valuable relationships. However, it’s important to choose the right kind of promotion to achieve the goals you have in mind. Not all promotional activities lead to the same results, so it’s critical to have a strategic plan you can use to reach your business’s objectives.

Understanding the Marketing Mix

The element of promotion is one part of the larger marketing mix, which is a set of tactical tools every business has in its toolbox. The four elements of the marketing mix are product, price, place and promotion. When developing a strategic and comprehensive marketing plan, a business needs to ensure that all four elements of the marketing mix are working together to achieve the business’s marketing goals.

In the marketing mix, promotion’s role is to entice prospects with the benefits of the product and compel them to make a purchase. There are five key methods of promotion: personal selling, advertising, direct marketing, sales promotion and public relations.

Developing Promotional Activities

Each area of promotion in the marketing mix helps the business to achieve a specific goal. Businesses can use several components together in different combinations when developing its marketing plan to ensure it is reaching its prospects in multiple ways.

How you build your promotion strategy will depend on the other elements of the marketing mix in addition to who your customers are. Their age, gender, buying habits, needs, wants, challenges and fears will also play a role in developing your promotional activities.

Build Relationships With Personal Selling

Personal selling involves one-to-one communication between the business and its prospects. As a result, it’s one of the most expensive promotional activities because the cost to perform it is high. Through direct contact with your prospects and customers, either in person, over the phone or over email, you can build relationships that hopefully lead to sales.

This marketing activity helps to create meaningful buyer-seller relationships that are nurtured over time and are built on trust. By communicating with the seller directly, the prospect can ask questions, validate the business’s offerings and overcome any hesitation to purchase.

Personal Selling in the Real World

Some businesses are built primarily on personal selling. For example, real estate agents use personal selling in their day-to-day promotional activities by taking prospective buyers to see different houses they may like. An agent spends a lot of time with this marketing activity, and the payoff can be big, often in the tens of thousands of dollars in commission.

In a retail environment, personal selling also takes place. If you own a shop and deal one on one with customers, you are taking part in personal selling. By talking to customers about your products and addressing any of their concerns, you can help to build trust in your business and your offerings, leading to a sale.

Reach a Large Audience With Advertising

Advertising media include:

  • television
  • radio
  • billboards
  • newspapers
  • magazines
  • online channels

The advertising vehicle you choose will depend on your audience, as it’s important to select a medium of which they will take notice.

Advertising in the Real World

For many small business owners, online advertising is an accessible and cost-effective way to reach prospects and customers. Online advertising includes graphic ads, social media marketing, text and search ads and remarketing. Businesses also have the option to geographically and demographically filter the audience for its ads, helping to target its customers more closely.

For example, if a local bakery wanted to advertise online, it would be effective to target its ads to a specific location, as foot traffic is an essential part of the business. The bakery could also create social media ads that target members of local groups. Remarketing to people who visited the bakery’s website is also a good option.

Target Prospects With Direct Marketing

Direct marketing involves one-way communication with prospects and customers, either over the phone, social media or email. Unlike advertising that reaches a broad audience with a generic message, direct marketing reaches a highly targeted audience with a very specific message.

It can involve promoting new product offers, special promotions or company announcements. When developing the message for a direct marketing promotion, small businesses need to address the specific needs of the customers to whom it is sending the message.

Direct Marketing in the Real World

Small businesses can use direct marketing to target specific audience segments.

For example, if a local business that sells children’s toys launches a new clothing line for infants, it can target its customer list based on those who have previously purchased toys specifically for infants in the past six months. The business can send out an email campaign to that targeted list announcing the new product line and offer a specific incentive for that customer base to purchase.

Increase Revenue With Sales Promotions

The main goal of sales promotions is to increase revenue in the short term. It’s important to offer customers an incentive that makes them want to make the purchase right away.

Sales promotions can be directed at both new and existing customers. For existing customers, sales promotions are a way to gain brand loyalty. For prospects, sales promotions help to reduce risk when making a purchase. Types of sales promotions include coupons, free samples, free trials and discounts.

When developing a sales promotion, it’s important to develop a budget. Ensure your business can withstand offering a discount or a free product and set limits on how many promotional offers your business can hand out. While you may want to increase revenue, it’s also important to keep profitability in mind.

Sales Promotions in the Real World

Sales promotions are a great way for small businesses to quickly increase revenue. Some sales promotions can be tied to a specific season or holiday, like Christmas or back to school. Sales promotions can also be tied to an event, like the business's anniversary or a local festival.

For example, if a small business sells beautiful, leather-bound notebooks, offering a buy-one-get-one discount during the Christmas season might be a way to incentivize new customers to make a purchase and give one away as a gift while keeping one for themselves.

Create a Favorable Image With Public Relations

Businesses use public relations to build brand awareness and create a good impression in the public eye. Public relations vehicles include press releases, press conferences, sponsorships and media interviews.

Public relations can also be used for damage control. If the business is involved in some poor publicity, a strategic public relations campaign can bring its reputation back on track.

Public Relations in the Real World

An effective way for small businesses to create a favorable brand image is through sponsorships within the community. A common misconception is that sponsorships require a large financial investment. However, a small business on a budget can make a name for itself in its neighborhood by sponsoring small activities like kids’ soccer games or a holiday lunch for a local association.