An Introduction to an Effective Promotional Mix
In this article, you will learn about 1) an introduction in marketing and promotional mix, 2) the key components of the promotional mix, 3) how to establish an effective promotional mix, and 4) a short conclusion.
INTRODUCTION TO PROMOTIONAL MIX
There are lots of things that must come together for a company to successfully promote its products or services; this is what is sometimes referred to as a company’s marketing mix. There are 4 key components to any marketing mix, and one of the most important is the promotional mix.
The Promotional Mix in Marketing
Definition of the Promotional Mix
The promotional mix is best described as a series of tools that a business uses to communicate the message of why consumers should buy their product.
Why is the Promotional Mix Important?
The answer is very simple. If customers don’t know about your services and products, you will not get any sales. So the promotional mix is critical because it is the way you effectively communicate the characteristics of your goods and services to generate sales.
The Difference between Promotional Mix and Marketing Mix
The marketing mix encompasses several aspects that attract new and repeat customers. The promotional mix is just one aspect of the overall marketing mix, and it focuses on communication and interaction with potential customers.
Four Elements of the Marketing Mix:
- Product – Anything that can be offered to a potential customer that fills a want or need.
- Price – The marketing mix factor that controls the volume of sales.
- Place – The distribution of products and services at the right time and in the right place.
- Promotion – Activities undertaken by a business to get the message out about its product or service to the target audience.
It is worth noting that many times companies will consider ‘people’ as the 5th part of a sound marketing mix.
The Focus of the Promotional Mix
The main objective of the promotional mix is to inform, remind and persuade the target audience about their need for the company’s product or service.
Why the Promotional Mix Is Important to Marketing
It is important to the overall marketing process because if customers do not know about the products and services offered, sales will be limited and the company will not survive as a result.
KEY COMPONENTS OF THE PROMOTIONAL MIX
This is often referred to as one-on-one or face-to-face selling. As the name implies, it establishes a direct in-person connection with a prospective customer that may build trust and lead to a sale; it is the only means of promotion that allows you to adjust the message as the sales situation is unfolding. The downside is that it is a very costly means of selling. Examples would be a salesman on the floor of a home improvement company or a representative in a booth at a trade show.
This is almost the exact opposite of personal selling because it involves no direct face-to-face customer contact at all. It happens when companies make expenditures to promote their product through such things as media and the internet. The main advantage of this type of marketing is it’s a one-way conversation that helps the customer focus on the benefits of your product or service for them. As mentioned, its biggest drawback is establishing trust because of its impersonal nature. Examples of advertising are television commercials and pop-up ads on websites.
This type of marketing tries to narrow the focus to a selected group of people who would be more interested in your product or service than others. Direct marketing can generate more sales because of its specific focus and it normally does it at less cost to the company; however, this type of marketing may be ill-received due to the sheer amount of it that people receive daily. Examples of this type of marketing are e-mail and direct mail advertising campaigns.
This is actually a catch-all term that covers any type of promotions other than the ones that are specifically mentioned here. The advantage of them is that they can induce traffic and sales by changing a buyer’s perception of a product or service value. The disadvantage of sales promotions is the short-term nature of them often overshadows your company’s long-term sales goals. Sales promotions can be done by putting coupons on a flyer or snack chips being sold on a point-of-purchase display.
This type of promotion has to do with creating a favorable image for your company as opposed to supplying direct information about a particular product or service. The advantage of public relations is that it can raise the appeal and image of your company for future purchasing decisions in a cost effective way. It must be noted also that it is very difficult to judge the effectiveness of this promotional campaign.
Good examples of this are a company that encourages others to give to disaster relief by matching donations or that hosts a run benefitting cancer research.
This is very similar to public relations except it is more direct in nature. It seeks to shape the company’s image in a very specific way; this is closely related to branding. The benefit of a corporate image promotion is it can stop a declining sales trend because of poor perceptions about your product or service. The drawback to using this method is that people may see it for exactly what it is and be further dissuaded about purchasing your product or service.
A few very good examples of this are an airline that starts a campaign to fix its perceived uncaring image after a fatal crash of one of its aircrafts or a restaurant chain that needs to fix the negative publicity of a severe food illness outbreak at one of their locations.
This type of advertising is very similar to public relations in that it deals with a company’s image. It takes place when your company links itself to an event that makes it look good in the community or gives the impression your company is giving back something to the public. It can also be a non-charitable event that your product closely relates to, like sponsoring a sports team.
A sponsorship can do such things as brand enhancement if you do it in conjunction with another strong name, and it can also help your company’s entry into niche markets that are typically hard to break into. It is also normally cost effective for what your company gets out of it. The drawbacks to sponsorship are tarnishing your image if the event or team you sponsor gets caught doing something wrong, and you also have little control over the sponsorship situation.
Examples of a sponsorship are a beer company that sponsors a football (soccer) team or partnering with the Red Cross on a fundraising project after a natural disaster.
How big a role are internet promotions playing in the marketing mix these days? Let’s just say that they have their own category here where years ago they were just an afterthought. There is absolutely no doubt that the internet is now a very big promotional marketing channel, and most companies are highly aware of this fact. You would have to look far and wide these days for a company that does not have a website or at least a blog. There are also many specialty businesses that have been born for the sole purpose of helping other companies with their internet presence.
A big part of using the internet as a promotional tool has to do with the rise of social media. Sure it’s free to get on and participate with such social media providers such as Facebook and Twitter, but it is far from free for businesses to advertise on social media. These providers know what a powerful tool social media has become for advertising and marketing, and it costs a fair amount for those who use it.
People often refer to the world nowadays as a digital globe because of all the high-tech things like computers and smartphones that dominate life for people. In order for companies to compete for business, they definitely need to firmly establish an online presence. The best way to do this is to have a website that is comprised of factual and relevant data to your product or service and then optimize your site to drive traffic to it. If a website is optimized for search engines (SEO), then it will show up on the first few pages after internet users search a generic keyword.
Big companies have whole departments that specialize in building websites and driving traffic to them, but small businesses often lack an online presence and are poorly optimized to drive traffic to them. Some studies suggest that over 90% of small business websites are not search engine optimized, and it puts them at a big competitive disadvantage. If these sites were optimized, there is no doubt that their sales would increase if their product was good and priced fair. Establishing an internet presence is a big key for promoting products and services.
HOW TO ESTABLISH AN EFFECTIVE PROMOTIONAL MIX
Here are some steps for establishing an effective promotional mix at your company.
Step 1: Define your target audience profile.
Establish who the ideal match for your product is based on who will most likely consider purchasing it. You will also have to decide if you will promote your product to just the end users or if you will be better off selling to distribution companies or retail outlets.
Step 2: Define the goals of your promotional mix.
You have seen through the various promotional strategies that were introduced that the goal of any marketing mix does not necessarily have to take a direct approach to impact sales or profits, although this is always the end goal no matter what promotional strategy you use. There are times when an indirect approach will work better to increase sales than a direct approach; such is the case when a company is trying to fix a tarnished image. Think of all the types of promotions that BP did after the Gulf oil spill to give the image ‘they cared’ in order to keep the incident from running the company into the ground.
So each individual marketing campaign will have to clearly define the end result it wants to achieve and then have the proper promotional strategy put into place to achieve the desired result. Once you establish the goal of your promotional mix, it is then easier to plan the rest of it.
Step 3: Define your message.
There are two main factors that every promotional mix message has to have:
- Content – This is simply deciding what image you want to show with your product or service. It consists of both the written word and the graphics that you present to your target audience to convey the benefits of or needs for your product or service. It will normally appeal to things like a person’s need to eat healthy, ensure their safety or save money.
- Format – This is how your message will appeal to your target audience. Often you will have to think about the technical aspects of presenting your message. Formats may consist of such things as a live demonstration at a convention where you will need to consider the stage setup, lighting, and sound or a banner on a web page where you will have to consider the size and visual content of the banner itself.
Step 4: Decide how you will get the message to your target audience.
If you look back at Section 2, you were given 8 methods that are widely used to promote products and services for sale. When you are trying to establish your marketing mix, at some point you will need to choose the strategy to market your goods and services. For example, you will have to decide if you will use a coupon on a flyer to promote your landscaping services, use direct mail to sell your brand of swimming pools or sponsor a booth in a boat show to help market your marine sportswear line.
The method you choose to deliver the message to your target audience is more critical than any other part of designing your promotional mix. You have to think carefully when choosing. You probably would not want to market adult diapers using a strong internet presence because many seniors are fairly computer illiterate, but doing something like putting a coupon in a senior living magazine might work nicely.
Step 5: Determine what action you want your message to achieve.
After you have chosen the method of delivery for your promotional message, you must then decide how you want it to be actionable. It is not enough for people to just see your product or service; you want to take it one step further like having them click on a ‘for more information’ button on a promotional web page that brings them to your main site or fill out a coupon for a free trip that supplies you with their contact information for use on a future direct mail campaign.
Step 6: Determine your budget.
Your promotional budget is usually determined by a set percentage of what you are hoping the sales from your marketing campaign will be. It goes without saying that if you are working with a small budget you will have limited options at times; you may not be able to do such things as hire the most popular actor for a cameo appearance on a TV commercial.
Step 7: Define your promotional mix.
Once you have determined your budget, you can then use it to define your promotional mix. Defining your promotional mix includes sectioning it into a percentage of the overall budget.
Example: a promotional mix for a new dog toy with a budget of $10,000 might be 50% direct mail campaign ($5,000), 40% advertising in pet magazines ($4,000) and 10% point-of-purchase displays ($1,000).
Step 8: Put the plan into effect.
One you have your promotional mix plan in place it is then time to put it into action.
Step 9: Put analysis and control measures into your plan.
Lastly, you will want to be able to track your promotional mix plan to see if you got the results from it that you desired. This will help make future plans more effective. Tracking can be done by such methods as looking at coupons that were filled out on a promotional flyer, looking at the number of visitors to a promotional page on your website or through follow-up surveys by customers after purchase.
By now you should be able to see just how important the promotional mix is to an overall marketing strategy. It is a key component of the marketing strategy that must be well thought out and well executed. If your company takes the time to do this, then you stand a good chance of meeting your overall sales goals when you take your marketing message to your target audience.