Reaching customers may require using a variety of promotional tactics, among them traditional advertising, public relations, promotions, digital marketing, community involvement and partnerships. All these functions work together to comprise a unified marketing promotion plan.
In this article, we will focus on four basic tactics: advertising, public relations, in-store promotions and digital marketing. The integration of these tactics should result in a higher return on investment for your marketing dollars.
Start by planning your overall marketing program. Buyers receive information in a variety of ways, with each having their own preferences. Therefore, integrated marketing is critical.
For example, one buyer may be digital-savvy and prefer surfing the Internet for information about product availability, features, benefits, etc. Another may get primary information via television and newspaper advertising. If your marketing promotion tactics are not unified – meaning that you use a variety of techniques – you could miss an audience segment critical to your success.
Secondly, unified marketing promotion tactics can facilitate better understanding of your company and product lines. This factor will make it easier for consumers to receive more information. In unified marketing, the key is to cross-promote your communications media.
For example, list your website in a newspaper ad. Send a news release promoting a contest on your Facebook page. Promote a Twitter hashtag in your television commercials. Post video to your YouTube channel and website.
Advertising includes any paid method of spreading the word about your company: print ads, television ads, radio spots, web advertising, direct mail, etc. This promotional tactic has some real benefits:
- You control the message. You create the ads. You write the words, choose the visuals, determine how and when the advertisements will be delivered, etc. With advertising, you are in charge.
- You control the cost. Advertising campaigns create, by definition, spending limits. You spend what you choose to spend. You can then evaluate that spending against the return on your advertising to determine whether the expenditure made good business sense.
- You create calls to action. Good advertising creates a call to action, inspiring customers to make a purchase.
But advertising has its downside, too:
- Advertising can be expensive. While you control the cost, in some cases the cost may be prohibitive. Television advertising is relatively high-ticket; so are some forms of print advertising.
- You may miss your audience. Not all advertising is targeted. A newspaper print ad may be seen by few of the people in your demographic. If your customer base is national or international, reaching that audience can be incredibly expensive.
In this form of promotion, you can add websites, social media, content marketing such as blogging, columns and white papers, pay-per-click ads, email marketing and other online tools to your portfolio of tactics. Among the benefits:
- Flexibility. Digital marketing is an effective way to cross-promote media and drive information to the consumer.
- Cost effective. Most of your expense is tied up in personnel to execute the plan as opposed to placement fees.
- Level playing field. Small companies compete equally with big companies when promoting themselves digitally.
- Global audience. Access via the Worldwide Web is global, increasing the size of your potential customer base.
But there are weaknesses, as well:
- Uncharted territory. Digital marketing is an unfamiliar journey for many, and the methods for effectively utilizing it are still being evaluated.
- Calculating results. Standards and metrics for digital marketing are just now evolving; the impact may not be calculate-able for several months after you start a campaign.
Public relations activities include issuing media releases, getting media attention, participating in charitable or community efforts, etc. Some public relations efforts are relatively low-cost or even free – for instance, a local television interview provides cost-free exposure. Other strengths include:
- Credibility. Third-party mentions of your company are inherently more credible than advertisements. After all, you are expected to say great things about your company; if another person says positive things it carries a lot more weight.
- Community involvement. Participating in community efforts may create a relatively intangible benefit for your company, but at the same time you and your employees will feel good about helping others in need.
Not every outcome is a strength, though:
- You lose some control of the message. If a third party endorses your company, that's great; but you cannot control everything that person says. The same is true if you are interviewed by a local reporter. You will not be able to choose which quotes run in the newspaper.
- Your target demographic may not notice. A feature about your company on the local television station may seem wonderful, but not if your target demographic rarely watches that station.
While most marketing efforts strive to attract customers into your business, marketing does not stop at the entrance. In-store sales, loyalty programs, and promotions can generate additional revenue and turn casual customers into long-term clientele. Here are additional benefits:
- Customers are already interested in what you provide. A customer who has entered your premises is pre-disposed towards making a purchase.
- You control the message. Similar to advertising, you can decide exactly how you want to incentivize customers.
- The cost is low. While the cost of providing discounts or other promotions should be factored in, signage and promotional display cost within your store is low.
Of course, as with other promotional tactics, a downside does exist:
- Customers must be present. In-store promotions are not seen by anyone other than patrons who enter your premises.
- Promotions must be tied to other efforts. Customers do not want to feel they were denied opportunities. Make sure your in-store promotions complement and support other sales, discounts programs and loyalty programs.
Finally, advertising, digital marketing and in-store promotions should work together to drive business and revenue. As a unified marketing promotion plan, they likewise will enhance the image and brand of your business.