Too often people spend a great deal of time developing a product, making sure the brand is exciting and the packaging and labelling are perfect. Then they sit back and expect the product to ‘walk out the door’. In most cases, this will not happen.
Products must be promoted – this is how consumers become aware they are available and how an individual finds out there is a product or service to suit their needs. Product promotion will not create ongoing sales, but it will let consumers know the product is available and what is so special about it.
Promotional activities create awareness and convey information, but promotion by itself can’t sell a product or service if the need for that product or service is not there. Promotion cannot create need and will not push the consumer to purchase.
You can also consider adding other content to advertising and promotional materials to entice consumers to your website and social media content, such as the introduction of QR codes on labels to link to your latest specials, promotional content, and contact information.
What is promotion?
We most often associate promotion with advertising, but in fact advertising is only one of a range of activities that go together to make up a promotion strategy. Your promotion strategy (which should be part of your overall marketing plan) includes all the ways in which you can promote your product and will be tailored to suit your product, brand and target markets.
The ‘promotional mix’ is the range of promotional options you decide to use, based on the needs of the marketplace and the characteristics of your product. The promotional mix includes:
- public relations/communications
- personal selling by sales representatives
- sales promotions including tastings and demonstrations in-store and at events
- unpaid direct promotion, such as stands and giveaways at events
- participation in trade shows
- direct advertising
- your website and in social media
- promotional materials such as brochures, presentations, fliers, point of sale
Each business needs to select the elements for the promotional mix that are relevant and compatible with its product, the stage in its business life cycle, the channel of distribution, and the media and communications behaviour of the target market. In most situations a combination of promotional activities will be required to achieve the desired goals.
It is important for all businesses to plan their promotions and develop a budget for these plans. This will help ensure the promotions are focused and will be more effective.
Planning your promotional strategy
In deciding on your combination of promotional activities, you need to consider:
- Consumer characteristics — The characteristics of your consumer must be matched to the promotion strategy. For example, ‘foodies’ looking to connect with a food producer may prefer a personalised tasting in an appropriate environment because of the personal element of meeting the maker because that interaction adds value to the experience. Your promotional strategy needs to take place where your target consumers are, for example at a consumer food show, farmer’s market or by doing an in-store tasting or demonstration.
- Product characteristics — Promotion must be tailored to the characteristics, features and application of the product or service being sold. The most effective promotions will draw on these attributes and your competitive positioning to strongly demonstrate your unique offer to the consumer.
- Product lifecycle stage — If the product is new, it is best to budget for a higher level of investment in demonstrations and any other activities designed to introduce the product to consumers, while later on in the product’s lifecycle, the content and nature of promotional activities will change to be more about reminding consumers about the product and its attributes.
- Distribution channels — if you are the manufacturer, then promotions must be conducted not only for the end consumer but also for wholesalers, distributors and retailers, who are your customers. This supports the distribution channels and encourages them to distribute the product and to champion it on your behalf to consumers. The longer the channel, the more complex the promotional mix. If you have a producer, a wholesaler and a retailer between you and the end, you need three integrated strategies to promote your product and it must take account of their specific needs as well, for example in the use of retail-ready packaging.
- Your business capacity and budget — The size and scale of operations of your business have a direct relationship to the promotional mix. New and smaller businesses will only have a limited budget to spend and need to be aware of the capacity required to meet demand as it grows. Simple brochures, personal tastings and selling, with direct mail in the form of a newsletter, may be appropriate. A social media presence can help build interaction with consumers if they are active in those forums. Traditional advertising (print, radio and television) can be expensive but may be appropriate in conjunction with other activities, and there are also often special deals available with substantial discounts that can be useful in launching a new product, for example.
- Competition — you will need to use the promotional mix to reinforce the ways in which you are different from your competitors.
Developing a campaign
There are four key components to any promotional campaign. They are:
- image – an effective image illustrates what you’d like to say, captures your uniqueness, and stands out in a crowd
- message – an effective message motivates your audience to take a specific action
- techniques – a combination of posters, your telephone message, media releases, trade fairs and conferences, sponsorship and so on
- implementation – divide your plan into small steps, allocate responsibility, deadlines and a budget, and go for it
Want more information?
Look at your workplace, shop or office through your eyes of those who come to visit it and purchase your products. Familiarity with your surroundings can make them comfortable and adequate to you but to your customers they can look shabby, disorganised, old fashioned or unwelcoming. Remember perception is everything – it’s all about that important first impression. A messy office or factory won’t inspire confidence and if you have your own outlet, regular refurbishing and changing displays is a worthwhile investment of both time and money.
The South Australian Office of Consumer and Business Affairs and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission offer advice and guidelines on acceptable advertising of products.