A Simple Guide to Promotional Marketing (plus examples)

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably wondering what promotional marketing is and how you can use it in your business.

Truth be told, there’s no one way to do promotional marketing.

Every business is different, meaning that there are different activities you can do to engage your target audience. Ultimately, it’s up to you to figure out what these are.

But if you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry. In this article, we’ll take you through the ins and outs of promotional marketing.

We’ll look at the benefits of using it, some successful examples, and we’ll show you how to create a successful promotional marketing strategy.

But first, let’s clarify what promotional marketing actually is.

What is promotional marketing?

Promotional marketing involves promoting products and services to a wide audience.

Businesses will communicate the benefits and features of their product to new and existing customers through a mixture of sales and marketing channels. When done well, it can increase brand awareness and boost conversions.

Promotional marketing is also a key part of the marketing mix.

If you’re not familiar with the marketing mix, it’s a framework that helps businesses achieve their marketing goals. Also known as the four Ps of marketing, the marketing mix outlines four key areas of marketing: product, price, place, and promotion.

Graphic displaying the four Ps of the marketing mix

Using the areas of this framework, businesses can make sure they cover all areas of marketing to reach their target audience and yield the best results.

What are the four types of promotion?

Promotional marketing is split into four main areas of activity:

Graphic outlining the four key areas of the promotional marketing mix

Let’s look at these in more detail.

1. Advertising

Advertising is a broad term for any type of paid promotion or communication.

This could include display ads on third-party websites, television advertising, and paid ads on search engines or social media (also known as pay-per-click). Here’s an example of some pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Google:

Google showing paid ads when searching for the term 'pay per click'

(Image Source)

By using these ads, businesses can make sure that their products get seen by the right people at the right time.

2. Sales promotion

A sales promotion is an offer or discount that’s available for a specific amount of time. By providing these discounts, businesses can increase engagement and motivate consumers to make a purchase.

Take a look at Expedia as an example. The company offers customers last-minute deals and discounts on flights and accommodation.

Screenshot of the Expedia website showing last-minute deals and promotions

(Image Source)

By offering these discounts, Expedia encourages consumers to buy in a bid to increase sales.

3. Direct marketing

Direct marketing involves any activity that provides direct communication with consumers. Methods of direct marketing include email, postal mail, telephone, and social media.

All of these platforms allow businesses to reach out to consumers without needing a third party to promote the communication. It removes the middleman and allows businesses to connect with consumers directly.

Let’s look at an example from Avenue, a fashion retailer that uses Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) marketing to promote their flash sale:

Screenshot of Avenue's MMS direct marketing

(Image Source)

With this type of promo marketing, consumers get all the important information directly to their mobile phones. Not only does this help build a relationship between the business and the customer, but it also creates a sense of urgency.

The consumer knows that if they don’t head over to the website or visit the store between 11 a.m.–4 p.m., they could miss out on some big deals.

4. Public relations

Public relations (PR) is all about brand perception. It involves understanding how your target audience perceives your brand and figuring out if and how you need to change that perception.

For example, if you want your audience to perceive your brand as innovative and forward-thinking, a PR strategy will help you bring this vision to life.

PR often includes a variety of marketing activities, including social media marketing (including partnering with influencers and brand ambassadors), email campaigns, paid ads, and content marketing. Most of these channels will be used at the same time to reinforce the desired perception.

The specifics of a PR strategy vary depending on the business and what you’re trying to achieve.

3 benefits of promotional marketing

Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of using promotional marketing and how it can help your business succeed.

1. Raise brand awareness

Promotional marketing helps you reach a wider audience.

Think about it. You want as many people to know who you are as possible, and your marketing activity will be geared towards achieving this goal. You’ll be promoting your business on social media, across search engines, reaching out via email, and more.

All of this will help you get your business in front of more people. And when you get your business in front of a wider audience, you have a higher chance of increasing market share and getting more sales.

2. Increase brand loyalty

Brand loyalty is important for any business. It allows businesses to maintain a solid customer base, which helps sustain growth. Not to mention, it can help increase sales. Studies show that a 5% increase in customer retention can result in a 25% increase in profit. (Source: Bain & Company)

By using promotional marketing, you can increase brand loyalty from existing customers  — especially if you offer unique discounts for previous customers.

Put yourself in the shoes of your customers for a second. If a brand that you’d bought from in the past offered you a unique discount as a previous customer, would you buy from them again?

Chances are, you would.

3. Boost your sales

When done well, special offers can help you boost sales in more ways than one.

Take upselling as an example.

From adding free shipping when customers spend over a certain amount to offering giveaways across various promotional items, upselling is a surefire way to encourage customers to spend more.

These are just a couple of examples of how promotions can increase sales. There are various ways you can promote your business, meaning there’s also a myriad of ways to close more sales.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to find the best promotions for your business and your target audience.

An example of promotional marketing

As we’ve already mentioned, promotional activities vary from business to business.

The right promotional activities depend on several factors, including the industry you’re working in, your target audience, and your budget.

To give you some inspiration, let’s take a look at this real-life example from Art.com.

Free shipping with Art.com

Art.com offers customers free shipping whenever they buy anything from their site.

Screenshot from CouponFollow's website showing the Art.com free shipping discount

This promotion makes it pretty easy for the customer to get a discount. There’s no minimum spend and no need to enter a code. The offer is automatically applied at checkout. In terms of the consumer buying experience, this is a plus.

To promote this offer, the website has a banner along the top of its homepage.

Screenshot of Art.com's homepage with their free shipping and free returns banner

(Image Source)

The banner makes it apparent to anyone landing on the site that they get free shipping and free returns. And when 79% of consumers say free shipping makes them more likely to buy, having this promotion in plain sight is definitely a good call. (Source: WalkerSands Communications)

How to create a promotional marketing strategy

Are you thinking about using promotional marketing as part of your marketing activity?

Great. But before you start running promotions, you need to create a strategy. This will make sure that all your promotional activity aligns with the overall business strategy.

If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry. We’ve outlined four simple steps to get you started.

1. Identify your target audience

First, you need to identify your target audience. This will make sure that your promotional marketing is tailored to the right audience.

There are a few ways to find out who you should be targeting:

  • Review your existing customer base: Take a look at the demographic of your existing customer base. This should give you a pretty good idea of the audience that’s attracted to your business.
  • Ask consumers: Put a survey out there and ask consumers what they think of your brand and who they visualize you trying to target. This can be a beneficial activity as it shows you what consumers think of your brand and whether you’re thinking along the same lines.
  • Analyze your competitors: Take a look at what your competitors are doing to give yourself an idea of the type of audience you should target.

Once you’ve narrowed it down, you can start to segment your audience for different promotions.

For example, you could offer different discounts based on certain demographics. This allows you to provide a more tailored and unique experience for your audience, which could help you increase sales.

2. Confirm your budget

Before you can start any promotional activity, you need to confirm your budget.

This will show you how much to spend on promotional activity, as well as the discounts and promotions you can offer. Offering too significant a discount could have the opposite effect of what you’re trying to achieve, so it’s important to stay within the financial parameters.

To confirm your budget, we’d suggest creating a budget proposal. You can show this plan to your manager to get approval before spending and use it as an outline for how you plan to invest in your promotional marketing.

This proposal should clearly outline how much you plan to spend on promotional marketing activities, as well as the return you expect to see.

Feel free to use this template if you need to create your own budget proposal:

Template for a budget proposal

Make sure to use previous examples to illustrate how you’ve predicted the return on investment. Without this information, it’ll look like you’re taking a stab in the dark. Senior managers are much more likely to approve a budget request if you’ve got concrete evidence to back it up.

3. Create your strategy

When your budget is approved, you can start bringing your strategy to life.

The budget proposal will outline some of the key promotional activities you plan to run. But now’s your chance to drill down and get to the specifics.

Start by creating your vision statement. What’s the purpose of the strategy, and how will it align with the overall business goals? Having this clearly outlined will give you the direction and alignment you need to create a successful promotional marketing strategy.

Once this is clear, you can start to outline your promotional activities. Here’s how we’d suggest tackling this:

  • Identify specific promotions: Choose what promotional products and discounts you’re going to offer and when they’ll go live. Having clarity on this will make the entire process easier as everyone in your team will know what’s happening ahead of time.
  • Goals and milestones: How will you know if your strategy has been a success? By creating goals and milestones. These will allow you to track progress, review the successes and failures of the strategy, and make sure that your promotional activity is high-quality.
  • Tasks: What individual tasks will take place, and who will be responsible for them? Make this clear throughout the strategy, so everyone involved knows what they’re doing.
  • Timeline: When will your strategy start and end? You need a timeline in place so that you and your team have something to work towards.

Before you finalize your promotions, make sure that everything you do aligns with the rest of your marketing plans. After all, this strategy is just focusing on promotion. There are three other areas you need to take into account.

4. Find the right platforms for your promotional marketing campaign

Finally, you need to identify the best channels for your promotional marketing activities. This means choosing platforms that resonate with your audience to give your promotions the best chance of success.

There are a lot of platforms out there to choose from, and there’s no right or wrong answer. Ultimately, you’ll need to figure out what works for your business and your target audience.

From email marketing and social media to paid ads and direct marketing, it’s up to you to figure out which platforms work for your business and your target audience.

As a starting point, we’d suggest reviewing what you’ve done in the past and learning from the data. If there’s a channel that’s working well and getting high engagement, stick with it. If things aren’t working so well, it could be time to shake things up.

Offer your customers unique promotions today

Promotional marketing has a lot of benefits, especially if you want to expand your audience and reach potential customers.

Use this article as a foundation to get your promotional marketing off the ground. And if you need some inspiration, check out the discounts other companies are offering over on the CouponFollow website.

about the author

Marc Mezzacca
Marc Mezzacca is CEO of CouponFollow, a consumer savings engine that surfaces popular coupons. He has been in the coupon and deals industry for over a decade with a deep interest in evolving e-commerce technologies.