How Marketing Plans Work

Promotions and Events

Because your advertising efforts primarily affect the opinions of your target audience and don't always create an immediate action (at least not initially), you also need to plan special promotions that will encourage quick action. A promotion, as opposed to advertising, is based on incentives to act, such as a two-for-one sale, a price discount, or a free gift with purchase. Promotions are useful for encouraging potential customers to try your product and hopefully increase your base of loyal customers.

Here are some examples of promotion types used by marketers today:


  • Price discounts/sales
  • Coupons
  • Samples
  • On-pack or in-pack discounts - or even near-pack discounts (from point-of-purchase displays)
  • Rebates
  • Premium items - either in the package or sent by mail
  • Sweepstakes/games
  • Packaging
  • Events

It is important to watch the promotions your competition offers, but be careful about always reacting with a similar promotion. It is easy to lose market share if you overuse promotions. Customers begin to buy only when your product is on sale. A better strategy is to competitively price your product in the first place, and then use some of the money you would have spent on promotions to improve your products or increase your advertising instead. If your product is better, and you've advertised this, then the customer may have more inclination to buy your product even though the competition's is cheaper... I mean, less expensive.

Sales promotion does have a place in your marketing efforts. Just remember to avoid the loser promotions. These include:

  • Doing the same promotion more than twice - For some reason, the magic number is two (for promotions that worked the first time, anyway).
  • Boring promotions - People will snooze through contests that don't seem to fit the positioning of the product. If there's no connection, typically they won't work.
  • Premium offers - "Send three proofs-of-purchase and $3.99 for shipping and handling to get this great coupon organizer!" Overused and usually disappointing to the consumer.
  • Overpromising odds of winning - Don't make consumers think they're going to win every time they open a soda.

Just like everything else in your marketing mix, your promotions have to stay on target with your objective and your marketing message or position. To put together promotions that work, you should keep that in mind and put on your "customer" hat. What would get you excited about a product or service? What would be fun and give you the feeling that you really have a chance to win? What could you win that would make you think more highly of the product being promoted? What is your most desirable prize?

Once you've brainstormed some ideas, make sure you make it simple to register, provide good odds, and have a unique idea that is of great interest to your market.