8 minute read

Effective promotion is an essential part of every successful business, yet it’s an ongoing struggle for many companies. Using the right promotional mix elements in your marketing strategy helps your company drive sales, weather slowdowns, and stand out in a crowded market.

Every element in the promotional mix has advantages and disadvantages. Finding the right blend of promotional tools, processes, and channels takes time, effort, and often a little luck.

5 promotional mix elements

Fortunately, it’s easy to ensure that your customers hear your message loud and clear. Let’s take a look at the essential promotional mix elements and how you can put them together to create a balanced and effective promotional mix for your company.

What Is the Promotional Mix?

Your promotional mix refers to the specific combination of the tools, channels, and processes you use to promote your offerings. It’s what you say, how you say it, who you say it to, what channels you use to reach them, and how often you communicate.

Importance of Promotional Mix

Promotion makes up one of the four P’s in the marketing mix, alongside Product, Price, and Place—and it’s arguably the most important. That’s because your promotional strategy ties all of your other marketing activities together.

You might have an amazing product, the most profitable pricing strategy, and the best possible location—but unless you’re sharing the right message with the right audience, your marketing efforts will fall flat.

You can nail all the other P’s in your marketing mix—but a carefully crafted strategy of the right promotional mix elements can make the difference between success and failure. Without effective promotion, customers can’t learn about your product and service offerings, and sales will be stifled.

The 5 Essential Promotional Mix Elements

Every market is different, with different factors affecting your promotional mix. The biggest challenge for marketers? Finding the best possible mix of promotional elements to maximize the results of their marketing efforts.

We’ll look at five of the tools and techniques you should use in an effective promotional mix and a case study of companies employing these elements.

Advertising

Advertising is only as helpful as its ability to be seen. But with so many brands vying for attention, campaigns lose effectiveness over time. Mailchimp‘s award-winning 2017 advertising campaign “Did You Mean Mailchimp?” raised awareness of the email service provider through catchy “mistaken” versions of the software company’s name, like “Mail Shrimp” or “Jail Blimp.”

mailchimp advertising campaign example

Mailchimp focused much of their promotional mix on social media platforms and even screened their short parody films in cinemas. The campaign paid off, bringing in 988 million earned media impressions worth more than $3.5 million.

Public Relations

In public relations or publicity, companies share their message through existing channels—most often the press—by doing or sharing something newsworthy, which the channel then shares with their audience. Public relations tools and channels range from more traditional press releases to guerrilla marketing campaigns, special events, and sponsorships.

Publicity can be more cost-effective than other promotional mix elements because it leverages existing brands and audiences. But there are downfalls to PR; it can be difficult to judge whether campaigns are successful, and an industry-wide shift toward paid influencers is driving up costs.

Mailchimp offers up another great example. They recently opened Small Mall, a 1980s-mall-themed pop-up shop within the Ponce City Market in Atlanta.

The store showcases products from local businesses and brands, from organic teas to premium shoelaces—all of which use Mailchimp. The store gives Mailchimp a great opportunity to leverage the existing audience from the holiday market while sharing their message with the audiences of the brands they’re highlighting.

The announcement from MailChimp saw activity on social media, most likely from its Atlanta fans. Our Content Exploration tool reported on engagement with the announcement on Twitter and Reddit, below.

Social engagement on PR announcement

The media release also gained coverage from several Atlanta-based news outlets, such as AJC, which shared MailChimp’s Instagram post.

Direct Marketing

Direct marketing is (much like it sounds) marketing directly to a person. By communicating with a narrow group of potential customers, companies promote their offerings through telephone marketing, snail mail, email, or catalogs and brochures. Despite the abundance of offers from junk mail and telemarketers, direct marketing remains popular: it gives companies a predictable and cost-effective way of reaching their target markets.

An example of this can be seen in the popular promotional tactic of deploying email messages to people who have interacted with a service.

In this case, MarketMuse sends an email to engage individuals who try out the company’s content planning tool.

Sales Promotion

Sales promotions are the sledgehammers of the marketing world. A well-crafted sales promotion can generate immediate traffic and boost your short-term sales. A sales promotion is an incentive, such as a discount or coupon, intended to persuade customers to make a purchase. However, promotions tend to quickly lose their effectiveness, so avoid becoming dependent on them for driving sales. They’re best used as a supplement to other more sustainable promotional activities. Here are a couple examples:

  • This sales promotion example found on a professional education website illustrates how sales often revolve around special times or events — in this case, the start of the new year.

  • Consumer products companies rely heavily on sales promotions to drive business. This is evident by the popularity of Groupon and other services that help get their goods into consumers’ hands at sales prices.

Personal Selling

Companies hire salespeople to reach out directly to potential customers in order to share information about products or services, answer any questions, and (hopefully) close the sale.

Personal sales tend to be extremely effective because salespeople can easily adapt their messaging to meet their prospects’ needs in real time. However, hiring and training salespeople isn’t cheap, so it’s a promotional mix element most often used by companies selling highly technical or customized solutions.

The Advent of Digital Marketing

While these five promotional mix elements—advertising, PR, promotions, direct marketing, and personal selling—have been around for decades, the marketing world is constantly evolving. Digital marketing lets companies target their potential customers more easily, bypassing more traditional marketing channels and running digital campaigns at a fraction of the cost.

Although digital marketing isn’t really a new promotional method—it’s simply a way of leveraging new channels to deliver a message. As those channels become more widely adopted, though, the costs are beginning to rise, leading companies back to other time-tested promotional activities or prompting them to find other channels that are on the rise but haven’t yet peaked.

How to Develop an Effective Promotional Mix for Your Company

An effective combination of promotional mix elements looks different for every company and industry. There’s no silver bullet for finding the right promotional mix, but with these steps, you’ll be better suited to finding the combination of tools, channels, and processes that work best for you.

Together, we’ll build a theoretical promotional mix for a fictitious mid-size SEO agency to illustrate how you can set up the most effective promotional mix elements for your own company.

1. Consider Your Target Audience

First, create a detailed buyer persona for your ideal customer. Without a clear picture of who you’re trying to reach, you’ll waste time, effort, and money marketing to the wrong audience in the wrong channel.

Helpful stats to know about your target market: How old are they? What’s their job? Their level of education? What kind of media do they consume?

For our fictitious agency, we’ve identified our ideal customer as owners and marketing directors at fast-growing ecommerce stores.

Related reading: How to Do Market Research Better Than Your Competitors

2. Establish Clear Promotional Goals

Next, you’ll identify clear goals for your promotional efforts. Your goals act as a guide for every decision relating to your promotional mix elements. Once you know where you want to go, it’s easier to create your marketing plan to help you get there.

For most businesses, your goal will be to increase sales. Other common goals include building awareness, establishing a reputation as a thought leader, or reducing customer churn.

The most important thing is to make sure each goal is specific and measurable. Assign specific KPIs to each goal so you can track your progress.

For our agency, our goal is to build awareness for a new service we’re launching. To gauge success, we’ll measure two metrics: the number of visitors on our landing page and the number of qualified leads generated.

Related reading: How to Define and Measure Marketing Objectives: A Start-to-Finish Guide

3. Create a Promotional Budget

Next, know how much you can afford to spend on promotional mix elements. Different activities and channels can vary widely in costs, so it’s important to avoid overcommitting yourself and your organization.

Your budget should take into consideration four things: revenue, company age, customer acquisition costs, and lifetime value. Generally, you should spend a portion of the return you expect to receive from the campaign, and never more than you expect. New companies may find they need to allocate a higher percentage to enable rapid growth.

Let’s pretend our fictitious agency is young, and since productized services are quite profitable, we can afford to invest more in promotion. We’ll invest $2,500 per month in promotion to drum up interest, with the expectation that we’ll ramp down as we acquire customers.

Related reading: Use This Marketing Budget Template to Track Every Marketing Dollar

4. Choose Your Channels

Next, where will you deliver your message? Where is your target audience? The promotional mix elements and channels you choose can make or break your campaign, so it’s important to keep a few rules in mind:

  • Go where your audience is. If your audience is on LinkedIn, don’t market on Instagram and TikTok.
  • Choose channels that match your desired message and format. For example, according to Buffer, video performs best on Facebook, but written blog posts tend to find more traction on Twitter.
  • Your messaging can (and should) vary with each channel. Shape every part of the content—from subheadings to images and tone—to the interests of that channel’s audience. For example, short, direct messages work best over email, but not as a direct sales letter.

For our fictitious agency, launching a new productized service lends itself well to paid advertising and direct outreach, so we’ll reach ecommerce store owners through a combination of social media advertising and direct outreach.

Related reading: 6 Content Promotion Tactics (Plus How They Can Boost Your SEO)

5. Define Your Marketing Message

The golden rule when it comes to messaging? Be specific. Vague and generic messages are far less likely to resonate with audiences than specific communication is. That’s why you defined your audience early on. Now, speak directly to them.

For our SEO agency example, our messaging will emphasize the cost and time savings that ecommerce store owners will see after signing up for our new service.

Related reading: The Importance of Targeting in Marketing (And How to Include It in Your Strategy)

6. Lay Out Your Promotional Mix

Split your budget between your chosen channels based on how well you expect those channels to perform.

For our fictitious agency, we know we’re spending $2,500 per month. We’ll choose to allocate 60% ($1,500 per month) toward social media advertising, and 40% ($1,000 per month) toward 15 hours of direct sales outreach to store owners.

7. Learn and Iterate on Your Plan

Finally, put your plan into action. Measure your success using your KPIs—did you meet your original goals? Use what you learn to inform your promotional mix analysis as well as your future marketing plans.

Let’s say, after a few months of promoting our fictitious SEO service, we’ve discovered that direct sales are far more effective than social media. Moving forward, we’ll reorganize our promotional mix elements to invest more in direct sales, confident we’ll receive a higher return on investment (ROI).

Start Creating Your Promotional Mix Today

Finding the right promotional mix is vital for every organization. A carefully crafted promotional mix can be the difference between a sustainable company and one that fades out of existence.

Now that you know how to create a balanced and effective promotional mix, think about how you could apply these strategies to your own company. Are you reaching the right audience? What channels can you use to promote your products? How can you test and improve your messaging? Are you making the most of your marketing budget?

Alexa’s tools can help you find topics your audience loves and make the most of your promotional mix. Sign up for a trial of our Advanced plan to get full access to Content Exploration, Competitive Backlink Checker, Keyword Matrix, and other useful tools today.