Online or face to face, there are more ways than ever to communicate with customers. These fall into five main categories:
But which one suits your business, your budget, and your goals? Here’s how to work it out, plus tips on planning effective and engaging promotions.
Different types of promotions (also called marketing communications) have different objectives. But, they are all part of how you interact with customers and promote your brand and your products or services.
To share the right messages, at the right time and through the right channel, think carefully about which type of promotion suits your goal, budget and audience. You will likely use different types at different times, eg direct marketing for customer interaction, sales promotion for a short-term bump in sales.
To choose, it helps to weigh up your options based on the 4Cs of marketing:
Advertising involves creating adverts and making sure people see them.
To reach broader audiences, consider:
To reach specific audiences, consider:
Adverts can lead to an increase in sales, but it may be harder to see a direct link.
Rates highly for communicating with a large audience, low for credibility, medium for control. Costs vary depending on the channel, eg online vs TV.
Sales promotions are short-term offers like discounts or coupons to attract selected groups of potential customers.
For example, Manu’s Mowing could:
Other options include handing out vouchers at in-store demonstrations, eg food tastings in a supermarket, or giving away branded items such as pens and calendars. Useful items can remind customers of your business every time they use them.
Sales promotions usually lead to a short-term increase in sales. Think about how to build longer-lasting relationships with people who buy special offers.
Rates medium for communicating with a large audience, medium for credibility and costs, high for control.
Manu, the owner of gardening business Manu’s Mowing, learns it’s easier to keep existing customers than find new ones.
Manu decides to target people who last booked at least six months ago. Manu starts with customers who have previously given good feedback, because he thinks they’re the most likely to respond.
Manu emails these customers a 25% discount if they book within a week. To get the discount, customers answer a short multi-choice questionnaire about why they haven’t booked for a while. The results will help Manu improve his services.
When running a promotion, it’s important to check:
So, at the end of the month, Manu checks how many people used the discount code and how his earnings compare to previous months. This shows the promotion boosted sales, earning more than it cost to offer the discount. And the questionnaire helped Manu understand his customers better.
Manu emails each returned customer a couple of weeks later to say thank you. He also encourages them to book regular appointments.
Direct marketing means selecting people to directly offer a product or service, using a personalised approach over channels like phone, post or email. You then build a relationship or make a sale, depending on how they respond.
For example, Manu’s Mowing might email customers who haven’t booked in six months to offer an appointment within the next week. To personalise the message, Manu could give each person a tip based on what he knows about their garden.
Rates high for communicating personal messages and interaction, medium for credibility and costs, high for control.
Personal selling involves you, or someone else in your business, meeting potential customers in person, eg at a trade show or during face-to-face visits. The aim is to build relationships as well as make sales. It’s a good way to:
Because it’s expensive, personal selling is best for:
Building a relationship makes customers more loyal, so personal selling can lead to long-term increases in sales. For example, a winemaker or honey producer might host tastings at supermarkets. People can try out new products and learn about the business. Some may buy on the spot, others may buy in the future.
Rates high for communicating personal messages and interaction, medium for credibility and control, high for costs.
Public relations (PR) covers managing your business’s image. PR includes being featured positively in the news and handling any bad publicity in messaging that helps rebuild trust in your brand.
Free media coverage can be great promotion for your business. It’s best to use this method when you have an interesting or unusual story to tell. For example, a courier business partnering with a food recovery charity could contact the media to tell their story.
Rates medium for communicating with a large audience, high for credibility, and low for costs and control.
It pays to plan, no matter which type of promotion you use.
Start by working out your “why”, the goal or purpose of trying to attract people’s attention. Then you can make sure each step helps achieve that goal, and helps you get the most from the time you invest.
Before your promotion goes live, check for errors or tone-deaf messaging. It’s always a good idea to get someone else to look over it. A checklist might also help.
Use our template to follow these steps and create your own piece of communication.
Most of the time, your goal is getting people to buy from you.
Examples of other goals include wanting people to:
Some people might want more information or encouragement before buying. So, your goal might involve influencing how people think of your product or service, eg showcasing what makes it stand out from competitors’ offerings.
Knowing who you are communicating with helps you decide what to say, how to say it and where to say it.
For example, to target people who use social media, a café might post appetising photos with popular hashtags. But when advertising in a magazine popular with tourists, it might use an endorsement like “voted best brownies in town” with its address and opening hours.
Think about whether your target audience tends to buy on a whim or carefully researches options.
Also, think about whether a rational, emotional, or moral message is most likely to appeal:
Think about the 4Cs (communication, credibility, cost, control) to weigh up which is best for your goal, audience and budget.
Marketing communications fall into five main categories:
Your message needs to:
It also needs to suit the promotion type (see step 3) and the channel used (see step 5).
Think about whether your message needs to appeal to people who buy on a whim or like to do their research. Here are a few ideas:
“Our service is the cheapest in town” vs “If you find a cheaper price, we’ll match it”.
“Our review ratings are the best” vs “Customers rate us highly for lawnmowing — check out our reviews”.
Decide on your strongest selling point. Experts recommend putting this at the start of your message.
Also, think about the messenger, also called the message source. How will customers decide to trust what’s said in your promotion? For example, a business new to market with one well-known client might use a quote from that person.
Channels fit into two groups:
Choose a communications channel that fits your goal and your budget. For example, conversations on social media are cheap and give you direct personal contact. But, you’ll need to set aside plenty of time to focus on one customer at a time.
Consider timing carefully. Examples include:
Feedback helps you understand how well your promotion worked. Ask your target audience:
Measure what your audience does after seeing the message, then adjust it if necessary to make it even more effective. If you promote and/or sell online, use analytics tools to measure what your audience does. For example, you can track:
If you don’t have an online channel, you can measure the effect of your message in different ways. For example, you can see if the foot traffic in a store increases after you send your message, and whether more people ask about the product featured in it.
The internet and social media bring new opportunities for marketing your business. Digital promotion allows you to personalise and target your message to make it more effective and better value.
It’s worth considering two powerful new techniques:
For small businesses, targeted advertising is often more affordable and effective than advertising to a large audience. For example, a new café might use micro-targeting to only promote to people who live or work within walking distance.
Social media offers a wide range of opportunities. Different platforms appeal to different groups of people, and suit different messages. You might choose a platform that’s popular with younger customers, or one where you can work with influencers to reach an audience with shared interests. For example, LinkedIn is ideal for reaching professional audiences. Instagram or Pinterest suit businesses with visual appeal, eg florists or eateries.
Using digital promotion allows you to easily measure the effectiveness of a campaign. This helps you:
Digital tools can make you more efficient. For example, automated email marketing allows you to stay connected to customers even when they’re not actively engaging with your brand. It might also nudge undecided customers to buy your product or service.
Our assessment tool casts light on how you use social media planning, email marketing and advertising online.
At times business.govt.nz refers to specific businesses to make our resources more effective and easier to understand. We do this on the advice of our independent expert partners, including the New Zealand Business Performance Panel. However, we do not endorse any third-party private-sector businesses.
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