This encompasses everything to do with the way an organization communicates persuasively with people to influence them towards making a purchase. Marketers use many different tools to promote their products and services. Promotion is sometimes seen as the most important part of marketing; certainly it is the most visible, with elements of it advertisements, posters and so on – all around. It should be known that even the producer of the best product or service will do no business if no one knows it exists. Similarly promoting a bad product is certainly the fastest way to kill it. The combination of promotional tools an organization uses is referred to promotional mix.
1. Advertising: This is paid non personal communication through various media by organizations and individuals who are in some way identified in the advertising message. The medium of advertising include; television, radio, handbills, billboards (electronic and non-electronic), newspapers, magazines, music and internet. The best medium is a function of the product being advertised and the target customers to be reached. Generally speaking, securing airtime for advertorials in television is quite expensive for most small businesses. Radio jingles and handbills are fairly more affordable and fit into local advertising. Advertising is carried out with the following objectives in mind: informing potential customers of a new offering; increasing the frequency of purchase; increasing the use of a product; increasing the quantity purchased; increasing frequency of replacement; presenting a promotional programme; bringing a family of products together; and making the organization behind a range of offerings known. In summary, advertising can help promote a business but it is important to be aware that it has its limitations. Some small business owners believe that if their business is failing they can advertise their way out the problem. Sadly, this is not the case because advertising cannot force people to buy unneeded goods and services. If the business is in the wrong market advertising will not be able to help. Furthermore, it cannot improve an inferior product. If the product is not adequate or does not fit the overall marketing mix, advertising cannot compensate.
2. Personal selling: This is face-to-face presentation and promotion of products and services. It also involves the search for new prospects and follow-up service after the sale. Effective selling is not simply a matter of persuading others to buy. In fact it is more accurately described as helping others to satisfy their wants and needs. The major strength of personal selling over advertising is that it provides a two way communication where the prospect can ask questions and seek clarification where necessary as against advertising which is strictly one way. For large businesses this medium is very expensive because their customers are spread all over as against the small business operator who usually has direct access to his customers and sees them often.
3. Public relations: This is defined as the function that evaluates public attitudes, changes policies and procedures in response to the public’s requests, and executes a programme of action and information to earn a public understanding and acceptance. In essence, a good public relations (PR) programme has three steps. Listen to the public through marketing research. Change policies and procedures to accommodate the concerns and aspirations of the public. Inform people that you are being responsive to their needs. For most small businesses PR means obtaining free publicity via stories placed in newspapers, radio and TV with the objective of bringing attention to the business. The value of this approach is that it has a higher degree of credibility than an advertisement. Sponsorship of a local sporting event is also good publicity. Many businesses tend to overlook the importance of PR. Some are prepared to develop their own PR strategies and have the talents within the business to achieve satisfactory results, whilst some are unsure how to correctly handle this area and will employ outside expertise.
4. Publicity: This is talking arm of PR. It is one of the major functions of almost all organizations. Publicity is any information about an individual, product or organization that is distributed to the public through the media and that is not paid for, or controlled by the seller. In essence, it can be viewed as a form of free advertising. To use this properly, a small business owner must attempt to feed to the media information that is of public interest. Whether the media uses the information submitted to it depends on whether time and space are available and whether it is considered “newsworthy”. Different publications have different audiences and only stories that have high interest to the readership are likely to be chosen. Imagine establishing a small kindergarten school where primary education has been a major challenge or a small business engaged in nymph oil extraction for the treatment of skin diseases which has been a cause for concern in that community. Note that in both cases, the public will be very receptive to the news and help spread to others. The magic is that the various media will publish these stories free since the material is interesting and newsworthy. It has a major advantage over advertising because publicity may reach people who will not want to read or pay attention to an advert. In addition, when a newspaper or a magazine publishes a story as news, the reader treats that story as news – and news is more believable than advertising.
5. Sales promotion: Sales promotions (SP) are used to help promote the sale of the product or service. They are generally put into place for short time periods to achieve customer attention and sales. The cost of such promotions must be well controlled and the small business owner must ensure that results are worthwhile for the outlay involved. SP is considered very effective because it creates instant demand booster and leverages on the weakness of the average customer – greed – which makes him buy certain products that he may ordinarily not want to buy at the time or may not buy that much quantity. SP campaigns could be used in the following scenarios; To move products or services that have slowed down probably created by loss of buyer interest or change of buying season.
To win back customers who have moved to competitors for reasons such as price, delivery of product, pedestrian packaging among others. To launch new products. This allows the customers to experience the new product or service. In essence, it encourages new product trials and brand switching. SP could be deployed in different ways but some of the very prominent ones include: Offering a special price reduction for a given period; selling two items for the price of one; adding a product on or in another product without charging for the added on product; giving out free samples; sponsoring a game or a contest and organizing raffle draws for those that qualify based on volume of purchases made over a period of time. Note that the list is endless and only needs some marketing imagination and flair to make a successful promotion.