Know Your Options to Craft an Informed Promotion Strategy
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
We’ve never had more marketing options available to us than we do now. It’s an exciting time to be a marketer. It’s also a confusing time. There are so many options it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
Each channel provides an opportunity to promote yourself, your products, or your services. We’ll divide these into traditional marketing and newer online marketing options.
Traditional marketing options include retail, direct mail, print media, the telephone, broadcast media, and even books.
Retail: Perhaps the oldest marketing option is retail, dating back thousands of years to a farmer or craftsman selling their wares in the town’s marketplace. Physical retail outlets still exist today, though they now face pressure from online retailers.
The goal in retail is simple. Get the prospect into your store and make the sale. Other forms of marketing feed the retail channel to draw people to the store, be it physical or online.
Direct mail: For as long as we’ve had the opportunity to send content to others via mail, we’ve been able to use it for marketing. In its most basic form, direct mail can blanket a geographic area.
More sophisticated direct mail efforts target people by demographic or socio-economic data. And specific mail communication can go to existing customers and prospects.
Print media: The marketing channel of print media includes magazines and newspapers. Though neither has the reach and impact they once had as a marketing tool, we shouldn’t overlook them. This is especially true with magazines, where niche productions that target specific subcategories have replaced general-purpose publications.
For any industry or interest group, there’s assuredly a publication that addresses them. Though most of these are online, some still print and mail their content. Many consumers value and read a tangible product they can hold in their hands and doesn’t force them to go online to access content through their computer or portable device.
Brochures and sales literature: Unlike print media, which goes to an entire subscriber base, brochures and sales literature allow for specific targeting on a direct, one-to-one basis.
Telephone: The phone is another marketing opportunity. Due to rampant misuse in the past, laws now limit how marketers can use the telephone. But it’s still a workable marketing channel.
Marketing by telephone, sometimes called telemarketing, exists in two forms. Inbound telemarketing is when people call you. Outbound telemarketing is where you call customers and prospects.
We further divide outbound telemarketing into calling businesses (business-to-business or B2B marketing) and calling consumers (business-to-consumer or B2C marketing). Both face legal restrictions, especially B2C, that marketers must carefully adhere to or face significant fines.
Businesses can handle both inbound and outbound telephone calls in-house, or they can outsource the work to a call center—called a teleservice company—that specializes in telephone communication.
Though businesses can outsource telephone calls to a company in another country, called offshoring, most outsourcing occurs within the same country. This effectively negates cultural differences and language barriers.
Broadcast media: Next comes broadcast media, such as radio and television. Both options have seen significant changes in the last couple of decades, yet they still are a workable marketing tool to place advertising messages that will blanket an entire audience.
Trade shows: Over the years I’ve been to many trade shows, sometimes as an exhibitor and other times as an attendee. Trade shows provide a wonderful opportunity for in-person networking, as well as to learn more and gain valuable industry insights.
When you go to a trade show—either as an exhibitor or as an attendee—go with a plan and work your plan. Make the most of every minute. Don’t skip sessions or leave early. Stay throughout the entire event and linger if there’s a chance for meaningful interaction with customers or prospects.
Books: You may be surprised to see books on this list of marketing opportunities. This is the most recent development and has two primary applications.
The first use of books as a means of marketing is for a consultant. They publish a book about their area of expertise to position themselves as a subject-matter expert. The book becomes a marketing vehicle and can serve as a most effective business card when given to a prospect.
The other use of books is by CEOs and other high-profile leaders of corporations and nonprofits. Though this can also be of the subject-matter-expert variety, these books more often take the form of a biography or autobiography. By promoting the CEO or leader, the book subtly—and most effectively—highlights the company or organization.
Other traditional marketing: Many other forms of traditional marketing exist. These include networking, referrals, billboards and signs, spotlights and loudspeakers, door-to-door selling, making cold calls, passing out flyers, and so forth.
When use wrongly, the buying public views these as a nuisance, which creates a negative marketing outcome. Yet when used appropriately and smartly, they can produce positive results.
A newer form of marketing exists online. In general, the impact of online marketing is easier to measure, with the results quantifiable. As such, online marketing is attractive to many.
Here are some forms of online marketing:
Websites: Having an online presence is essential for any business or organization. The ideal solution is a website. When done correctly, you own and control your website. No one (aside from a totalitarian regime) can limit the number of customers and prospects who visit your website.
Use your website to tell others about your organization and its offerings. In addition to company and product information, a website can have an online store or be an entry point into your sales funnel. From your website, collect email addresses for follow-up and ethical email marketing campaigns.
You can tap other forms of traditional and online marketing to drive traffic to your website.
Content marketing: Content marketing is an indirect form of promotion that gives valuable content to your audience. The goal is producing usable information, not selling. By supplying resources that address the needs of prospects, you indirectly promote your organization as a subject-matter expert. This positively predisposes the people who read your content into later doing business with you.
The best place for content marketing is your own website in the form of a professional blog. You can also arrange to post on other sites or even on social media (though I don’t advocate social for this application).
Content marketing also has its place in niche print publications. We’ll cover this in more detail in the “Part 4: Marketing Tactics” section.
Social media:Though some advocate using social media for an online presence, doing so is risky. A social media platform limits its users’ messaging to the very audience who wants to hear from them. The solution to reach this audience is paid advertising.
While social media has its place, consider it as the spokes of a marketing wheel, with your website being its hub.
Social media advertising: As we mentioned, most social media platforms limit your ability to reach your audience. The solution is to advertise on those platforms. These ads can be in the form of text, graphics, or videos.
Currently, the leading social media advertising platforms are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Other options include Reddit, Snapchat, Nextdoor, and Quora.
To find out more about advertising on social media, just search for the platform’s name along with the word advertising. But don’t try to advertise on every platform that offers the option.
Pick the ones where your target audience is, establish a presence there, and understand how the platform works. Then explore advertising on it. Once you’ve mastered that platform, then consider a second one.
Online advertising: Online advertising exists in two forms.
The most common online marketing option is going to ad platforms, such as running Google ads or Microsoft ads.
The second option is placing custom banner ads on curated websites whose traffic demographics align with your target market. Because this is a one-to-one placement effort, this is a time-consuming consideration, yet for the right site it is most cost-effective.
Email marketing: Sending marketing messages by email can be a cost-effective way to reach your prospects and upsell your customers, providing you do it correctly and legally.
Never buy an email list or scrape contact information from the internet. Aside from existing customers, only contact prospects who want to hear from you and have given their permission for you to contact them through email.
When emailing, don’t send the same message to everyone. Segment your list based on their interest level, their status as a customer or prospect, and where they fit in your sales funnel. Make sure every message moves them forward on the customer journey or toward buying from you.
Don’t email too often. And do give readers the option to self-select what messages they want to receive and when.
Consider this list of marketing channels when developing your strategy and designing a well-rounded promotional plan. We’ll expand on some of these options in upcoming chapters.
Marketing Management Success Tip
All these promotion opportunities offer a wide array of marketing channels for you to consider in getting the word out about your company and offerings. Select them with care and use them responsibly to achieve the best results.
Read more in Peter’s Sticky series, including Sticky Sales and Marketing and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management.
He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.