A very wise and successful businessperson told me once, if you run a retail business, you should promote when business is slow and advertise when it is booming. So, what is the difference between promoting and advertising?  A promotion is when you give customers a strong reason to buy from you now! Discount offerings and/or chances to win get them in your door, and then you sell them.  Advertising is more focused on keeping your name in front of your best potential customers, and less on enticing them to buy.  The reason is, when people are interested in buying, you just need to make sure they remember you.

So what are some good ways to do a promotion?  Just like everything else in advertising and marketing, that is all changing.  Where you used to just buy some big newspaper ads and advertise big discounts, or run aggressive radio campaigns and have live radio remotes, today these promotions just don’t get the people out like they used to.  Seeing the guy talking on the radio impresses no one, and of the people who still read newspapers, fewer and fewer of them fit the demographic for many businesses.

What is working today is Facebook, email marketing, and even direct mail.  Last month, we did a promotion with a car dealer client that was by all assessments a huge success.  The client had eight tickets to the NASCAR Race at Pocono Speedway on June 9th to give away.  Plus, Team Chevy was involved on the Friday before the Saturday race.We focused the promotion on Facebook with some radio support.  Within one month we added over 500 new Fans to the dealers Facebook page and averaged over 20,000 people reached per week, with a couple of weeks getting up to 28,000 unique Facebook viewers.  While one vehicle was sold directly through Facebook during the promotion, the dealership sales were way above the industry average that month.  The dealer gave the credit to the huge awareness among Facebook users who are most likely interested in a buying a car.

Like Facebook, email reaches your best prospective customers.  It is instantaneous and you can see if people actually got your email, if they opened it and even if they clicked on anything in the email.  And, it is free or close to it.  But you must use a reputable email company (such as MailChimp) to make sure your emails get through spam filters and to be able to see the statistics.

Direct mail is as old as the hills.  But one thing it has always had is high impact. It is hard to miss something you get in the mail compared to a radio or TV spot, or even a newspaper ad if it isn’t a full page color spread.  Even the worst junk mail gets seen for at least a few seconds before you throw it away.  So we recommend you use a “forced read” style mailer.  A forced read mailer is something like a post card that enables the recipient to see what you are offering as they carry it to the trash.  If they have to open an envelope (unless it is an envelope containing many offers like a Valpak promo) chances are it will never be opened. There are other ways to get people to read your mailer such as hand addressing an envelope and using a stamp so the recipient thinks it is personal mail.  But that can be expensive and time consuming to prepare.

Another one of our clients did a grand opening this past weekend employing Facebook, email, direct mail and radio.  We used a forced read card like the one shown above.  What made this card work were the forced read design and the promise of lots of excitement from big discounts to prizes.  How did it work? You can see for yourself in this video.

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So if you need a boost in your business during the dog days of summer, consider a promotion.  Whether you do it on Facebook, with direct mail or email, make sure you can make strong offers that are relevant to your customers and give them a strong reason to come in and buy something.  And don’t be afraid to make strong offers.  With today’s gas prices, people are not going to come to your business to save three dollars.  Make it worth the drive.