Monday, December 11, 2006

Planning for promotion campaigns: Tips and tools you can use offers a Marketing Calendar Template to supplement the article, "Creating and Using a Marketing Calendar Effectively." Since we're about to enter a new calendar year, it seems like a good time to talk about planning, particularly promotion planning. I find the template to be a little sparse, but it is a decent starting point.

When I was studying Integrated Marketing Communications, we were tasked with developing a promotion campaign complete with budget, schedule, etc. I learned a few invaluable lessons during that class that have proven useful in my work. Here are the big ones:

1. Think frequency: Depending on who you listen to, you'll find that it takes AT LEAST 3 repetitions for someone to remember an advertising message. Three. If you're pinning your hopes to one ad in a newspaper that runs one time, then you're probably going to be disappointed in the results. Plus, there's no guarantee that your target audience will actually see every ad you place. For these reasons, it's necessary to place multiple ads in multiple vehicles before people take notice. To choose the right vehicles, think about all the points of contact your target audience has with various media (bulletin boards, magazines/newspapers, Web sites, on-board bus signage, etc.) and determine if they would work for your message and budget.

2. Integrate: The whole point of Integrated Marketing Communications is to focus on the customer's perspective and to create a consistent message/image across all media. Do the elements of your promotion campaign reinforce or compete with one another? Consistency can help boost the overall strength and effectiveness of your campaign.

3. Know your goals: Advertisers adopt numerous theories and models in their work. The model we focused on most was AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action). The argument here is that customers move through these 4 3 stages before taking an action, particularly for high-involvement purchases. Therefore, a promotion campaign for a new service should build up to taking action (using the service) by first making people aware the service exists, then obtaining their interest, and so on. (Note: Some argue that for lower-risk/involvement purchases, an emotional appeal is other models are more effective, but that's for another post.) A good question to ask yourself is, What do I want my promotion campaign to accomplish? Maybe you only want to generate awareness. However, if you want to prompt patrons to use a particular service, you may want to build up to that by arousing their awareness/interest/desire first through a series of promotions that describe what the service is, how it benefits patrons, etc. Whatever the case, pick a goal and a means of measuring whether or not you achieved it. Keep in mind that sometimes a promotion campaign is process, rather than a one-shot initiative.
[Update: In retrospect, I realize I've given this whole AIDA business short shrift. There's a lot more to this "think-feel-do" model and its implications than what I've discussed here. I'll give it more focused attention in the future.]

4. Your message is your competitive advantage: Ideally, your service has some kind of competitive advantage that makes it different from all of the other options out there. It could be your ability to tailor the service to your community's needs, for example. Whatever "it" is, make sure to tell patrons about it over and over again. Your competitive advantage is your reason for being and your most compelling asset - use it!

5. All good things must come to an end: Promotion campaigns weren't meant to last forever. Some last for a few weeks, others for a few months, and a select few could run for a few years or more. As part of your planning, determine how long you will persist with your campaign to reach your goals. Once you've accomplished your goals, ditch the campaign or, if successful, refresh it. Nothing is worse than a stale campaign that won't go away.

As you can probably tell already, planning and implementing a promotion campaign is a complicated process that involves an in-depth knowledge of your intended audience. To help with planning, I'm making available a sample promotion schedule (Excel file) that I've used and like fairly well as it helps me to visualize all of the various stages, vehicles, and how they fit together. It's very basic, but you can adapt it as you see fit. For example, you might want to include a column or separate sheet for costs. Also, don't forget to schedule in any assessment you plan on conducting. Let me know if it helps!

Promotion isn't my primary responsibility, but it is closely related to my work in service planning and delivery. Those of you who do promotion full-time may have some insights of your own to share and I'd love to hear about them!

Update: Of course, a tip I should have added is that promotion is not just about getting your word out. It's also about listening to and conversing with patrons. But you knew that already, right? ;-)

Categories: promising_promotions | tips_to_try


Roxanne said...

Great post. Could you check the link to your sample promotion schedule?

Jill said...

Woops! Thanks for catching that, Roxanne. I forgot the "http" (apparently, that's important :-) ). Try it again and if you still have trouble, I'm happy to send it to you through e-mail.