In a competitive environment, product or service promotion is integral to business development. In addition to positive image branding, businesses need to execute effective promotional strategies to increase the popularity of their products. In this regard, a promotional mix can be seen as a number of communication activities that add an incentive to a product. Companies use communication strategies such as advertising, publicity, personal selling, and sales promotions to express the usefulness of products to customers thereby enticing them to buy. The benefits of a product have to be communicated to customers with an aim to generate more profit from increased sales (Nour and Almahirah 2014). In other words, promotion is primarily meant for communicating with customers. This essay highlights the main components of the promotional mix. It also provides insight into factors that managers should consider in the formulation of promotional mix decisions.
Main Components of the Promotional Mix
The main components of the promotional mix include advertising, public relations, personal selling, and sales promotion (Gooden 2015).
Advertising is a promotional mix element that involves the promotion of a product to the target audience using non-personal presentation on billboards, print media, television, radio channels, and the internet (Good 2015). An identifiable advertisement is placed on a publicising medium to warranty exposure to target audience. One the greatest advantage of advertisement is the creation of brand awareness. The type and quality of advertisement used affects how customers respond to a particular product. In the wake of mobile phone and computer technology, social media marketing has taken over traditional forms of advertising (Nour & Almahirah 2014; Karjaluoto, Mustonen & Ulkuniemi 2015). Nowadays, companies pay attention to social media marketing on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, which increase their effectiveness in communicating brands to consumers. Facebook, which is a heavily trafficked social media giant, is the most widely used instantaneous marketing platform by many individuals and businesses around the world (Karjaluoto, Mustonen & Ulkuniemi 2015).
Public Relations (PR) is central to maintaining effective spread of product information between sellers and buyers. It uses various communication channels and tools build brand awareness and good image for the company. Traditional ways of conducting public relations involved professionals who worked together with commentators to create a positive image by spreading information through print and broadcast media. Today, officials entitled to public relations closely monitor a variety of media channels for public views on a product. Overall, PR is a great tool for creating both positive product and company image (Karjaluoto, Mustonen & Ulkuniemi 2015). For instance, the Coca-Cola Company has two Twitter accounts (@CocaCola and @CocaColaCo) that create a dual-channel communication between the company and customers. This PR strategy enables the Coca-Cola Company to obtain valuable responses from their diverse consumers around the world. The Twitter accounts are also used to educate the public on various events undertaken by the firm (Karjaluoto, Mustonen & Ulkuniemi 2015). In addition, the company has a great PR plan that uses social media to communicate their views and actions on environmental conservation to the public.
Personal selling is a promotional mix tool that gives the seller a chance to communicate directly with the buyer; it entails interaction between two or more individuals. The seller highlights features of the product or service that would be valuable to the customer (Karunanithy & Sivesan 2013). Many businesses depend on personal selling because it promotes their relationships with consumers. For instance, the strategy is seen in the Apple Inc. where customers interact face-to-face with sales representatives. Salespersons play a significant role in the success of producer-consumer relationships. Interactive questions from consumers are answered timely thereby furnishing the company with accurate information about the target market.
Sales promotion refers to the spread of product information using a number of activities; that arouse buying power and seller efficiency. This element encompasses activities, materials, and media used by the seller to convey brand information and value to target consumers. It involves communication events that try to provide incentives to buyers with a view of increasing sales volume. Tokens, bonuses, models, point-of-sale displays, contests, and raffles are used to facilitate sales promotions (Karunanithy & Sivesan 2013; Kitchen & Burgmann 2015). This element helps businesses to entice new customers, retain old ones, and offset competition from rival enterprises. In sales promotions, window displays and profile-raising programs are used to arouse product awareness, trial, and buying.
Factors that Managers need to take into consideration before making their Promotional Mix Decisions
Promotion managers need to consider many factors prior to formulating promotional mix decisions. At the outset, the life-cycle and nature of the product are crucial features in the creation of the promotional mix. Other factors include prevailing market trends, purchasing power, accessibility to funds, promotional strategy, and viability of push-pull approaches to marketing (Kitchen & Burgmann 2015). As products transition from one stage to another in their life-cycle, managers need to use different promotional elements based on their suitability. Other features of the intended market such as topographical positions of prospective consumers have a great influence on the promotional mix. However, this factor is based on the complexity of the purchasing decisions involved (Kitchen & Burgmann 2015).
Nature of the Product
The nature of the product is the most significant factor that managers should consider before making any promotional mix decisions. It plays a primary role in deciding on the most suitable elements of the promotional mix. Merchandises are usually grouped into branded, non-branded, necessity, luxury, and/or new products. Each category of products requires the manager to choose the most appropriate promotional tools that increase incentives to buyers with a view of increasing their purchasing power (Kitchen & Burgmann 2015). For instance, advertising and publicity are appropriate promotional elements for exclusive consumer goods that are popular among the target consumers. For industrial machinery and equipment, personal selling suits best since pre-sale and after-sale services accompany the selling, installation, and monitoring of such products, especially where warranties apply.
Nature of the Target Market
Managers should also analyse the existing conditions in the target market since they influence the promotional mix significantly. Factors such as education, information, geographical position, income, negotiating power, profession, sex, age, and/or personality characteristics among others are central to the formulation of decisions on the form of promotional mix (Kitchen & Burgmann 2015). In cases where the prospective consumers constitute a small number within a concentrated locality, managers should focus on personal selling. However, where the customer base is considerably large and spread over diverse regions, a combination of various promotional mix elements such as personal selling and sales promotion is suitable for marketing products. The type of customers also affects managerial decisions on the promotional mix. For instance, customers in urban and institutional environments have different product preferences as compared to those in rural areas (Kitchen & Burgmann 2015). Similarly, educated customers may have more information about a product as compared to illiterate ones. These factors influence their bargaining characteristics.
Stage of Product’s Life
The product’s life is an imperative factor in the formulation of managerial decisions on the promotional mix. As a product goes through the stages of its life-cycle, the promotional mix fluctuates. Individual stages along the product’s lifecycle are accompanied by various threats and opportunities, which demand distinct marketing approaches (Kotler et al. 2015). The use of promotional elements in marketing varies based on the stage of the product in its life cycle. For example, during the introductory stage of a product, focus on the creation of primary demand should be emphasised (Kotler et al. 2015). Therefore, managers should encourage their marketers to accentuate the product’s features and utility by combining advertising and publicity elements of the promotional mix. For instance, free testers may be circulated amongst various consumers whereas trade promotion can be embarked on to stimulate suppliers to stock the product. During the maturity stage, the profile-raising strategies used should focus on shifting customers from rivals; hence, increased sales promotion is required. On the other hand, outlays on many promotional events such as advertising and publicity considerably reduce in the decline stage of the product’s life-cycle (Kotler et al. 2015). This situation compels managers to lay more stress on sales promotion with a view of boosting the declining sales.
Accessibility to Funds
Accessibility to funds is central to the formulation of managerial decisions on the promotional mix. The availability of financial resources determines the type and emphasis on the promotional strategy used to market a product. Since the marketing budget guides the promotion mix, a blend of elements can be applied in cases where funds are more (Kotler et al. 2015). However, wise decisions on the type of promotional element to be used should be made where limited funds are available.
Viability of Push-Pull Approaches to Marketing
Managerial decisions on the promotional mix are highly influenced by the viability of push and pull strategies to marketing. The core objective of promotion is to inspire and coax not only the ultimate customers but also distributors who finally sell the product to end consumers (Sagala et al. 2014). Approaches to promotion that are designed for motivating and persuading intermediaries with a view of boosting sales are known as push strategies. In a push strategy, advertising is used together with personal selling to promote products amongst wholesalers, who are the immediate suppliers to retailers. Finally, retailers persuade the end consumers to buy the product. On the other hand, a pull strategy occurs where the demand for goods is considerably high. In this case, the customers may request particular products from the retailers. The retailers demand the same goods from the distributors who then get them from the manufacturer. The promotional manager chooses either the pull or push strategy depending on its viability in the promotion of sales. For instance, marketing communications that are targeted to the customer are pull strategies (Sagala et al. 2014). Managers use this approach to increase responsiveness, fascination, and brand loyalty. The effectiveness of pull communication approaches is seen in customers being able to seek particular products or services in which they exhibit increased interest. However, push communications strategies are meant for motivating channel mediators. Effective push strategies lead to increased product obtainability, few stock outs, increased shelf pace, and promotion effort. Nevertheless, managers are encouraged to use the two strategies hand-in-hand as they complement each other in the promotion of sales.
Another factor that affects managerial decisions on the boosting of sales is the promotional strategy. The promotion mix essentially relies on the promotional strategy. However, the promotional strategy used also depends on the push and pull approaches discussed in the above paragraph. In a push strategy, the manager is forced to persuade the distributors to promote the product amongst consumers. In this case, personal selling and trade promotion are highly effective (Huang & Sarigöllü 2014). On the other hand, pull strategies accentuate the purchasing power of the consumers; hence, advertising and sales promotions are highly effective.
Readiness of Buyer
Finally, the readiness of the buyer influences managerial decisions on the promotional mix. At the outset, there is a need to understand the level of the buyers’ awareness of the product’s existence, its benefits, and preferences over competing products. According to marketing strategists, awareness of product features and importance gives the seller a competitive edge (Huang & Sarigöllü 2014). Therefore, understanding the buying process is paramount to designing a successful promotional mix. There is also a need to recognise the product knowledge and preferences amongst the target customers.
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