If you want people to buy something, you need to tell them about it first. It sounds simple, but that’s the core principle behind all promotion strategies—raising awareness about a product, then convincing potential customers they should buy it. Learn about 12 different types of promotion strategies, plus best practices to create a successful strategy of your own.
On the eve of 2009, Red Bull paid Robbie Maddison $2 million to rev up his motorcycle, catapult himself off a ramp, and land on top of a 10-story building. Maddison nailed the stunt, and Red Bull solidified its reputation as a brand that pushes the limits of what’s possible. Now the company isn’t just an energy drink manufacturer—it’s a mainstay of extreme sports and inspiring athletes.
People don’t just choose Red Bull for the taste and jolt of energy it provides. Thanks to the brand’s distinctive promotion strategy, customers prefer the Red Bull brand because it’s famous, edgy, and part of something bigger.
A promotion strategy is a plan to create or increase demand for a product. It outlines the tactics you’ll use to raise awareness about your product and get people interested in buying it.
The goal of a promotion strategy is to introduce potential customers to your product and convince them to make a purchase. You want to move them along the buyer’s journey—the path customers take from realizing a need, considering your product as a solution, and finally deciding to buy.
Your promotion strategy is just one piece of a larger marketing strategy—a long-term plan outlining how you’ll market and sell your product. A successful marketing plan covers all the tactics you’ll use to promote your product, including the full “marketing mix”: product, price, place, and promotion. Your promotion strategy is a key component of the marketing mix.
Here’s a breakdown of the marketing mix, also known as the 4 P’s of marketing:
Product: The item you’re selling.
Price: How much you should charge for your product in order to make a profit.
Place: Where you should sell your product to reach your target audience.
Promotion: How you create demand for your product and move customers through the marketing funnel.
The 4th “P” of marketing—promotion—is your promotion strategy.Read: Marketing vs. advertising: What's the difference?
The buyer’s journey is often visualized as a funnel divided into three sections: top of funnel, middle of funnel, and bottom of funnel. Customers enter their journey at the top of the funnel, then decide to purchase your product once they reach the bottom. A successful promotion strategy includes different tactics to appeal to customers in each section of the marketing funnel.
Here’s a breakdown of the marketing funnel, with example promotion strategies for each section:
When a customer is at the top of the funnel, they know the problem they want to solve and are looking for a solution. They may not know your product exists yet, so at this stage your promotion strategy should grab the customer’s attention and build awareness about your brand and your product.
Example promotion strategies: TV ads, event sponsorships, content marketing
In the middle of the funnel, customers weigh your product against other available options. To keep them in the funnel, you need to show how your product is different from the competition and convince customers that your product is the best option. Here, your promotion strategy should create an emotional connection and show how your product can specifically resolve customer pain points.
Example promotion strategies: Customer reviews, free samples, case studiesRead: How to create a competitive analysis (with examples)
Customers decide if they want to purchase your product when they’re in the bottom of the funnel. To target bottom-of-funnel customers, your promotion strategy should prompt people to take action.
Example promotion strategies: Special deals, email offers, flexible return policies
There are lots of ways to promote a product. If you’re looking for inspiration, we’ve laid out 12 different types of promotion strategies below.
Paid advertising is often the first type of promotion that comes to mind. This straightforward strategy involves paying to show an advertisement in a specific place at a specific time, so you can capture the attention of your target market. It’s a great way to build brand awareness and introduce your brand to people who may not have heard of it before.
Here are some examples of paid advertising:
Newspaper and magazine ads
Online display ads (for example, through Google or social media)
Content marketing is a common type of digital promotion strategy, focused on distributing valuable content in order to attract and retain an audience. The idea behind content marketing is this: It associates your brand with useful, relevant content that helps customers solve issues—building trust over time and ultimately encouraging customers to buy your products. Content marketing is a great promotional tool for any company, but it’s especially helpful for businesses with longer sales cycles, like B2B and SaaS companies. For these companies, content marketing helps provide enough customer education for buyers to make informed purchase decisions.
Content marketing comes in many forms, including:
Social media posts
Whitepapers or reports
Content created to improve SEO (search engine optimization)
Sponsorships involve aligning your company with another brand—like an event, TV program, charity, or even a celebrity. For example, Pepsi routinely sponsors the Super Bowl, while Red Bull sponsors NASCAR and extreme athletes of all kinds. Nowadays, sponsorships often include social media influencer marketing—creating partnerships with individuals who became famous through social media platforms like Instagram or Youtube.
The goal of a sponsorship is to boost your brand’s public image and credibility. Aligning yourself with another brand can drive media exposure, improve public relations, and expand your audience—plus make you stand out from the competition.
Email marketing helps you connect with your target audience via—you guessed it—email. You can send emails to any subscribers on your mailing list—whether they’re potential customers, loyal customers, or something in between. For example, you can collect email addresses from potential customers by offering free products or services in exchange for their information.
There are lots of things you can send via email, including:
Newsletters and exclusive content
Information about product releases
Special deals and coupons
Retargeting focuses on customers (or potential customers) with high purchase intent. In other words, it involves targeting segments of your customer base who’ve already made it down to the bottom of the marketing funnel. Prioritizing retargeting can help you get a high return on your investment, since this audience is already primed and ready to buy.
For example, retargeting could include:
Sending reminder emails to customers who filled up an online shopping cart but didn’t check out.
Showing targeted advertisements to customers who purchased your products in the past.
Sending nurture emails to people who purchased something a while ago but haven’t been back.
Referral marketing is when you get customers to tell their friends about your brand. Also known as word-of-mouth marketing, referral marketing happens organically when you have a great product—but you can also speed it along with special deals and incentives for customers who refer their connections.
Referral marketing is a powerful strategy because it’s virtually free. And since people tend to trust their friends, referred customers are more likely to actually purchase your product than someone who just sees an ad. For example, Dropbox used referral marketing to permanently increase signups by 60 percent—eventually growing into a multi-billion dollar startup.Read: Marketing project management: How to structure your strategy
Event marketing involves participating in, sponsoring, or hosting events in order to promote your brand or product. This strategy helps you connect and engage with customers first-hand, so they can get a real sense of your product and what your brand represents. Not only that, but events can help you build your brand presence, generate leads, and generate goodwill with customers.
Event marketing comes in many forms, including:
Seminars and classes
Live streaming events
Aligning your brand with a special cause makes customers feel like they’re part of something bigger. They’re not just helping themselves by purchasing your products—they’re also helping make the world a better place. This can help boost brand loyalty and give customers a reason to choose your brand over competitors.
The clothing company Patagonia is a great example of this. By promoting their sustainable manufacturing processes, Patagonia attracts and retains customers who believe in environmental preservation.
Customer reviews are one of the most powerful marketing tools out there. Brands like Amazon, Yelp, and TripAdvisor built their businesses out of reviews—generating trust by promoting customer feedback. The beauty of this strategy is that it encourages customers to promote your brand for you. And as long as you have a high-quality product (and positive reviews), this type of user generated content can go a long way in convincing potential customers to purchase.
Collecting customer reviews often happens organically, but you can speed it along by specifically requesting reviews from current customers via email or website banners. Some newer brands also seed reviews by sending products to customers in exchange for their honest feedback.
Customer loyalty programs reward people who repeatedly interact with your brand. It’s a way to keep customers coming back by offering deals, discounts, and exclusive product launches. The more customers purchase from your company, the more perks they earn. For example, the beauty company Sephora promotes a loyalty program that offers discounts and gifts to customers who spend a certain amount.
Loyalty programs don’t just boost customer retention—they also help convince potential buyers to choose your brand over competitors. By promoting loyalty programs, you demonstrate ways customers can save money and get more bang from their buck over time.
Everyone loves free stuff. Giving away samples of your product can help promote customer satisfaction and make customers feel like they’re getting a great deal. But most importantly, free samples and trials give potential customers first-hand experience with your product—and therefore the confidence to actually buy it later on.
To employ this promotion strategy, companies can:
Offer a trial period so customers can try out the product risk free. Gyms, apps, and online software companies often do this.
Offer free samples for customers who visit stores in person. The warehouse club Costco is famous for using this method.
Include free samples when customers purchase a product. This method can encourage existing customers to try new products. For example, online beauty suppliers like Glossier often include free skincare and makeup samples with every purchase.
Organize contests with free prizes. This is a good way to collect contact information from potential customers. For example, a hotel company might encourage potential customers to enter their contact information for a chance to win a free vacation.
Special deals can help you capture customers at the bottom of the marketing funnel—people who are deciding whether or not to purchase your product. Deals work in two ways: First, they create a sense of urgency and encourage customers to act quickly before the deal is over. Second, they help customers save money and feel like they’re getting a high return on their investment.
The types of deals you can offer are endless. Here are some examples:
Special intro offers for first-time customers
Bundling products together and offering them at a discount (for example, a 10-pack of socks)
Buy one, get one free deals
Seasonal sales and discounts (like Black Friday promotions)
Discounts on special item categories
Birthday coupons for customers
Free shipping for customers who spend over a certain amount
Even the most innovative promotion strategies can fail if they’re not executed correctly. Here’s how to set yours up for success:
Keep promotions simple: The best promotions strategies are simple and easy for customers to understand. You don’t want to make them spend a lot of effort figuring out what an advertisement means or how to redeem a deal. Instead, promotions should feel almost effortless—so customers don’t give up and decide to spend their money somewhere else. For example, keep sales promotion emails simple and to the point. Instead of cluttering the page with text, highlight the deal and include a call to action button so customers can click through and redeem directly.
Measure results and be ready to change your strategy: Not all promotions work as expected. That means it’s important to routinely track metrics and measure how your strategy is performing—for example, with A/B tests or split tests. This helps you avoid wasting time on marketing efforts that aren’t working anymore, and quickly adapt when the market environment changes.
Re-merchandise your product and homepage for promotions: People get used to seeing your homepage and product a certain way. Re-merchandising means mixing up your creative strategy and changing the look and feel of your homepage or product landing page to grab customers’ attention. For example, an e-commerce business could add new visual elements to their homepage to draw attention to promotions.
Create a distinctive brand: There are a lot of products in the market, so chances are you need to compete for your audience’s attention. That means it’s important to focus on brand differentiation—demonstrating how your brand is better than the competition, and what you can offer that other companies can’t. For example, the grocery chain Whole Foods set their brand apart by promoting a healthier approach to eating and living—plus creating a visually appealing shopping experience.
Provide a good customer experience: Your promotion strategy isn’t over once customers make a purchase. Instead of just focusing on attracting new customers, make sure existing customers have a good experience and want to come back to your brand later on. Create a customer journey map to plot how people think, act, and feel throughout the buying process—then see what improvements you can make. This might include better customer service, a more seamless checkout process, or even welcome emails and ongoing communications to maintain customer relationships over time.
A solid promotion strategy is key for any great marketing campaign, digital marketing strategy, or go to market (GTM) strategy. As you craft your approach, keep in mind that the 12 examples in this article don’t need to stand on their own. You can combine different tactics to catch customers’ attention at every stage of the buyer’s journey—whether they’re new to your brand, weighing your product against the competition, or returning for a repeat purchase.
To run a successful promotion strategy, you need to coordinate work with many different stakeholders. Keep tasks organized with a marketing strategy template, which can help you plan goals, allocate resources, and clarify strategy owners—all in one place.Free marketing strategy template