Column: Promotion brings success

Lisa_SchmidtWhile advertising is the most visible activity of business, you also need promotion to be successful. What a company has been doing privately for many years may suddenly become public the moment it starts to advertise. Advertising invites people to try a product or service and also invites public criticism if their products or services do not live up to the promised benefits.

Sometimes a company or business person invites criticism by speaking out unprepared during interviews with the media. During an interview for an article, I was surprised when the company representative said to the reporter, “I could say I planned all this, but I was just out there with a couple of other guys working my ass off every day. I wasn’t even sure for a long time that I liked this business. My advantage is that I learned every detail of this business from the bottom and I mean being janitor. I learned I wasn’t the smartest man and that gave me one prime ingredient for success – fear. I mean a man should have enough fear so that he’s always second guessing himself.”

On another occasion where the media was not represented, a business man said, “Does anyone ever tell you that this marketing stuff just scares the [bleep] out of him?”

So I’m reminded of what Alexander Hamilton once said:

“Men give me credit for some genius. All the genius I have lies in this. When I have a subject in hand, I study it profoundly. Day and night it is before me. I explore it in all its bearings. My mind becomes pervaded with it. Then the effort I have made is what people are pleased to call the fruit of genius. It is the fruit of labor and thought.”

There is a strategic marketing process for advertising and publicity that we can all follow to alleviate some of the stress. It’s called a promotional strategy.

A planned promotional strategy is the most important part of any marketing communications. There is no magic wand or magic marketing bullet, but there is a strategic communications process that can be applied to achieve a promotional strategy that gets the purchaser to the point of making a purchase decision which is the ultimate purpose of most marketing.

The message must accomplish three tasks in order to be effective:

• It must gain the receiver’s attention

• It must be understood by both the receiver and the sender

• It must stimulate the receiver’s needs and suggest an appropriate method of satisfying them

After gaining attention, we must gain interest and then stimulate desire by convincing the would-be consumer of the product’s or service’s ability to satisfy his or her needs. Thus, promotion is the act of informing, persuading and influencing the consumer’s purchase decision, but is not accomplished solely by advertising.

Advertising is one piece of the promotional mix. Selling is also included in the promotional mix. However, advertising is widely criticized because it influences so strongly. As a selling tool, it is often attacked for its excesses. Therefore, the promotional strategy must encompass the message throughout the other elements of the marketing mix:  product or service, price and place or distribution channel.

Often a combination of promotions to develop a synergy between media types is useful. Newspapers can be used to disseminate an idea; magazines can be followed up for the harder sell because they have retentive value. An article or news story adds value because of the perception that a third party has endorsed the idea, product or service since the story is not being told directly by the company.

While there is often a direct surprise in the things that come from working with interesting companies and the people in them, I had received about the 700th call in a week from the guy mentioned earlier and almost lost it. As politely as I could, I said, “You know ___, I’m not even sure that we want to work with you anymore because you’re such a (I didn’t finish).” Then, he said, “Yeah, I know I’m a pain in the ‘you know where,’ and now that we’ve got that settled, here’s what I want to ask you this time.” 

Maybe part of the secret is open dialogue. My best advice: talk early and often with your marketing firm or you can take Alexander Hamilton’s advice. You can devour great volumes of books by David Ogilvy or other advertising greats by studying marketing profoundly day and night. Or you might just pick the brain of some of the local marketing strategists in town and work with your local newspapers.

Lisa Schmidt is a marketing communications strategist. She can be reached at or 360.314.2730.

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