Promotions have been a widely used tool in business for as long as anyone can remember. Whether it’s discounts, buy one get one, free samples or many other alternatives businesses have used this tool. In this article we’re going to look at the rationale behind promotion activities and both the how and why behind using them in your business.

Promotions use in business

There are many types of promotions and we will talk about those in another article. The objective of promotions can be to introduce a product, quickly liquidate inventory, raise cash or create customer loyalty. The third reason is the one we should be most interested in. The other two are noble and real world ideas of course. I want to discuss the use of promotions in growing your business.

Good business ideas are characterized by great sales back ends. A back end is the ability to offer additional and greater depth products to your customers. A customer buys bread regularly but must also buy butter for the bread. That is a good back end business. Depending on your product this may not always be as simple but this principle is key. Get them in, keep them coming back.

The power of habit

There has been much study about the power of habit and how human beings are largely creatures of habit. This in formation has been used by marketers to promote products and create habits in people around buying decisions and product usage. And your promotions should ultimately use the same principles. I’ve seen a lot of “like, share and win” promotions on social media. While I totally understand the concept behind them is to get people subscribed to your updates so they can see your future activity I think it misses a very important step.

Getting it wrong

The aforementioned promotions usually entail randomly giving away the product. They ignore whether the recipient is likely to be a customer or not promotion aside. And yes, I’ve stated I know the objective but these promotions represent a poor use of resources. Contrast a like and share with a buy one get one free or a 5th one on the house promotion and you can quickly see that the latter satisfy the bottom line while bringing in customers. In addition to that they involve usage of the product. Same principle is applied to the 30 day free trial. Involvement with the product is key to a good promotion.

How to get it right

To be clear on my point above not all good promotions do or can involve purchase of the product. But involvement is essential. A burial plan provider could start a promotion that has contestants write in why they feel the product would be helpful to them. Involvement guaranteed. I mentioned the power of habit. We have a tendency to move towards that which we focus on and getting contestants focused on how to use your product or its benefits are the key to good promotions. Some of you are involved in businesses where you sell goods manufactured by others and don’t necessarily have a say in the product design. Well it’s time to wake up to the fact that your product is the service you offer. Sure you sell the same Chinese manufactured goods that everyone else does but nobody offers the customer service like you do.


In 10 must read books for start-ups I recommended a book called “Start with why” by Simon Sinek and it takes me back to a time when an organisation I worked for was selling a new product. Assured that we had a brilliant product we set out on the market and after two hard weeks we had only recorded one sale where average products would record 10 or so in the same period. Rather than give up on the product we inquired into the one sale and found out the specific reason why that one had purchased. It turned out that their industry considered the product essential where others saw it as optional. A quick refocus on the right industry lead to that product becoming the 2nd best seller of all time in the organisation.

Promotions should be about listening. They will tell you a lot about customer behavior around your product when product involvement is placed at the center of promotional campaigns. Why customers choose your product or an alternative can be gleaned from promotions. It’s easy to sit there and claim customers prefer product Y cause its cheaper yet find that the top product in the market is the most expensive, product Z. Promotions need to be customized to industry and product. The objectives must also be considered but the golden rule is to always have customers involved with the product in the process of the promotion.