How to Create a Promotional Plan

Tuesday January 01, 2008 by Linda Whitehead, Zuz Marketing

Posted in: Marketing Planning

Now that you have completed your Marketing Plan (refer to last month's Marketing Plan article) we would like to congratulate you and encourage you to take the next step in achieving marketing success. That ever important next step is to complete a specific Promotional Plan for 2008 so you can execute the tactics you outlined in your Marketing Plan.

A Promotional Plan is an integral part of executing your marketing strategies and ensuring you meet your objectives for the year. Without it, all the hard work you put into making that dynamite Marketing Plan could go to waste. In this article, we will walk you through the process of designing an effective Promotional Plan, including key items for consideration and a sample of exactly what your finalized plan should look like.

What is Promotion?

Promotion is a mix of communications designed to convey information about a company and its products/services to prospective customers. Your promotion needs to be persuasive enough to elicit a desired response. The purpose of promotion is either to sell more products or services to existing clients and/or to acquire new customers.

What is a Promotional Plan?

A Promotional Plan covers all types of communication between the seller (you) and your audience of potential or existing clients. There are four basic components of a promotion plan:

1. Advertising

Advertising is paid promotion and includes media such as newspaper, magazine, radio, television, billboard, subway, direct mail, banner advertising, flyer advertising etc. For artists, the most effective forms of advertising have proven to be direct mail, source book advertising and on-line portfolios.

2. Personal Selling

Personal Selling is about getting a personal meeting with an interested buyer, showing your portfolio and selling your vision.

3. Sales Promotion

Sales Promotion involves paid (generally) marketing communication activities other than advertising, publicity or personal selling. Examples of sales promotion activities include your website, email marketing, your blog, catalogues or brochures, reprints of advertisements, tradeshows, hosting a cocktail party or event, etc.

4. Public Relations

Public relations (PR) includes any communication intended to create a positive image for your product/service amongst your target audience. You might hire a PR freelancer to write a press release about a showing of your newest collection of work (or write it yourself), and send this to relevant media read by art buyers (typically magazines and on-line vehicles such as PDN, American Photo, your online portfolio provider, your local APA or ASMP chapter, any photo-related newsletters you subscribe to or photo blogs that showcase work). Although you have no control over which publications, if any, will publish your press release or talk about your showing, it is generally considered to have greater value than paid advertising, because it is an unpaid endorsement of your service.

Make Sure You Test for the Right Promotional Mix

When you are putting together your promotional plan, you need to give thought as to the right blend of advertising, sales promotion, public relations and personal selling. With an integrated marketing communications program, each type of promotion has a distinct function and complements the other types. It is always best to have a variety of media rather than concentrating on one specific source. To determine the right marketing mix for you, you will need to test different concepts and media. For example, you might want to test an email only campaign vs. a print & email combination campaign to assess the lift in response rate with the addition of the print element. Make sure you incorporate testing into your promotional plan right up front.

It's Still All About the Money

Before you begin the planning process you should decide what your promotional budget is. You need to decide how much you should spend, when you should spend it and how you should spend it. Sales goals in dollars are usually the basis for promotional budgets. Opinions on what this percentage should be vary widely, but it is generally believed that 2 to 5% of your revenues should be allocated to promotion and advertising. There are several factors that should go into determining what the magic number is for you. If your competition is aggressive and fierce, you may have to spend more. If you are a start-up business, you will definitely need to invest more to increase awareness within your target market. If you are entering a new area of specialization, again, you will need to invest more. For new business you generally need to double your promotional spending.

Once you have figured out what your budget is, you may want to check it out against industry advertising ratios (for some guidelines see .

If your budget is significantly higher or lower than the average, you may want to re-examine it.

Remember that you also need to budget for personal selling activities. These may be more difficult to budget for, and if you are travelling for an assignment it is a good idea to tie in sales appointments with your trip in order to minimize travel costs incurred.

It is very important that you stick to your budget and look at how you can spread it out over a year to ensure you have consistent, continuous messaging. That is why we at ADBASE have been a strong proponent of splitting your Emailer budget in quarters to make sure that you are promoting throughout the year.

Figure Out What Works For You

Do you know the strengths and weaknesses of various types of promotional efforts? For example, ADBASE's Emailer provides you with all the response statistics you need to see which campaigns are most effective. As part of your Promotional Plan you need to look at the past performance of various promotional tactics you have employed, what your competitors are doing, and what your buyers seems to respond to best. Frequency of exposure and the ability to maintain continuity of your messaging are important considerations when selecting media. You don't want to blow your entire year's budget on one expensive direct mail piece, no matter how unique or innovative.

To reiterate our previous point, if you don't know what works, or want to evaluate what works best, be sure to incorporate testing into your promotional strategy. In email marketing, test your subject lines as a simple start, as these are key in determining your percentage of opens. You can test different images in print, email or in your on-line portfolio. Test, learn from the results, and implement what works best.

Remember to Build in Response Strategies

As we noted previously, you need to decide what your response strategies are as part of your overall promotional strategy. So if a buyer responds to two or more of your Emailer promotions by clicking through, plan to send a personalized direct mail follow-up piece for example. Your marketing response strategies should be built into your promotional planning and budgeting.

Develop an Annual Promotional Calendar

Be sure to not waste promotional dollars by spending money in a slow season and then failing to take advantage of a stronger time of year. A well thought-out promotional calendar helps you maximize the impact of your dollars over the year. Before planning the calendar, look at the campaigns you have run over the last few years -the types of media, timing and response rates. Once you evaluate past promotional performance, you can effectively plan the most appropriate timing for your campaigns. And once you develop your calendar, try to stick to it so you can properly assess the results. Keep in mind that you may find you have to respond quickly to changing market conditions, and will need flexibility to adjust your strategies and timelines if needed.

A Promotional Plan to Get You Started

Going back to December's Marketing Plan article we suggested some examples of Objectives, Strategies and Tactics. Let's use one of the examples from that article to create a mini promotional plan. In this example, you are a fashion photographer.

Sample Promotional Plan

Key Channels

Online, Direct Mail

Specific Tactics

1st Quarter

  1. Update on-line portfolio
  2. Send 100 test emails promoting latest in-house fashion work to top in-house art directors, testing 2 subject lines
  3. Send 400 emails (balance of my ADBASE list) with most successful subject line within 1 week
  4. Send personalized letter to key contacts (most desired)

2nd Quarter

  1. Update on-line portfolio and website with latest work
  2. Send 100 test emails promoting new personal fashion work, testing 2 different images
  3. Send 400 emails (balance of my ADBASE list) with most successful image
  4. Send personalized (on demand) direct mail piece to those who responded to both emails by clicking through


Key Messaging

Demonstrate unique flair for shooting fashion appropriate for catalogue, brochures and on-line, enhancing all detail and always conveying the appropriate fashion image for company/brand image. Demonstrate flexibility in working with brands at different levels
Action-send leads to website to register for RSS feed for new work, send leads to online portfolio
Ensure all contact info present and bold and encourage contact

Timing (see calendar below for details)


*send variable direct mail piece to respondents as responses occur

Campaign Budget

Postage for direct mail: $250
Design and printing Variable Direct Mail Piece: $2,500
Total: $2,750

Measures of Success (it is key to be able to measure the results of what you are doing)

  • Email Response Rate
  • Registrants on website from email/print campaign
  • Calls from direct mail piece
  • # of new clients
  • Increased sales

Expected Results (you should know what you want to get out of each campaign)

  • 25% open rate on emails, 5% click-throughs
  • 100 new leads on website
  • 10 new clients
  • $80,000 additional sales

In Summary...

Your Promotional Plan is the tool you need to execute and achieve your Marketing Plan goals. Although planning does require a significant investment of time, you will find the returns absolutely justify time spent. Once the planning is done, you don't need to think about it anymore, you just need to do it. And having taken the time to plan will ensure that your promotional activities have better results.

Remember the Advertising Maxim-"When business is good, it pays to advertise; when business is bad you've got to advertise!"

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