A promotion is a way of attracting people to use your business or buy your product by making them a special offer. This can be a special price or a special package that you don't always offer.
Why bother running a promotion?
Because you want more customers. It's not rocket science, but you need to keep in mind why you are putting together a promotion. You could just advertise, but the buying public are tough nuts to crack and sometimes they need some gentle persuasion.
A promotion can be used to:
- Attract new business or enquiries
- Generate increased business from current patrons
- Improve awareness of your business
- Provide an uplift of business during a trough period
How do I get started?
There are hundreds of ways to promote your business. You could stand on the local roundabout and shout out your hotel's room rate to the rush-hour traffic, but there are better ways to reach your customers.
First, take some time to prepare yourself:
- Plan for promotions: Identify your trough periods well in advance so that you can put the promotion together properly. Use last years' figures and a calendar to track your business peaks and troughs. You'll soon see when you might need to run a promotion.
- Select your target market: Identify who you are trying to attract. Remember: one promotion to one target market. You may want to get customers in earlier so you can fill the quiet early evening. This will appeal to the elderly or families with young children. It is unlikely to appeal to the romantic diner.
- Match your offer to your needs: If you have busy Friday and Saturday nights in your hotel, why not offer Sunday night for a nominal fee? If you need to increase the amounts spent by early diners, encourage wine sales through a promotion.
- Set a budget and stick to it: Don't be tempted to spend even an extra £40 over your limit.
- Have a schedule for producing your material: You need to leave yourself enough time to put together an appealing flyer, advert or banner.
What makes a good promotional offer?
Here's the theory. If you can keep this in mind at every stage, you'll have a strong promotion that won't break the bank and will bring in a profitable return on investment.
- Specific Offer: Choose an offer and stick to it. Don't add in variables, as this will confuse the message and put your customer off from taking part.
- Measurable Offer: Add a tracking mechanism to your materials so that you can see how effective the promotion was against cost. This should be asked for by your staff during the promotional period.
- Achievable Objectives: Try to forecast how much business you will generate from the promotion. Be honest with yourself and don't over-estimate the success.
- Realistic Offer: Make sure your offer is going to improve your business measurements. A two-for-one offer in a hotel is great for occupancy but may hit your average daily room rate hard. Forecast the impact of the promotion before you decide to go ahead.
- Targeted Effort: The more focussed you are on who you are promoting to and what you are selling, the better the promotion will work.
Give me some ideas…
Don't re-invent the wheel. The buying public have a good idea about what is attractive to them as a promotion or offer. Check out the offers made by the major high-street supermarket chains and you'll find some strong ideas. Just scale them down to match your business.
Here are a few adaptations:
|Stay Friday and Saturday and get Sunday night free. Or three diners eat for the price of two on Thursday nights.
|Buy one bottle of house wine and get the second free.
|% off the normal price
|Offer a great discount to early users, during periods when business is normally quiet.
|Join forces with a complementary local business to strengthen your appeal. A hotel could link with a local attraction at Easter, for example, allowing both to reach more people.
How to run a promotion
This checklist can be used as a quick reference for each promotion you put together. Once you've answered these questions you'll have the framework for your promotion.
- Who am I trying to attract?
- Where are these people?
- How can I communicate with them?
- What am I trying to sell them?
- What's the best way of reaching them?
- What offer can I make that will be attractive?
- What business is likely to be generated?
- What impact will the promotion have on my business?
- How will I know which bookings relate to the promotion?
- How will I track the success rate?
- How much will this cost me?
- What training/communication do I need to do to make the promotion work?
Remember, before you start…
- Plan ahead. That way you increase your success rate.
- Keep it unfussy. Only communicate one message to one target market at once, otherwise your message will get lost.
- Keep it simple. Too much information is off-putting.
- Add value. You have a great product to sell at a great price. Instead of always discounting, add value with local links. Do a deal with local cinemas so that you can offer half-price tickets, or join forces with a local attraction to offer a discount.
- Measure your results. If you don't, you'll never know how successful you were.
- Involve everyone. Good ideas come from unusual sources.
- Use a second pair of eyes.
- Double check telephone numbers on your material. Then check again.
- Tell people. Make sure your team are well briefed on the promotion you're running.
How can I tell people about my promotion?
The following five marketing methods should help start you off on the road to successfully promoting your offer. All can be produced locally using low-cost, high-street printers. You can cut costs in the future by using the material as a template for subsequent promotions.
1. Promotional flyers
The old ones are the best. A well-produced, well-thought out flyer distributed in a suitable manner with an appealing offer still brings in the business. Flyers are useful for:
- Telling customers what you have to offer
- Reaching large numbers for a relatively low cost
- Distributing in various different ways
- Generating enquiries ripe for conversion.
Choosing the right way to distribute your flyers will have a big effect on the success of your promotion. Consider the following:
- Local newspaper insertions
- Trade shows
- Car windscreens in business parks
- Supermarkets, cinemas
- Front desk
- Tourist offices
- Shopping centres
- Magazine inserts
Different market segments respond to different means of distribution. Local newspapers, for example, have a strong domestic theme and are best for leisure business. Car windscreens may stimulate mid-week business if they are in city centres.
2. Posters Posters can be used in areas where large numbers of people are present on a regular basis, such as airports, bus stations, railway stations and shopping centres. Producing posters can be costly, so be sure that enough of the right people will see your poster to make it worthwhile. Posters can have a long shelf life so they are not suitable for promotions that are running for a very limited period.
Successful advertising is a great way to generate business. Make sure you choose your target carefully, as untargeted advertising can be costly and produce poor results.
Places to advertise:
- Local newspapers
- Local newspapers in an area you know generates business for you. This could be 100 miles away
- College or university newsletters during the build-up to graduation time
- Wedding supplements in regional papers, or brochures for wedding fairs
- Tourist office guides
- Local attraction guides and Web sites
- Direct mail promoting local events, such as county shows, pop concerts and pantomimes
- Trade fair direct mail
- Regional magazines for the business community
Check out the article on advertising for advice on how to produce your advert.
Banners offer a great way of increasing your walk-in business and letting lots of people know about your offer at relatively low cost.
Use banners to:
- Raise awareness of your existence by giving easily remembered location details
- Tell people about your value-for-money offers
- Tell people about your product
Too much information on a banner is as good as no information, so keep it short and sweet.
5. Direct mail
Check out the article on direct mail to find out how to reach your target market in the most direct manner.
by Stuart Harrison
Stuart Harrison, formerly managing director of brands and franchising at Premier Hotels, now runs his own consultancy, the Profitable Hotel Company. He is also a visiting fellow of Oxford Brookes University.