Properly timing your promotion is vitally important to producing a positive return on your marketing investment. Reaching the right audience at the wrong moment won’t generate sales.
This is the fourth and final installment of my four-part series detailing the “four secrets to marketing success.” After you target the right market (first secret), with the right message (second secret), through the right media (third secret), you’ll schedule your promotion at the right moment.
The objective is to time your promotion to coincide with the purchasing patterns of your target market. But if your sales are spread out fairly evenly throughout the year, timing will require more thought. In that case, the things to consider are sales cycles, scheduling, and competitor promotion.
Sales Cycles. Even if your sales are spread out, most likely there are peaks and valleys (busier and slower times). For busy periods (peaks) you follow the season, for slower periods (valleys) you fill in the gaps.
Follow the season. It’s the “make hay while the sun shines” approach. You allocate your promotional budget to hit the street just before the market peaks.
This involves both micro and macro cycles. A weekend is an example of a micro cycle. There are more new cars purchased on weekends, consequently you see more car dealer advertising at the end of the week. A period lasting for a season is an example of a macro cycle. In early spring, homeowners begin thinking about products in the lawn-and-garden category.
Fill in the gaps. This is the opposite of the “follow the season” approach. You schedule your promotion for slower sales periods, typically in micro cycles. Think about the last time you saw or used a coupon for a restaurant. The offer was most likely limited to certain days and times, such as from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday… during slower periods. Based on your sales cycles and capacity, consider which approach, follow the season or fill in the gaps, would generate the greatest return on investment.
There are four standard methods of scheduling promotion: continuity, concentration, flighting and pulsing.
■ Continuity means spreading your promotional budget evenly throughout the year, that is, you are promoting nonstop. Geico, for example, is constantly advertising through a mix of meida. Because this is a very costly method, it is not used by many small businesses.
■ Concentration involves allocating an entire promotion budget to one or a few promotional periods, most often associated with a sales promotion. Nordstrom concentrates on its Half Yearly Sale events, but it does not do much advertising otherwise.
■ Flighting is the choice of most small businesses because it stretches the budget while creating the illusion of nonstop advertising. You advertise on and off throughout the year (two weeks on, two weeks off, or one week every month, for example). Wal-Mart appears to use flighting to promote its brand and product offerings. They are not constantly advertising like Geico, but it seems to be. For flighting to be effective, consistency in schedule is important.
■ Pulsing is an approach used mostly by big brands. It combines the methods of continuity (at a lower spending level) and flighting (to deliver a stronger burst, usually timed seasonally or to a sales promotion). Budweiser advertises consistently throughout the year, but less frequently than Geico. In addition to its continuity schedule, there are certain times of the year when Budweiser really ratchets up its spending level, e.g. during major sporting events.
And lastly, competitor pricing. Sometimes purposely advertising at different times than you competitors can pay off. In consideration of your promotion budget, choose “the right moment” and scheduling based on your sales cycles, capacity and competitor promotion.
Andrew Ballard is president of Marketing Solutions, an agency specializing in growth strategies. For more information, call 425-337-1100 or go to www.mktg-solutions.com.