Defining Promotional Marketing Strategies

As a small business owner, what do you think when you hear the term promotional marketing?

Do you think of television advertising? A coupon you received in the mail? An ad you saw on the internet? Or a billboard? A t-shirt or cap with a logo?

Maybe you think of a pricing strategy, such as a promotional discount?

The 4 P’s of Marketing

Traditional marketing considers the 4P’s of marketing: product, price, placement, and promotion. While some small business owners might think of promotions only as sales promotions or coupons, “promotion” is a much broader term.

It can include not only sales promotions, but also advertising, direct marketing, social media and sponsorship.

Is Promotional Marketing Dying?

Many proclaim that traditional advertising and conventional marketing are dying, being replaced by a content marketing strategy. Content marketing educates your prospects or customers. It offers thought leadership to persuade rather than an in-your-face hard sell. It can warm leads and help to “sell” customers on your products or services before they even enter your store or go online to purchase from you.

However, statistics demonstrate that promotional marketing is NOT dying. It’s evolving, being replaced by newer types of promotional marketing that are being used in conjunction with content marketing.

5 Types of Promotional Marketing

In this article we review 5 types of promotional marketing, covering the following categories:

Advertising: Still the Gorilla in the Room

Overall, advertising is alive and well in the United States. This year businesses will spend more than $349 billion on advertising in the United States alone. YEP! BILLIONS. The only years that advertising spend did not grow year-over-year were 2001, 2009 and 2020. Worldwide advertising spend is expected to reach $1 trillion for the first time in 2024. YEP! TRILLION!


3 Advertising Losers

Advertising in Publications

But not all types of advertising have fared well. Print advertising in publications, once a mainstay of advertising, has been replaced with more modern digital format. Still, advertising in publications continues to limp along with just 4.84 percent of the advertising market share worldwide. At the same time, the advertising market is so large that even this sliver accounts for more than $4.84 billion. Not too shabby.


television advertising

Television Broadcast Network Advertising

Another victim of newer technology is traditional broadcast television advertising. Once the grand dame of advertising, it now lays claim to just 20.8 percent of the U.S. advertising market share. Worse, it’s expected to lose about five percent market share in the next year.

With the increase in streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and others, this spending will continue to be fragmented. However, this very fragmented spending does add up. 

Direct Mail Advertising

Another less popular advertising form is direct mail. In 2023 it was holding steady at six percent of the advertising market share. Furthermore, it tends to be more effective for advertising to consumers rather than to other businesses.

If these traditional forms of advertising have lost ground, where are businesses spending the $1 trillion?

direct mail piece

4 Advertising Winners

Internet advertising is responsible for approximately 65% of advertising spending in 2024. That comes to $65 billion dollars in 2024.

Depending on your offering and target audience, advertising on search platforms (think: Google Ads) or social media channels may be beneficial for your small or mid-sized business. Video ads may also be an option.

Moreover, these ads are often used to promote content marketing.

promotion with search magnifying glasses

 Search Market Advertising

Businesses spend the lion’s share of advertising dollars on search advertising, mainly Google Ads (formerly known as Google AdWords). I

Long-form Video Advertising

Wedged between search advertising and social advertising is long-form video. Marketers define long-form videos as those that last 10 minutes or more. Worldwide long-form video advertising is expected to reach $120 billion in 2024.

Short-form Video Advertising

At the same time, U.S. marketers predict that short-form video will rise nearly 10 percent in 2024. Worldwide, people spend more than 100 minutes a day watching social media videos.

Social Media Advertising

By contrast, another type of digital advertising, social ads, own only 21 percent of the market. However, this type of advertising is expected to expand by 18 percent, year over year.

social media icons coming out of shopping cart

Get digital advertising tips and see how artificial intelligence is impacting advertising.

Direct Marketing Promotions

Direct marketing includes the promotional mail you receive through the post office, UPS, or FedEx. It also includes email marketing and text (SMS) marketing.

Direct Marketing Losers

What’s more, many potential customers conduct preliminary research online. They read blogs and other website pages about your products and services. They are well-informed and often ready to close the deal before the sales team contacts them. That’s why email marketing is being used with inside (and outside) sales teams.

Additionally, some customers prefer email over the disruption of a phone call, text or in-person communication.

Direct Mail

According to the U.S. Postal Service, the volume of direct mail decreased precipitously during the 2007 to 2009 recession. During this time, the number of direct mail pieces plummeted from approximately 190 billion pieces of mail in 2008 to 150 billion by 2012.

By 2017, this free fall stabilized near 140 billion pieces of direct mail. However, coupons, fliers, catalogs, and other direct marketing pieces remain successful tactics—particularly for consumer audiences.

B2C Direct Mail

If you’re a small business that markets directly to consumers, direct mail may be a viable option for you. However, postage prices have grown exponentially.

But the good news is that with less overall mail, less competition exists.

B2B Direct Mail

The bad news? Only about one in eight direct mail pieces are business-to-business (B2B) marketing pieces. For B2B marketing, direct mail may not be the most cost-effective way for your business to go. If you haven’t checked your snail mailbox at work in weeks (or months), you know why.

direct mail envelopes

Direct Marketing Winners

Email Marketing: ROI Royalty

In an earlier blog, we discussed the success of email marketing, particularly for business-to-business marketing. With its low cost of implementation, it can provide an excellent ROI. How you approach your email marketing is an important determinant to your success.

HubSpot provides some helpful email marketing statistics regarding the timing, subject lines and imagery to increase your campaign’s success. If email continues to be the communication channel for businesses, it will sustain the success of B2B (and B2C) email marketing.

One big change in email marketing is the ability to provide increasingly more personalization. We discuss this in more detail in our downloadable eBook: What Small and Mid-Size Businesses Need to Know About Email Marketing.

The size of inside sales teams is growing. About half of all sales teams aren’t in the field, and increasingly businesses are moving their outside sales teams from the field to the office. Instead, they are working from their company office or at home (another reason why direct mail to the company won’t work.) They are not ever seeing customers—except on Zoom, Blue Jeans, or other videoconferencing systems.

What’s more, many potential customers conduct preliminary research online. They read blogs and other website pages about your products and services. They are well-informed and often ready to close the deal before the sales team contacts them. That’s why email marketing is being used with inside (and outside) sales teams.

Additionally, some customers prefer email over the disruption of a phone call, text or in-person communication.

email envelope with @ sign

SMS (Text) Marketing: New Kid on the Block

Text marketing or SMS is a relative newcomer to direct marketing. Use of cell phone numbers are heavily regulated, so hire an expert in this area. Consider your audience. Marketing to millennials? Text marketing may be a no-brainer. To the over 70 crowd? Probably not so much.

Consider your message as well. If your promotional message is brief, after all, brevity is what short message service (SMS) is all about, this type of direct marketing may be the right choice for your business.

In our opinion, SMS can be quite effective for scheduling appointments and other business-to-consumer communications that your customer or prospect has asked to receive.

Other times, we believe out-of-the-blue text messages can feel like an unwanted intrusion or even an invasion of privacy. They may annoy potential customers or worse,  anger them.

Public Relations: Slow Growth

Public relations spending is growing, albeit slowly. From 2016 to 2020, it was forecasted to grow from $14 billion to just over $19 billion. Similar to other types of promotions, public relations is shifting its focus. This is a result of “fake” news and media fragmentation, paid vs earned PR, the rise of artificial intelligence, and other public relations trends.

Sales Promotions and Special Offers: Effective for Consumers

Sales promotions, such as coupons, BOGOs (buy-one-get-one free), flash sales, and discounts remain effective–particularly for consumers.

The trends in sales promotion spending have been somewhat volatile, but seem to have stabilized around 3 percent annual growth. This area of promotion has also shifted toward online coupons and discounts. If your business serves a consumer audience, you’ll want to consider sales promotions.

two shopping carts one with dollars one with word promotions

Social Media: Promote Your Content, Public Relations, and  Sales Promotions

Social media has traditionally been a great way to promote your marketing efforts. It can also generate awareness of your products or services. It can also be a way to engage your customers.

It’s a tool for disseminating advertising, content you created, sales promotions, your public relations and more.

Unfortunately, this once-free platform has shifted to pay-to-play. Most external links won’t be shown by the social media channel—unless you pay for them to be advertised. Our research shows that even your non-paid links will fare better if you advertise the same post, video, or story (boost it) on social media.

Of course, choosing the right social media network is important. Facebook has proven valuable for both B2C and B2B audiences. Trying to engage the media? Twitter may be the right network for you. Looking at millennials? Instagram may be your best route.

social media icons coming out of shopping cart
Do you know how you will promote your business to your prospects and customers in 2024? We can help.

Nancy Burgess

Nancy Burgess is the owner of Nancy Burgess Strategic Marketing, a marketing consulting firm and online agency. In that role, she integrates her corporate success as a digital marketer along with her marketing agency experience in marketing communications and branding to help businesses prosper. Nancy's specialties are search engine optimization (SEO) and content creation. She graduated from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, holds a master's degree, and also multiple marketing certificates from DePaul University's graduate school. She is a frequent presenter on SEO strategies and has worked in digital marketing since the late 1990s. As someone who can strategize AND execute, Nancy offers digital and traditional marketing services to SMBs. Agency value without agency fees. Along with SEO and content strategies, Nancy's agency offers website design, marketing automation, integrated marketing strategies, and branding to her clients.