Companies that sell products or services use some or all of the components of a marketing and communications mix, also called a promotional mix. These include advertising, personal sales, sales promotions, public relations and direct marketing. Most national brands use all parts of the mix, each in proportion to the needs of the product. Cereal makers, for example, concentrate most efforts — and money — on advertising and sales promotions, such as coupons. Other products call for different mix ratios, with some mix components completely eschewed.
Although the most cost-effective marketing method, advertising also usually is the most expensive component of the promotional mix on a total-cost basis. Advertising is a mass-media approach that reaches the largest and most diverse audience, usually at the lowest cost per unit (or person). TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, telephone books and billboards are all examples of mass media. The Internet, a more targeted approach, also should be included in advertising considerations. Other forms of mass media also can be targeted. Televised football games tend to include ads targeted at men ages 18 to 54 — car and beer ads, for instance. You may place an ad for women’s shoes in a newspaper's style section. Whether the message is broad or narrow, national or local, product-specific or brand-name recognition, advertising almost always will need to be a major component of the marketing communication mix.
Personal selling can be the most expensive approach in your mix. It also can be impossible to achieve with some products and services. Aside from placing sales personnel in supermarkets across the country, marketing Cheerios via personal selling isn’t feasible. Retail sales of other products, however, are traditionally the final step in the promotional mix, sealing the deal with face-to-face sales. Car dealers are perhaps the most high-profile personal sales examples. Door-to-door salesmen are nearly extinct, but businesses that rely on repeat business, such as auto-repair shops and beauty salons, count on effective personal sales techniques every day.
Purchase incentives are the bread-and-butter element of sales promotions. Coupons remain a staple of sales promotions, whether in the form of newspaper ads, inserts, mailers or Internet coupons. Samples are another sales promotion, sometimes arriving in the mail or provided by in-store personnel through taste tests or product samples. Free samples, two-for-one deals, first-time-free offers and rebates are typical sales promotions.
As companies grow, public relations efforts become more crucial to the mix. Good public relations efforts promote socially conscious practices and community-based programs. Political lobbying may be necessary for large companies, but publicly spinning messages — especially when presenting different spins to different audiences — is a poor, short-sighted tactic. Identifying your audience is the first step in shaping your message. Cultivating good relations with the media is vital. Having your product or service promoted as part of a legitimate news story is far more effective than paid advertising or propaganda.
Perhaps the least attractive component in the mix, direct marketing nonetheless is valuable because it is cheap and can be very narrowly targeted to specific audiences. Direct mail, telephone solicitations and electronic marketing are standard direct marketing techniques. Although often denigrated by the general public as intrusive and bothersome, direct marketing historically reaches people likely to respond and to purchase your products. Despite black-sheep status, direct marketing remains an effective and indispensable promotional mix component.