This article is part of a larger series on Sales Management.
Sales promotions are limited offers used as a source of quick revenue by enticing customers to make a purchase or build brand awareness. While commonly used in business-to-consumer (B2C) ecommerce, retail, or restaurant businesses, business-to-business (B2B) providers can also take advantage of this marketing strategy based on their goals.
In this article, we’ll cover sales promotions, dive into examples of creative promotional ideas for B2B businesses, and provide key information on how to properly implement a sales promotion.
1. Free Trials or Samples
Offering temporary free trials or samples for a finite time can quickly generate leads who want to learn more or try out your product or service before spending money on it. For instance, in the B2C industry, samples are often used when marketing food or drinks, while free trials are excellent promotions for software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies.
If you provide business services such as cybersecurity consulting, legal advising, or anything else that requires specialized knowledge, you could run a promotion offering a free initial consultation. Once you have the lead in the door, the knowledge you provide may prompt them to sign up for your paid services.
2. Risk-free Promotions
Risk-free refers to promotions where if a product or service does not meet the customer’s objectives or if they are not satisfied, they get their money back. This idea can be an effective promotion strategy for sales consulting or marketing agency firms. Design the promotion so that during a three-month service agreement, clients get their money back if they don’t receive a certain number of leads or deals.
For instance, as discussed in our best lead generation companies article, SalesRoads does a 28-day promise. This risk-free promotion allows clients to cancel anytime within the first 28 days of the contract with a return of unused funds if they are unsatisfied with the appointment setting or cold-calling services.
Those selling tangible products or software create a similar campaign. If the consumer or user isn’t satisfied with the product in terms of quality or accomplishing an objective, they are fully refunded and may also offer additional risk-reducing incentives such as free shipping. Using these promotions lets customers use your solution since it’s a win-win.
3. Subscribe & Save
The subscribe and save promotional sale helps to increase the value of your average sale while also incentivizing longer-term relationships. For instance, many software as a service (SaaS) subscriptions allow customers to purchase services month-to-month but offer significant discounts if someone commits to a longer-term contract. The customer benefits from this promotion with savings over time, while the business benefits from an upfront payment.
This can also be used for products or services that aren’t subscription-based. For instance, if your product uses recurring purchases such as office supplies, or food catered for frequent corporate events, you can offer something that gives customers a lower cost per unit if they subscribe to receive it regularly. Also, certain retainer services such as legal advising to businesses could take this promotional route.
4. Lifestyle Discounts
You may have heard about short-term promotions where veterans, the elderly, children, or active-duty military get discounts. This is an excellent promotion usable in any B2C or B2B industry that permits it. The idea is that by offering the discount, you can start your relationship with those customers on a positive note and hopefully keep them coming back in the long run.
For example, if you sell a management consulting service B2B, you might provide a special discount such as a lowered down payment or reduced hourly rates to women-owned, minority-owned, or veteran-owned businesses. Assuming these kinds of discounts are permitted in your industry, it’s a great way to establish a niche market for your brand.
5. Quality-based (Best Fit) Promotions
Similar to lifestyle-based discounts, a quality or best-fit promotional discount can have the same effect that starts a paying relationship on a high note, keeping a customer for the long term. In this case, however, you’re selecting who receives the discount based on lead qualification, fit, or if they fall into a customer persona you’ve created, making them a highly qualified prospect.
This promotion can be a beneficial B2B sales tool as many providers of B2B products or services often have niche specialties or certain markets they focus on. If they find the perfect opportunity, they can finish the deal by giving that organization a substantial discount.
Use a customer relationship management (CRM) system with lead scoring features to help determine the best fit. Lead scoring, as seen in products such as Zoho CRM, automatically calculates values assigned to leads or opportunities based on their fit with your offerings and how much interest they’ve expressed through engaging with your business.
6. Purchase for Donation Promotions
You’ve likely heard of the retail promotions where a company will donate X amount of money to a charity for every purchase made—a great idea that makes customers feel they are helping the world by spending on your brand. Focusing on emotions such as feeling like buying a product is helping the greater good and creating a sense of urgency are simple ways to trigger a purchase. Emotional selling is a powerful method that accelerates and drives buyer decisions
This same premise can be used for all types of businesses, including B2B. Simply decide on a charitable cause and time frame. Then, communicate the promotion to customers and leads through mass emailing and posting on your social media pages. Indicate that you will donate a percentage of revenue generated to the charity selected for a certain time frame. Make sure recipients of the campaign understand that it’s only for a short period, so they shouldn’t wait.
Use email marketing software to design, deploy, and automate email campaigns during purchase for donation promotions. Mailchimp is an excellent tool that integrates with CRMs such as HubSpot to sync contact data between systems. This allows you to easily send out your message through Mailchimp using the contact data found in a CRM.
7. Buy One, Get One (or More) Free
The popular buy one, get one free campaign uses an additional free product or service to convince someone to purchase the initial one. Customers are often driven and intrigued by free offers, which allows this promotion to work. However, note that this promotion only works for offerings in which having more than one is valuable.
For example, when food products are eaten by consumers, the unit of each food item is gone upon consumption. Therefore, having an additional one would be valuable. A large piece of furniture, however, may not be great for this promotion because the extra unit won’t necessarily add value to the customer and, if anything, involves additional moving and storage costs.
This could be a great B2B promotion idea if you’re following similar principles of more units adding more value. For instance, office supplies, which businesses know will be used up fairly quickly, will be intriguing to purchase if the buyer knows additional free units will be included as well.
8. Bundling Promotions
Bundling-based promotions are slightly different from the buy one, get one free deal in that instead of the same product or service, you combine complementary offerings for a discount. In the B2B space, accounting firms offer discounts for bundling tax preparation with bookkeeping services since the two go hand-in-hand.
Office suppliers could also bundle computer equipment with other office supplies like paper, pens, folders, etc. In the B2C space, you might see this done when if someone buys a grill with a grill set, a discount is provided on the items. As long as the bundled grouping makes sense to purchase as one for a discount, this promotion will be effective and enticing to a buyer.
9. Pay-per-Referral Promotions
While not allowed in certain financial industries such as insurance without a proper license, referral-based promotions help build your brand through word-of-mouth advertising. It also can produce the highest-quality leads with higher conversion rates. This is because 59% of shoppers prefer to only buy from brands they are already familiar with.
Most pay-per-referral promotions reward customers whose referrals lead to closed deals with cash or gift cards. However, some referral programs provide discounts to referred customers as well. When communicating this promotion in B2B, try targeting complementary businesses or solid centers of influence firms to maximize referral volume. Our article on referral lead generation sources will help you determine who those influences are.
Choose a CRM with modules or tools for monitoring referral partners and their activity. This lets you organize their contact information and track your pay-per-referral campaigns. Products like Salesforce have tabs within the lead, contact, customer, or account records specifically for tracking referral activity—keeping you in the loop on who is sending you opportunities.
10. Social Media Giveaway
If you use a lot of content marketing, you likely understand that it’s only effective when you have a following who will read, view, or listen to the content. Gaining social media followers on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn is becoming increasingly popular for lead generation and customer loyalty programs.
To get more followers, use a promotional giveaway where you advertise to a new audience to follow your social media pages. Every new follower is added to a raffle system where one or multiple winners are selected to win a prize. You can take this promotion to another level by also adding discounts, announcing flash sales, free trials, or samples of your product or service to the raffle winner to introduce them to your solutions.
11. Joint Promotions
Joint promotions use deals or discounts in conjunction with another business. The idea is that if two companies are both advertising a conjoined campaign, it will reach the customer and prospect base of both businesses and produce better results. You commonly see this in B2B organizations, where marketing specialists such as brand strategists, photographers, and videographers run a promotion that bundles all of these services into a package for a significant discount.
Another example is when certain movies come out, some restaurants give a discount to dining patrons who show their ticket stub for that movie. Joint promotions can be broad in scope as long as you’re working with another business to communicate and execute the campaign. You could bundle products or services with another brand or offer discounts, free trials, or special offers through another company.
How to Implement a Sales Promotion in 4 Steps
Implementing a sales promotion campaign is as much about communication as the actual value offered to customers. While you want to ensure the promotional deal is worth the time of your leads and prospects, it’ll only be successful if marketed properly and by following up with them afterward to build the relationship further.
Here’s how to construct and implement a sales promotion in four easy steps:
1. Determine the Promotion Type & Scope
First things first, decide which sales promotion technique you want to run based on your objectives. Each of the ideas we presented serve different promotional purposes and should be used to help you narrow in on a campaign. Once you know the type, figure out the details such as discount percentage, the length of the promotion, who you’ll target and how, and the goals of the promotion.
When setting promotional goals, use quantitative metrics such as “To obtain 12 new free trial users” or “generate seven referrals” throughout the campaign. When deciding the actual value offer, make sure it’s financially feasible for your business. For example, offering an 80% discount on something with slim margins would be a bad idea, as you’d lose money in the process.
Promotions can be treated like marketing projects with a start date, end date, associated tasks, deadlines, a set deliverable, and allocatable resources. CRMs such as Bitrix24 can help both distribute and plan the promotion using built-in project management features. These modules allow teams to collaborate and monitor progress while staying organized during a long-term campaign.
2. Gather & Combine Team Resources
As part of any type of marketing or sales operations, ensure the framework, processes, and resources are in place to run your promotion. Some common examples of resources you should consider organizing include:
- Extra inventory: If you’re offering free samples or discounted or bundled products, you may need to stock up extra inventory to meet the demand.
- Open schedule time: For free trials or consultations, be sure to free up time on your schedule for prospects to obtain product support or participate in their consultation.
- Promotion management software: If you’re running a promotion online, make sure you have software that will automate and execute the promotion.
- Marketing resources: You’ll need content development tools and personnel to help create messaging and materials you’ll use to market your promotion.
- Additional personnel: Certain promotions may require additional personnel support to handle demand and the influx of inquiries.
- Information from joint promoter: For joint promotions, gather information and materials from the partner for their role in the campaign as well as the scope of what they are offering.
Some of these promotion ideas may require significant sales and marketing alignment in terms of resources, goals, and implementation. Make sure both functions collaborate so there’s a shared understanding of the promotion’s scope and how it will be communicated to your audiences.
3. Market Your Promotion
Next, start marketing your sales promotion. Most communication can occur using digital marketing channels like social media, mass email, online ads, SMS texting, or banners on your website. However, for certain programs such as pay-per-referral, free trialing or consultations, risk-free, or quality-based promotions, you can use your sales team for advertising and even running a sales contest.
With cash, gift card, or paid time off (PTO) prizes, you can incentivize the sales team to produce the most desired actions or promotion participants through cold calling, in-person events, or direct email marketing activities. Whoever gets the most or meets a specified threshold wins a prize. Regardless of the channel used, there are a minimum set of questions you need to answer relating to marketing the promotion effectively:
- What does the promotion entail and how does it offer value to the customer?
- How does someone participate in the promotion and get access to the deal?
- How long will the promotion run for?
Pro tip: Use a marketing-focused CRM such as HubSpot CRM to mass communicate your sales promotion to a wide or targeted audience. HubSpot offers email templates plus design and deployment features to send out email messages or schedule future ones. Users can also track campaign progress to see real-time open and click rates.
4. Execute & Follow Up
As participants pour in, ensure they receive the offer you promised, such as the free consultation, free trial, discounted product, or bundled service package. Sales management and other leaders should also set a clear process to have sales reps follow up with promotional participants after it has been completed.
For instance, after a free trial or consultation has been provided, a rep can reach out via phone or email to see if they were happy with what was provided to them and if they are interested in learning more about your offerings. A sales promotion should be used as a starting point to develop long-term and meaningful customer relationships. Without staying in contact afterward, you minimize the potential customer lifetime value (CLTV) that could be obtained.
5 Statistics About Sales Promotions
Want to know the true story around sales promotions? These stats paint a tangible picture regarding its effectiveness, which methods work better than others, and how well customers engaged with various strategies.
- Research shows that 10%-30% of ecommerce revenue comes from product bundling
- Referrals, whether by promotional campaigns or not, yield 30% higher conversion rates than other lead sources
- 80% of consumers will try a new brand if they are offered a discount
- Nearly two out of three consumers will make a purchase if they have a promotional coupon, regardless of whether or not they initially had buying intentions
- Roughly 48% of consumers won’t even interact with a brand that doesn’t offer deals
Sales promotions are an excellent way to quickly increase sales, generate leads, and build your brand notoriety. While each type of promotion varies, it’s important to have a clear plan regarding the promotion scope, timeline, and target audience. Upon your campaigns being completed, be sure to follow up and try to move the needle on extending your existing customer relationships further for long-term value.