Building a Promotion Gameplan
1 – Start Here
From the Author
I’m John Grimshaw, Digital Marketer’s Marketing Coordinator.
In this EP, I’ll be walking you through one of the most important subjects for strategic planning – creating and tracking your product promotions.
I’m the Marketing Coordinator for Digital Marketer. It is my job to help plan Digital Marketer’s promotional strategy and to track the success (or failure) of each promotion. These two roles go hand in hand because an effective promotional strategy is based on two things: a strong understanding of your customer base, and hard data.
In this execution plan, you’ll learn exactly what a promotional calendar is (and what a promotion is too), how to create one for your business, and how to track the success of your promotions.
If you follow along and implement these strategies in your business, you’ll learn to not only increase your monthly income, but you will develop a stronger understanding of how to balance monetization and engagement when communicating with your list.
I can’t wait to show you everything; let’s get started!
How to Use This Section
Before we dive in, I want to discuss the contents of the EP and talk you through implementing what you learn here.
First, you will need to understand the Customer Value Optimization (CVO) funnel process that is taught in the Digital Marketer FAQ Execution Plan.
Digital Marketer’s FAQ Execution Plan.
If you do not understand CVO, do this Execution Plan first.
The most important thing to know is that this EP will be speaking to you as if you are a business with multiple products.
Before you start worrying: These practices CAN be implemented in your particular business or niche!
It’s true that businesses with a variety of products and offers will be able to maximize the return they see from this EP, but even businesses with only a single product or offer funnel set up can benefit from a promotional sales structure. And promotional calendars are a great way to identify what’s missing from your product or service suite and help you choose what to develop next.
In this EP, there are a few high-level steps tagged as “advanced.” If you’re just here to learn the basics, skip those sections and come back when you are ready to take the next step!
Why Create a Promotional Calendar
Promotional calendars are an important tool for every aspect of your business. There are 2 important reasons why the best time to build a promotion calendar is right now.
Reason #1: Promotional calendars are roadmaps for what your customer communication should look and sound like. The concept of scent in advertising goes deeper than matching colors – the goal is to keep your messaging consistent across all channels and all kinds of media.
Building a promotional calendar can make that much easier because your whole team will know what the focus is on any given day.
Reason #2: Promotional calendars give you some sense of how money will flow into your business over time. Thinking in terms of promotions allows you to budget with realistic predictions about how much revenue your business will see week to week.
Why Track Promotions
The promotional calendar is only half of the equation.
Just planning a promotion does not guarantee success. You must analyze how your audience responds and use their reaction to drive your messaging, your sales process, and even your future product development.
Tracking a promotion lets you see what works and what doesn’t. Seeing just how many units you move during the lifetime of the promotion will help you identify weaknesses in your offer that are hurting your customer’s experience and your bottom line.
In this EP, I will show you how to track the performance of a promotion and how to adjust it on the fly to maximize success.
Let’s talk about the basics of a promotion.
2 – Understanding Promotions
What is a Promotion?
A promotion consists of you choosing a product or service that you want to focus on with your marketing. You then turn that product into an offer, creating a funnel, a sales pitch, and your hook.
Once that is built out, you direct traffic towards that message. How is that different than what you do every day? Because you’re only going to run this offer for a certain amount of time. That is what makes it a promotion.
Promotions are great because they focus your audience’s attention. They create mini-events when you have a reason to focus on some product and your audience has a reason to listen.
The fact that promotions are limited is what creates scarcity! This works for physical products, too – these can be limited by time or by a specific volume of merchandise you allocate for the promotion.
Scarcity is an important activator because it gives your audience a reason they need to purchase or opt-in now. When an offer is time-sensitive, deferring the purchase decision is no longer an option. Individuals can either act now and gain, or wait and miss out. There is no in-between.
The basic equation for a successful promotion is:
Product/Service + Offer + Scarcity = Promotion
We’ll come back to this concept, but first let’s talk about the different forms promotions take.
What Kinds of Promotions are There?
Thinking about promotions can be a little overwhelming! That’s because there are an almost infinite number of ways to promote your products and services. Luckily, there’s an easy way to pick the right promotion for your business.
All you need to do is decide exactly what you want your audience to do, then design your promotion to encourage that behavior.
There are 3 key promotional categories:
Let’s break down the goal of each one:
- Monetization promotions are about making money. These take your engaged list members and sell them your core offer or a new product you’re launching. These are the bread and butter of running a profitable business, though they need activation and acquisition promotions to build and warm up an audience in order to be successful. Affiliate promotions will fall into this category as well.
- Activation promotions are about engaging and exciting your email list. During these promotions, your main goal is to turn unengaged people on your list into buyers. You can also use them to excite your audience about a particular topic. At Digital Marketer, we often use Flash Sales as activation promotions. These big discounts on your products or services create value that subscribers find it hard to say no to. To learn more about Flash Sales, access the Facebook Flash Sale Formula Execution Plan here.
- Acquisition promotions are about building your list. Free giveaways and lead magnets make great acquisition promotions, because they provide low-commitment, high-value introductory offers. And by including a core offer upsell, you can acquire leads and customers at a profit. An Acquisition promotion might only break even and may even take a short-term loss. Remember, these promotions are intended to generate leads and low-dollar buyers. Don’t worry, you can target these new leads with more profitable Monetization Promotions in the future!
These are not hard and fast categories. Activation promotions can also build your list and acquisition promotions can make you money. These categories are just helpful ways to frame your promotional goals and define what success will look like.
Advanced tip: you can stack promotions – use lower-commitment promotions to segment your audience and pinpoint the most engaged members. Then hit that segment with a monetization promotion related to what activated them. Often, the best product launches use an activation promotion to create an audience segment they later target with a follow-up monetization promotion.
Can I Run My Promotion Forever?
Let’s pause for one second. I guarantee you that there are some people reading this thinking, “I only have one product; I need to just run a promotion with no end, right?”
Like I said, promotions validate scarcity.
If someone tried to sell you a watch every day for a year by telling you there was only one left in stock, would you buy that watch? Probably not, because the continued availability either means they lied about the scarcity, or that the watch was so terrible that no one wanted it.
Either the seller isn’t trustworthy, or the product is bad quality.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t sell your one product as a promotion. Nor does it mean that you can’t be successful selling a product all year round.
You can actually do both of these! Promotions are different than evergreen funnels, which are how you sell a product regularly
Promotions Versus Evergreen Funnels
I’m going to quickly break down the difference between promotions and evergreen funnels.
If you already understand this concept, feel free to move on to the next step.
Promotions are events, time-sensitive and exciting and guided by you.
Evergreen funnels are how customers can buy your product or service when it suits them and their needs, rather than yours.
Evergreen funnels are like an oven – they offer a slow, steady burn that you check occasionally but tend to ignore. These funnels are critical to the success of your business because they provide consistent revenue, but they don’t work for innovating or testing.
Promotions are the stovetop, volatile and variable. You can fry eggs at the 3 or the 9 setting, and they will end up cooked either way (obviously I’m not a chef). What I mean is that promotions offer an opportunity to test, experiment, and refine your sales messages and offers. During a promotion, you push traffic towards an offer, which allows you to get a sense of what messaging and offers your audience responds to.
The final section of this EP will give you a brief overview of how to use promotions as laboratories to refine your evergreen content.
Disney is the most amazing and recognizable promotion creator. While they do a lot of things right (and wrong), I am specifically talking about the Disney Vault. The company constantly moves their films in and out of “the vault,” an intangible holding cell where the classics are kept safe. In a practical sense, this refers to their practice of regularly closing and reopening the physical sales of their movies.
This strategy keeps demand high and prevents their audiences from fatiguing. Even today, when digital movies have weakened DVD & Blue-Ray sales, Disney has still succeeded by tweaking their offer, creating “remastered” or “digitally enhanced” versions only available during special occasions.
So what is the takeaway? A Promotion can become an evergreen funnel, and the best of them should. But to ensure success when building a promotion, think of them like Disney movies: valuables you can pull out or put away according to the needs of your audience and their interest level.
Compiling Your Product List
Take a few minutes and make a list of the products or services your business has to sell. For advanced readers, you should also create a list of your existing funnels.
Writing down your assets may inspire you to think of a new funnel. Or you may want to bundle another product or service into an existing funnel as a promotional bonus.
Things you should include on your list:
- Lead Magnets
- Trip Wires
- Core Offers
- Profit Maximizers
- Funnels (if you have those)
I’ll list off a few examples Digital Marketer has at our disposal.
- Lead Magnets: The Social Swipe File, 212 Blog Posts, Facebook Ad Templates
- Trip Wires: Our EP Library, the $1 DM Lab trial
- Core Offers: DM Lab
- Profit Maximizers: Secret Selling System, The Machine
Building Your Promotion
Now that you have your asset list, you can build a promotion!
The best promotions follow Digital Marketer’s CVO funnel process, moving buyers down a track from inexpensive, attention-grabbing offers to more substantial and profitable products.
If you aren’t familiar with the CVO funnel, check out this FAQ Execution Plan to see exactly what I am talking about.
Let’s talk through an example promotion that we might run at DM. Remember the promotion equation?
Product/Service + Offer + Scarcity = Promotion
Let’s plug in our variables. Our goal in this promotion is to sell more of our core offer, DM Lab. So that’s the service part of our equation.
DM Lab + Offer + Scarcity = Promotion
The offer encompasses a few things. Primarily, it is your sales copy and the messaging you will use to get users to make a purchase. But this also encompasses the CVO funnel structure you will use and any bonuses or special offers you include to make the product you are selling a more enticing buy.
We’ll use a standard CVO funnel, taking prospects from Facebook Ad Templates (lead magnet) to the Boomerang Traffic EP (tripwire) to DM Lab (our core offer).
And what the heck, we’ll throw in our 43 split tests report as a bonus. Now we’ve got our offer!
DM Lab + CVO Funnel/Split Test Bonus + Scarcity = Promotion
The last piece we need is scarcity. Because this is our core offer, we don’t want to stop interested buyers from purchasing DM Lab after we are done with this promotion. So, instead, we’ll say in our messaging that the lead magnet, our Facebook Ad Templates, will only be available to non-lab members for 1 week.
DM Lab + CVO Funnel/Split Test Bonus + Close Date = Promotion
That’s it! We’ve just built a promotion that we can now put on our promotional calendar. If you’ve only got one promotion, that’s ok! You can still benefit from this next section.
3 – Creating a Promotional Calendar
Creating Your Calendar
So you have your promotion(s) laid out and now it’s time to actually make your calendar.
All you really need is a blank calendar that makes it easy to rearrange your promotions and lets you share the finished product with your team.
A great free option is Google Calendar.
You can also build your own in a spreadsheet. This will take more time and energy, but will let you customize your calendar to fit your specific business.
Having a personal planner is great, and I recommend putting your promotions in yours. But it’s not something you’ll want to share with your team.
Make sure you create a public document with all this information. Keeping the current and upcoming promotions on everyone’s mind will keep you entire team in the loop.
Choosing Which Promotions to Schedule When
So you’ve got your promotions outlined, and you are ready to build your promotional calendar.
There are two key things to consider when you are building your promotional calendar. The first and most important are your revenue needs.
Your business needs to make a certain amount of money each month and once you’ve covered that, you can focus less on monetization and more on acquisition or activation.
Don’t rely solely on discounting to create promotional value, and don’t stick too many discounts too close together – you’ll train your list to watch for discounts and only buy when the price is low. Instead, include access to bonus content in your offer, or bundle multiple products together to create a more appealing overall package.
The more you segment and categorize your list, the more targeted your offers can be. For example, Digital Marketer categorizes audiences for Traffic & Conversion Summit by whether or not they have attended in the past. Those who have been before need a different hook than those who have not.
One final point to consider when planning your calendar is that most affiliate promotions do not pay out immediately. So if you are planning on promoting an affiliate product to meet your revenue goals, make sure you know exactly when the payout will be coming.
Let’s talk through how Digital Marketer thinks about our promotional calendar. While it is critical to consider the specific needs of your business, hopefully our way of doing things can act as a guide for you as you develop your process.
A 1-Month Digital Marketer Promotional Calendar, Explained
At Digital Marketer, we try to plan our promotional calendar in terms of what we want to accomplish each month.
Generally speaking, we try to fit in 2 monetization promotions, 1 acquisition promotion and 1 activation promotion so we can 1) make money, 2) grow our list, and 3) keep our list engaged. Keep in mind that we send 4-5 promotional emails each week.
You don’t need to have that many promotions in each month, nor do you need to email that often. You should adapt your promotional structure to fit the way you already communicate with your audience.
It’s also worth mentioning that our most important channel is email – this is our largest driver of traffic. So when we put a promotion on the calendar for a specific set of dates, that indicates when we will mail about the promotion. We supplement this with ads, website banners and affiliate mailings.
Here is a sample month that is a great example of what Digital Marketer’s promotional calendar might look like:
Promotion #1: The Machine (M, Tu, Th, F, Sa, Su)
Promotion #2: FreshKey Flash Sale (M-W)
Promotion #3: Affiliate Promotion – Lead Magnet (F-Sa)
Promotion #3 (continued): Affiliate Promotion – Main (M, W, F)
Promotion #4 $1 DM Lab Trial (Sun-Tu)
Promotion #5 Facebook Ad Template Lead Magnet (Th-Sa)
I’ll briefly explain why each promotion is where it is.
- Promotion #1: The Machine is a $2,000 product. We want to sell our most valuable products earlier in the month. That’s because once we have paid our bills for the month, we can focus more on growing our audience and keeping the list happy, two things that are more about investing in the future than short-term gratification. This doesn’t mean we won’t try to make money, but we can do more growth-focused promotions once we have made our money.
- Promotion #2: Fresh Key is just $10. With a flash sale (and all activation promotions), our goal is to activate disengaged audience members and turn them into interested buyers. This is a great way to monetize the leads you have brought in with your acquisition funnels and to ensure that your list is watching your messaging. It is also a great way to prepare for a larger monetization promotion – making an offer they can’t refuse is a great way to get them thinking about a topic you can then tie to a more profitable promotion. Be careful not to overuse this kind of promotion, because it will devalue your products in potential customer’s eyes if they know it will always be available at a discount. Learn more about running Flash Sales in the Facebook Flash Sale Formula Execution Plan.
- Promotion #3: This promotion is pretty spread out – that’s because it is structured like a Product Launch Funnel (which you can learn about in theFunnel Blueprint 2.0). The first half of the promotion is about giving away lead magnets that relate to the main offer in order to excite your list before the product is launched. The main section is the actual open and close of the affiliate offer. Affiliate promotions are great ways collect future dividends and to build relationships with people who can later act as traffic sources for your own product launches. Unless your entire business is built around selling affiliate offers, I recommend a balance of affiliate to personal offers that favors your product suite.
- Promotion #4: The $1 Trial is a great activation promotion – it offers incredible value that the non-buyers members of our list find hard to resist. While we don’t make much money off of this promotion, it drives a significant amount of traffic towards our core offer, DM Lab. With this promotion, we are once again investing in future growth.
- Promotion #5: We often schedule lead magnet promotions for weekends, because we find a higher conversion rate. This is because the weekends give people more time to consume the content. If a prospect goes through a lead magnet in depth, they are much more likely to purchase the trip wire we offer in our follow-up email sequence.
Hopefully, looking at how the Digital Marketer team thinks about our promotions is helpful when you are laying out your own calendar. If you want more tips, look at section (3-5) where I offer some more general guidelines if you’re still feeling stuck.
However, if you want to really maximize the value of your promotional calendar, take a look at the next section. This is going to be best for those businesses with a variety of promotions already outlined.
Advanced: A 3-Month Digital Marketer Promotional Calendar
While we think about promotions on a monthly level most often, it’s important to think about exactly how each month will fit together and what your specific needs will be over that period of time. Think holistically about your entire quarter – do you have a big launch coming up? Or maybe you have a big bill coming due in a few months that you need to prepare to pay off.
Let me lay out an example quarter calendar and the general things
In this scenario, we have a large payment due early in month two and we are going to launch a new product, which for the sake of this example will be The Machine, during month three. I’ll just talk in terms of weeks, not days, for this broader look.
Monetization Promotion – The Napkin Project
Flash Sale – Secret Selling System
Monetization Promotion – Funnel Blueprint
Acquisition Promotion – 101 Best Email Subject Lines
Week 1 (Bill Due!)
Monetization Promotion – AuthorityROI
Monetization/Acquisition Promotion – Affiliate Offer
Acquisition – Gain, Logic, Fear Email Templates
Activation Promotion – 7-Step Autoresponder Sequence EP
Activation Promotion – The Machine Prelaunch Promotion
Week 2 (The Machine Launches!)
Monetization Promotion – The Machine
Monetization Promotion – The Machine (continued)
Acquisition Promotion – 212 Blog Posts
- In month 1, our goal is to make money. We are preparing for the big expense coming up at the beginning of Month 2. So we want to funnel cash into our business in the short term. To accomplish this, we won’t run any affiliate promotions, we’ll squeeze in an extra monetization promotion, and our flash sale will be for a higher dollar product. We still want to do an acquisition promotion, but we’re thinking about our big product launch
- In month 2, once we’ve paid our big bill, we will run a quick monetization promotion to cover the month’s expenses. Once we’re financially square, we can start planning for our product launch next month. We want to build our list and segment out the most excited prospects to give them some extra attention during our launch. To do this we are running an affiliate promotion in order to get the affiliate to commit to promoting the heck out of your launch next month. This is an indirect (but super effective) way to build your list for the promotion. We also will run two activation promotions tied to email marketing to get our audience excited about the topic before our big launch.
- In month 3, we want to launch our new product and sell, sell sell! We’ll run an activation promotion specifically built to get people excited about the launch coming the following week. Then we’ll run the product launch promotion for two weeks – this is a big deal! And because it’s a high-dollar offer, it makes sense to spend more time selling it because it will take extra work to overcome your audience’s objections. We’ll wrap with an acquisition promotion to give the list a break and move on to a new topic – we’ve tapped our list’s interest in email for a while!
Calendar Planning Tips
Follow these tips if you are still struggling to figure out when to schedule your promotions:
- If your business offers seasonal products, don’t offer a big promotional discount on your new items at the very beginning of the season. Create value in other ways, and resort to discount-driven promotions once demand has dropped.
- If you’re having trouble thinking of exactly how to dress up your product during a promotion (which can be especially challenging for those with a single product), think about the promotions as a way of adding the additional value a customer needs to take action. What could you include that would help your customer implement or make the most of what you are already offering?
- Don’t rely solely on discounting to create promotional value, and don’t stick too many discounts too close together – you’ll train your list to watch for discounts and only buy when the price is low. Instead, include access to bonus content in your offer, or bundle multiple products together to create a more appealing overall package.
- For people with a single product, consider your editorial calendar when planning your promotion. Because you aren’t trying to fill an entire month, you have much greater scheduling flexibility and can more directly connect editorial and promotional content.
4 – Reporting & Tracking a Specific Promotion
The Basics of Promotion Reporting
To know whether or not your promotion is a success, you’ll want to closely monitor its performance through the promotion’s lifetime.
At Digital Marketer, we use a basic spreadsheet that any business can implement. But just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s not powerful. Properly used, this tool can help you make your offers extremely powerful.
Understand the Promotion Tracking Sheet
Report on Your Promotion (Visits)
Reports on Your Promotion (Sales)
Download Our Sample Promotion Tracking Sheet
Why not use the same promotional sheet that our team uses?
5 – Understanding How to Improve a Promotion
The Basics of Analyzing a Promotion
Now that you’ve got some data in your promotion sheet, you can start using this sheet to dig into your promotion and find out what’s working and what’s not.
While we are doing this retroactively, it is most effective to do during an active promotion. This allows you to adjust and pivot while the iron is in the fire, so you can salvage revenue that you would otherwise only notice you had missed after the fact. In the following video I’ll walk through exactly how we use these promotional tracking sheets to analyze our promotion performance
Analyze Your Promotion Performance
Turning Your Promotion Into Evergreen Content
Many of Digital Marketer’s promotions, especially those that sell DM Lab, eventually turn into evergreen funnels because they perform consistently well.
Evergreen funnels are different than promotions because they are passive ways for your business to collect revenue. These typically rely on ads, blog articles and site banners for traffic. Their benefit largely comes from the fact that they allow your business to capture revenue without requiring you to actively promote these offers.
The key to evergreen funnels is that the urgency of the offer is gone. This means that you’ll need to remove any elements of scarcity from the messaging. You don’t have to completely change the offer, though – leaving bonuses in your evergreen funnels will keep your offers interesting to your audience. But you don’t want to turn money-losing campaigns into evergreen funnels. If you’re offering a deep discount that costs you tons to promote, that won’t make a sustainable evergreen offer.
When choosing which promotions can become evergreen funnels, look for ones where the ROI is positive, or at least break even – you can’t take a loss forever. You’ll also want to monitor it during its initial stages to make sure that the engagement decay isn’t hurting your bottom line. Because the scarcity of the promotion is gone, your conversion rate will drop, as will the offer’s profitability. For the first month, keep a close eye on what you’re spending and what you’re making. If the offer is still in the black after that, you know you’ve got a winner.