How to Plan the Perfect Sales Promotion Campaign

Top tips for a campaign that goes off without a hitch

Planning a solid sales promotion campaign can help a brand meet the objectives they have set on time, and on budget. It also allows an agency and their brand partner to work together with maximum efficiency, collaborating to achieve the agreed target without risk of miscommunication, digression or delay. On a marketing budget of £1m, a delay of two months due to poor briefing could cost a business up to £183k in lost sales.

That's a figure that'll certainly make your MD sit up and take notice. To avoid any mishaps, delays or hitches, let's go through the 10 key steps integral to planning the perfect sales promotion campaign…


Ensure that the objective (or key objectives) of your sales promotion is single-minded and clear. For example, is it to increase sales of a particular product, attract a different audience, or reinforce brand values?

Ask yourself how you will determine whether it has been a success or not, and what data will be used to evaluate this. This will help to clarify any grey areas.

One of the most common mistakes is to work out exactly what activity you want to run before you approach supplier partners to work out viability and costs.

It can then be a disappointment to find that what you had planned falls outside of the budget or is not deliverable.  Partners are pretty experienced and can help you mould your promotion from the very early stages.


Make sure you understand your primary audience, and be rigorous in drilling down to identify the profile of this audience. How do they behave? Where do they spend their time? What do they care about? How will you influence your chosen consumer's behaviours?

Create a persona to bring the audience to life, and put yourself in their shoes. Work out which message will speak to this audience most effectively, and therefore maximise the success of the promotion – and keep the message simple.

To clarify your offer, ask yourself this: what will make your target consumer respond? What will excite and inspire them, and prompt them to act?

Try brainstorming different ideas within the brand and agency to ensure that any offer delivers maximum creativity while still supporting the brand objectives and delivering ROI.


Your primary goal is to achieve the campaign’s objective as cost-effectively and profitably as possible. Look at the brand’s previous, relevant promotional campaigns and evaluate the relationship between volume, cost and payback.

Start with a cost-plus budget calculation. Then allocate a budget for design and artwork, production, media, communication and agency fees – this will give you your fixed costs, regardless of the brand or volumes of customer rewards you choose.

Variable costs – such as coupon refunds or data capture – will depend on how many people participate in the promotion and/or redeem the offer.

Estimate the number of people you think will respond, then multiply this by the total estimated unit cost of your variable costs. Add together your fixed cost and your variable cost to see your budget.

Several of our clients will bring four or five variations of the same concept to us in the early stages of planning and ask us to cost them so that they can get a view on affordability.

Once we’ve worked together to reduce the list of possible promotions, we’ll continue to refine them until we have the best promotion possible (in terms of potential outcomes) for the budget they need.


You know who your audience is, and you know what message you want to convey to them, and what response you want to prompt – but what's the best way to reach this demographic with your brand message?

Will it be more effective to invest in one medium or choose an integrated approach? The chosen medium, or media, needs to not only be effective at reaching the right person, but it must be cost-effective.

It must also be timely, reaching your audience at the most opportune time.

Understand where your target audience spend their time, how they consume their media and how they carry out research and make different category purchases. If you're going to take the plunge and focus on social media for your campaign activities, be sure that you weigh up the pros and cons before hitting the 'post' button.


This ties firmly back to step one – be clear on your objective and be clear on how you will measure the success of this objective.  

The brand and its board members will need to know exactly how the campaign investment has delivered a return.

If your objective was to increase sales, be clear on whether these sales figures will be based on a core number of flagship retailers, sales in a particular geographic region or online and offline sales, for example.  

Don’t wait until the end of the activity to work out how its success can be measured – put the metrics in place early on, and apply these at the end. It will make evaluation quicker and easier.  



Every brief will have some challenges that need to be addressed to achieve the campaign objective.

This may be challenges specific to the category or the market, or perhaps relating to brand perception, or even competitor activity. Identify these challenges at the beginning of any campaign planning process, and work out which factors need to be considered to address these.

For brands that operate in fast moving industries which require little in the way of promotional lead time (for example, the telecoms and IT industries), making changes later on in the campaign is often easier and less costly.

But, for those sectors that require longer lead times (for example, packaging print runs in the FMCG space, which may be executed months before the campaign) late changes can be more problematic and expensive. Forward planning is imperative; especially if you're timing your promotion alongside nationwide events such as Easter, Christmas or the school holidays.


A campaign needs to be supported by a communications strategy to ensure maximum awareness, and therefore maximum ROI.

There are multiple ways of doing this, from advertorials in key publications to PR, SMS advertising, online display advertising, supporting microsites, and field marketing, for example.

Go back to your primary audience and focus on how they behave, and where they consume their media. This will inform the most effective communications strategy to meet your objectives.

It is also important to agree any communications strategy with your service partners to ensure they are covered within the costs (for example, by your risk partner).


There are three key factors at play in ensuring that the creative work behind a promotion is successful. It must be:

  1. Seen. Make sure that your primary consumer is aware of the promotion
  2. Interesting. Ensure that your audience are engaged by the added value offered
  3. Understood. Communicate the offer quickly - it must not be at all ambiguous or require the consumer to take time to understand it

The simplicity of the message is also incredibly important. Typically a consumer’s eye will fall on your product for only a few seconds. Trying to communicate a complicated campaign with such a short opportunity is extremely challenging. Get your message across simply and clearly.


Put a time plan together to ensure that you have factored in enough time for every aspect of the campaign to be fulfilled in time for the launch date.

For example, with regards to the creative alone, this must be presented and feedback provided before actually being developed.

Copy must also be written and approved, photography completed, artwork signed off, etc...

If there are digital aspects to the campaign, such as a dedicated microsite, these must also be developed and tested before going live. Be thorough in planning what needs to be completed when, and be sure to factor in some contingency for unforeseen delays.


This is often forgotten, but it's vitally important. So many brands fail to properly evaluate the performance of the campaign they've run, and cannot carry vital insights into future work.

Ask yourself, did the campaign meet its objectives? How did your customers react to the promotion? Bring your service partners into the discussion and evaluation of your promotion, and find out what lessons and insights they can share with you.

Ask what the impact of a campaign will be on future costs. Conclude by identifying how all parties could have run the campaign better, and apply these lessons next time.

Keep learning, keep improving.


A good sales promotion campaign will draw customers in; but what keeps them going back to brands again and again? Discover who is keeping their customers happy and loyal by downloading the 2018 Brand Loyalty Index - just hit the link below to get your copy today!
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