ABCs of Promoting your business, website or charity: Don’t forget the BIG PICTURE!


After doing a promotion this summer, I was having a chat with a friend about the value of doing promotional activities for your business or charity organization. While I don’t recall the exact content of the discussion, it was quite a while ago, it emerged that many organizations actually want to quantify the value of such activities in terms of cents and dollars or new customers or whatever criteria they choose.

Intangible Qualities vs. Tangible Benefits

While this is a natural response, I felt that it overlooks a number of non-tangible qualities that are quite essential to doing business because you are always going to be doing business with people. The list of non-tangible qualities was quite long, including relationship building, image building, branding, etc.. In fact, I was quite surprised that so many organizations would focus on the tangibles, but miss the more important intangibles.

A Bake Sale vs. A Donation Drive

My friend gave me an example: an organization for Women’s Aid (for example) would hold a bake sale in which members of the support group would bake stuff at home and bring the goodies to sell on a Saturday afternoon thereby raising funds for the activities of the groups.

A simple financial analysis would suggest that simply donating the money by the members that would have been originally been used to buy the ingredients for the bake-out would be more cost effective, time efficient, and environmentally better:

…there are costs that are attached to each individual in a group of 20 going out and buying the ingredients to make 20 different dishes. They then spend their time, energy costs and creativity to make these products. Then they wrap and transport them (both at additional cost) to the venue; where they then sell them for non-commercial prices and are themselves not paid for that additional time. It’s this resulting revenue that is donated to the charity.

As an (obviously more cost effective and efficient) alternative, members would simply take the money for the ingredients, transport, fuel, and their time; and donate the resulting amount to the charity. They’d then go home, a little richer in spirit (perhaps), but a little poorer as a group: they’d not stoked the group’s dynamics.

100-1774Group Dynamics: A Primary Non-Tangible Benefit

What it neglects to count are the bonds of friendship within the group that are enhanced by volunteers sharing a task from conception to execution. It ignores the fact that such relationships will help to strengthen the group as they pursue their mission to help those in need. In addition, the fact that such effort is expended creates a non-tangible value that is added to the items at the sale, when people who are purchasing them realize that people have donated not just their money, but their time and their life spirit, to create a handcrafted item, made with love and care.

This didn’t escape our own business organization either. As, in our promotion, we organized a lesson that involved teaching some popular fast food items (things we knew children already enjoyed) and showing them how to order and pay for these items in English. It was designed to be practical, enjoyable and educational. Though we were not a charity, we organized the activity to publicize our business. In fact, the original event was held in a local fast food restaurant.

[Click to watch the video of our presentation! Continue the story after the video]

[flashvideo filename= /]

ABCs of Promotional Events

Attracting: the overt purpose was, of course, to attract new customers to come and ask about our classes. So we prepared banners, flyers, a welcoming table and an entertaining presentation. In addition, we also video-taped the presentation;

newsletter 3  Building: but we were also conscious that inviting our own students would serve an additional but important aspect, even though the cost would increase the burden on our budget: we would be building ‘customer loyalty’ and developing customer relationships by including those students who were already our customers; and

  Collaborating: the teacher team also benefited extensively by working collaboratively on a project that required a lot of time and creativity to put together; relationships were enhanced, bonds were strengthened; and pleasure was taken in the fact that, even though the first was a ‘failure’, our own students had a great time, we raised a bit of publicity, and we had great fun.

100-1776Promotions: Always Keep the Long Term in View

One of the benefits that played out over a much longer period, though, came as a surprise to all of the team members at the business: we were able to re-run the presentation a few weeks’ later, and with the information we gained about holding the activity, we were MUCH more able to capitalize on the promotional abilities than the first time round. On the second round, we were able to get a few more ‘leads’ than the first time. But even then, the benefits weren’t realized.

100-1777A few months later, when the beginning of semester came around, we were inundated daily with queries for information about our courses, interviews with students, phone calls, etc.. at one point we thought we were going to go crazy there were so many calls. It was clear from the work we had done on the website, and the newsletter, that when combined with the actual face-to-face promotions, we sowed the seeds of our recovery. It just took a few months for the seeds to germinate, before we were able to cultivate the shoots, and harvest the crops.

And what about online? You may well ask…

Doesn’t the same set of rules apply online? There are many community-based websites where content is created by amateurs from scratch, despite the fact that professionals would do the job in much better order. Still, the amateurs go on to become experts in their community, new members join because of the attraction of these communities, building of relationships within the communities and possibilities for collaboration even for the weaker members.

Even on blogs, visitors sign up for memberships so they can comment, write extensive posts (or even guest posts), and join in activities, competitions and other events; on many occasions, they are competing for tangible returns; but aren’t the intangible benefits much greater, in the long term? Look at blogs whose comments run to 100 or 200 comments or where forums have fostered communities…

And so…?

So the next time you plan a promotional activity for your website, business or charity, when counting the cost of the event and setting the numerical (whether financial or not) goals, don’t forget that the intangible benefits of such promotional activities will always outweigh the tangible costs.