What Is Promotion?

Definition and Examples of Promotion

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In business, promotion is any communication that attempts to influence people to buy products or services. Businesses generally promote their brand, products, and services by identifying a target audience and finding ways to bring their message to that audience.

Here's a full definition of what promotion is, and examples of the different types of promotions that businesses can use.

What Is Promotion?

Promotion is a catch-all term that includes all the ways a business can attempt to enhance the visibility of its products, services, or brand. A poster ad at a bus stop is a form of promotion. So is a sale that discounts the price of a product or service for a set amount of time.


The words "promotion" and "advertising" may be used interchangeably, but they're not the same thing. Advertising is one specific action you could take to promote your product or service. In other words, it's one type of promotion.

Promotions can refer to an effort (like an ad), a concept (like a temporary price reduction), or an item (like a branded t-shirt). In practice, promotions usually combine these forms of promotion. For example, a clothing store might plan a sale on jeans and take out an ad in a local newspaper to let people know when and where the sale will happen.

How Does Promotion Work?

Promotion is a vital aspect of any business. Without at least some level of promotion, a business can't get customers, and without them, it's only a matter of time before the business will have to close its doors.

While all businesses need some kind of promotion, they don't all need the same kinds or the same levels of promotion. No two businesses will have the exact same promotional needs, and tactics vary significantly between industries. A corner store might just need a sign that can be seen from the sidewalk that lets customers know the establishment exists. Other businesses may need to invest in direct selling efforts or buy ad time on a streaming service, for instance.

New businesses may have to go through a trial-and-error period of experimenting with different promotional styles before they find the one that's best suited for them. Even established businesses experiment with new promotional strategies in addition to continuing their tried-and-true promotions.

Types of Promotion

Below are just a few examples of the countless ways you can promote your business; include a variety of them in your marketing plan.

Word of Mouth

This is considered by many to be the most effective way to promote a business and, best of all, it is free. According to Nielsen studies, 83% of consumers trust the recommendations of friends and family. Businesses that consistently go the extra mile to provide superior customer service benefit the most from word of mouth—the more happy customers you have, the more likely one of them is to mention your service to a friend or family member. Actively asking for referrals is one way you can speed up the word of mouth process.


A professionally-designed website can be an excellent promotion tool, allowing businesses to inexpensively post up-to-date information on products and services. Most businesses have at least a simple webpage with basic information (address, hours of operation, phone number, etc.), even if they hardly do any other form of internet-based promotion.

Social Media

Social media is a popular, inexpensive form of online business promotion. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube can be effective in reaching customers. If you are skilled at creating videos, you can record video promotions of your products or services and post them on YouTube. Influencer marketing, which leverages celebrities and other well-known personalities to reach their audiences, is another increasingly popular form of social media promotion.

The Elevator Pitch

This quick promotional technique is used by business people to give a short two or three sentence description of what their business does and how their products or services might benefit potential customers. A business owner might prepare an elevator pitch before going to a networking event so they can be ready to effectively promote their business at a moment's notice.

Business Cards

Even in the digital age, this decades-old form of business promotion persists. In some countries, exchanging business cards remains a crucial aspect of networking and business etiquette. Beyond business cards, all types of business documents can be used for promotional purposes, whether it's a branded letterhead or a customized email signature.

Vehicle Decorations (Wraps)

Wraps are ads that are printed on vehicles. Anyone who encounters that vehicle in traffic will also see the ad. Many wraps feature a professionally-designed business logo, a tag line, and contact information. Studies have suggested that a vehicle wrap generates 2.5 times the attention as a static billboard, and it can be viewed between 30,000 and 70,000 times a day.


Flyers are another relatively old but still highly effective promotional tool. A service company performing work at a residence in a neighborhood can easily drop flyers into neighboring mailboxes. Flyers can also be left on doorsteps, in public spaces, or in the window of a coffee shop.

Charity Events

Getting involved in charitable events—whether by hosting, sponsoring, or attending—is a great way to create a positive attitude about your business in the community. These charitable efforts have to be publicized in some way to qualify as a promotion. An anonymous donation may help the cause, but it won't help promote a business.

Owners can find a cause that connects with the business, or they can survey their employees and pick a cause that the entire organization can get behind. These efforts can be as big as bankrolling a large-scale event or as small as organizing a group of employees to spend an afternoon volunteering at a food bank.

Key Takeaways

  • In the world of business, promotion is an effort to increase the visibility of a company's brand, products, or services.
  • The most effective promotional strategies vary by industry, business size, and many other factors.
  • Some examples of promotional efforts include television ads, billboards, and sponsoring a charity event.
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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Nielsen. "Global Trust in Advertising." Accessed July 8, 2020.

  2. The Ohio State University, Fisher College of Business. "Business Etiquette in Asian Countries." Accessed July 8, 2020.

  3. QuickBooks. "Are Car Wraps a Good Investment for Your Small Business?" Accessed July 8, 2020.

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