18 Types of Sales Promotions Perfect For Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs.

March 12th, 2019

What is a sales promotion?

Designed as a short-term tactic to boost sales, the process of persuading a potential customer to buy products or services is referred to as a sales promotion


Sales promotions can be found through demonstrations, exhibitions, contest, trade shows, weekly circulars, and more.


Running a sales promotion involves giving a discount to a product or service. The discount is the amount or percentage deducted from normal selling prices of products, goods, or services.


Discounts help create awareness of the brand and excitement from the customer to purchase, when they might not have done so to begin with.


Sales promotions often come with a beginning and end date.


As an business owner, or promotions manager, it's up to you to decide which types of promotion tactics resonate with your customers the most. After that, figure out what promotional methods work best for your business. 


sales promotion discount description with the caption:discount is the amount or percentage deducted from normal selling prices of products, goods, or services.


Sales Promotion Objectives


When done correctly, sales promotions will move a customer or prospect to take action towards a sale, upgrade, or future sale with the business. 


The presence of a discount will influence the customers behavior and interest to take such an action.


In this post I will list, then cover 18 sales promotion tactics suitable for entrepreneurs and small business owners. I will then wrap it up with the six steps to running a successful sales promotion campaign.


Types of Sales Promotions Perfect For Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs.


18 Types Of Sales Promotion Tactics

  1. Gifting
  2. Rebates
  3. Coupons
  4. Free Trials
  5. Samples
  6. Loyalty Rewards
  7. Bundling
  8. Quantity Discounts
  9. Financing
  10. Price Match
  11. Free Shipping
  12. Loss Leaders
  13. Holiday
  14. Exchange Offers
  15. Limited Time Offers
  16. Every Day Low Pricing
  17. Buy-One-Get-One
  18. Going Out Of Business 



Gifting as a sales promotion is a great ideal. And, although you have many options to give away as a gift, the gifts that keeps your brand front and center in the face of prospects, clients, or customers is what you want to target.


These would include items where your logo, website, phone number, or address can be placed. So think key chains, t-shirts, coffee mugs, pens, water bottles, calendars, or small magnetic contact cards.


That's not an all exclusive list, but some rough ideals. Sites like Vistaprint has great promotional gifting product ideals.  



If you don't feel you could lose money upfront, than offering your customers a rebate is a valuable option.


 The reduction in price, return, or refund paid to a consumer on an already paid for item or service upon an agreed upon period of time is referred to as a rebate. 


Most rebates offered by business are mail-in-rebates, although some can be instant. There has been more of a push to offer online rebates as well.


When offering a rebate, it is lawful that the customer knows the price of the item after the rebate is to be applied. 


womans hands counting money as a rebate sales promotion example with the captions:The reduction in price, return, or refund paid to a consumer on an already paid for item or service upon an agreed upon period of time is referred to as an rebate.




Almost every business have thought of creating coupon promotions, so this one shouldn't come as a surprise on this list.


Coupons as a marketing strategy is budget friendly, but not lacking competitors. There's a high chance your direct competitor uses them. And that's more enough of a reason to use them yourself


But just don't slap together any coupon promotion and get a good nights sleep. Your coupons should aim to achieve certain goals such as:


  • Customer acquisition increase
  • Specific product sales increase
  • Broader brand awareness
  • Customer retention increase  

You could create coupon codes, email coupons, Catalina coupons, flyer coupons and more.


When creating your coupons, pay attention to design, include an expiration date, tracking URL or code, and an interesting CTA.


Sales Promotion Stat: 85% of customers look for coupons prior to visiting a retailer



4.Free Trials

Free trial sales promotions are popular with online companies, but entrepreneurs and small business owners working out of brick-and-motor can use this tactic as well.


For example, a karate dojo may offer one free class, or a spa may give a free message. A gym may offer a free 7 day pass.


These free trials give an opportunity for you to allow the customer to taste what it is you have offer. They are willing to do this because it cost them next to nothing besides time.


In exchange, they may have to sign up for a mailing list of some sort, so you can re-market to them if they decide not to take you up on the paid offer.


You might be in the grocery store when you see a small table set-up, offering small hot sausages or lunch meat on a toothpick. The sample itself is free, and comes with no obligation to buy.


If the taste is irresistible, you might buy the sampled product. So, yes, using samples to promote your product is effective, and fairly easy to execute depending on the product itself.


Weather you sell food, toys, drinks, fragrances, or video games, sampling could move a customer to purchase. One drawback may be that sampling could be higher in cost compared to other sales promotions. 


6.Loyalty Rewards

Loyalty rewards can be a businesses best friend. Now with the advancement of mobile loyalty rewards, you as an entrepreneur or small business owner can run loyalty rewards as a sales promotion.


What is different about this type of sales promotion is that it not only attracts new customers...its bread and butter is creating customer loyalty.


That loyalty will offset any discounts you offer, and serves as a protector from giving away discounts to one-and-done customers.


This increases the lifetime value, and profits from sales promotions unlike any other methods you can think of.


By giving your sales or discounts away as loyalty rewards, you cut down drastically on marketing cost, and can still use other promotional methods in conjunction with the loyalty rewards program.


CTownSaver Loyalty rewards software as a sales promotion tactic

You can use CTownSaver's loyalty rewards software to run sales promotion tactics


You will see businesses combining two or more products or services for less than what it would cost to sell them separately, in what is known as bundling. 


Product bundle sales  has benefits for the customer and the business. For businesses, bundling increases unit sales, profit margins, and attracts new customers.


Customers will have more of their problems solved in one transaction, and they are able to save money in addition to the problem solving.


Bundling does take more strategic planning than other sales promotions, and requires a lot of testing to get right.


This could push the cost of bundling on the high side at the beginning, but once you find what works, the results could send a rush of profitable cash flowing into your business. 


8.Quantity Discounts

Quantity discounts are effective. Really! They are super effective at moving inventory while simultaneously boosting revenue. There are several different quantity discount tactics you can use.


The buy-more-save-more works by offering a saving off the total, if the customer purchases more than one. These sales usually look like "$5 for 5 or $1.29 each."


Then there's the famous "buy-1-get-1- free sale." The quantities the customer must buy and the quantity they receive for free does not have to be "1", although this is most common.


The next quantity discount example is similar to the first sales promo. In this case the promotion would be worded like "Buy 2 and get the 3rd half-off ."


Please do testing with this promo.


For example, I had success with a grocery store item (it was ice cream )  at "2 for $3" which came to $1.50 a piece. The next time I tried "3 for $5" or $1.67 a piece and sold more in dollars, and units!


Not only that, I also stuck with "3 for $5" the majority of the time I ran the promotion and had great success.


example of Quality discounts as a sales promotion tactic. Photo via Diversity Best Practices

Photo via Diversity Best Practices


Promotional financing programs  can benefit you as a small businesses or entrepreneur only if you have high ticket items for sell.


The financing you offer could be from 6 months, to 3 years, or longer, and can vastly produce sales because the customers doesn't have to pay too much upfront.


10.Price Match

What is one way to have a sale without having a sale?


A price match sales promotion!


Walmart is the king of price matching, although they weren't the first. Best Buy and Target have been doing this promotion for a long time as well.


But price matching may not be for all small businesses. First off, you will need strict polices like ensuring you sell the exact same item.


Next, you will need a steady flow of traffic already in place, to off-set any "price-match-addicts" that will live to shop just for that.


Still, customers could benefit from not having to drive all around the city to do their shopping.


If you do decide to do price matching, have a system that checks for price over-rides. Having your cashiers get into a habit of discounting items could lead to more serious problems. 

11.Free Shipping

Online businesses know that some form of shipping is required to run their business. So many offer this shipping for free to entice the customers to do business with them instead of the competition.


But if your business could offer the same, than free shipping sales promotions could be right for you as well. There are several directions you could choose to go in. Such choices include:


  • Offering free shipping only if a minimum dollar amount is reached.
  • Only offering free shipping during special times, like holidays.
  • Offering free shipping only to those in a specific mile radius from your location.
  • Offering free shipping on any returns.


Business offering free shipping as a sales promotion tactic

Photo via Flex Offers

12.Loss Leaders

This is another sales promotion tactic that worked well in my days of managing a grocery store. Loss leaders are items or services you usually do not profit from at all, or you profit from them very little.


These loss leaders are intended to draw foot traffic, so customers will be satisfied enough to buy your higher margin items.


For example, we had a lot of competition around us. We had Marc's, Save-A-Lot, Giant Eagle, and Tops. Walmart was just starting to expand to groceries at the time. We wanted to stay lower in price compared to Giant Eagle and Tops, and higher in price compared to Marc's and Save-A-Lot.


We chose the following loss leaders:


  • Fresh collard,turnip, and mustard greens
  • Fresh ground beef
  • Gallon whole, 2%, 1% and skim milk

Those items were enough in demand at our store to make a difference in making the customer happy. They were fresh items, and customers knew we had the lowest prices in town when it came to those items. Because of that, many was satisfied doing their whole shopping at our store.


Loss leaders can be effective if planned right. Know what you want to loose on first, before you start. Nothing looks worse than getting customers hooked, than yanking it away.


It's nice to know that small businesses can run holiday sales and promotions without deep pockets.


With holiday promotions, you could leverage some of the previous promotion types I've listed above, if you don't want to run them all year.


So, free shipping, financing, bundling, and sampling could be reserved for these times only.


This is the time where customers will have no short of options from competitors running their holiday promotions, so jumping out front and using a few of them at once could send a massive amount of traffic your way, at the time you need it the most.


Just ensure you  have your refund policies clearly stated, as holidays also brings in the most returns.


Sales promotion refund policy example with the captions:  If You're Not Completely Satisfied With Your Purchase, We Will Offer A Full Refund Within 7 Days Of Purchase.

Refund Policy Example

In addition to offering returns during the holiday period, to soften the blow, you can add in an exchange policy as well.


14.Exchange Offers

Depending on the business you run, an exchange offer is a sales promotion right out the old playbook used in businesses where upgrades are common. Specifically, electronics.


Exchange offers can also be used as upgrade offers, as they work the same way. Not to be confused with an "exchange policy", these promotions require perfect precision timing to be effective if you don't plan to run this promotion year round.


One benefit  exchange offer promotions brings, is the engagement the customer has while they are preforming the exchange.


It's the perfect time to up-sell them on additional accessories or services for the exchanged item, since they are usually already receiving a deep discount.

15.Limited Time Offers  

Promoting limited - time offers to boost sales creates a sense of urgency, and motivates customers to take action sooner rather than later. This sense of urgency can take on several forms:


  • Hurry- Last Day Sales
  • Exclusive while-supplies-last offers
  • One-time offers

Limited time offers should be worded so as to mimic a call to action. For example:


" Hurry In To Our Stores Today- Last Day for 50% Off All Men's Apparel Is This Friday! - While Supplies Last"


Yes, using multiple limited time offers in one promotion is okay, and will set a great tone for creating a sense of urgency.


Limited time offer sales promotion example


16.Every Day Low Pricing

This is another sales promotion method I know all to well because I used it before. Every-day-low-pricing (EDLP) is similar to loss leaders.


The biggest difference is that EDLP allows you to make the same profit margarine or close to what you will have made if you didn't promote the item at all.


This is were I had an advantage. Lets take Ice Cream for example again. I carried 4 different brands, one being a store brand. The other 2 brands had  sub-brands within the line.


This gave the customers 6 different brands and over 75 flavors to choose from.


Under normal circumstances, a company would only give you EDLP wholesale pricing if you agreed to sell it at a certain price point or lower, and that no other brand was sold cheaper.


I was able to get EDLP wholesale pricing on all 6 brands. How?


For one, I had great  relationships with my vendors. I didn't treat them like sleazy salesmen, as some business owners treat their vendors.


This made them want to make me happy, and not view me as just another "sell" they had to make.


Second, I bought in bulk from all of them. This made them bypass the fact I had EDLP on all six brands of ice cream.


This worked with other items in the store as well, and combined with our loss leaders, we had a steady flow of traffic at all times of the day. People wanted to shop at our store.


Every-day-low-pricing may take some time to pull off, but when you do, your small business can stand tall.


You may feel that giving something away for free is tied to you loosing money. Fortunately, we have blog writers like Matt Ellsworth who shows us "How Buy One, Get One Can Improve Your Sales."


Of all the sales promotions you could try, buy-one-get-one ( BOGO) is becoming the go to choice for many business owners.


Not only is it a way to move slow moving inventory and still make a profit, but customers see this promotion as receiving more value at no additional cost, making the participation for this promotion high.


buy-one-get-one sales promotion tip


18.Going Out Of Business Sale

This post was intended to help you in a positive way, but in case you were too late in reading this post, you missed out on some wonderful ways sales promotions can help you grow your business.


In that case, having a going out of business sale or liquidation is your final sales promotion call. This type of promotion helps pay off creditors, and will take business planning and legal work.


In most cases, prices are slashed well above 50%, and there is usually a time limit if 120 days to run this type of promotion.


Steps To An Effective Sales Promotion Campaign 


Equally as important to running a sales promotion, is having an effective sales promotion campaign. Here are six steps listed by Andr'ea Jones :


  1. Identify your goals
  2. Target your message
  3. Decide on your promo
  4. Have a time frame
  5. Promote your promotion
  6. Have a budget


Steps to an effective sales promotion campaign


Entrepreneurs and small businesses can use up to 18 different sale promotion methods to attract new customers, encourage repeat sales, move inventory, and increase brand awareness.


In addition, with proper planning, sales promotions can even be profitable. Discovering what drives your customers will take testing, but it's worth the trial-and-error in the long run.


Sales promotions that can create a sense of urgency, work wonders, and it won't hurt to combine sales promotion methods at all.


Your sales promotion campaigns need to start with goals in mind, then work on targeting your message, and deciding on a budget. I hope to see your best sales moving forward. 


Written By Kevin Johnson