Promotion Definition

What is promotion in business and how does it differ from advertising?

Women carrying shopping bags outside clothing store
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In business, promotion occurs whenever you communicate with the public in an attempt to influence them toward buying your products or services. Generally, businesses promote their brand, products, and services by trying to bring them to the forefront of their target audience's attention.

You might promote your business in person through direct selling or in a retail store, via the internet through a website or social media platform, or electronically through email or text messaging, just to name a few of the more popular business communication channels. But it's the intention to influence the consumer that defines promotion and sets it apart from other communication with customers or clients.

Definitions: Promotion or Advertising?

The words promotion and advertising are often 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.

Promotion, as a general term, includes all the ways available to make a product or service known and available for purchase. Someone starting a business, for instance, might ask themselves how they're going to promote their products or services. Advertising would be one of the ways, but there are many others. An ad on a bus shelter is promotion. So is a marketing campaign or offering a discounted price for a set amount of time.

The word promotion is also used specifically to refer to a particular activity that is intended to promote the business, product, or service. A store might advertise that it's having a big promotion on certain items, for instance, or a business person may refer to an ad as a promotion. Businesses also often create or buy promotional merchandise—products that often have been branded with a company's logo—to give away at events such as trade shows or as thank yous to customers.

Promotion Examples

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, 83% of consumers trust the recommendations of friends and family. Businesses that consistently go the extra mile to provide superior customer service rely on word of mouth over other forms of promotion. 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 that do not normally promote through the web still have simple websites that contain basic information about the business (contact information, directions, etc.).

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 with taking video (or know someone who is), you can record video promotions of your products or services and post them on YouTube. Influencer marketing, which leverages celebrities or other well-known personalities—and their large online followings—to promote products, is another increasingly popular form of promotion through social media.

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.

Business Cards

These are still one of the most commonly used forms of business promotion, even in the digital age. In fact, in Asian countries, exchanging business cards has become a ritual. All types of business documents are used for promotional purposes—letterheads and email signatures typically contain the company logo and promotional tag line.

Vehicle Decorations (Wraps)

Vehicle wraps are hugely popular for business promotion, with many business vehicles featuring a professionally-designed business logo, tag line, and contact information. Many industry estimates say that a single vehicle wrap can generate 30,000 to 70,000 views per day (depending on the locale, population size, etc.), making it one of the most inexpensive ways to promote your business.


Flyers may be old fashioned but can still be highly effective promotional tools. A service company performing work at a residence in a neighborhood can easily drop flyers into neighboring mailboxes. A painter, roofer, or landscaper who does an excellent job on a house or building can (in addition to the obvious quality of their work) promote their business by having flyers available for interested parties.

Charity Events

Getting involved in charitable events, whether by hosting or sponsoring, is a great way to create a positive attitude about your business in the community. Owners can find a cause that connects with the business, or something their employees care about, and start small.

Plan Your Promotions

These are just a few examples of the countless ways you can promote your business. Include a variety of them in your marketing plan, and don't be afraid to try different methods to see what works best for your business.

Article Sources

  1. Nielsen. "Global Trust in Advertising." Accessed Jan. 29, 2020.

  2. The Ohio State University, Fisher College of Business. "Business Etiquette in Asian Countries." Accessed Jan. 29, 2020.

  3. ARD Ventures. "Investment Analysis: Measuring the Value of Vehicle Wraps." Accessed Jan. 29, 2020.