Good communication is good business. That’s why you need a communication plan that outlines who you should be talking to, how you’ll reach them and what you’ll say. Without planning, it’s common for communication efforts to get off track, hurting your brand image and sales. The culprit might be poorly crafted messages, misdirected resources or unprofessional execution. Here are six steps you can follow to create and execute a communication plan:
1. Analyze how you stand out
First, think about how you stand out from the competition. What do you do better? What do customers value about your products or business? To help, it’s a good idea to collect feedback from clients, partners, suppliers, employees and other business owners.
2. Develop a tagline
Create a concise message that describes your business and its unique value proposition. It’s often useful to come up with an “only” line. “We are the only company that does x.” You should use this key message consistently across all your communication efforts.
3. Choose target audience
Decide on the target audience for your communications. This will typically be customers and prospective customers, but could also be business partners, employees or the community. You may also need to identify specific segments to target within these groups. A market research expert can help you with these preparations.
4. Select communication channels
Choose the communication channels best suited to reaching your target audience. You should do a cost-benefit analysis to narrow down the best ones to focus on. You will probably want to use a combination of traditional and digital channels, including online and traditional advertising, social media, trade shows, newsletters and public relations tactics.
5. Define objectives
Set measureable objectives for your communication efforts. For example, if you identify 20,000 potential clients in your market, you may set a goal of contacting at least 10% and, of these, selling to 20% by year’s end or 400 customers. Such goals help you forecast sales, devote appropriate resources to your communications, evaluate results and optimize your efforts.
6. Execute your plan
Decide who will execute your communication plan and hold this person accountable for meeting objectives. To fill any gaps in internal expertise, consider hiring outside communication professionals. These may include a public relations agency, a marketing consultant, a writer and a graphic designer.