All too often, we hear clients say things like, “There’s plenty of business to go around,” or “Everyone should be our customer.” But it’s not realistic to think your product or service has universal appeal, and even if there IS enough business to go around, your competitors will earn more of them if you’re not actively competing for market share.
Even just a few short years ago, traditional communications tactics included pushing out lots of messages in hopes of capturing the attention of a handful of good prospects. That method has the benefit of garnering brand recognition, but it’s an expensive way to (hopefully, maybe) reach the people who are most likely to become your customers. In today's world, where we're bombarded by messages, it's more important than ever to be strategic about your communications.Whether your business is brand new or well established, taking the time to develop and implement a strategic communications plan built around understanding and reaching your key customer base can help you achieve growth in your market.
These are some of the primary considerations for building your plan:
1. Understand your customers
You should know what problems they need to solve and how they look for solutions. Be specific! Develop profiles of your main customer types and incorporate each into your overall communications plan. (Read more on this topic: 5 Smart Questions Startups Should Ask to Define a Target Market).
2. Develop key messages
You have more than one type of customer, so your messaging should include variations that appeal specifically to each different customer category. Write your messages and use them consistently. Just like a logo, they represent your brand and should reflect your culture and values.
3. Select communications channels
Take the time to understand where your customers are searching for information and make sure your brand has a voice in those arenas. Billboards, special events, email newsletters and paid advertising all have value, but you should focus on those that are most likely to reach your target audience and provide measurable results. Also keep in mind that social media isn’t just one big bucket; each platform appeals to a different demographic, so choose your profile placement and advertising channels thoughtfully.
4. Build a communications calendar
Start with scheduled product launches, sales, trade shows, advertisements, etc. and then fill in your calendar around those activities with consistent communications. Remember to include regular postings to your social media channels that complement your other communications activities.
5. Work the plan
Like any other plan, a communications plan is useless if it sits on your shelf and collects dust.
And one bonus tip – don’t forget a crisis communications plan! Things can, and will, go wrong. Have a plan in place before a product failure, employee issue or disgruntled customer threatens your business. (Read more: 4 Steps for Crisis Management Planning)
Using a strategic communications approach allows you to identify your target audience, pinpoint their needs, wants and preferences, and then consider the best ways to get your messaging in front of them. Your clients aren’t one-size-fits-all, so your communications shouldn’t be, either.