How do you stand out in a crowded market and differentiate yourself from the competition? In these complicated times, most of us just want to keep our heads down, do our job and make a difference in the lives of the stakeholders we serve. Know that it is possible to break through the clutter with a marketing plan that emphasizes your organizational strengths and focuses on the key audiences that matter most.
Plenty of organizations have marketing plans. The question is, are they sitting on the shelf or are they being used as a guide that supports organizational goals? Do they incorporate measures of success? When the environment changes, is your organization adjusting strategies and tactics to navigate barriers and take advantage of opportunities?
Here are some communication tips to help you write a marketing plan that will stand the test of time and go beyond impacting attitudes to changing behaviors.
Start with research. What you don’t know can make all the difference. What do your key markets know about you? What don’t they know? What is your USP (unique selling proposition) that makes you stand out? Your USP is the essence of your brand...
Ask the tough questions and use the right methodology (or methodologies) to reach key audiences (including those who know you well and those who do not). You might find a quantitative online survey combined with qualitative personal interviews is effective., Or perhaps you will decide on the strategy of using social media to connect with folks who don't know you.
Don’t Forget Your Internal Audience. One key audience that is sometimes overlooked is your internal audience: staff, Board members, volunteers. Don’t underestimate the value of your own people as your best and most credible ambassadors, and the fact that they can provide a solid connection to the communities you serve. They will be your eyes and ears, giving you feedback based on their conversations with external audiences. It is important that they buy into the mission, vision and values of your organization and can communicate your organization’s actions and key messages with one voice.
After the research phase, you should have a clear idea of who you are and how others experience you. This will allow you to reinforce key messages and address misperceptions as you move forward with executing your marketing plan.
At this point, you can write the marketing plan. Start with the goals and objectives; what do you want to do? Who are your key stakeholders? What do you want them to do, or not do, or keep doing? What does the environmental scan look like – in other words, what is happening inside and outside the organization that could impact your plan? Where are the opportunities, and the dangers? Look at your communication assets: Are you taking full advantage of your website, your social media channels, and other tools that will help you get your messages out? Have you considered taking advantage of triggering events that will shine the spotlight on your organization?
It is important to keep the plan real -- -think through your capacity and your capability to execute the plan…if you can’t do it all, what are the priorities? Have you established a timeline with assigned responsibilities? A budget for associated expenses?
Think outside the box -- have you considered the strategy of building a coalition with key partners who have an interest in achieving similar goals and outcomes?
Consider your digital outreach options strategy— as social media impact declines, and traditional media slows — there are new ways to connect directly to key markets?
Finally, ask yourself the million dollar question – how will you evaluate? What are your measures of success?