Make a new plan, Stan

Make a new plan, Stan

Whether your goal is to own your own business or become a consultant, speaker or author, you'll need to start with a business plan, says author Marsha Friedman.

If you launched your business years ago, it's equally important to revisit and refresh your plan. In recent years, the economy, technology and consumer habits have changed rapidly and dramatically, affecting every aspect of your business.

Here are some points to consider as you're developing your marketing plan:

What is my message? Your message needs to be more than “My product is great.” What's the problem it solves? If you're a professional, what's the value you and your service offer? How are you different from your competition? As an example: Friedman's public relations firm, EMSI, aims to create visibility and credibility for clients using a pay-for-performance model that guarantees media exposure.

Who is my audience? Unless you have a niche product, consider your potential audience in terms of ever-expanding ripples. For instance, a collapsible coffeepot may be just the thing for a college student's tiny dorm room. That's your initial target audience. But his parents and grandparents, who are helping outfit that dorm room, might also be audiences. If they've downsized their living quarters, they might just want one for themselves, too. In fact, it could be great for campers, boaters—anyone living in a small space.

Which are the appropriate media outlets for a PR campaign? Social media is great for niche products because online forums build communities around common interests. Daytime talk shows tend to have audiences with lots of women. Most newspaper readers are 55 or older. Once you have decided who your audience is, figure out what they're watching, listening to, reading, and doing online; then customize your message for that medium and audience.

What's your budget? When you've answered these questions, you should be able to determine how much marketing you can do yourself (if you'll be doing any at all) and how much you'll need help with. If you're handling it yourself, budget time to do things like keeping your website active with fresh blog posts once or twice a week; posting content on social media; and developing pitches to get print, radio or TV interested. If you plan to pay a professional for marketing services, use your marketing plan to explore the costs and timetable, and budget accordingly.

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