When starting up a business, creating a business plan can be pretty daunting.

The thing is, you need to go through that initial pain to make sure that you understand your idea, your proposition and that it is viable.

There are a lot of templates and resources on the internet that offer guidance on the elements of a business plan.

They are all slightly different, but the core principles are the same.

I can show you how to save time and duplication by taking the great work you put into your business plan and converting it into a communications plan.

 

One of the first things I look to understand when working with clients is their business plan.

Because it is key to building a robust communications plan.

It is essential to understand what the business is all about; to understand their purpose; to understand the goals and objectives.

Otherwise how do we know what we want people to Think, Feel, Say or Do as a result of the communication?

There is generally a section in the business plan that asks you to consider marketing and your audience, but not to the extent of a communications plan.

The communications plan takes it a step further.

The communications plan ensures the necessary pre-work and thinking are done in terms of consistent messaging and desired outcomes, before you start marketing communication activities.

If you haven’t had a chance to put together a business plan or communications plan yet, fear not, this post will show some of the elements you need and the things you need to think about.

When working with clients it’s also vital for me to understand the brand.

The tone; the look and feel;  the spirit and character; the beliefs and values. I call it the ‘heart and soul’.  I help people work this stuff out if they’re not sure how.

Putting this heart and soul in your messaging is key to connecting with an audience.

The purpose of a communications strategy and plan is essentially to bring your business plan to life. To make the stuff you’ve written, actually happen, in the way it needs to happen.

To turn strategy into action, and to connect people with your brand.

Once in place, the communications plan should connect you with the audience that matter to you, in a way that matters to them, so you achieve your goals.

It also ensures you are consistent in your messaging. Which is important for trust and building relationships.

Putting together a comms plan helps you think through your goals and objectives with your ‘comms hat’ on. It delves deeper into your target audience and how you are going to engage with them.

It looks at outcomes, and what goes in to achieving them.

Having put blood, sweat and tears in to your business plan I can imagine you breathed a sigh of relief when it was complete. Possibly the last thing you want to do now is write another plan!

But really, you have already completed half the work of your comms plan, you just don’t know it yet!

Here are 8  key ingredients

for a communications plan:

[referencing the parts of your business plan that can be used to help complete it].

1. Setting the scene

Think -Context

What we are all about, what we aim to achieve, and the environment / culture / market conditions we are operating in.

This is your core narrative and context.

Refer to these sections in your business plan – [Exec Summary;  Company Overview; Business aims; The Market / Industry analysis; Elevator pitch]

2. Your Purpose

Think- why?

A) Why your business matters and why people should care it exists.

This is where the heart and soul of your brand makes a difference.

B) What is the purpose of this communications plan

To keep you on track and on message

Your purpose will flow through into your key messages, and keep you on track.

Refer to these sections in your business plan [Elevator pitch , Executive Summary; Competitor analysis; Market / Industry Analysis; Owners Background; Customer Analysis; Marketing plan]

3. People

Think- Who? Think- Where?

Audience Analysis. Who are your target audience groups?

Customers, Employees, Supporters?

What do they care about? Where do they hang out – online and offline?

Try creating “personas” to describe them (if you haven’t already done this in the customer analysis and marketing area of your business plan)

Refer to these sections in your business plan [ Market / Industry analysis; Customer Analysis; Marketing strategy/plan; competitor analysis]

 

4. Desired Outcomes

Think- What

What are your goals? What would they look like when achieved?

What do you want your audience to Think, Feel, Say and Do as a result of the communication?

Refer to these sections in your business plan [Short term plan, Long term plan; Business Aims; Marketing plan; Customer Analysis]

5. Key Messages

Think- How/What/So What? AND Who

There is a lot to think about here.

You need to put quite a lot of work into this section, but once you’ve completed it you have the basis for all your ongoing communications.  

The good news is you have already have the groundwork for this in your business plan.

You will need a set of core messages, then another complementary set, tailored to fit your audience groups.

These can be arranged in an easy to use messaging matrix.

This is where you’ll create the communication messages that help you achieve your outcomes.

Think about what you want people to Think, Feel, Say and Do as a result of the communication  when drafting your messages.

You’ll add your ‘special sauce’ to the message too. (Your USP, what makes you different?)

Think about answering the questions  “So what?” and  “Why you?”

For customers, you might write key messages about what you do (product or service). What problem are you solving? How? Why they need it? Why they should choose you?

You’ll articulate benefits: both practical benefits that meet a need; and emotional benefits (because people buy how you make them feel).

You do this in your unique brand style.

If you have employees, you need to consider them in all your communications. You might be introducing employees to a new product or service. Explaining everything they need to know and do to service the customers as best they can.

A tip from experience: To avoid no end of pain, make sure that employees know things before the customers do!

Importantly, bring your heart and soul to life in your messaging. Making sure your tone of voice is reflective of your brand; that you come across in a way that demonstrates what you stand for and believe in.

Refer to these sections in your business plan [Elevator pitch; Business Aims; Marketing plan; Market / Industry analysis; Customer Analysis; Competitor Analysis; Operations / logistics plan]

6. Channels

Think- How for Who, Where and Why.

Essentially how you reach your audience.

Whether that is email, website, publications, radio, events, face to face conversation, social media.

There are so many options.

Use your audience analysis to determine the best channel to reach each of your target audience groups.

Where do they hang-out? (online and offline)

Use what you want them to Think, Feel, Say and Do to determine the channel.

Different channels achieve different things.

Refer to these sections of your business plan [Marketing Strategy / plan; Customer Analysis; Operations / logistics plan]

7. Planning matrix

Once you have worked through points 1 to 6 it is useful to plot the activity on an action plan or matrix.

Download your free, simple, planning matrix that shows you how these elements fit together into a communications action plan.

Click me for free download

8. Feedback Measure, Review, Improve

Measure the success of how well your communication resonated with that audience.

Measure the reach. Measure the outcomes.

Listen to your audience; customers and employees alike.

Listen to their feedback and suggestions so you can continue to innovate and improve your offering.

Then review and improve your business plan to reflect the changes you wish to make to keep you relevant, competitive and connecting with your audience.

And so the cycle continues!

Yes, putting together a communications plan takes time and hard work, just like a business plan does; BUT you can use the work you put into your business plan to make the task much quicker and simpler.

If the task feels a bit too daunting for you, I can work with you to help you put it together.
All the best

Lucy

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