Column: Conveying an accurate message

Q: I’m spending a lot of money on advertising and getting calls but people seem confused about what we do! How do I fix this?

A: When people are confused about what you do, you have to take a look at the messages and communication channels you are using to reach them. When your marketing message is a reflection of your long-term business strategy, the audiences you reach will understand you better.

Q: My strategy is to make money. How can that mean anything to my customers?

A: Let’s first define business strategy. Your business strategy should be incorporated into your mission and vision statement which describes where your company is headed (your long-term vision), what you are trying to accomplish (your objectives) and the measurable actions you are taking to achieve these objectives. Making money is an important goal, but it is only one measureable result of a coordinated strategic process. Without a solid business strategy, you will not only confuse the public but create chaos for yourself.

Q: What do I need to know about developing a business strategy for my company?

A: Build a foundation by answering these questions:  Why am I in business? What do we do and who do we serve? Where do I want the company to be in five years? What values guide my actions? What sets my business apart from others? Your answers will help you create a “brand promise” that defines the company. Your business model is the mechanism by which you incorporate your strategy and create and deliver value to customers for profit.

Q: So how do I change my advertising program to meet these objectives?

A: Once you have developed your strategy and business model, you have to communicate it. Your efforts become strategic when you integrate your strategy into the flow of information. Given all the ways stakeholders, employees and customers learn about your company, there should be a common thread among all communication media. This common thread defines your company and becomes a constant reinforcement of your organizational message and brand promise. The result is a clearer understanding of what your company represents and an accurate expectation of the value you provide.

Q: Does this mean I have to limit my advertising messages?

A: By no means. It means that when you choose a media that reaches your target customers (newspapers, websites, QuickRead code, etc.) the core of your message conveys the common thread. Depending on the target audience, you can then add messages relevant to their current needs. The objective is to be consistent and strategic when communicating to others.

Janet Harte is the Washington State University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) certified business advisor and center director for Clark and Skamania Counties. The SBDC offers free confidential business management counseling to small and mid-sized businesses through a partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration. She can be reached at 360.260.6372 or jharte@vancouver.wsu.edu.

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