Strategic Planning: Use Strategic Planning to "Get the Word Out"

In a recent request from Kohnstamm Communications  for a response to the Star Tribune “Ask the Consultant” column, the inquiry came from someone with an online service attempting to “monetize” blogging with a “free” service.  While there may be a way to appropriately deliver such a service, the web site and offering of this company were amateurish, clunky and seemed a bit shady.  The question, however, was legitimate: How can I get the word out?

In this case, it needs to start with a legitimate product, service or mission (for you non-profit types).  That being established, define the audience.  For this recent request, the site appeared to be suggesting the service to a completely undifferentiated audience, and when you try to send a generic message to everyone, you get no one to listen.

So, once you’ve defined target audiences, before trying to “get the word out,” strategic planning would dictate that there must be something appropriate for the audience to visit once they hear about the “deal” and show up at your web site.  It’s not rocket science, but our questioner has a site that reminds me of the first ones we cobbled together by writing code line by line, using trial and error, back in 1994… seriously.  Depending on the audience and the offering, it may not take a sophisticated or complicated site to accommodate your persuasion and call to action, but it needs to at least look somewhat professional.

On the other end of the spectrum, Axl’s Closet put out an online coupon code in the middle of July good for $20 in free kid’s clothes – no additional purchase required, and free shipping.  Word got out!  However, the viral traffic nearly shut the site down, and made it very difficult to complete an order.  Do I know this from a news article?  No.  My wife was caught in the frenzy.  Still, even though many frustrated people now exist, how long can they stay mad at Axl for running out of free stuff.  Plus, the site has VERY cool products for kids.  Pricy, but cool.  Will we be back?  I bookmarked the site, which rarely happens anymore.

So, the key things about getting word of mouth happening for your online presence – have something worth talking about, and start the conversation with the right people.  That means people who represent active voices to your key audience, about things directly related to your offering.  Then, be prepared for prospects to arrive.  Unless you have the coolest stuff in the category, you may only get one chance.  Make it count.

Of course, explaining this in under 500 words over-simplifies things, a lot, but it highlights the core strategy.